Between a rock and a hard place

Does Abela acknowledge that he owes his victory in the leadership race to Joseph Muscat’s camp and now he is anxious not to upset this camp?

Robert Abela must have the courage to choose what is right rather than what is convenient
Robert Abela must have the courage to choose what is right rather than what is convenient

The latest revelations on the scandalous going-ons behind the privatisation of the management of three public hospitals are too serious to be ignored by any serious government.

Another report of the Auditor General and the findings of the OCCRP (The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project) have shocked Malta.

As one of his reactions, Joseph Muscat has demanded that a magistrate leading a corruption probe into the hospitals contract should step down from this task and appoint someone else ‘who can secure impartiality’ in a case which has now turned ‘political’. This is obviously a preview of the excuses Muscat will bring up when the inquiry is concluded.

Incredibly, the Labour government and the Labour Party seem intent on moving on while ignoring the predicament they face. Justice Minister Jonathan Attard was reported to have insisted that people should judge the Labour Party (and the current Labour government) on how it acted since 2020 when Robert Abela became prime minister. Essentially this means the present Cabinet expects Maltese citizens to ignore the scandal and applaud the current administration for good governance!

This is not on. The Labour Party carries the weight of whatever Labour administrations do and cannot share the glory of Muscat’s positive achievements while turning its back to this incredible scandal.

When Labour expected an apology for the way it was treated by the Church in the 1960s, the apology was forthcoming from Archbishop Joseph Mercieca. He did not shrug his shoulders saying I am not responsible for what happened when my predecessor -Archbishop Michael Gonzi - was in charge of the Maltese diocese. He apologised.

So how can Labour now say it has nothing to do with what happened during the Labour administrations led by Joseph Muscat?

The Prime Minister who is also leader of the Labour Party, Robert Abela, finds himself between a rock and a hard place but he must have the courage to choose what is right rather than what is convenient.

Joseph Muscat still has a substantial part of Labour supporters who adore him and believe whatever he says. For these Muscat supporters, seeing the current Labour leadership apologising for what happened under their idol’s watch is anathema. If such an apology is made, the possibility of the Muscat supporters abstaining from voting when the time comes is certainly a real threat that must be haunting Robert Abela.

But if such an apology is not forthcoming, the weight of the scandal will have to be carried also by those who succeeded Muscat, even if they had nothing to do with it, as Robert Abela claims today.

The Prime Minister insisted in Parliament that the Auditor’s report makes ‘a clear distinction’ between him, Chris Fearne and Clyde Caruana; and ‘the others involved in the deal’. So, what? He is the successor of Joseph Muscat and he has used to his advantage the historically recent surge in the popularity of the Labour Party since Muscat became its leader. Indeed, Robert Abela’s sudden ascent to the Labour leadership is also owed to Joseph Muscat in many ways.

It is worthwhile recalling that in the Labour leadership contest in which he beat Chris Fearne, Abela had alleged that he wanted to win so as to upset a devilish deal (patt imxajtan) that he implicitly attributed to his rival. Was this a travesty of the truth with the devilish deal having been made actually by him? More so considering that Joseph Muscat’s camp - especially Muscat’s wife - worked to elect Abela and defeat Fearne.

Does Abela acknowledge that he owes his victory in the leadership race to Joseph Muscat’s camp and now he is anxious not to upset this camp?

Is Abela opting to look after his narrow personal political interest, rather than doing what is in the long-term interest of his party and of the nation? If so he is making a big mistake.

Labour cannot close its eyes and its ears and pretend it has nothing to do with how the privatisation of the running of three hospitals - that was not even part of Labour’s electoral manifesto - was conducted.

What happened in the beginning of the process and how subsequently Steward replaced Vitals is a ghastly story. The Maltese State has been robbed with the collusion of those who were duty bound to run the government.

How can a Prime Minister ignore all this with the excuse that it did not happen on his watch when the Maltese people were the ultimate losers?

Traffic nightmare

Despite all the improvement in our road network, the number of traffic incidents and traffic fatalities keep piling up. At the same time, driving in Malta has become a terrifying experience.

Minister Aaron Farrugia is struggling to do something about the situation. First, he suggested that workers should report for duty at different hours of the morning; deliveries of goods should be made at night; and hospital appointments should be scheduled throughout the day.

He also alleged that village feasts are one of the causes of heavy traffic - an allegation he quickly withdrew for obvious political reasons.

Then he had a meeting with representatives of University students where he suggested that students should not use their private cars to go to the University. This would be a very small part of the solution, of course.

Throughout 2022, the rate of road traffic fatalities in Malta increased by almost 10 times more than in any other EU country. Between 2021 and 2022, the rate of fatalities in Malta increased by 189%. During this period, no other EU country registered an increase higher than 20%. Malta had a road fatality rate of 50 per million inhabitants in 2022, up from 17 in 2021 and 21 in 2020. In 2022, there were 26 road fatalities in Malta.

If these statistics are frightening, wait for this year’s. They will certainly break all records.

Earlier this year, Transport Malta increased several fines because overspeeding, distraction and drunk/drug driving were the factors that most lead to accidents. The fine for driving while using a mobile phone was doubled to €200 while the contravention for driving through a red light was also doubled to €200.

In spite of Aaron Farrugia’s efforts, the traffic situation in Malta has become an expensive nightmare.