Will Abela ever have his Khrushchev moment?

It is true that there are a number of Labour supporters who still adore Joseph Muscat and foolishly think he is a victim – not of himself, but of others who betrayed him. This is nonsense, of course

Joseph Stalin (left) and Nikita Khrushchev: the latter took the Soviet Union through a process of destalinisation
Joseph Stalin (left) and Nikita Khrushchev: the latter took the Soviet Union through a process of destalinisation

Following the revelations on the owner of ‘Macbridge’ last Monday, the Prime Minister on Wednesday held a press conference announcing proposals to reform cannabis laws, coolly ignoring the elephant in the room.

Remember that the up-to-then mysterious ‘Macbridge’ was cited as a source of income by Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi when they opened their account in Panama.

Asked whether he believed that his predecessor, Joseph Muscat, had no knowledge of what the two men closest to him were up to, Abela gave a one-line reply: “Joseph Muscat is no longer part of government.” Abela went on to sing the praises of the Labour Party and the ‘movement’ built in recent years, saying he is “very proud” of the party he leads. He was reported saying that since becoming leader, he had “never protected” Mizzi or Schembri and his actions and decisions have been “clear”.

Sorry Robert, that is not acceptable as Labour’s current position on the Joseph Muscat era.

Labour faces a big problem: how to deal with Joseph Muscat’s legacy. Indeed, Joseph Muscat’s era is depicted as a time of great achievements in the official Labour Party web-site. The other week, two high party officials – deputy leader Daniel Micallef and PL president Ramona Attard – took part in television programmes on the current political situation, only to come out as being completely in denial as regards the relationship between the party today and Joseph Muscat’s legacy.

It is true that there are a number of Labour supporters who still adore Joseph Muscat and foolishly think he is a victim – not of himself, but of others who betrayed him. This is nonsense, of course. What happened during Muscat’s premiership could not have happened without his knowledge, unless Muscat is a very big idiot – which he is not.

Surely, Robert Abela cannot be taken seriously if he keeps pandering to these misguided, biased simpletons.

Unless Joseph Muscat is renounced by the Labour Party, his legacy will forever haunt it.

Will Robert Abela ever have his Khrushchev moment? In 1956, Nikita Khrushchev shocked the Soviet Union by denouncing Stalin in a special secret address to Communist party comrades. The text, detailing the dictator’s crimes, was smuggled out of Moscow and later published in the west.

The speech condemned the “cult of personality” that Stalin had created to glorify his own rule. That was only three years after the death of Stalin, mourned by the great majority of Soviet citizens, who saw him as a divine father. So soon afterwards, here was their new leader telling them they had made a cataclysmic error: far from divine, Stalin was satanic.

This is the sort of courageous move that Labour needs today, if it has to overcome the big problems it is facing because of Muscat’s legacy.

In short, unless Labour actually denounces Muscat, it will have to carry forever his legacy of wrongdoing.

The tangled web

Last Sunday, we got the news that a consortium of journalists, including the Times of Malta, had discovered that a Chinese energy negotiator involved in the multi-million euro deals by Enemalta is behind Macbridge – a once-secret company suspected of being set up to pay kickbacks to former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri and former minister Konrad Mizzi.

Mizzi promptly denied any knowledge of or connection with Macbridge.

The company was in fact owned by the mother-in-law of a certain Cheng Chen via a shell company in the Seychelles. Cheng Chen was a negotiator on behalf of Accenture and who had played a very important part in Enemalta’s negotiated €320 million deal with Shanghai Electric Power.

Macbridge was also involved in the profit from the notorious Montenegro wind farm deal as 17 Black had passed €1 million to Macbridge after it received the €4.6 million profit from the deal.

So another part of the incredibly enormous web spun during the Joseph Muscat administration has been uncovered.

The work being done in this expensive long-term investigation – by Reuters, Süddeutsche Zeitung, and other journalism partners including the Times of Malta – merits more appreciation.

As luck – or misfortune – would have it, the loose end from which it all started was the Panama papers: a giant leak of more than 11.5 million financial and legal records that shook the world as it exposed a system that enabled crime, corruption and wrongdoing, hidden by secretive offshore companies.

A tribute to Godfrey

The news that Godfrey Grima passed away last Monday after being infected with COVID-19 has shaken all those who are members of the so-called ‘media family’ in Malta.

As Godfrey himself used to say, I gave him the story of his first report that was ever published. That was some 55 years ago. Then architectural students at the University were roped in to help in surveys that the newly set-up Town Planning Office had to carry out for the first ever, foreign town planning consultant. We had to mark the heights of buildings in every street in Malta and also mark the shops and commercial establishments according to type.

I had to do this task in Valletta.

So one day, as I was marking the necessary information while walking down a Valletta street, a young man asked me what I was doing and I explained my job – and its context.

This intrepid young man was Godfrey Grima on his first ever journalistic job. Sure enough, the next day the story was published in Il-Ħaddiem.

A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then. I lost contact with Godfrey when he went to London where his journalistic capabilities were honed. When he returned, somehow our paths crossed again and we became friends. Not that we agreed about everything. The opposite was probably the truth.

Yet Godfrey was the type of man who could build up friendships with people with whom he disagreed. His character bridged all chasms. So long!

It’s been nice – very nice – to know him, discuss and argue with him and, better still, to share jokes with him.