Fake politicians and political fictions | Therese Comodini Cachia

Joseph Muscat’s vision is of ensuring the chosen few are protected while Simon Busuttil’s vision is one which clearly not only sets standards but also applies them even from the Opposition bench

Joseph Muscat’s government has excelled in public relations, yet it is only the Leader of the Opposition who is setting standards in honesty
Joseph Muscat’s government has excelled in public relations, yet it is only the Leader of the Opposition who is setting standards in honesty

In assessing Minister Evarist Bartolo’s mishandling of the Caruana debacle a lot of what he has stated in the past can easily be thrown at him. In April he is quoted as having said “Personally, as a politician, I have to shoulder responsibility and not put it on someone else’s shoulder.” He also vehemently insisted that in mishandling the Konrad Mizzi saga, Joseph Muscat was applying a law for the gods and another for animals. We know what he has said because Minister Bartolo did not mince his words in setting standards when others were at fault.

However his lack of decisive action on the case of Caruana has exposed Minister Bartolo as himself being incapable to adhere to the ethical standards he expects of others. Let me be frank, he is right in expecting high standards of ethics and governance from any politician, but he is damned when he fails to obey his own rules. And condemned he should be. His use of social media and the print media to sustain an image of himself as an honourable politician has been rampant in the last years.

And let’s be clear, he has successfully mastered an image of himself that has baited several constituents. His hesitance in living up to that image when faced with grave allegations of corruption not only in his own ministry, but actually involving one of two siblings both of whom enjoy positions of trust, and consequently were handpicked by himself, has shown how deceitful that image is. 

While the Caruana case is all about Minister Bartolo failing to shoulder political responsibility, the minister’s dishonourable handling of the case is all about the Labour government’s fake image.

Bartolo, like Muscat’s government, has excelled in public relations, in shaping a ‘truth’ that is ‘untrue’, in shaping a political fiction. Bartolo’s sermons on how others should shoulder political responsibility, take decisive action in the face of corruption and resign have today been proven by himself to be political fiction. 

This is yet another bad turn for Maltese democracy which demands the same good governance that Minister Bartolo has so much preached for. Good governance based on honesty is a must for both government and opposition unless the aim is to alienate people from democratic social engagement.

Yet it is only the Leader of the Opposition who is setting standards in this regard. When a minister acting out the part of the honest gentleman is de-masked his failure is grave, he fails not only his party’s core voters but even more those voters who selectively choose who they will support. But most of all he shames good governance and the rule of law.

Minister Bartolo’s behaviour, made up of half truths and fake images, is interpreted as a weakness in the minister himself and exposes him as a person unwilling to live by his own principles. But the Prime Minister’s support for a minister who resorts to half truths so as to protect one of his own (Bartolo being one of Muscat’s cabinet and Caruana being one of the persons of trust) is clear indication that good governance under the Labour government is in shambles.

While Minister Bartolo should have done the honourable thing and resign, while Prime Minister Muscat should have sought his resignation to safeguard face, what is of grave concern is that their inaction in the face of corruption brings about social and democratic disengagement of citizens who are directly affected by these acts of corruption. This is where there is a huge difference between Muscat and Busuttil. The former’s vision of ensuring the chosen few are protected while the latter’s vision is one which clearly not only sets standards but also applies them even from the Opposition bench.

Therese Comodini Cachia is a Nationalist MEP and shadow education minister

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