Them foreign hordes

The Maltese remain a pragmatic society which understands its livelihood, and quality of life is intrinsically dependent on the thousands of foreign workers

Anyone with first-hand experience of hospitals and care centres in Malta will appreciate the real value of foreign workers.

Malta’s migrant workers are directly employed in the more demanding jobs and menial jobs of our healthcare industry and its ancillary services. Most probably, a third country national is cleaning a bedridden patient right now; so if any Maltese start complaining about foreign workers, you go ask them whether they are ready to take up these important jobs.

And from what I’ve witnessed, most of these workers are not only very efficient and proper in their work, but mannerly and courteous to a point that can be embarrassing.

nly last week I was abroad and visited a friend in a French hospital. She had been relocated from one hospital to another, basically because she could not find a room inside a French state hospital. The French health system is very good but we can safely say that we offer a similar service and in some cases, better medicine. What was conspicuous in this French hospital was the fact that it was largely staffed by French personnel.

In Malta, having different nationalities inside a hospital is no cause for alarm. Far from it, it speaks volumes about our economic status, confirming our affluence and the fact that our health system cannot be efficient without a steady supply of workers – foreign or not – at every level of the hierarchy.

This explains why the Maltese, despite the antagonism towards illegal immigration and the unfortunate racism that pervades issues of saving lives at sea, have, in reality, never supported the rhetoric against foreign workers. The Maltese remain a pragmatic society which understands that its livelihood and quality of life is intrinsically very much dependent on the thousands who work in the public and private sector – whether they are foreigners or not, is inconsequential.

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A story on our front page addresses a case that this newspaper revealed and covered exclusively some six years ago. I am referring to the Enemalta oil scandal. Then and now, irrefutable evidence exists which indicates that one oil trader by the name of George Farrugia had offered commissions and other forms of compensation or kickbacks in favour of being awarded preference for oil sales to Enemalta.

What happened next is that Farrugia was given a pardon by the Nationalist administration, and at least six to seven other individuals were prosecuted or faced charges on corruption, trading in influence and money laundering.

Two of the accused: Francis (Cikku) Portelli, and Tony Cassar, have had a little judicial victory.

A judge has ruled that the Attorney General is breaching their fundamental human rights by delaying their case for over six years and has ordered the prosecution to close its evidence by the end of 2019.

He has a point.

Why should anyone wait for six years to get on with the judicial process? And noticeably, both individuals in this case are high profile businessmen with vested interests in new projects.

The point to be made here is that beyond the fact that one is guilty or innocent, the truth about the real culprits in the oil scandal remains shrouded in police incompetence, lethargy at the courts and political inertia to address the matter of institutional corruption.

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So six years ago, one January, the oil scandal hit the news-stands with irrefutable proof – an invoice no less – of a commission (read: bribe) on oil sales. The rest as we know it, is history.

Since then many scoops have been splashed across Maltese newspapers. None of them had as solid a proof as the oil scandal’s confirmed corruption – this was black on white evidence, not mere speculation.

Yet, by placing faith in the Maltese institutions, we have so far got little joy.

Perhaps that is also the reason why other newspapers try their best at publishing just small morsels and snippets to keep their own stories alive. Yesterday, for example, there was yet another story related to the Panama Papers. Nothing new of course, just squeezing some juice out of a dried-out husk of lemon. It’s like having to endure those irritating classic radio hits that always creep up on you every time you switch on the stereo. Surely a recipe for turning off the radio.

Now Panama was undoubtedly not just an important story. It was a momentous one, which tied in with the international problem of global tax piracy – of which Malta is also a systemic player. That last part tends to be conveniently ignored by most sections of the press.

But unless the stories deliver the punch they are expected to deliver, we risk diluting the entire raison d’etre of the Panama scandal by just giving readers more fluff; and for politicians, only another chance at browbeating the press by parading themselves as the sacrificial lambs.

For fear of being unoriginal, I will reiterate that our obligation as journalists is to the truth, our first loyalty is to citizens, and the essence of what we do is a discipline of verification; but we also make the news significant, interesting, and in some respects also ‘entertaining’.

To abdicate that role for the cheap shots of sinister partisanship, without reporting faithfully and objectively, will leave us all the poorer for it.

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