History repeating itself

'It is not necessary for a whistleblower to be a contender for the Pope John Paul II Peace Prize. Ultimately, what matters is whether what they say under oath, is true or false'

PN MEP David Casa
PN MEP David Casa

I ask myself what it takes to shake the political system and the ingrained culture in which it thrives. Changing things and moving people is no easy task.

I look back and recall what we have changed. Not much really, despite so many major media revelations and scoops. To be honest, the press’s role in affecting immediate changes has been limited, even though we constantly chip away at the edifice of prejudice and harmful ideology.

No matter how clichéd the tired adage, history does repeat itself and people’s memories are short. Even as new kids come on the block, many are destined to repeat the same mistakes or take the same irrational judgements just as their predecessors did.

So, whatever you read today is a snapshot of today and nothing else, and if I am still around in ten years’ time and still writing at 65, I am sure that the goalposts would not have changed much. I will probably be writing about the same stuff and complaining about our short memories and inability to be consistent about things we do and say.

Then again, it gets even worse with those who, as authors of unethical behaviour and questionable decisions, become themselves the fiercest critics of those same sins they perpetrated years before. And that’s my preamble to a short piece on David Casa.

Two weeks ago, we ran a story about Casa, the popular MEP, in what was a clear state of fact: Casa has been accused by a former longstanding aide of being a habitual user of cocaine. Casa denied this, then swiftly attacked the source, accusing him of being an associate of Labour (the mortal sin of choice in Malta’s tribal camps); and of course, was aided by journalists and bloggers in taking the whistleblower to the cleaners.

Shameful, for a host of reasons. It is not unusual for whistleblowers to be accused of being scoundrels or having an axe to grind. It is not necessary for a whistleblower to be a contender for the Pope John Paul II Peace Prize. Ultimately, what matters is whether what they say under oath, is true or false.

Casa has long portrayed himself as a knight in shining armour for whistleblowers, apart from a beacon of political virtuosity inside the European Parliament. And yet here is he is, his willing allies trying to destroy a whistleblower dishing some ‘knowledge’ about him. Because as always, some whistleblowers are more equal than others… depends on who they blow the whistle on, right?

I have known for a long time that Casa is not the person he portrays himself to be. In 2002 and 2003, I was one of the main spokespersons for the pro-EU movement Moviment IVA together with Casa, with whom I often clashed.

IVA was completely financed by the Nationalist Party. At one point, I had to intervene with then PN secretary-general Joe Saliba and EU parliamentary secretary Joe Borg over the way thousands of liri in funds were being administered. This story was kept under wraps, but the outcome of this incident was that I was tasked to be the recipient of the funds, not David Casa.

When later David Casa was selected to stand for the PN in the EU elections I spoke to Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi and told him that Casa was not fit for purpose. Life goes on, of course, and I watch Casa grinning at the apparent ignorance of his faithful who just loved his political rhetoric and aggression against anything Labour. Quite ironic given that Casa’s political roots were not Nationalist.

But more intriguing was Casa’s incredible ability to steer away from issues that could ‘harm him’, namely the EPP’s stolid approach on gay rights votes in the European Parliament and the PN’s own conservative views on gay rights under Gonzi. Despite being a gay politician, Casa was mute on this subject because, one imagines, he valued his political future more than propriety on the issue affecting other Maltese LGBT people.

Today Casa is facing a far more serious accusation, of having had problems with cocaine, of having spent weekends in hotels in Floriana and Attard under the influence, even inside the PN headquarters. Casa’s denial did not stop the story, and his answer to questions from the press (not us) to take a drug test was that he would do so on condition that the entire Labour parliamentary group does the same. Which is quite lame: are not his counterparts MEPs? And how does that effectively make his position any more serene? It just kept the spotlight on his credibility problem.

Then Casa got his staff to fire off a statement of support, which is hardly the best way to convince people of one’s innocence. It turned out to be farcical given that he employs two family members, and one Michael Fenech… none other than Michael Fenech Adami, the local councillor who, as it happens, is on Casa’s payroll but basically works at the PN headquarters (Casa has since updated his EP website with the correct last name). Though it must be pointed out, MFA recently took some time out to meet the dark prince at Auberge De Castille while lobbying for Valletta FC’s Dubai investors. Ah well… football and cash, right?

This strange ruse of concealing one’s identifiable double-barrelled surname was also employed for Andrew Caruana Galizia, whose patrician surname was abbreviated to a simple ‘Caruana’.

So today’s story about financial irregularities by the office of David Casa, namely that part of the declared wages of some of his employees were very probably funnelled back to what could be a campaign fund, smacks of something more serious for the EU, and interesting for OLAF.

Surely there is nothing new for MEPs to use taxpayers’ money paid into their general expense allowance – over €4,000 monthly – for other objectives. As we say in journalism, you cannot write it until you can prove it, something not everybody enjoys doing, especially when your bread-and-butter does not depend on saying the truth.

I would say this is the moment when the proverbial shit hits the fan, for something like this strikes at the heart of good governance and ethics in politics. It hits at the core of the very same discourse that Casa has been so articulate about in his public appearances with MEPs and activists. Talk about taking the high moral ground. Newton’s law of gravity teaches us something here.

And clearly, it is not just a case of what Casa will do now. It is also what PN leader Adrian Delia will do. Because even as he turns to his advisors, I would suggest he avoids the wisdom of Pierre Portelli – someone who has a massive credibility problem.

Normally, the PN has not been a party to run away from the questions it has before it. But to be able to know the answers to these questions, it should look back at history and learn from it.