Sorry is not ‘the hardest word’ for nothing...

Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca is not merely a ‘representative’ of the Malta Labour Party… in the eyes of many she simply IS the Malta Labour Party: past, present and all

And if you don’t believe me: well, just ask Bernie Taupin. He’s the one who actually wrote those lyrics, you know… even if, to this day, Elton John keeps getting all the public credit for the entire song (and I don’t remember him ever apologizing for that, either. More proof, if any were needed, that ‘sorry’ really is the ‘hardest word’…)

But still: it might be just slightly difficult to track down Bernie Taupin for a more precise explanation… so we shall have to make do with Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca instead.

Why is ‘sorry’ such a difficult word, anyway? Well, on the basis of her experience over the past few days alone… I’d say the former President Emeritus in the perfect position to answer that question, once and for all.

Just a couple of days ago, for instance, she wrote in this newspaper that: “The Labour Party’s first step should be an apology to all those who genuinely believed in its moral credentials and supported it, and to all the people of these islands…”

… and… well, just look at all the reactions it provoked.

So far, around the kindest comment I’ve seen was to the effect that it was ‘too little, too late’. And to be honest: there is some truth to that: especially considering that Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca herself occupied the highest Constitutional office of the country, until just a short while ago; so she had every opportunity in the world to actually do something, about all the issues that she seems to have suddenly woken up to only now (you know: when she’s no longer President, and can no longer just ‘dissolve’ the entire government with the simple stroke of a pen… like the good old days…)

But no matter: that, as I said, was around the kindest (and, therefore, ‘fairest’) of the reactions I’ve seen. Elsewhere, the online comments reminded me vaguely of what it must be like to get physically torn apart by a pack of genetically engineered Velociraptors, straight out of ‘Jurassic Park’: actually, make that two packs; attacking – like in the film – from opposite sides at once.

In fact, Coleiro Preca was almost literally eviscerated from every angle you care to name: starting with supporters of the same political party she had just called upon to apologise… some of whom publicly urged the former President to likewise demand an apology from the Nationalist Party, over a never-ending litany of Labour grudges – some real, others imaginary – going back literally decades, if not centuries. (Seriously, though: someone even demanded an apology for the ‘Terinu’ incident… which happened all the way back in 1927: when the Labour Party hardly even existed at all…)

Ironically, however, the sternest criticism came from the other side of the political divide (in other words, from people who have themselves been calling for pretty much the same thing – i.e., ‘a Labour apology’ – for years).

Unlike those outraged Labour commentators – most of whom probably don’t even think their party has anything to apologise for in the first place – this category did not take any offence specifically at the suggestion itself.

No, they actually agree with Marie-Louise Coleiro on all the core points of her article: especially her implication that Labour has been reduced to “a party that is simply power hungry and merely directed by surveys, rather than by political, social and moral values…”

That is, in fact, how they themselves have been describing the Labour Party for ages (though obviously in less flattering terms). So if they objected at all, it was because this time round, the same arguments came from none other than Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca: i.e., someone who was herself part of the same administration they hold guilty of all those offences… and who is therefore automatically complicit in all the same crimes, by virtue of mere association – at any level at all, it seems – with Joseph Muscat.

Only in this case, the association is… shall we say… ‘extensive’.

Earlier, I described Coleiro Preca as ‘President Emeritus’… but let’s face it: in the context of a discussion about the ‘soul of Labour’, she’s a whole lot more than just that.

She is also a former (and arguably current) stalwart Labour militant, who has been synonymous with that party ever since at least the early 1970s: variously doubling up as its General Secretary (and Executive Committee member); Labour’s longest-serving Minister (and Shadow Minister) for Social Affairs; a former President (if not co-founder) of the Ghaqda Nisa Socjalisti; a former editor of the Labour Party’s newspaper, Il-Helsien…

And I’ll stop there, because the full list of her past affiliations with the Labour Party would probably take up the rest of this newspaper, and every other edition for the next decade or so. The bottom line is that Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca is not merely a ‘representative’ of the Malta Labour Party… in the eyes of many (and that counts for both those Velociraptor packs, by the way) she simply IS the Malta Labour Party: past, present and all.

This, incidentally, was also reflected in a single comment posted by a member of the Caruana Galizia family: who accused the former President of “trying to reinvent herself yet again”… followed up by yet another never-ending list of (Nationalist, this time) grievances: some dating back 30 years or more.

For the record, they include: “untold violence, corruption and violations of human rights, the murder and beating of interrogees in police custody, an accountant who worked for one of her corrupt party colleagues cut up with a chainsaw and his dismembered body parts thrown into an empty well, the ransacking of the Courts of Justice, the Archbishops’s Curia, the Opposition leader’s home and countless Opposition party clubs by Labour-Party-sponsored-and-protected thugs, the burning down of the Times of Malta offices and its printing press…”

But again I’ll have to stop there, because the list is practically endless.

In any case: by this point, you can already see why ‘sorry’ is such a notoriously ‘hard word’. When Marie Louise Coleiro Preca so much as suggested that the Labour Party should apologise for its past misdeeds… it was instantly interpreted as an ‘admission of guilt’ – her own guilt, please note – for a whole array of other political grievances: including, but not limited to, all the corruption associated with the Muscat administration.

Just imagine, then, what the reaction would be, if the Labour Party were to actually take her up on that suggestion… and really apologise (instead of merely ‘contemplating the possibility’, like Colerio-Preca suggested)?

Well… maybe we don’t really need to use all that much imagination after all.  We already have at least one Nationalist MP telling us that “an apology” – though a “good start” – may “not be enough”.

Sadly, however, he stopped short of explaining what, exactly, the Labour can still do, to ever somehow atone for its past mistakes… or even just to reach some form of national closure to this entire ordeal (which is, after all, affecting the whole country, not just the Labour Party…)

But the answer, of course, is already staring us in the face. Nothing at all.

For if even Marie-Louise Coleiro-Preca’s tentative efforts at reconciliation were so brutally dismembered – and, regardless of her past affiliations: she was not exactly at the ‘epicentre’ of the whole Joseph Muscat shitstorm, was she? – what chance could the rest of the party possibly have, of ever reaching out across the divide?

No, make no mistake: no amount of apologies will ever be enough… not even if every single member of the Labour Party – past or present – were to also commit ritual seppuku, after flagellating themselves in a public display of remorse.

Not, in other words, until the Labour Party apologises… not merely for the past misdeeds of one particular administration; but for the fact that it even exists at all.

And even then…. not until it also follows up that apology with its only possible logical consequence: i.e., that it ceases to even exist, by disbanding altogether (as some other voices are already suggesting…)

And they say that ‘sorry is the hardest word’? Impossible, more like it…