From 16-year-old candidates to irate ministers and resignations Saviour Balzan looks back at this tumultuous week in Maltese politics 

“I cannot imagine, what anything Clyde can do, Byron can do better.”
“I cannot imagine, what anything Clyde can do, Byron can do better.”

If there is an election outcome that I could read into and not get wrong, it has got to be that most Maltese and Gozitans would vote to revert the possibility for 16-year-olds to vote or better still to stand for mayor.   

They would think the same with the gender quotas forcing women with no electoral base onto parliament. Most would also act in a similar fashion on so many other hasty reforms, which they are unconvinced about such as the legalisation of cannabis. 

In all three reforms the general feeling is simple: we disagree. And if truth be told, most parliamentarians share the same views. 

The only reason that the MPs and ministers have not opposed these reforms is because they are basically PARSHEEP - a genetic mutation created by cloning a parrot with a sheep. The two unfortunate virtues of being a parrot and a sheep are only too clear to everyone. 

A good friend of mine adds another malaise and that is of having no self-esteem at all.  

A 15- and 16-year-old girl or boy are still fumbling their way through life let alone being ready for political life and the bickering on a council tasked with running a town or village. They are simply too raw and immature. They are still growing up and childish. 

So, there were three issues this week which caught my eye. 

The first was the news that the two major parties now have 16-year-old local council candidates. This was one of Muscat’s ‘great’ ideas, which no one has questioned. 

Having 16-year-olds vote, neither wins you nor loses you votes. But no one seems to have explained this to the political parties. 

The second issue was the Prime Minister’s declaration that anyone mentioned in the Jean Paul Sofia inquiry should come forward by 4:30pm and tender their resignation. 

No names were mentioned but obviously, all the people expected to resign were informed by government to do so. 

It is disturbing to see these public officers confide privately that they were the scapegoats in a story that should have seen the politicians shoulder responsibility for the attitude of greed they allowed to flourish. 

But I guess the willingness of people to accept a political appointment also made them liable to be discarded by the same government that appointed them. 

Public service can be a very cruel experience when things go wrong. 

The fact that these appointees are PARSHEEP ensures that their grievances are withheld from public scrutiny. 

The truth is that the death of Jean Paul Sofia was not the first to happen because of the rampant and shabby development spree that hit this island years back. A cursory look at the number of people Maltese and foreign that died at a place of work in the last 30 years would shock everyone. 

More shocking would be the steps taken over the years to redress these tragic events. 

It is indeed ironical that the same chairman of the commission who delved deep into the Jean Paul Sofia death was some 20 or more odd years ago appointed as the first head of a commission on health and safety. 

Yes, Justice Emeritus Joseph Zammit McKeon was heading a fledgling precursor of the OHSA at a time when the word safety at the place of work was an afterthought.  Not much was achieved then from what I can see. Fast forward 20 years and some things have changed, but not enough and the biggest issue of all is the pace of development driven by greed and bad planning policies and a general lack of enforcement. 

But it is very clear that if the agencies tasked with ensuring the highest standards were given all the staff and resources in the world, they would still be unable to enforce standards everywhere. It would be a case of mission impossible. 

The solution is to slow down the pace. But that as I can see is not an option, not for the government and neither for the general business community and some segments of the Maltese public who depend on the construction industry to grease their high spending power. 

One thing is for certain, if it had not been for the redoubtable stamina and determination of one mother – Isabelle Bonnici – we would never be here discussing this tragedy and seeking solutions to avoid others. 

The third issue of significance was the Prime Minister’s decision to remove the agency Jobsplus from Finance minister Clyde Caruana and place it under Byron Camilleri. 

Using an Irving Berlin Broadway quote: “I cannot imagine, what anything Clyde can do, Byron can do better.” 

Now, Clyde Caruana is not a PARSHEEP.  He is anything but a PARSHEEP and he was so incensed by the decision to remove Jobsplus from him that very reliable rumours have it that he was thinking of calling it a day this week. 

Caruana has steered the government’s finance policy with an iron fist, but his clarity and determination have sent a signal of stability and serenity in the business community. 

Business loves strong finance ministers, and with Caruana’s and Abela’s business-friendly approach, the economy is booming. 

But not all is well, on the Western front.  Good politicians such as Clyde are hard to come by.  And though Labour may have better politicians than the PN, the Cabinet is not exactly brimming with grey matter. 

The last thing this country needs before Easter is another crucifixion.