The divine comedy

If you had to put the four candidates – Edwin Vassallo, David Agius, Arrigo and Bezzina – in a giant incubator to isolate their strengths rather than their weaknesses, and their grey matter rather than their white matter, we would be horribly shocked

It is no joke, Bezzina is running against Robert Arrigo, and if we were to be sincere with each other, there is not much separating any of the four candidates
It is no joke, Bezzina is running against Robert Arrigo, and if we were to be sincere with each other, there is not much separating any of the four candidates

There has got to be some explanation as to what is happening to the Nationalist Party. Perhaps it has to get worse before it gets better, if it can get any worse: the latest surprise, a last-minute decision by Toni Bezzina to offer himself for the post of deputy leader for party affairs. The feeling all round was: “He has got to be kidding!”

It is no joke. Bezzina is running against Robert Arrigo, and if we were to be sincere with each other, the truth is that there is not much to separate any of the four candidates (the other two are those running for deputy leader) from each other.

Bezzina’s decision to stand for this post just goes to show how people like him are completely not in synch with reality. Most people cannot quite understand when their time is up, or when something is beyond them. Bezzina falls in both categories. He continues to work in politics because I guess he thinks the people who love him and support him in his constituency are the same kind of voters you would find across the Island.

Bezzina, like Delia, has baggage. It’s heavy baggage too. He lost two libel cases he filed against two newspapers in 2012, about allegations that he had forced government workers from the government department he is employed with, to declare on oath that they had not been told to carry out works at the PN club in Zurrieq during their work hours. He was then a government architect with George Pullicino’s ministry, and he had engaged workers from the works department to carry out maintenance works at the PN club in Zurrieq, using government-owned materials.

Worse still, the Labour media had also revealed that three workers had been forced to sign a false declaration.

Bezzina sued both Kulhadd editor Toni Abela, now a judge, and l-Orizzont editor Josef Caruana, now an official at the Office of the Prime Minister, for libel. In both judgements, Magistrate Francesco Depasquale confirmed that in March 2012, Bezzina was the head of the rapid intervention unit within the resources ministry and that he was also the president of the PN’s sectional committee in Zurrieq. Now that is a nice coincidence.

A few days before the local councils elections, Bezzina asked Joseph Borda – a principal technical officer in the same department and therefore a subordinate – to send three workers to the PN’s club in Zurrieq to carry out maintenance works.

Borda approached three workers – Charles Curmi, Paul Inguanez and Mario Bugeja – who after finishing off from works in Ta’ Xbiex drove to Zurrieq and met Borda. The three workers spent between two to three afternoons working on the PN club. Days after the works were completed, the story appeared in the newspapers.

After hearing the testimonies, the court confirmed that Bezzina and Borda called the three men to Bezzina’s office where they were given a document. A few days later, Borda took the three men to the office of a notary to sign a document under oath. “It transpires that the three workers did not want to sign the affidavit but were eventually convinced to do so,” the court said.

Borda was somehow not asked to testify in the libel proceedings. Inguanez would later sign a second affidavit to deny the contents of the first document. Bezzina insisted it was not true that the three men were told to work during work hours. However, all three workers said their working hours were until 4.30pm. Therefore, the workers said, the hours fell within their schedule.

The court concluded that the facts as reported by l-Orizzont had been proved and it also was clear that Bezzina had drafted the declaration which was later signed by the three workers. It had also been proved that the workers were taken to the office of a notary trusted by Bezzina to sign a second affidavit under oath.

Now based on this alone, it is justifiable and fair to suggest that Bezzina is not fit for re-election and should have resigned his parliamentary post. But considering the way people vote in elections, I think I will give that rational argument a miss.

But it does not stop here with Bezzina. In February of this year Bezzina’s wife (obviously to avoid attention) filed an application for the building of a villa near Saqqajja hill in Rabat. The application was presented in the name of Bezzina’s wife while the Nationalist MP represented her in his professional role as architect. Had the application been approved it would have resulted in a one-storey dwelling and a basement over a footprint of nearly 130 square metres.

Plans submitted to the Planning Authority include three bedrooms, a kitchen, dining and living areas and a washroom over a basement which included a 112 square metre garage, a domestic store and a small wine cellar for Bezzina’s special interest in wine.

The application was purposely misleading and presented as the “rehabilitation and restoration of an existing almond grove and World War II living quarters and observation room and a proposed pool and new access.”

The NGO Din l-Art Helwa in its objection said the application did: “… not mention the construction of a new dwelling”. The Environment and Resources Authority also referred to the formation of a hardsurfaced access path, which “will result in the formalisation of the entire site”.

Of course, Bezzina was asked to reverse his application by then PN leader Simon Busuttil even though, let us face it, the application was in line with existing policies that were drafted, concocted and made law by the Muscat administration. But it happened to be a building outside development zones, something out of synch with the PN’s environmental policy at the time – and Bezzina had been one of the policy’s co-authors.

But like all the good professionals in the PN, who in their private business interests and lives never concern themselves with principle, Bezzina was stupid enough to think that he could away with all this.

Having said this, it has to be said that beyond this background to Bezzina, you have to also judge the man by what he stands for. That I think is very important.

And if you had to put the four candidates – Edwin Vassallo, David Agius, Arrigo and Bezzina – in a giant incubator to isolate their strengths rather than their weaknesses, and their grey matter rather than their white matter, we would be horribly shocked.

Which is why all this talk of a split and a new Nationalist party is not as far-fetched as it appears to be. ­

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The most interesting anecdote fell into my lap a few weeks ago. I couldn’t pen it quick enough against last week’s deadline, so I’m running it for you really fast.

As it happens, one virulent Nationalist activist whose dislike for this newspaper seems to run in tandem with a personal dislike for yours truly, had a footballing epiphany one night. Eddie Aquilina, publisher extraordinaire, had had enough of Tottenham Hotspurs’ losing streak, so he decided to jump off the Spurs’ bandwagon and run off to Highbury to start supporting Arsenal.

I mean it makes sense, right? It could have been Chelsea or West Ham, but Aquilina went for Arsenal… Of course it doesn’t. Football teams are perhaps one of those choices made with the accepted knowledge that allegiance never changes. I mean, which Milan supporter decides he is going to support Inter after a few seasons? It’s different with politics of course. Normal human beings vote for different parties, switch allegiance, and do not balk at the sight of somebody who votes for another party. But Eddie is special of course…

 

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