Nobody’s going to hell. We’re all angry

Panamagate is bloody wrong, and thousands upon thousands, including yours truly, simply don’t agree with the government’s handling of this affair. But let’s not hit out at those who don’t protest.

Getting shit done by calling it as it is: this Graffitti demonstrators fends off the partisan umbrage of the father of Nationalist whip David Aguis
Getting shit done by calling it as it is: this Graffitti demonstrators fends off the partisan umbrage of the father of Nationalist whip David Aguis

It was telling to see elderly Nationalist party supporters reprimanding Graffitti activists for having had the gall to accuse both political parties of being effectively responsible for the same “shit” – nowadays a generic for anything that might otherwise get in your way, from lego pieces sprawled over the carpet, to your briefcase’s contents, and of course, to the Maltese government’s daily goings-on.

Elderly PN supporters who were at yesterday’s civil society protest took umbrage at the Graffitti protestors. One of them happened to be the father of Nationalist Whip David Agius. According to them Graffitti should have had the decency to distinguish between the two political parties and not consider them one and the same.

That is of course if you were born after 2013.

If there were one occasion where I would gladly applaud Graffitti protestors it might have been this. I’ll not be one so untrusting as to suspect that anyone making a dime is probably a thief, but of course I’m not on the right wing of political and social affairs. To me, the Panamagate protest yesterday was in part sadly ‘taken over’ by this minor sideshow, for it was totally representative of the wider problem at hand.

Graffitti, who were present as part of the Panamagate protest, have been around for ages, and their left-wing profile has not changed. Their consistency is highly rated. And probably the elderly people at the protest who accused them of being Labourites could not quite understand what they were all about. These partisan soldiers are by all means not well read and pardon me for saying this, but rather ignorant – to put it midly.

Briefly, Graffitti have been relevant when it came to issues which really afflict Maltese politics. They have never been popular but then being popular is not always linked to being right. And in most cases Graffitti have been able to say it as it is.

And I guess the reaction to Graffitti sums up the reason why hundreds others did not turn up at the Civil Society Network protest. First of all the issue is not about resignations, but rather about zero tolerance towards having politicians or political animals who open themselves up to accusations of unethical behaviour.

Redrawing your tax behaviour is unethical if you are a politician.

But vocal civil society activists are not necessarily representative of a wider part of the population that at times feels uncomfortable showing its face, and might also not wish to be associated with the Nationalist Party, which tends to be eager to piggyback on these demonstrations. Not because these people are left or right, black, yellow, green or purple, but simply because their feelings about the PN do not change when someone does a Maria Goretti on a podium, or because their anger – silent though it may be – is justified even when it does not find this kind of ‘public’ outlet.

The one problem  I can find with the demonstration is that some of its proponents suggested that there was a place reserved in hell for those who stood neutral and did not attend the protest. So the question is: who made them high priests of what is moral, correct, or courageous? It’s an arrogant and self-righteous way of putting it, akin to those who said that who does not attend the PN’s anti-corruption protest, was also an accomplice to corruption.

Not everyone has time for protesting, even though like anyone else, they work their butts off and pay taxes like everyone else and have the same right to feel angry about Panamagate. They are angry that politicians treat them like morons, but in truth they have to get on with life. Not every protestor at the 2015 protest against the Zonqor campus joined yesterday. Surely, they won’t be going to hell. If that were the case, someone had better stoke the furnace.

Panamagate is bloody wrong, and thousands upon thousands, including yours truly, simply don’t agree with the government’s handling of this affair. But let’s not hit out at those who don’t protest.

The problem with offshore and tax havens did not start with Panamagate. Luxleaks and Swissleaks happened before, and little was said of the Maltese connections with the financial services industry here. This scandal started long ago when most of our politicians before and after their entry into or departure from politics dabbled with the fiscal advantages of tax avoidance in Malta and abroad. Our front-page story today is a reminder that politicians have this uncanny habit of not realising that they cannot preach to others about fiscal matters, when they themselves are actively involved in a financial services industry that capitalises – from whichever way you look it – on the global ‘tax optimisation’ .

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I am probably the only person who writes about Adrian Hillman, the former Allied Newspapers managing director, a man who represents the ‘competition’ for this young newspaper.

I can only say that it kills me to see a man who is down and alone, which is where I decide go where everyone else chooses not to, like that spiteful, privileged, plate-throwing tax avoider who dodges any presumption of innocence when it does not suit the party she hatemongers for.

What is interesting is that one of the men sitting on the Allied inquiry board chaired by Giovanni Bonello is PWC lead partner Kevin Valenzia, an audit firm which is actively involved in seeing that Malta continues to make the best use of its special financial services status to attract clients here to channel its profits to Malta and have their dividends taxed here to claim a generous rebate on it. It’s a business that brings both the PN and the PL together.

Valenzia’s firm also audits the company that Hillman managed, so he knows what happens in audits of The Times, and he could have perhaps informed Judge Bonello of what really happened at The Times.

I wrote to Judge Bonello to ask him about his inquiry. He was unsurprisingly brief and to the point. But he failed to take note of one of the more important questions I asked him. Would he, I asked, take his investigations further with other company directors?

Even I have ‘worked’ with The Times. No, not as a journalist (how could I reach the standard of someone like Ivan Camilleri, who recently suggested to a female government employee to ‘find a black man to get laid’). I was a client way back in 1989, and I could tell Judge Bonello a tale or two, based on facts.

But then I’m not sure it’s the truth that Allied have been seeking here, but just a knee-jerk reaction to satisfy the political stratagems of the few.

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Owen Bonnici has thrown his hat in the ring for the Labour deputy leadership. It appears Toni Abela will not take the plunge. 

This time around, it is clear that Muscat cannot quite show which candidate he is supporting. There will not be the kind of subtle support that Eddie Fenech Adami had shown for Lawrence Gonzi when he ran against Louis Galea and John Dalli. Or the understated support for Simon Busuttil against Tonio Fenech by Lawrence Gonzi.

Muscat, I am sure, is in a quandary. Owen Bonnici has less baggage than Chris Cardona, but Cardona comes with more experience. But Bonnici appears prepared. It will be a difficult choice for the delegates, more so if Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi decides to join the race.

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