The reaction to the Puttinu donation was a clear case of misplaced anger

Archbishop Scicluna said he makes a distinction between his own tweets and the items he retweets… But such after-the-event explanations are always ignored

The reaction of some people to the Joseph Muscat caper when announcing on live TV his (Government’s?) decision that the Puttinu Cares Foundation was to receive a five-million-euro donation from the National Development and Social Fund – which receives the lion’s share of the proceeds from the IIP scheme – was a clear case of misplaced anger.

Misplaced on more counts than one.

Puttinu provides accommodation in London to those who are there accompanying a relative being treated in the UK, mostly for cancer. The whole point of the foundation is indeed a noble one. And popular as well, since there is hardly anyone in Malta who does not have a relative who has – or had – to face the ‘big C’, as John Wayne called it when he found he was also the victim of a dreaded cancer.

Talking in a way that could be interpreted as being against helping the foundation is simply political suicide. Do it in anger and the whole sky falls.

This is what Beppe Fenech Adami and Jason Azzopardi did. Beppe tried to use the fact that he also had to face cancer as a pointer that he sympathised with cancer patients. Sadly, it did not work. Whatever he said and the way he said it was bound to be interpreted as a criticism of Puttinu Cares by someone who does not care. The anger in the tone of his voice simply made it worse.

I am not one to judge Beppe’s intentions and I will refrain from doing so – his intentions, however, are irrelevant. What counts was the perception of people hearing him say his piece in which he described the donation as an insult to cancer patients. Surely, no one sees it that way.

The anger went over the top with an incredible sweeping statement when the funds used – obtained from the selling of Maltese passports to foreign billionaires – was described as ‘ill-gotten gains’, perhaps recalling Balzac’s observation that behind every great fortune there is a crime!

This is ethics and morality gone mad. By the same token, the PN government should never have set up a financial services regime that helps people avoid taxes in other countries – for a relatively small cost, of course. And we should also denounce our gaming industry because making money from people’s vices is wrong. Beppe’s logic leads to the notion that people working in the financial services or gaming sectors in Malta should refuse their wages, or perhaps turn into missionaries.

To be sure, Joseph Muscat’s way of announcing the donation on live TV was a Good Friday theatrical gimmick that he did not need at all. It was wrong, of course. Gaining political brownie points for helping cancer victims is not on. People would have appreciated this donation just the same, even if he did not announce it in the way he did.

To be sure, Joseph Muscat’s way of announcing the donation on live TV was a Good Friday theatrical gimmick that he did not need at all. It was wrong

But this does not justify the angry reaction against the donation. Some fun could have been made of the way Joseph Muscat announced the donation and what was in order perhaps was just mocking him for the way he ridiculed the Christian axiom on charity – that of not letting the left hand knowing what the right hand is doing.

In any case, this donation would have been a six day wonder with everybody forgetting it within a week or so.

Beppe’s anger will not be so easily forgotten.

A tweet too far

When Archbishop Charles Scicluna decided to retweet a post from the online news platform The Shift News, he probably did not realise that he was involving himself in a big and messy controversy.

The article in question criticised the current system in Malta where political parties create dependencies to ensure their power. Its tagline was: “What in Sicily is known as Cosa Nostra, what in Calabria is known as ‘Ndrangheta, what in Naples is called Camorra, in Malta we call ‘il-gvern.’ The Archbishop just retweeted the tag-line to invite people to read the article.

The opinion piece, written by Cedric Farrugia for The Shift News, was actually titled ‘The System we created.’ In fact, the article complained of Malta’s political system where patronage and cronyism are the order of the day. The post, therefore, complained of the ills in our entrenched political system and not about the current government in any particular way.

Even so, the comparison in the tagline was an unhappy one and overstretched one’s imagination.

The retweeted tagline was definitely misleading. People who read it – or just scanned it – were misled to think that the article alleges that Joseph Muscat’s government is a secret criminal organisation on the lines of the Cosa Nostra, the ‘Ndrangheta and the Camorra.

Apparently, the Archbishop, who seems to agree with the point of the article stupidly re-tweeted the tagline to invite people to read the article. That he did not realise that people would just react to the tagline – probably without bothering to read the article or understanding its point – shows that he is prone to knee-jerk reaction tweeting in the style of Donald Trump.

The reaction to the Archbishop’s reaction then went over the top. Labour’s Glenn Bedingfield tweeted this satirical comment: “Pity the Archbishop didn’t give up bashing the government for Lent. That would have been too big a sacrifice”.

In an explanation posted on the Facebook page of the Archdiocese of Malta, Archbishop Scicluna said he makes a distinction between his own tweets and the items he retweets. He said he retweets articles that could lead to a mature discussion, away from partisan politics, which seek the best interests of society.

But such after-the-event explanations are always ignored, of course. By the time this explanation was forthcoming, every Tom, Dick and Harry had already joined the fun. The Archbishop was called a “hypocrite” and “unfit for purpose” and that ‘he should be ashamed of himself’.

This was followed by an online petition for the removal of Archbishop Charles Scicluna over comments connected with Government’s donations to Charity – comments that he never actually made.

The Maltese way of complicating all minor hitches, mixing issues and blowing them into garguantuan proportions is here to stay.

After all, we are the centre of the universe.

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