Managing a fiasco

The Nationalist Party cannot revive itself if it is to build its next programme on ageing and tested men and women who cannot make way for new blood, or even respect the plan of their newly-elected leader

Nationalist Party Secretary General Francis Zammit Dimech
Nationalist Party Secretary General Francis Zammit Dimech

This week’s shadow Cabinet reshuffle was a fiasco in the making that put the Nationalist Party in reverse gear.   

Everyone with an inkling in leadership and management will explain that when it comes to implementing reforms, changes or transformations, the biggest hurdle and decisions to make is not the plan in itself or the new project, but confronting the individuals and informing them that change is in the air and transformation has to take effect.

When Nationalist leader Bernard Grech woke up this week with the intention to announce his most determined political action since becoming PN leader, he was faced with an insurrection of sorts. His MPs kicked back and tested his mettle, and it seems few were interested in acceding to his demand for change.

With all respect to all those who stood their ground, it has to be said that their determination to hang on to their portfolio, at the cost of publicly exposing their leader to this kind of challenge, was yet another nail in the coffin for the Nationalist Party. This party cannot revive itself if it is to build its next programme on ageing and tested men and women who cannot make way for new blood, or even respect the plan of their newly-elected leader.

If the PN does not rejuvenate itself, and commit itself to a new programme of ideas, it will be committing suicide.

I have nothing against many of the members of parliament who have stood with the PN, but if these MPs - and I refer to deputy leaders Robert Arrigo and David Agius, Mario De Marco, Beppe Fenech Adami and others, think that they can win the next election by insisting on staying as frontbenchers, they are committing a fatal mistake.

But it seems there is so little respect for the party’s common interest that they are unwilling to look towards the future. Can’t they understand that they have failed the test and will not win over the electorate? Even with all the allegations and hard evidence of corruption, and political misdemeanours of the last administration, the PN is still destined to hurtle further into irrelevance if it does not change. And change is also about the faces that the PN puts forward.

Bernard Grech means well, but his about-face this week does not bode well. You can hear it in the street: people will comment about the rebellion he faced in his party. For it seems that that’s what the PN has been all about in the last years: internal rebellion. And you can imagine what disunity and intransigence does to your chances of presenting yourself as a government-in-waiting.

But Grech needs to stand his ground, and he will not be able to apply surgery on an ailing body without cutting through the tissue and removing the dying parts. Sure enough, there will be no gain without pain inside the PN, no recovery without the shedding of blood.

Francis is an affable guy, and a man of considerable political and ministerial experience. But it is clear that the PN needs a young dynamic person with some fresh ideas

Take PN secretary-general Francis Zammit Dimech. He intends standing again for the role.

No doubt, Francis is an affable guy, and a man of considerable political and ministerial experience. But it is clear that the PN needs a young dynamic person with some fresh ideas, some ace marketing skills in a digital world and with a new political mindset for this post. It must be someone who bounces to and fro, entices young people, looks good and is full of fighting spirit.

And if Francis is all this… well, I haven’t seen these qualities in Ċikku, so apologies are in order.

And the same applies to the two deputy leaders of the Nationalist Party. If they had any sense they would have read the writing on the wall upon the election of a new leader whom they did not publicly support (nor were they visible by the side of Adrian Delia in the dying days of the campaign, anyway…). And yet they hang on to their roles because… because the party statute allows them to do so.

It is unbelievable.

They know that Bernard Grech as leader would be better served with two new faces as deputy leaders, willing to give the party a fresh start. So again, this is just an example of what self-serving politicians are doing to the PN and the country. Nothing but selfish and arrogant behaviour.

The PN will never win an election if it walks into the next election with dinosaurs fronting its team. No one is asking for a wipe-out of the whole generation, but neither can a party be represented by those who held the flag high in the Gonzi years.

And whether you like it or not, agree with him or not, you have to give it to Labour leader and Prime Minister Robert Abela. He has had the proverbial balls to change Cabinet ministers around, chop off dead wood, and even force into his backbench new, non-partisan faces with the, albeit controversial power of co-option.

Still, it made it possible to have former MEP Miriam Dalli, former chief of staff Clyde Caruana and former disability commissioner Oliver Scicluna to take up parliamentary and ministerial seats.

At this rate, you do not need to be a rocket scientist to picture what will happen in the next national election. Labour is going to look like a new party… and the PN will simply not win, even risking to fare even worse.

This small republic is calling out for a functioning democracy with real functioning political parties and the possibility to have alternative parties in government from time to time. At this rate, let us not expect any changes.

Taliana suspension

The news that police inspector Elton Taliana has been suspended from the police corps comes as no surprise to me.  

Some years back, Taliana, a former security detail to former PN minister Tonio Borg, won a defamation case against me thanks to the able lawyer Joe Zammit Maempel. Personally of course, I think I should not have lost the case on the strength of the dossiers I presented on Taliana, in themselves having enough material for a Netflix series with a strong police and crime flavour.

I had personally presented all these details on Taliana years back to former Commissioner John Rizzo, but nothing had materialised. And that was it.

This week, Taliana was suspended according to news reports because he allegedly leaked information to lawyer Charles Mercieca (Yorgen Fenech’s defence counsel), reportedly about a Dutch national who has had some very curious information about Melvin Theuma, a news story which was revealed by MaltaToday last Saturday.

Mercieca was interrogated by the police that same Saturday. But what is concerning is that the police appear to be more preoccupied with the alleged monkey business by Elton Taliana, than with the apparent challenge to Melvin Theuma’s claims.

That’s because the Dutch national, who is imprisoned in Amsterdam, would have recordings suggesting that Melvin Theuma is not saying the whole story about the Caruana Galizia assassination. And this could have a bearing on the case, perhaps with implications for Melvin Theuma’s pardon.

My concern is that the facts that would otherwise take us to the whole truth behind the assassination of Caruana Galizia and the motive, are far more complex than meets the eye. That the Maltese police are appearing seemingly unenthusiastic to widen their scope of their investigations is a concern, since it shows that they are hanging on every word that Melvin Theuma has to say as if it were the gospel truth. Maybe they too are averse at looking beyond the narrative we have heard so far.