What a mise en scène!

Is Muscat trying to pre-empt any moves against him that Abela might be reserving for after the election?

Discord with the substantial number of Labour supporters who still adore Joseph Muscat (right) is certainly not in Robert Abela’s (left) interest at this point in time
Discord with the substantial number of Labour supporters who still adore Joseph Muscat (right) is certainly not in Robert Abela’s (left) interest at this point in time

If the three people who were later accused of executing Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination had actually known beforehand of the Police raid that was to be staged at the abandoned Potato shed in Marsa, can we believe that former PM  Joseph Muscat did not know beforehand of the so-called Police ‘raid’ of his house in Burmarrad last Wednesday?

A media photographer was outside Muscat’s house when the Inspector called. So much for surprises!

Muscat said he was ‘half-surprised’? What does this actually mean? How can one be half surprised? By launching the ‘raid’ a half hour or so before the ‘appointed’ time, perhaps. Otherwise, Muscat was obviously aware of the impending Police call.

The Police impounded four mobiles - one each from the four members of the Muscat household - and a file that Joseph Muscat had prepared beforehand regarding the jobs he had carried out for a consultancy firm.

The so called police search was part of a corruption probe into the Vitals Global Healthcare (VGH) hospitals deal. Last November the ‘Times of Malta’ had revealed that Muscat had received €60,000 from Accutor AG, a company that, in turn, had received millions from Steward Healthcare when it took over a contract to run three state hospitals from the original concessionaires, Vitals (VGH).

It is understood that the police search was part of a bid by investigators to establish whether the payments into Muscat’s Bank of Valletta account from Accutor AG could be linked to corruption in the hospital deal. The proximity of the contract signing to Muscat’s resignation is being seen by investigators as an indication that the payments scheme could have been pre-agreed whilst the former prime minister was still in government.

Muscat saved the Police a lot of work by handing them a file full of documents that he had prepared ahead of the search. These files include evidence of the work he claims he had done in exchange for the Accutor AG payments.

After the search, Muscat said he was tipped off by someone ‘within the Nationalist Party’ that PN MP Jason Azzopardi was telling people about the planned search. He even said that he had flagged this to the inquiring magistrate and had made it clear he was available to cooperate.

According to Muscat, he gave the police a file that had been prepared since November when he was asked to testify in the inquiry, and that the file contains documented proof of the work he did, that - Muscat insisted - had nothing to do with the Maltese hospitals contract.

There is no doubt - in my mind - that the raid was not in the interest of the Labour leader, PM Robert Abela, who is to face an election in a few months time. Discord with the substantial number of Labour supporters who still adore Muscat is certainly not in his interest at this point in time.

The PN and the diverse NGOs attacking Labour on the Vitals contract and its aftermath - especially Repubblika - did not gain any brownie points with this raid. Those in favour or against Joseph Muscat just became more rigid in their assessment of his record as Prime Minister.

The Police got some kudos from those who only looked at the face-value of the ‘raid’. Did the police make any real and significant searches in Muscat’s home? How come they impounded the family’s mobiles but did not seem to bother much with any computers at the Muscat household? Did they just accept his pre-prepared file with the answers to the questions raised by the payments made to him by Accutor AG? From what has happened, as related by Joseph Muscat, this is very likely.

When one considers everything, one cannot but conclude that the only person who could have gained some ‘advantage’ was none other than Joseph Muscat himself.

He had warned Labour that should he be provoked, he would not hesitate to return to the political arena. From the way Joseph Muscat spoke after the raid, there is no doubt that he considers it a ‘provocation’. The raid has actually led to Muscat’s threat to Robert Abela becoming even more critical. Jason Micallef’s call last Thursday for Labour supporters to protest in the streets against the ‘injustice’ done to Muscat put the icing on the cake.

Is Muscat trying to pre-empt any moves against him that Abela might be reserving for after the election? I know that this question is based on an unproven - actually unproveable - hypothesis, but otherwise the so-called ‘raid’ - and the way it took place - does not make sense.

It has only benefited Muscat’s cause by helping him to play the victim card, provoking a sympathetic reaction from his many supporters.

Robert Abela should certainly worry about this development.

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Tension in Ukraine

The tension between the USA and Russia is rising as the latter builds up its military presence along the Ukraine border.

US President Joe Biden on Wednesday said that he believes Putin does not want a full-blown war with Ukraine, but warned Russia would have to pay a ‘dear price’ if there is a Russian military incursion in Ukraine.

Recent satellite images show that Russia has continued to build up its forces in Crimea and has also moved a large number of troops along Ukraine’s eastern borders.

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov has said that there was ‘no plan to attack Ukraine’. On the other hand, Putin has said that ‘appropriate retaliatory military-technical measures’ will be taken if required. Meanwhile, Britain began supplying Ukraine with anti-tank weapons.

Geographically, Ukraine is practically divided by the Dnieper River. The east side is close to Russia with the influence of the Orthodox Church being prevalent while the west side is close to Poland with most people being Catholics.

Will the river eventually be the marker of the west-east divide?

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Roberta Metsola must be undoubtedly congratulated for her election as President of the EU Parliament.

The positive reaction across the political spectrum in Malta says a lot and gives hope that childish piques in Maltese politics will decrease in the future.

Roberta is the youngest EU Parliament President ever. That means she has ample time to work in the interests of her country in the future.

In the years to come, I expect her astounding career to achieve much more in Maltese politics.