Religio et Patria 2.0: how the PN can once again be a driving force for change

The PN has in the past been tested and sometimes found ill-prepared on ethical issues and civil liberties… personal Christian values should guide personal conduct, but are not to be imposed on others

When that electoral moniker was coined the telegraph was then the leading means of communication. Malta’s existential questions back in the 1920s related to the separation of state and church, or whether to gain influence within the British empire or detach itself from it altogether. That setting is history – so it would seem the slogan is obsolete. And yet, a look at present-day Malta seems to indicate deeply ingrained problems of separation of state and party, a clearly problematic relationship with ethics and morality in public life, and a troubled portrayal of the name of the country abroad.

So while ‘religio’ as a commitment to religious guidance for the Nationalist Party is not of any help to chart our future, a re-interpretation of the drive for morality in politics definitely is. Coming to terms as one with that drive is a paramount step for the Nationalist Party to become once again the driving force for change in the country. Our challenge is national and internal. On the national front the PN is called upon to restore a sense of duty in politics. Service before self and national before particular interests.

The latest news of Keith Schembri, right-hand man in Castille, being arrested on passport sales commissions illustrate clearly enough the dire need to restore morality in politics. For although Labour now makes a huge effort to paint the man as the odd rotten apple in the shining cart, the chief of staff was supported, aided and abetted, petted and courted by Abela and all those in his cabinet as recently as last year.

Morality is indeed absent in politics altogether when government pushes a €40 million tax discount on a private contract rotting in corruption allegations, which appear to have led to the barbaric assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia. Did any government figure move a finger to take our money back? No. They just push the buck to the next until the finance minister plays the fiddle.

The Nationalist Party’s first vocation is to restore the good name of politics, first by seeing to a comprehensive justice to all the wrongs of the past years, and then to govern with a renewed sense of purpose. For let us be clear, how can we address rising poverty, diversify our economy and provide new youth opportunities if we remain stuck in doubts about governance itself?

The paramount mission of good governance is to make it a non-issue – so we can address all of society’s malaise after that. Most of that malaise is yet hidden behind the all-compelling scandals of the politicians themselves. We must return politics to address policies rather than politicians.

For the PN to be able to do that we must resolve our internal issue with ‘religio’ or morality and ethics. Swathes of our electorate still harbour deep soothed bitterness for the PN government years, with cases of neglect expressing an alleged mistaken PN morality. How will we deal with this should we return to government? And how are we going to place ourselves as opposition in the face of political clientelism? Our Christian democratic foundations are to guide us to address injustice, to listen before anything else while ensuring to communicate effectively on right and wrong.

The PN has in the past been tested and sometimes found ill-prepared on ethical issues and civil liberties. I think that our past dilemmas have fortified our future resolution. Personal Christian values should guide personal conduct, but are not to be imposed on others.

On the other hand, we must defend the limits of the right of one not to encroach on the liberty of the next. Such is the case with the proposed equality bill, a clear case marking the demarcation line where the State should not impose its own morality on the individual.

Finally, an emphasis on patria seems to be particularly relevant today, more that it has ever been of last. With a pending dramatic degradation of Malta’s name in Moneyval, and growing pressures in Brussels against the government’s shameful sale of Maltese identity, the patria is calling upon us to defend its reputation in the community of states and peoples.

The fervent attachment to the nation is a noble attribute as long as the nation is noble in its conduct. I cannot fathom how Labour representatives manage to sell things like anonymous passport sales and government meddling into the Daphne Caruana Galizia inquiry to European counterparts. It is true that politics grows you a thick skin, but well.

Instead of abusing our European Union membership we should be using it as the platform for change in the world. Let us be inspired by the example of Arvid Pardo, the Maltese instigator of the international law of the seas based on respect of the natural environment. Malta can carve a much bigger role for itself as a mediator of a true African Partnership where Europe engages in a true structured and loyal relationship for economic development, addressing migration issues naturally and indirectly in a wider relationship rather than in half-baked ad hoc measures.

Party members are now asked to choose a leader between Dr Adrian Delia and Dr Bernard Grech. Both have their evident qualities and ideas on how to lead and structure the PN into an alternative government. The duty of party members however goes well beyond party. It is a vision for the state that we must now choose. For what is the PN but a mere tool for change in the country?

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