The medicine the country needs

The Occupy Justice luminaries, with their typical political bias and make-up, have made it more difficult for the right people in the right organisations to come forward to confront the Labour establishment

Amid all the talk of Malta’s construction spree and high-rise madness, some column inches should be spared for the talk of town inside the industry: Gozitan property entrepreneur Joe Portelli, one of the fastest-growing businessmen in his field.

Once an ardent supporter of erstwhile Gozo minister Giovanna Debono, like many who typically enough ‘saw the light’ to switch to Labour, one of his quaint hotels in Gozo was recently adorned with a huge billboard calling on voters to support Labour MEP Josianne Cutajar.

What is enigmatic about Portelli is that he is reportedly the front for dozens of investors, both Maltese and foreign, and has managed to work without the intervention of banks, to purchase properties and develop high-rise projects, apartments, boutique hotels, workshops, roads, and now even a mega-hotel in the south.

Look at Pendergardens and Mercury House and you will see Portelli’s name on it. But his project list is far more extensive.

Unorthodox and working from an office in Portomaso, Portelli has attracted the attention of his competitors who marvel at how the industrious property developer became so cash-rich.

It is not that money comes to Portelli, but his involvement with influential people and advisors with vested interests, such as politicians past and present, also raises curiosity.

It is not just at the usual ‘culprits’ that insiders speak about – the Caqnus, DB or Corinthia – but also at the Gozitan’s empire, the envy of speculators and the nightmare for those who think they understand the complexity of how Malta’s villages and valleys are being gobbled up.

To confront the construction industry, one must first understand the way the magnates operate and who their associates are, their financial backing and their hold on the system.

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It is to be expected that the posse of protesters who welcomed the Heads of State on Friday outside the Auberge de Castille would want to decry the state of rule of law in Malta.

The familiar faces were out in less than their full force, revealing themselves to be the ardent readers of the late Daphne Caruana Galizia.

You can make out a former ambassador or two in the photos, one of whom has praised Italy’s fascism in the past.

The other was a former publisher and beneficiary of the Good Causes Fund, for commercial purposes, under different powers-that-be.

I will not contest that Malta is facing some very fundamental thorny issues, which are rooted in its political culture, and have to be challenged head-on. They are of a constitutional and legal nature as well.

But surely the Occupy Justice luminaries, with their typical political bias and make-up, have made it more difficult for the right people in the right organisations to come forward to confront the Labour establishment.

Malta’s problem on rule of law is not simply the PEPs who were revealed to have offshore companies in Panama. It goes deeper than that.

The impunity Occupy Justice denounces is a deep societal problem, not only political.

Step forward those activists who have never enjoyed a direct order from the State, a political grant, a political appointment, an association with a politician whose firm either sells Maltese citizenship or allows foreign companies to avoid tax back home by setting up shop in Malta.

If these protestors believe Muscat’s head on a plate will solve any rule of law issues, just because they want to entertain a fanciful thought that Caruana Galizia could have been killed at his behest, this kind of preposterousness will only strengthen the partisan grip Labour has.

A gut hatred for Labour, a moralistic belief that evil and corruption will evaporate once Labour goes – a narrative inculcated in their minds by the late Caruana Galizia and augmented by their middle-class prejudice – will not bring Malta the reforms it needs.

Even the fact that so much that took place before 2013 that went unnoticed by their critical minds, is a clue to the way they think. Selective reading means allegations of corruption under the PN administration before 2013 were just simply ignored by these activists.

In my younger days when Eddie Fenech Adami held sway, I protested against French nuclear-powered vessels visiting Malta, the visit of the Chinese president, and on many occasions we were regularly manhandled by the police, arrested and questioned.

It is ironic that, since Paradise was lost in 2013, protesting in Malta today is the norm – one asks whether those who claim we have no rule of law in Malta are even suited to be officious about the medicine the country needs.

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AD chairperson Carmel Cacopardo said yesterday that the Greens did not do badly in the last EP election. Incredible but true.

It appears to be business as usual for the Greens. He then went on to blame former chairperson and independent candidate Arnold Cassola. I guess when you are two men or three in a bath tub floating away in the high seas, it is very difficult to see the writing on the wall.

The only way forward to radically change the fate of the miniscule Green party is to rethink its image, from the logo, to the style, to the leader himself or herself.

It cannot be a Mina Tolu, or Carmel Cacopardo or an Arnold Cassola. A new face, a fresh face, someone who can instil some hope and talk charismatically and eloquently, especially in Maltese.

Political parties shouldn’t only be about the leader, but the leader is the face and, with all due respect Cacopardo, though he may have the brains, is simply not leadership material.

Like so many before him, when you come to this point you should know that when you fail the test you cannot keep trudging on.

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