‘Save us, Bernard! You’re our only hope…!’

I suppose Bernard Grech could always resort to a Jedi ‘mind-trick’, and convince the FATF, with a wave of his hand, that: ‘it’s Ok for the Maltese government to interfere with the judicial process now, because… um… it’s a Nationalist government, not Labour’. (And you never know: unless the FATF council is made up of Hutts… it might even work)

Guys, guys, guys… I mean, come on. How many times do we have to go through this, anyway?

That article I wrote last week about Christian Peregin jumping into the nearest phone-booth, and re-emerging as a ‘superhero’ to save the day…?

It was just a joke, damn it. It wasn’t an open invitation for everyone and his dog to suddenly rush off and do exactly the same thing…

Oh well: I guess it’s my own fault, really. What was I even thinking, planting such dangerous ideas into impressionable minds? But in any case: it seems the damage has already been done. Just yesterday, the Times carried an opinion article – under the headline ‘Beyond tribalism and clientelism’, if you please – which ended on the following note:

“The PN is our hope to overcome the dark state of politics. Let us be realistic; there is no other option…”

Hmm. Now, where-oh-where have I heard that sort of thing before? And why is the ghost of Carrie Fischer suddenly whispering in my ear… ‘Help me, Obi Wan! You’re my only hope…!’

Ah, yes, of course: ‘in another galaxy, long long ago’. (Remember? ‘It is a dark time for the Rebellion’, and all that…)

Honestly, though. Do these people ever pause to consider that that the whole ‘Star Wars’ franchise is, in reality, just a work of fiction? That there is no such thing as a ‘battle between Good and Evil’… still less, an all-powerful, unseen Force that ‘flows between us:  between you, me, the tree, the rock… yes, even between the benches of Opposition and Government…’?

I mean… it’s one thing hiring Christian Peregin to ‘save the Universe’. But getting George Lucas to write the screenplay? That’s taking things a couple of parsecs too far, don’t you think?

But in any case: if this were the only example…. the rest of this article would be a little like Han Solo’s efforts to launch the Millennium Falcon into hyperspace: ‘a real short trip’.

For one thing, its author – Rebekah Cilia – is herself one of the PN’s newer breed of young politicians who (somewhat belatedly, it must be said) are finally stepping forward to replace the old guard. In other words, she is precisely the sort of recruit the Rebel Alliance actually needs, if it is ever to restore balance to the Force…

And we wouldn’t exactly want to discourage her from such a noble mission, would we now?

Besides: there will be time enough for Rebekah Cilia to learn for herself the true wisdom of Han Solo’s timeless advice to Luke Skywalker: “Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid…”

The real problem, however, is that Bernard Grech also seems to suffer from the same delusion himself. It looks as though he really does believe he is the party’s – if not the country’s, if not the entire galaxy’s – ‘only hope’ (even if Yoda himself tells us, at the end of ‘Empire Strikes Back’, that: “No. There is another…”)

Consider, for instance, his latest electoral promise: “A new PN government led by Bernard Grech will bring Malta back on the white list within three months to ensure investment and job opportunities aren’t lost…”

Got that, folks? Bernard Grech has declared that he will do the Kessel Run in just three months. That’s 90 days… which not only smashes Han Solo’s record by around a million parsecs: it is also six times shorter than the current government’s declared (and somewhat optimistic) timeframe, of ‘18 months from now’.

Erm… might I ask a teenie-weenie little question here? ’90 days’… starting from when, exactly?

From the moment the PN gets elected?  And if so: when will that even be? Can Bernard Grech – like Yoda – see the future… and predict exactly when – any time between now and next June – Robert Abela will use his Prime Minister’s prerogative, and fire the blaster-pistol for the next election campaign?

Because (in the galaxy the rest of us live in, at any rate) nobody actually knows the answer to that one. Probably, not even Robert Abela himself.

All we can safely say is that it will be some time over the next eight months (possibly even tomorrow, for all we know); and that, whenever it happens, the campaign itself will last a minimum of six weeks.

Going on past experience, the specific target dates could be as early as this October (it’s admittedly unlikely; but there’s still enough time); more plausibly, around next March… or, at the very latest, in May/June 2022.

This means that the count-down-timer for Bernard Grech’s promise could start ticking anywhere between roughly nine, 26, or 50 weeks’ time. And it would reach zero either in February, July or October 2022.

Leaving aside that the last of those options coincides rather neatly with the government’s current deadline of 18 months anyway… and that, even in the other two scenarios, a lot of the spadework will have already been done…

… and assuming also that Bernard Grech does, in fact, succeed in destroying the Death Star by then, and saving us all from the clutches of the Evil Galactic Empire, etc., etc.…

We are still left with the question of how he intends to actually deliver on that promise, within such an ambitious timeframe. What could Bernard Grech possibly do, in three months as Prime Minister, that no other prime minister would be capable of doing (he’s our ‘only hope’, remember?). Apart from ‘wielding a lightsabre’, naturally. Or ‘using the Force’…

Inevitably, this takes us back to that other question. The way I see it, Grech’s boast opens itself up to only two interpretations, really. And I’ll take them one by one.

The first is that Grech really has hatched a national strategic action-plan which is: a) feasible; b) capable of achieving the same result, regardless when it is actually enacted, and; c) will satisfy all the FATF’s criteria for lifting its sanctions against Malta.

If so, I don’t think it would too unreasonable to ask for a few details. For instance: the FATF’s declared reasons for grey-listing Malta include our failure to enforce money-laundering and tax evasion regulations in a number of ‘cases’.

I imagine, then, that Grech’s plan would have to somehow see to it that all Malta’s unresolved money-laundering cases are, at minimum, prosecuted within a mere 90 days of a PN government taking office.

And given that some of the more glaring cases are, in fact, already in the process of being either investigated, or prosecuted… Grech’s plan would have to involve somehow intervening with the police and Attorney General, to ensure that prosecutions take place – at his own government’s command, presumably - within a strict deadline established by himself….

Erm... sorry, but this is the part where the ‘Rebel Alliance’ starts looking a whole lot like ‘Evil Empire’ it is trying to overthrow. For wasn’t ‘government intervention in the judicial process’ precisely the sort of rule-of-law issue that earned Malta so much rebuke in recent years? And shouldn’t it be the Office of the Attorney General to decide when – and, more importantly, on the basis of what evidence – to prosecute the people it is currently investigating?

Ah well: I suppose Bernard Grech could always resort to a Jedi ‘mind-trick’, and convince the FATF, with a wave of his hand, that: ‘it’s Ok for the Maltese government to interfere with the judicial process now, because… um… it’s a Nationalist government, not Labour’. (And you never know: unless the FATF council is made up of Hutts… it might even work).

But… that’s not the only condition imposed by the FATF for taking us off the grey-list. As Grech knows only too well – because the FIAU director warned him, and all Parliament, about it last week – there is also the question of removing a Constitutional loophole that permits money-launderers and tax-evaders (and other criminals, too) to fall through cracks in the system.

And yet, oddly enough… when Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis presented a bill (requiring a two-thirds majority, please note) to amend the Constitution, and remove this loophole once and for all… who voted against it, if not the party representing the ‘Light Side of the Force’?

To be fair, I’m not saying the Opposition didn’t have its own good reasons for wanting to defeat that bill in parliament (not least because – for a change – it actually could). Some of its ‘red lines’ – especially insofar as ordinary citizens rights are concerned – are certainly valid; and in any case, Zammit’s bill could have been a lot better-worded, too.

Nonetheless, the PN knows full well that this Constitutional change has to happen one day, if its own electoral promise is ever to materialise. And – for the first time since 2013 – it also has the power to block it in Parliament, whensoever it likes.

From this point on, it becomes slightly easier to predict what Grech’s ‘grand strategic plan’ might actually boil down to, in the end. His party will sabotage every attempt by government to ever meet the FATF’s conditions… until it gets into government itself: by which time of course, there will be nothing left for the FATF to even grey-list us for, because…

Well, that brings us to the second (far likelier, in my view) interpretation. Because Bernard Grech really does believe the only reason we were put on that list to begin with, was as ‘punishment’ for having elected a Labour government in 2017.

So even just the simple fact that – in this other galaxy, anyway – the PN will back be in power again: that, on its own, should be enough. After all, the ‘good guys’ would have won; the ‘dark side of the Force’ will have been defeated; and – just like in fantasy universes - we will all live happily ever after,