Country, party, and the ‘best in Europe’

What is happening is totally Joseph Muscat’s fault. He defended his two buddies – Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri

The fact that Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri remained put raises the question of why Muscat chose to defend these two
The fact that Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri remained put raises the question of why Muscat chose to defend these two

In two separate articles in MaltaToday and The Times of Malta, Raphael Vassallo (‘Go on Sandro, make hay while the sun shines’) and University of Malta dean of laws Prof. Kevin Aquilina (‘Partitocracy and misuse of law’), hit the nail on the head. The real problem is the institutionalisation of PL and PN control of the state. Laws are designed, the Constitution included, purposefully and knowingly to perpetuate and consolidate their grip.

The extremely serious allegations about Egrant, Joseph Muscat’s family’s alleged involvement, and the institutional reactions to these are a textbook case of purposefully designed weak institutions, which depend totally on the party in government and more specifically the Prime Minister. Make no mistake – they are designed to be weak. It gives one tribe a way out when their backs are to the walls. They can cry foul because it is the ‘others’ who are inventing stories. 

It is a repeat of the BWSC and the oil procurement bribery saga. ‘Go to the police’ was the answer, and it still is. In the case of the Police, they make sure that the force’s head is weak and loyal to the Prime Minister and his party, instead of to the state. It is actually the police who should come up with proof. They have the means and executive power to search, interrogate, arrest and intercept, people, property and information. But they sit pretty.  

What is happening is totally Joseph Muscat’s fault. He defended his two buddies – Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri. The mere fact that they had secretive companies in Panama and other setups in New Zealand, structures associated with either money laundering, tax avoidance or tax evasion would have meant that Mizzi and Schembri would have long been kicked out.

The fact that they remained put raises the question of why Muscat chose to defend these two. It is justifiable that one hypothesises that the reason would be that Muscat is somehow involved in what Schembri and Mizzi were up to. He chose to be close to Schembri and Mizzi. He chose to be close to Nexia BT and Brian Tonna. He chose to ignore the fallout from the Panama Papers, with Keith Schembri snubbing and trying to ridicule the European Parliament’s PANA committee. The FIAU report remains a mystery – “to protect the financial services industry”. Does Joseph Muscat expect us to believe him? Pity the Labour Cabinet and its parliamentary group is a collection of spineless cowards. They would have got rid of Schembri and Mizzi ages ago. By today they would have ousted Muscat and chosen another Prime Minister from amongst them.

We are a banana republic, based on rule by an all powerful Prime Minister. It suits both parliamentary parties for the system to be such. We are a country where obscure banks, and lawyers, including MPs, facilitate tax avoidance/evasion and are directors of secretive fiduciary companies. This means we are a country attracting money launderers. Even with all the financial services’ laws both sides of Parliament boast about, and what they claim is “due diligence” being carried out on clients, the system enables the shady companies and dealings we have heard about for the past year. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

Today I will not be attending the Nationalist activity in Valletta. I refuse to take part in activities of a party which was and is part of the problem. A party which together with the Labour Party made sure that in Malta the state is non-existent, with a ‘party-in-government’ instead of a proper functioning state. What we need is a consensus on how to make this country a real nation-state. My attendance or not today will not lead to that.

And by the way, I will not attend, but guess what, I still love my country, more than you can ever imagine. I love it so much that I will not be associated with the corrupt, whoever they are and whatever the ‘level’ of corruption on their partisan corrupt-o-meter.

The pesticide cancer factory

A story published in The Times a week ago rehashed years-old stories about pesticide-laced fruit and vegetables. The article reported one in five samples of fruit and vegtables with illegal amounts of pesticides. At the time of publication the ministry in charge, Helena Dalli’s, did not answer whether there is a national laboratory set up to test produce in a timely fashion. Alternattiva Demokratika had already answered that same question a year ago. No, Malta, the ‘best country in Europe’, has no functioning national laboratory to test residues in food.

The Malta National Laboratory Limited, now defunct, was inaugurated with pomp and circumstance reminiscent of a Soviet Republic by a Nationalist government in 2003. EU pre-accession funds and Italy-Malta Protocol funds were used to finance equipment. The laboratory, now part of the Cinderella of government agencies, the Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority never really took off, with equipment, now obsolete, remaining unused.

No investment in people, poor salaries and a lack of training because of a lack of interest by government means that samples of produce are still sent abroad for testing, with results coming back when the produce has already been sold and consumed. Reports in the press in 2016 say that the Water Services Corporation laboratories will be used to test produce for pesticides. It seems that this project has also ran aground, otherwise we would have been graced with a press release or a press conference with the Minister telling us how she is protecting children from cancer.

The ‘best country in Europe’, with the best two parties in Parliament, give us stability and peace of mind that our children (remember the ‘għal pajjiżna, għal uliedna’ slogan?) have a one-in-five chance of consuming pesticide tainted produce. Pesticides should only be issued using a prescription-type system by suitably qualified agronomists. We have charlatans and their blessed and ‘stable’ PLPN system to thank for this ‘fabbrika tal-kanċer’.

Wied Incita... again!

Again, the dysfunctional system of the state has kept one government after another from taking on the owners of the Wied Inċita quarries in Ħ’Attard. With an ongoing local council court case calling on government to enforce its own laws, which I am proud to have pushed for, we now have a new planning application, in which proposed massive development is being sweetened by including solar panels on hundreds of warehouses, garages, retail outlets, together with a spanking new quarry. If ever there was an example of greedy capitalism at the expense of everyone else, this is a good textbook example.

The fact that the quarry owners want to build up the existing quarries is an admission that the useable stone resource has been exhausted. They are supposed to reinstate the parts of the quarry from which they cannot extract stone. However, since the 1960s, they have failed to rehabilitate even one square metre of land.

They mention a ‘solar farm’. Their concept of a solar farm is strange. It means putting panels on roofs of buildings, making their project irreversible and cementing over a huge amount of land. The fact that they want a new quarry next to their ‘solar farm’ just confirms that they have no idea of what they are talking about. Or rather, they know what they really want: an industrial park, to hell with renewable energy!

Well, when we have a ‘pro-business’ government, with ‘pro-business’ meaning a laissez-faire attitude, and following over 20 years of another party in government which never lifted a finger to take on the Wied Inċita cowboys, no wonder our country is the best in Europe.

Ralph Cassar is secretary-general of Alternattiva Demokratika, the Green Party

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