Robert Abela’s first major mistake

Abela’s stance in refusing to acknowledge the board’s need for an extension of time undermines his own efforts to sell the idea of his leading a new administration

Prime Minister Robert Abela
Prime Minister Robert Abela

Robert Abela’s refusal to extend the time limit of the public inquiry into the death of Daphne Caruana Galizia is his first major political mistake.

It is true that there have been complaints from some Labour-leaning persons – especially on the social media – saying that the inquiry has gone off at a tangent by not keeping to the strict parameters of the terms of reference of the inquiry itself. That, of course, depends on how to look at it. The former Prime Minister who had originally set up the public inquiry even accused the inquiry of turning itself into a politically-motivated search for curiosity’s sake.

The chairman of the inquiry was also criticised for allowing too many questions made by the lawyers of the Caruana Galizia family, when these should have strictly not been allowed. This contrasted with the way many questions put by these lawyers (not coincidentally, two Opposition MPs) were not allowed during the evidence of the former Prime Minister. This smacks of an apparently blatant exercise of discrimination, especially when compared with what happened when other persons were giving evidence.

Notwithstanding its shortcomings, the inquiry is practically serving the country as a much needed ‘truth commission’. Thanks to it, the public is now gauging more accurately the lack of moral fortitude of many – including ministers and former ministers, some of whom have been exposed as moral weaklings. The evidence in the inquiry also gave the public a glimpse of how power was exercised in practice and how certain important decisions were taken surreptitiously during the Joseph Muscat administrations – to the extent that the legality of these decisions is doubtful.

Exposing the truth is vital if the country is to heal itself of the internal strife that Daphne Caruana’s assassination has led to. As the Prime Minister pushing for a new Labour image, Robert Abela should have been astute enough to stand up and be counted in the country’s pursuit for truth. Unfortunately, he has now failed on this front.

The inquiry process is not perfect and putting the Joseph Muscat administration in a bad light was to be expected.

In the circumstances, however, Robert Abela’s refusal to extend the time limit of the public inquiry is the worst option he could have chosen. In itself, this harms his image and the image of a supposedly renewed Labour Party, more than the niggling of Labour supporters because Labour was losing too many brownie points as a result of how the public inquiry was proceeding.

Abela’s stance in refusing to acknowledge the board’s need for an extension of time undermines his own efforts to sell the idea of his leading a new administration that is completely cut off from the shenanigans of the Joseph Muscat years.

Such a stance should not be looked upon just as a political strategy aimed at avoiding the Opposition making political advances in the polling surveys. It should also, and more importantly, be looked upon as doing something that is the right and correct way of doing things. To their credit, there are a number of Labour adherents who understand this and who have openly criticised the Prime Minister for his stance.

Why the Prime Minister is risking putting himself – and his administration – in such a bad light is not clear. The obvious answer is that he is in cahoots with the Joseph Muscat clique, kitchen cabinet, or whatever one chooses to call the bevy of ‘friends’ that surrounded him when in power. This is not necessarily true, but surely, the Prime Minister should realise that this would be the reaction of many. His stance therefore becomes a potential political suicide, in that he is failing in his most important and vital mission – that of pushing Labour to come clean.

In his address on Republic Day, last Sunday, the President emphasized that the most urgent challenge that the country is facing was the bringing to justice the perpetrators of the Daphne Caruana Galizia assassination. An editorial in the PN’s In-Nazzjon last Tuesday concluded that by refusing to extend the time limitations of the public inquiry, the Prime Minister was ‘defying’ the President.

This is incorrect as regards the judicial process that continues to go on against those accused of the crime, but it is absolutely correct if one considers the need to correct the perceptions that foreigners have about Malta as a result of this sordid affair – an issue that was also mentioned by the President in his address.


Put on your dancing shoes

A Tik Tok video showing an uncomfortable Bernard Grech, the PN leader, dancing with youngsters who move from the “negative” to the “positive” has exposed the poverty of the PN propaganda machine.

Youngsters are depicted following Grech’s dancing steps to move from ‘Quality’ to ‘Quantity’, from ‘Personal Greed’ to ‘Common Good’ and from the ‘Status Quo’ to ‘Change’ – under their respective placards.

The idea is essentially puerile. Maybe the PN has not realised that the voting age has been lowered to sixteen and not to six!

The PN may have a problem to connect with young people, but surely, this is not the way to do it, more so because it depicts moving from one party to another as something frivolous.

It is true that many young people everywhere do not bother to think seriously about how their country is being governed. Youngsters looking down at all politicians – who are considered as irrelevant to their lives and interests – is not a phenomenon that exists only in Malta and the PN need not invent the wheel.

Looking at what is happening in other countries could, no doubt, help.

Meanwhile it is obvious that the Labour Party uses Facebook and other social media in a more intelligent way than the Nationalist Party does. I think the PN has no strategy at all in this regard.

Call me ‘old school’ but somehow, I cannot imagine Eddie Fenech Adami or Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici dancing themselves silly to attract youngsters to the party they led.