The stuff that makes men

At times there is no guarantee that justice, or what is right, prevails in the end

‘Is-sewwa jirbaħ żgur’ (justice will prevail) was a saying, or rather a battle-cry some 30 years ago. I guess many people believed the meaning conveyed in these words – but I beg to differ. At times there is no guarantee that justice, or what is right, prevails in the end.

What we have seen inside Allied Newspapers, is that what is wrong, or indeed what’s ‘evil’, can prevail in the end. Because history and politics also teach us that all that counts is power and influence, and nothing else. And if you allow me the following hypothesis, it would seem to me that something rotten can indeed win the day, at times.

Richard Cachia Caruana

Since the end of very long court proceedings on a defamation case instituted against me by Cardinal Cachia Caruana – who says he holds no sway over either the Nationalist Patry or the blogger from hell – there was an attempt to have the case settled. In principle I had no problem to swallow my pride and reluctantly state the following: that the bile blogger’s comments were not powered by the Cardinal himself. The finality of any court settlement is sealed when the accused party apologises, and publishes that apology.

None of this was done

So the Cardinal jumped the gun by leaking the apology to The Times and The Malta Independent, before I could publish the apology in this newspaper. When I got wind of this, I announced I would renege on the agreement to stand by what I had originally said.

My mistake was to agree to go back on my own penned column and apologise for it. Another was to apologise to someone who did not act like a gentleman. He prefers holding court in the Westin’s lobby for those who do his bidding.

Beppe Fenech Adami

There is little doubt that Beppe Fenech Adami’s misdemeanours are being aired so gushingly by Labour to counter the Panamagate revelations. But one of the effects they are having is that they also change the way a lot of people see Fenech Adami, someone who has portrayed himself as some virginal character without sin.

The facts show that he has quite some baggage to answer for. As often happens with anyone who is not from the ‘wrong’ side of the political divide, there is never anything wrong with the usurpation of land that is not yours, or that is outside development zones, whether it is in Bidnija or in Gharghur.

But to see those same people who enjoy extensive grounds and airy homes, preaching to the man in the street on preserving the countryside and fight against the ODZ encroachments? Rich, if you ask me.

But apart from all the technical aspects concerning the planning process in the Gharghur home, I guess the biggest question that crosses our mind is whether Beppe Fenech Adami can really preach on the cosy relationship between politicians and the business establishment.

Beppe has had a rather cosy relationship with business himself, and I must underline that there is nothing wrong about that, per se. But this raises the question as to what makes a man forget about his own so-called sins and accuse other men of being sinners.

It reminds me of the conversion of Labour’s diehard from Zejtun, Ganni ‘l-Pupa’, a man whose terror was visited on Nationalists, until he saw the light late in the day to be embraced by the forgiveness of Beppe’s father in a pre-electoral meeting in 1997. ‘Il-Pupa’ died some months later during a botched robbery.

Clearly Labour has launched this tirade to neutralise the Panamagate aftertaste. There is little doubt in my mind that this would not have happened. Because it was abundantly clear that many of the people who were casting stones were far from guiltless. Which is why the old adage, that people in glasshouses should not throw stones, is getting very relevant in what is being seen as the commencement of hostilities.

Toni Abela

Toni Abela is a friend. A good one, and anyone who knows him will agree that he has fantastic wit, great humour and a kind heart. That he failed to pass the test of the budgetary control committee is a combination of a surprisingly poor performance and a cruel, patronising, politically charged committee hearing.

The grilling was in part based on a dossier given to them by individuals in the PN; and when it came to policy, it was unlike the grilling that Louis Galea faced five years back.

I will say it again: if there was a candidate that should have never been auditor it was Galea. Stacked against him was a minority report from the permanent commission against corruption under a PN administration, on the direct orders in the Auxiliary Workers’ Scheme; and the magisterial inquiry on the tenders given out by the Foundation for Tomorrow’s Schools on his electoral constituency, apart from so many other reports about his political life, such as his part-time farmer’s occupation and the construction of his home in Siggiewi.

But then there were no ‘political dossiers’ sent in by the Labour Party. And of course at the time, the MEP in the European Parliament, Simon Busuttil, had every interest in supporting his friend and mentor.

It is a sad ending for Toni Abela. Here was the man who together with Wenzu Mintoff fought off corruption in the Labour Party and paid the ultimate price, being expelled from the party. Here was the man who spoke up for the emarginated in society and did not shun speaking his mind about the truth. He co-founded the Greens in Malta and campaigned for the introduction of divorce and local councils in the early 1990s. He was one who coined the now much abused term ‘transparency’ in politics, and hammered on the importance of party financing. It was decades before the Franco Debonos of this world.

The EP committee that faced him did not know this, but instead patronised him by employing the conceited and prejudiced opinions one finds in the Maltese media. It is sad to me. I hope that his integrity and experience will be put to good use somewhere.

Allied Newspapers

When you are down, there will always be someone to hit you harder. The bile blogger knows as much. But serious companies do not hang their dirty linen for all to see when facing a management crisis as we are seeing in the Adrian Hillman case.

The company’s first mistake was to instantly make Hillman look like a guilty fool. The second was to believe the allegations without first seeing the proof of the allegation to justify a board of inquiry (isn’t a bribery allegation a police matter in any case?)  The third mistake was not to realise how damaging to the company this will be, any which way it goes.

There has been a lack of support for Hillman from inside the company. I’ve been through this myself. At that other newspaper The Malta Independent, today nothing more than a propaganda rag for the Opposition, I remember the attitude of those journalists when Ray Bugeja, the editor in 1998, was told by his employers to resign after allowing the bile blogger to write on the court testimony in the separation proceedings of then prime minister Alfred Sant. Same source of trouble, it seems.

And in all this mess, the real culprits are the directors themselves. We know to what extent gossip and hate can be transmitted from someone who assumes that kind of role. What we don’t know is how a board of directors allows the company to be taken to the cleaners in this way.

Allied’s directors, now headed by Louis Farrugia, wouldn’t have done the same had The Times been their own, personal company. They probably do not love truth, or that company, as much as they love their party. And that’s an agenda based on the premise of there being just two worlds, one for those with the divine mission to stay on top, the other for those obliged to stay in their place.

George Farrugia

That the rogue oil trader George Farrugia was taken at his word, was in my opinion the biggest mistake Lawrence Gonzi ever made. Here is a man who has been caught lying and selectively recounted parts of his business world, some of which was untrue.

In choosing to believe the husband of one his former secretaries, Gonzi effectively condemned the original whistleblowers, the Farrugia brothers. Well-known for their strong PN links, the family was cast by the wayside after having deposited in the court the proof of the corruption at hand. They were even charged and accused of bribery by Ray Zammit, just before the Commissioner of Police was sacked as he tidied up his last business on the day of his exit; and then, they were publicly castigated by Simon Busuttil.

Farrugia has been proven to be a liar, as the confirmation of the acquittal of former Enemalta official Ray Ferris this week shows.

If Joseph Muscat had the proverbial balls he would revoke the presidential pardon. Perhaps then Farrugia could tell us something more specific about his influence with politicians and other former chairmen of Enemalta, like Alex Tranter.

Of course he would have to deal with police chief Michael Cassar, who seems to run a mile when this subject is raised; and the Attorney General’s office. I guess a decision of this sort can only be taken by people who have the courage to believe in the truth.