Can Labour come clean?

These are all signs that Robert Abela is working on a new image of Labour, before he decides to hold the next general election

Prime Minister Robert Abela
Prime Minister Robert Abela

Speaking via a pre-recorded message at Finance Malta’s annual conference last Tuesday, the Prime Minister, Robert Abela, asserted that Malta has earned the trust of international partners through rule of law reforms, but “must up its game” in other areas of the finance industry.

The prime minister even admitted that areas of the finance sector still remain under the spotlight. This includes issues such as how the country’s tax regime operates and the problems of maintaining relationships with correspondent banks.

This latter issue – that has again hit Malta – is a serious one, with Bank of Valletta CEO Rick Hunkin explaining that Malta is being considered as a high-risk jurisdiction.

On the other hand, the PM insisted that “through the work we have put in reforming regulatory standards, we have earned the trust of bodies such as the Venice Commission as well as credit agencies. We believe we have earned the trust of our international partners.”

This is certainly a healthier new Labour Party stance.

Up to now, the Labour propaganda machine was claiming that the problems stemming from how the financial world is looking at Malta are the result of allegations made by the PN to harm Malta’s reputation, with Labour pointing its fingers at David Casa and Roberta Metsola, in particular.

The two MEPs elected in the name of the PN have been continually branded as ‘traitors’ by the Labour propaganda machine, as if the damage to Malta’s reputation was the result of the actions of these two MEPs rather than the result of the mess created by Joseph Muscat’s administration.

The Prime Minister pointed out that the finance sector was one of the key economic contributors to Malta’s revenue, employing over 16,000 people who can boast of an income that is 40 per cent higher than the average salary. The future of this sector is hanging in the balance, as we all know.

Finally, Labour is realising the damage that the Muscat administration did to our country’s reputation and is on the way of making amends. This means that the accusations levelled at the PN and its two MEPs were entirely hogwash.

The news that Labour will be co-opting two new MPs to fill the vacated seats of Joseph Muscat and also of Etienne Grech, who this week resigned from the House of Representatives citing personal reasons, should be seen in the context of Labour regenerating itself. The current Maltese legislature has broken all records regarding changes in the persons sitting as MPs and the number of members co-opted to fill seats without ever having contested the general election. This has happened on both sides of the House – a reflection of the recent political turmoil in Malta

The need to fill the seats of the disgraced former Prime Minister and of Etienne Grech, who many consider as politically passé, is yet another indication that Labour wants to distance itself from the Joseph Muscat administration and strengthen its parliamentary group with the introduction of more valid persons. The two Labour candidates who had a right to contest the casual election to fill Joseph Muscat’s seat were somehow ‘persuaded’ to refrain from doing so by the Labour Party itself; probably feeling it wants to get rid of the dead wood in its parliamentary group rather than increasing it. Muscat’s seat will probably be filled by Labour MEP Miriam Dalli who was once considered to be the favourite to replace Muscat as leader.

As it is, Labour has engineered a chance to choose two new MPs who are completely cut off from the mess created by the Muscat administration.

These are all signs that Robert Abela is working on a new image of Labour, before he decides to hold the next general election that, as some think, could be called even before the end of the five-year term allowed by the Constitution.

By then, I reckon, Abela wants Labour to have come completely clean.

Whether he will be able to manage this ‘manoeuvre’ is still open for discussion. Normally political parties carry out important internal changes and seek to change their image when they are in Opposition.

Doing it while the party is in government is a harder nut to crack.

Jason and Edward

Opposition MP Jason Azzopardi is proposing an increase in the maximum time period during which a person can be detained by the Police without being formally charged.

After floating the idea on Facebook, Azzopardi formally proposed it during an adjournment speech in Parliament.

He made the argument for this extension during the investigation of serious or grievous crimes, because, the police are only given a 48-hour period to decide whether the person should be arraigned or let free, regardless of the severity of the crime. “Whether the police are investigating a snatch and grab, or if they are investigating a homicide – the two cases are both tied to the 48-hour arrest rule,” he explained.

The Justice Minister, Edward Zammit Lewis, immediately reacted positively, saying that the government is considering extending the arrest limit during police interrogations.

I beg to disagree. This change will undoubtedly lead to abuse by the Police, whether under a Labour or under a PN government.

The current rule was abused by the Police for a long time with people being released from detention and arrested again within a few minutes. This practice was only stopped after a court decision deeming it unconstitutional.

By the way, did Jason Azzopardi discuss this idea with his new leader, Bernard Grech, and with his colleagues in the shadow Cabinet?

Or was Jason Azzopardi behaving as the loose canon he is?

The DIZZ story

A few weeks ago, I commented on the DIZZ franchise powerhouse led by fashion entrepreneur Diane Izzo that had issued a €10 million convertible notes programme to acquire shares in the group’s food subsidiaries.

The first tranche of the issue was bought by Global Capital that was the agent for these notes. I argued that the name of the beneficial owners of these notes – bought by Global Capital on their behalf – should be in the public domain.

I am now reliably informed that these notes were bought by Global Capital on behalf of itself and not on behalf of third parties, as I had assumed.

A correction is, therefore, indicated.