The battle of the Little Bighorn

If that referendum on EU accession had happened today, I’d only vote if someone pointed a gun at my temple

So the country is doing well and nobody gives a shit about anything else but money… That seems to be the standard answer to Panamagate when the issue is raised with the powers that be. It’s an assessment that might well be true. Everyone is doing better, sure, thanks to the awful construction spree’s multiplier effect. Politicians think this is “good”, and to hell with the disfigurement of the island.

But no. The implications of the latest revelations on the Panama Papers cannot go away just like that.

And it hurts me deeply to admit it: no electoral majority or economic revolution can neutralise the situation. Most people may not feel strongly about this issue, but it does not mean that it is not important and should not be addressed.

There is a protocol in public life that needs to be followed. Do we need to spell it out? All my life I have given the benefit of the doubt to politicians. And to my chagrin most of the time it has turned out to be a disappointment.

In my eyes, the change from PN to PL that took place in 2013 had nothing to do with the hope for an economic dream. It was purely based on a revulsion for the things that happened in the previous 25 years, a reaction to the spite and malice of the Gonzi administration, the partisan divide and the ugliness it waged through its media acolytes. And more importantly, people just wanted a change.

Before 2013 I had long shared the dream of a Malta firmly entrenched in European ideals. I worked side by side with people such as Simon Busuttil and David Casa. But that soon changed as I saw a European Union which does not stand for the values I hold today. I saw the political potpourri of short-sighted overpaid MEPs in a polarised parliament and politically-appointed commissioners distanced from the people on the ground.

If that referendum on EU accession had happened today, I’d only vote if someone pointed a gun at my temple. I know other Europhiles would do the same.

Sure, I can say that corruption was happening and was very much alive before 2013. But yesterday is yesterday. And what happened then does not justify what is happening today. Whether it was worse, or better before, is now irrelevant. What I know is that Muscat’s legacy is in jeopardy and it’s a pity. Somehow history always embraces the more colourful aspects of one’s career.

If that referendum on EU accession had happened today, I’d only vote if someone pointed a gun at my temple

Politics is the art of compromise, but also one of hypocrisy which applies to all its practitioners. Am I surprised that among the people who capitalised on the suspicious investors connected to Azerbaijani oligarchs, there are people like former Nationalist ministers and their legal firms, who happen to be the first to accuse the Labour government of “being corrupt”? Of course not.

The truth of the matter is that Joseph Muscat will not remove his two men at this point: because he knows that it does not gain him any political points.

He knows that nobody will applaud his decision. Indeed, he would be castigated and accused of having done “too little, too late”. The media will not give him reprieve – he knows this.

But Muscat is wrong to think that the press misrepresents his administration. Brave decisions on equality, or IVF reform, or economic success, are not ignored by the media. But then he cannot expect the press to look away at impropriety and bad governance.

The past weeks’ assault from the foreign press was not seen since the days of Dom Mintoff, when it was said Malta was “burning” in the 1980s. Make no mistake: beyond the high journalistic standard, you can make out the antipathy, antagonism and high-handedness in the way Malta is being lambasted as if it were a rogue State or a Mafia capital, including by MEPs of all hues. Malta cannot catch a break it seems, even in cases where MEPs are mispresenting the situation on the ground.

And yet, all this uproar seems to have fortified Joseph Muscat’s electoral base, making him more popular with his own wide constituency.

But the present evidence presented by the Daphne Project involves more than just the narrative that some have followed. And whether that narrative is unfair, speculative or unproven, there is still an important protocol of political propriety that must be upheld.

Now I would like to give some the benefit of the doubt, but the Prime Minister’s resoluteness to go on with life as if nothing is happening, is not helping.

The way I see it, Muscat is playing a game of chess. He wants us to believe that the Egrant allegations are false – and most people, including myself, follow this thread, believe him and support him.

But many cannot quite understand why he does not act on the other allegations.

Those with no time to waste will deride Muscat because they believe the reason is that he knows things he should not know, or worse still: that he is in cahoots with his two political aides.

Much more serious is the ludicrous and unbelievable assumption by some that he is behind a ‘political’ murder – and here, I have to say that not even Simon Busuttil can simply abandon his sobriety and rest on the lamppost of the international press to suggest this narrative.

For it is this relentless negative treatment and the coordinated attacks on Muscat, that have put him in a corner. The media can sometimes forget that getting to the swollen and sick appendix by ripping open the stomach and intestines will leave the patient for dead. And as things stand, the alternative to Muscat are the muddled and half-baked stances of Adrian Delia, which are not getting him anywhere close to power. And the people are at a loss about this.

Today Occupy Justice will hold a protest outside Castille. It will probably follow the narrative that is being played out, that the murder was political. Its listeners are convinced, but that narrative will only incense others and widen the divide in this small country.

I think the only one who knows the endgame in this whole saga is Muscat himself. From his vantage point it looks like a repeat of the Battle of the Little Bighorn. It would be useful to read the whole history of this epic event in 1876. History, after all, repeats itself.