Did you say clown?

Peregin built a narrative implying that we were in cahoots with government over the Central Link project - some weeks later, I bumped into him having lunch with Ian Borg

Former Lovin Malta CEO Chris Peregin
Former Lovin Malta CEO Chris Peregin

Chris Peregin’s decision to move to the Nationalist Party is his right but I cannot say I was surprised.

The PN has not denied that he will be on a wage of around 70K. Good for him. But who will pay him is of course more than just a curiosity, more so when Peregin has been so forthright about who funds the political parties.

Chris Peregin, 33, will not be offended if I take a feather out of my cap to explain why a vocation in politics is not all about money.

In 1989, I decided to co-found Alternattiva Demokratika, the Greens. In the nine years I worked there, we did so without receiving one penny and at great personal sacrifice.

I personally mortgaged my small home to enable AD to have a bank overdraft to pay for rent, publishing of a fortnightly newspaper, purchasing a radio transmitter and paying a part-time secretary.

In those nine years, I sacrificed everything. After I left, I was still paying for defamation cases lost by the newspaper.

And in those nine years, the likes of Lou Bondi, Daphne Caruana Galizia, Austin Gatt and the whole PN media together with young journalists such as Simon Busuttil relentlessly pounded us, day and night.

Peregin has said that he has seen the light and will leave his business to help the PN. He sees the PN as this country’s salvation.

He has declared that he cannot accept the fact that the Opposition has no future.

This is the same Opposition party which Peregin took to court for having a TV station (NET). It is also the same party led by Bernard Grech who only paid his outstanding taxes on the eve of the leadership election, a situation that prompted Peregin in December to tweet: “I want to live in a country where politicians pay their taxes diligently, not settle years of debt just before they contest a PN leadership.”

Well, everyone has the right to change their ideas.

Surely, the PN employees who felt hurt that Peregin was joining them were justified in feeling that way. Peregin is a Nationalist but he has never dirtied his hands other than show his bias. Neither has he lost his job at the Stamperija or had a salary cut or worked in the discomfort of a political ambience.

Peregin argues that he is doing this for the country, to take us out of the apocalypse we are living in. Good for him and our country.

But I do not believe that with the set-up of the PN as it is today, we will be any better.

I have always had qualms about Peregin. He skilfully attacked others, including myself and my media companies when we accepted marketing campaigns from government, even though he did the same and actively sought government sponsorship.

He not only did this with gusto, but he gave the impression that his online site was spirited by a quest to relay the real news when in reality it was driven by monetisation and sponsored content. It was very well presented indeed but still not the real news.

In the end, I am proud to still be active in journalism at the age of 58. I learnt the hard way - born without a silver spoon, working my way up and with no social strings to pull or networks to embrace. I learnt all the trades, never giving in to all the carrots offered to me by different political leaders and prime ministers over a 36-year career.

I only have myself to thank that I did not enter politics again after I left the Greens. And from experience, most of the politicians I had faith in turned out to be crooked and deceitful. That is a mistake I will not repeat again. There are some considerations to be made about Peregin’s decision to join the PN.

The first one is his false impression that the PN will change with his presence. Peregin’s stance on abortion and other liberal issues will be drowned out by the sheer intensity of the PN’s dogmatism fuelled by its deep conservative roots. Secondly, the PN may improve its communication skills, but does it have any fresh ideas or an impressive line-up of people?

Thirdly, are the people who represent it worthy of our vote. I refer here to the likes of Edwin Vassallo, Maria Deguara, Hermann Schiavone and Beppe Fenech Adami.

Peregin’s presence alone will not change this.

Another consideration is the unintentional damage Peregin has caused his baby, Lovin Malta.

But worse of all is Peregin’s self-entitlement. Here is someone who joins the PN through the back door, is well remunerated because he has two value added deliverables - media awareness and a dislike for the Labour Party.

At one point Peregin was mesmerised by Joseph Muscat because of the civil liberty reforms but he is someone who constantly fed off an endemic prejudice for anything Labour.

He has always lived in the shadows of the English-speaking Daphne crowd, a long-time friend to the Caruana Galizia family and naturally very angry after the murder of Caruana Galizia.

Yet, Peregin’s antipathy for Labour, did not stop him from approaching ministers and their agencies for sponsorships.

He took umbrage when my company handled adverts for Infrastructure Malta when plans were laid out for the Central Link project.

He deftly built a narrative that gave the impression we were in agreement, or in cahoots with the government over the destruction of trees along the Rabat road when we were not.

Some weeks later, at the Phoenicia Hotel, on my way to have lunch with a politician I bumped into him having lunch at the same place with Ian Borg.

It was so typical of Chris.

The migration of media people to politics will continue to happen. Nevertheless, if the same thing happens with someone from the independent media moving to the Labour Party, we would witness a different outcry.

We would be labelled and portrayed as clowns, hypocrites, double-dealers, individuals with no principles and the list is endless.

To attribute all this to Peregin would be unthinkable. The fact remains that all animals are equal but some are more equal than others.

* * *

Today’s front page in MaltaToday refers to a corruption story that is still an open story. In 2013 that scandal was the story of the year.

What is really regretful is that the well-known millionaire businessmen who faced charges of corruption are still trading actively.

In the last months, we have witnessed arraignments linked to money laundering charges, which saw people incarcerated and accounts frozen.

The money laundering and fraud allegations against individuals who were linked to Times of Malta, are a pale shadow of the 2013 case.

The businessmen in the 2013 oil scandal are out there, making millions, living a very comfortable life, investing, issuing bonds and expanding their empires. They continue to operate in trading, oil bunkering, ferry services to Gozo and Sicily and hotels.

The Enemalta minister at the time, Austin Gatt, is living a very normal life in the private sector. The media is conspicuously silent, threatened by some of the companies involved when they are mentioned by name. There is so much more than meets the eye.

Enough is enough.

The Chief Justice is correct in chastising the Attorney General.

The monies involved in the oil scandal, the avoidance of tax and the kickbacks paid were huge. And yet, the case has stalled and the people involved continue to walk.

Why the Attorney General has been acting in this way is more than simply curious?

It is unacceptable.