A day in the life of the hypocrites

MPs are well known for seeking the blessing of business patrons, which is why those who accuse their colleagues when they themselves sucked off the teat of big business, should tread carefully

The only thing that surpasses the chaos inside the Nationalist Party right now has to be the British parliament grappling with Brexit. There is some distant analogy in the way the UK backbenchers have tried to scuttle Prime Minister Theresa May with the devious ways of those who have never quite accepted Adrian Delia as their leader.

Delia came from nowhere to be elected by a democratic vote and with very few of the establishment chums and their lobbies on his side. And yet he made it, right while being embroiled in controversy after his involvement with offshore Jersey accounts linked to a London property holding and linked prostitution racket was revealed first by Daphne Caruana Galizia and then MaltaToday.

Delia’s verbal retaliation against Caruana Galizia before her assassination left many of the journalist’s fans, many of them part of a middle-class PN cohort, in unforgiving mode. The polls clearly show a party that is split down the middle, those for and against Delia. You can clearly grasp that feeling when reading the contributions of former ambassador to France Vicky Anne Cremona; or those blunt Facebook posts by the auditor Godfrey Leone Ganado, who has now started urging people to vote for Roberta Metsola and David Casa and then continue their voting list for the Democratic Party candidates – not even the PN ones. And of course, you have former Austin Gatt henchman Manuel Delia and Occupy Justice naturally “representing” the anti-Delia voters.

Not only that. Nationalist MPs continue to aid and abet the opposition to his leadership. The real schism came last summer after the publication of the Egrant inquiry conclusions and Delia’s decision to ask for Simon Busuttil’s resignation. It led to a reaction (they hashtagged it ‘notinmyname’ and ‘strongertogether’) by close to 50% of all PN MPs who objected to his call. It was open revolt and it was clear that they had taken a stand.

That was exactly what MPs have not done in the PN – come together or got stronger together.

They included MPs and MEPs like David Casa, Mario De Marco, Ryan Callus, Claudio Grech, Karol Aquilina, Claudette Buttigieg, Marthese Portelli, Therese Comodini Cachia, Karl Gouder, Jason Azzopardi and Beppe Fenech Adami.

Now last Saturday, MPs Hermann Schiavone and Kristy Debono were outed for having met Yorgen Fenech, one of the Tumas Group directors. No need to add here that the meeting had news value because of the 17 Black connection between Yorgen Fenech and the Panama scandal. It’s the dunce’s hat for Schiavone and Debono for their outstanding ability to be so politically daft. Since that meeting, Schiavone suspended himself and declared himself an independent MP, and he will have to face a disciplinary board.

Nationalist Jason Azzopardi was quick to take to social media: “How can you even think of being credible on corruption if you, whilst criticising the corruptor, meet behind the backs of your team-mates and the public? Not to mention the possibility of being criminal accomplices.” Now that was pure Jason Azzopardi pedigree.

I just wonder … has no single PN MP ever enjoyed dining at Portomaso, hung around the poolside area of the Hilton hotel, enjoyed their gym – without paying for this largesse? For MPs are well known to seek the blessing of business patrons, which is why even those who accuse their colleagues when they themselves sucked off the teat of big business, should tread carefully. The guilt-by-association game can often backfire.

To give an example, during the public accounts committee on the Enemalta oil scandal, the reputation of the John’s Garage business was attacked since it was one of the company’s owners, George Farrugia, who was at the centre of the oil scandal. But then, Jason Azzopardi himself, sitting on the PAC, was reminded that he had repeatedly asked John’s Garage for help in his electoral campaign and had garaged his private car for free when he was appointed minister; or that his private office renovation works were carried out by Elbros, while he dealt with the same company as lands minister, for their lease on the Valletta car park.

Take the Fenech Adami family: lawyer Beppe Fenech Adami has had more than simply a friendship with the Fenech family (his brother Michael, now employed with David Casa, worked for the Tumas Group for some 10 years). Many will deny having been helped by the Tumas Group of course, but I know for a fact that a very sizeable grouping from both parties asks this company for support, and they get it.

It reminds me of the DB saga, with the difference that this time round the company is not exactly your sweet shop next door. Tumas Group is one of Malta’s largest business groups and it is an open secret that Eddie Fenech Adami had a very close relationship with its leaders. The company was admired as an employer and successive PN establishments were supportive of its Portomaso project. The company itself knows how much wining and dining at its establishments brought Bacchanalian relief to PN exponents.

Even Adrian Delia’s crowd of hangers-on and tough guys, often used to berate him by dint of their criminal past, are the same ones who enjoy those Brussels trips which get organised by MEPs – one of them was a recent Roberta Metsola activity for example. Nothing wrong in that, so why it a problem with Delia?

To me the problem is best illustrated by this call from a top Delia aide: “You asked Delia to resign, so that means you want the Simon Busuttil faction back. You know what they stand for? We would go back to square one. What are we supposed to do now: stop all donations and advertising from businesses?”

I can’t say he is not right. Parties are either going to accept wholesale party financing reform and full transparency, or face a similar Tangentopoli fate as Italy did in the early 1990s. And the public has to decide whether it wants this full transparency, by according state financing to the parties.

Then again, it is not normal for politicians not to meet businessmen. If meeting a businessman is tantamount to corruption, then we really need to start assessing what is right or wrong.

Political parties are hungry for funds and cannot operate without money. So we will either opt for a radical change from top to bottom, or else just keep wading in this sea of scandal.

Now while readers may enjoy the show, Adrian Delia is fighting for his position with his party on the brink of open civil war, while Joseph Muscat is on a high and… guess what: he is just thinking of quitting politics. Quite a case of system failure to me.

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