At a crossroad, the PN needs a strong dose of confidence

Maybe what the Nationalist Party truly needs right now, more than anything radical, is someone who is passionate, tireless, with attitude and a strong dose of confidence, which Rosette Thake seems to have plenty of

Rosette Thake is expected to hit the ground running
Rosette Thake is expected to hit the ground running

In less than a month, the unthinkable happened. By refusing to reverse his position on the Zonqor development, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat united a movement – made up of people from different walks of life, of different backgrounds and political beliefs – not least his own government whip and one of his MPs against his government.

Muscat has only himself to blame. His decision to give pristine land in Marsaskala to foreign ‘investors’ was bound to attract widespread criticism and opposition – because it is an irrational and wrong decision.

I am writing this on a Thursday evening. By the time of publishing my gut instinct tells me that Muscat would have reversed his decision. He usually does when faced with a public outcry. If the Prime Minister sticks to his guns, then the most pertinent question which would need a clear and unequivocal answer would be: “Why is Dr Muscat adamant on giving a big chunck of unspoilt land in the south of Malta to a handful of ‘investors’ from the Middle East?”

After only two years in government, Labour has lost the plot completely on environmental issues with its insistence on taking what are evidently irreversible, bad decisions. Now we learn, as usual not from government sources, that a Milan studio has won a competition to design a new cruise terminal and leisure complex in Gozo.

You might recall Labour’s vociferous opposition to the Hondoq project, located in a quarry under a PN administration. Common sense won the day and that project was never approved. Now Labour wants to replicate a project that it opposed, and even worse – it wants to build a cruise liner terminal in what is one of the most pristine marine environments of the country.

Mixed messages

The landslide vote in favour of gay marriages in Ireland created shockwaves within the Vatican. Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Pope Francis’s most senior Vatican official, told Vatican Radio that he was, “very saddened by this result,” and described the Irish vote as a “defeat for humanity”.
Not so Pope Francis, who at the beginning of his papacy, struck a sympathetic tone towards homosexuals, stating that “if a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge him?” Mixed messages indeed. At least Pope Francis has the last word – or so I hope.

Peace conference

On Tuesday, Libya’s internationally recognised Prime Minister, Abdullah al-Thinni, survived an assassination attempt by gunmen who opened fire as he was leaving a session of Libya’s elected Parliament. The rival factions in Libya are the biggest obstacle for post-Gaddafi Libya to embark on a much needed reconciliation process. Malta needs to step up its efforts – in the interest of peace and stability in the Mediterranean, but also in its own interest, to help bring the rival factions around the negotiation table.

A Mediterranean Peace Conference, focusing exclusively on Libya, would also be a step in the right direction. Issuing temporary visas to Libyan businessmen, as suggested by the Malta Chamber of Commerce, is a correct decision in the short term – but we need to be looking at long term measures that eventually help lead to stability in the region. A painful process of course, but time is running out – especially with ISIS continuing to make inroads and gaining ground in key Middle Eastern and North African countries.

No to ODZ development

Speaking at the PN General Council last Sunday, PN leader Simon Busuttil stated that his party would “stand in the way of (Zonqor) development”. He also declared that the future for the PN is the environment. It’s an uphill for Busuttil – it takes a lot of convincing to persuade people that the PN is a genuine guardian of the environment. Previous PN administrations often spoke about sustainable development, but at times their track record proved otherwise.

What Busuttil has in mind, I guess, is that on his watch sustainable development is encouraged and that development on fertile land would be ruled out – no questions asked. The PN needs to explain its stand better. It cannot afford to come across, again, as anti-development.

Sustainable development is essential for the well being of the country and to generate wealth. The PN should consider going one step further – a clear and unequivocal no to development in outside development zones. There is ample space and enough derelict buildings that can be pulled down to make way for new development.

No lame duck

Archbishop Charles Scicluna stood up to be counted, as did the absolute majority of NGOs and civil society, by opposing the Zonqor development. As expected, he got the flak from the usual quarters for doing his duty and speaking up against what is undoubtedly an irrational decision, that of destroying fertile land in the south of Malta.

No wonder that those who today are criticising the Archbishop for objecting to this development were staunch supporters of his predecessor – a godly man and a true gentleman who led a defunct Church.

Rosette Thake

This week, Rosette Thake is expected to succeed outgoing PN secretary general Chris Said. She is uncontested for the post – with David Casa, touted to be one of the front runners for the post declaring that he won’t contest and embraced Rosette Thake at the end of his speech at the general council.

I have no doubt that Casa, a loyal PN stalwart, will give his unconditional backing to the new secretary general, and Thake would do well to rope him in, especially to reach out to PN core voters.

Rosette Thake, a relative newcomer to party politics, has a tall order. She will step into Said’s shoes – himself a brilliant campaigner with a strong dose of political acumen. The new secretary general is expected to prepare the party in the run up to the 2018 general election – despite the limited financial resources at hand.

I have known Rosette for the past five years and her excellent organisational skills; willingness to reach out to middle of the road voters, ability to think outside the box; her loyalty to the party; the fact that she shares a common vision as expressed and embodied by the leader of the party and the fact that she is a team player, are what I consider to be her strongest assets.

Being a relative newcomer to the PN – although she did work behind the scenes in the past years – means that she has to introduce herself to the PN core voters and most importantly reach out to them. PN supporters need to feel comfortable with their new secretary general. Rosette has the skills to make it happen.

The Nationalist Party is at the crossroads – as the new secretary general, Rosette needs to help steer it in the right direction.

Thake does not have a demonstrated track record in politics, unlike her predecessors – although Joe Saliba was relatively unknown and proved to be one of the best secretaries general the Nationalist Party ever had. With less than three years to go to the polls, Thake does not have the luxury of a learning curve. She is expected to hit the ground running.

Maybe what the Nationalist Party truly needs right now, more than anything radical, is someone who is passionate, tireless, with attitude and a strong dose of confidence, which Rosette Thake seems to have plenty of. I wish her well.

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