Franco Debono and the unassailability of Muscat

Debono, an appointee of Muscat, who now declares without any solid proof at hand that Egrant belongs to Muscat implies that Debono, out of respect, should resign his post

Franco Debono in action
Franco Debono in action

If former PN MP Franco Debono – criminal defence lawyer, and current Commissioner for Laws – was simply the object of ridicule for Nationalists, Labourites and independently-minded people, then the natural thing would be for all of us to simply ignore his latest charade.

As it turns out, Debono has requested the recusal of a vast number of members of the Commission for the Administration of Justice, in which he is appealing a decision of the Chamber of Advocates on an incident at the law courts that happened in 2011. He expects to be treated differently from other people. And he is now starting to hit out at members of the Commission, namely the President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, government representative Paul Lia, Victor Caruana Colombo and Louis DeGabriele, who is president of the Chamber of Advocates, calling for their recusal.

In normal circumstances, someone who happens to be the government’s Commissioner for Laws would resign if such a complaint were still pending. To be frank I am not quite sure what his actual role is; the reason that I am writing about Debono is that, as an appointee of Joseph Muscat, the fact that he now declares without any solid proof at hand that Egrant belongs to Muscat, naturally implies that Debono must, out of respect, do the honourable thing and resign his post.

That he argues that Muscat is the most corrupt politician, is, I guess, free speech. One wonders why he is talking like this today and not between 2013 and 2018… I am sure it has to be do with the way he has been ignored by the Labour government. And just as Lawrence Gonzi realised that he had an impossible situation with Debono, Joseph Muscat now has realised, albeit too late in the day, that his former St Aloysius Form 2C pal was not one to be trusted.

Naturally, it goes without saying that Franco Debono can serve a government headed by the premier he has publicly derided as nothing more than a turnip and a crook. But Debono, a weather vane of sorts, is indeed incredibly self-centred and unpredictable. And these are two fundamental considerations as to why Debono should call it a day and limit himself to walking up and down Republic Street and defending hardened criminals in a court of law. He will still have the time and rights to put pen to Facebook and lash out at the PM and surely there will be those that agree with him.

The contradictions he embraces are numerous. He quotes Daphne Caruana Galizia repeatedly when she herself had taken him to the cleaners, deriding him as a narcissist, even going as far as calling him “disturbed”. So is he really ground in reality?

The question everyone asked last Friday is why Debono had decided to take it upon himself to shoot down the Aaron Bugeja inquiry and now hit out at Muscat on Egrant. It is hard to decipher why a man could act in this way. But there could be many reasons, the first one linked to the fact that none of the parties are willing to risk having him as a political candidate with them. They know Debono is simply interested in himself. The concept of loyalty and teamwork is completely absent in Debono’s frame of mind.

Recently, he boasted with several people that he had commissioned a survey to discover if people saw him as a potential leader of PN. Enough said! Were he to become the PN’s new leader by some collective Damascene conversion, we would have surely jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire.

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Today’s survey confirms Joseph Muscat’s unassailability. It cannot only be attributed to Delia’s ills since Muscat has managed to register economic and social reform results that no other government has achieved. And no matter what is said, the feel-good factor is widespread. 

The unfortunate side to the story is that Muscat needs to start showing sensitivity to the concerns that he has purposely ignored or set aside: the growing gap between the very rich and less rich, the poor, the landscape, planning, and the protection of the environment. 

Muscat is concerned about legacy, so it is natural that he should use up some of his energies to address the gender gap, the lacunas in our Constitution and the existence of our fourth estate.

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Credit to prolific writer Raisa Galea and her blog IslesOfTheLeft.org – her work is refreshing in the sense that her contributors have looked at the issues from a totally different – indeed radical – angle to the usual posse of opinion writers. Thankfully, Galea has not been undermined by the Maltese psyche of contradiction – perhaps because she is a migrant who has done some excellent outsider-looking-in thinking. Recently she underlined some inconsistencies in the way we argue as Maltese: a schizoid and hypocritical approach to our problems that, for example, accept the free market system while describing it as ‘greed’ when it should be said that all the free market is about is greed. Some of these quotes bear repeating over here:

“I’m all for free market and minimum state intervention”, while exasperatingly stating that “Buying or renting a house has become unaffordable for ordinary Maltese people.”

“It’s great that the economy is doing well. Daddy’s law firm is flourishing”. Next moment: “Oh, no, another Sliema townhouse is pulled down. All this greed! How sad, eh?”

“I like people who dream big, have ambitions and nurture a skill for entrepreneurship! I so admire creative folks who set startups”, but then “AirBnB and short lets are pushing residents out! So much greed, I can’t believe it!”

“Let creative businessmen solve what the government is unable to do”, followed by “Valletta is becoming filled with boutique hotels! I can’t afford staying there any longer”.

“Another large gaming company is moving to Malta. Great news!” Did I hear you say “Oh, no, traffic is becoming unbearable” or “please do not chop trees to widen roads”?

There is a lot of truth in what she points out. If I had to try and find the moral in her contribution, it would be rather simple. If we want to change our ways, we have to dig deeper and look at a political solution to a problem.  Most of our solutions are solved by trade-offs and protective measures. Changing our lifestyle and our outlook is much more than that – it will require fundamental political changes.

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