‘This is what you’ll get, if you mess with us…’

Call me a naïve optimist, but I still believe there is time to roll back all the years of internecine conflict within that party: for the PN to claw its way out of the bottomless hole into which it has dug itself

Adrian Delia had to apologise for Il-Mument's cheap shot at Lynn Faure to try and get back at her dad
Adrian Delia had to apologise for Il-Mument's cheap shot at Lynn Faure to try and get back at her dad

“Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.”

That, at least, is what Article 11.1 of the European Convention of Human Rights has to say on the subject of ‘freedom of association’: which is given the same prominence and importance as both ‘the right to freedom of peaceful assembly’ (i.e., the right to protest), and also the right to collective bargaining, in a legal document that is separately also enshrined in the Maltese Constitution.

I thought I’d point all this out, because ‘freedom of association’ is also a human right that very few people in this country seem to even know exists… with the unsurprising result that it gets violated, in one way or another, almost every single day.

The latest example concerns the artist formerly known as Lynn Chircop – now going by her married name, Faure – who chose to associate with the Labour Party’s LEAD programme: as is her fundamental human right to do… in exactly the same way as the people who attended last Saturday’s ‘truth and justice’ demonstration in Valletta have a fundamental human right to protest.

This ought to place last Sunday’s Il-Mument article into some much-needed context. The Nationalist Party-owned newspaper chose to single out Lynn Faure for some rather scathing criticism over her decision to associate with Labour. Effectively, that is no different from criticising any or all of the people who marched in protest against government corruption the day before.

And just imagine how the same newspaper would have reacted, had a Labour Party organ – or anyone else, for that matter – singled out individual protestors at that march, and held them up for public vilification in the same way as In-Nazzjon did to Lynn…

But let us (with difficulty) leave aside the sheer hypocrisy of it all: at least, for the time being. What worries me more about this ugly human rights violation is the sheer mismatch of weaponry involved.

Il-Mument is a Sunday newspaper with nationwide distribution; and it is also part of a political media empire which extends to television and radio. Regardless of circulation figures, that makes it a powerful weapon, to be utilised with caution and responsibility.

Lynn Faure, on the other hand, is now just a single individual: a public figure, perhaps… on the grounds that she once (16 whole years ago) participated in the Eurovision Song Contest: which, in this Eurovision-potty country of ours, makes you an instant celebrity, regardless how well you actually do in the contest itself.

But today she is regarded more as a practicing lawyer with political aspirations, than as a musician or stage performer… in exactly the same way as Claudette Buttigieg (nee Pace) is now better known as a PN member of Parliament, than as a singer who likewise once ‘desired’ Eurovision fame…

See what I mean? It is not just difficult, but almost impossible to close an eye at hypocrisy in this instance. With that ‘story’, Il-Mument merely cemented the widely-held perception that there are two sets of rules and regulations governing human behaviour in this country: if you’re Nationalist, you have a God-given right to do or say pretty much whatever the hell you like; if you’re Labour, on the other hand…

… well, it’s a bit like being arrested by the American cops: ‘anything you say (or do) can and will be used against you’; if, that is, they don’t just shoot you dead on the spot, and get it over with…

Lynn’s case leans more towards the second option. By turning the big guns onto this little target, Il-Mument also sent out the chilling message that anyone else who dares break away from the PN – and, heresy of heresies, associates with Labour, at any level – will be exposing themselves to outright character assassination on a national level.

Radiohead wrote a song about something similar once; it’s called ‘Karma Police’… and the refrain is reproduced in the headline, above.

And Lynn Faure is hardly the only example. (Note: If this were a one-off case, I’d be inclined to put it down to Joe Mikallef having a bad day at the office, and leave it at that). On the contrary, this has been a constant Nationalist Party strategy ever since it lost power in 2013, and even before. 

It is also one of the primary reasons why the same PN just cannot seem to ever narrow the gaping chasm that now separates it from Labour. It is, after all, difficult to want to associate with a party that consistently sets its sights on targets like ‘fundamental human rights’.  It makes you wonder how they would wield real political power, after abusing so blatantly of the lesser media power they already wield.

All the same, Lynn’s case makes for an interesting case study, as it seems to underline the very root cause of the PN’s inability to regroup and rebuild. So let’s a closer look.

The headline was: ‘Lynn Chircop tries her luck with the Labour Party, after disappointment in the musical scene’. Hmmm. I won’t deny that Lynn’s result in the 2003 Eurovision Song Contest was ‘disappointing’… to people who actually give a toss about the Eurovision Song Contest (a category that obviously does not include yours truly).

But as already indicated, that was 16 whole years ago. Young teenagers who will be watching next year’s ESC would not even have been born when her song ‘To Dream Again’ came in second from last.

So I find it rather unlikely that the point of this rather cheap shot was to remind us all of Lynn’s past endeavours at Eurovision fame. And in any case, the story itself makes its intentions abundantly clear, by including an inset image of Lynn’s father Philip Chircop – also a former personal assistant to prime minister Eddie Fenech Adami, and an erstwhile member of the PN’s administrative council – who very recently (and very publicly) resigned from the party, with embarrassing consequences for Adrian Delia.

That story is worth revisiting today, because Philip Chircop was almost prophetic in his choice of words: “I have to resign from the party, and I have to state this officially… and it’s not because I have switched or taken anything from the government or the previous administration.”

Chircop also “[called] on Delia to take control of those internal adversaries whom he said were sowing discord in the PN.”

Put those two statements together, and you get a pretty clear picture of both why he resigned, and what he knew he was in for as a result.

He resigned because he clearly no longer recognised the PN for what it once was, and what It still (unbelievably) prides itself on being: a champion of human rights, of all things…

But he also knew he would be labelled a ‘traitor’; he knew he would be accused of somehow ‘being on the take’; and he knew that the inevitable attacks on his (and his family’s) integrity would backfire spectacularly on the PN itself.

The mentality displayed in that newspaper article about his daughter is, in fact, a textbook case of ‘sowing discord in the PN’… as evidenced by the dismayed/disgusted reactions of so many bona fide Nationalist voters.

To be fair, however Adrian Delia evidently knew all that, too. He knew that this sort of personal attack on a former Nationalist exponent – by proxy, via his daughter – would only make it harder for the PN to ever reclaim what has been lost of its support-base.

And if I’m any judge of the tone and diction of a piece of writing… I’d say there was also an unmistakable note of sincerity in his public apology to Lynn Faure (and also to Johanna Camilleri, who came in for the same treatment in that article).

Delia has, after all, been a casualty of the Nationalist Party’s ongoing civil war himself. He must know what it’s like to be instantly mocked and vilified, just for having different views about what the PN is, and what it should stand for. Ironically, so should those who work in the PN media: remember how NET TV journalists were ostracised on social media, merely for having shown support for their own party’s newly-elected leader in 2017…?

For this reason alone, I don’t agree with those who described Delia’s reaction as ‘too little, too late’. Well… let me qualify that slightly.
It probably is ‘too late’; but I don’t think it’s ‘too little’. Call me a naïve optimist, but I still believe there is time to roll back all the years of internecine conflict within that party: for the PN to claw its way out of the bottomless hole into which it has dug itself.

It will take time, certainly. And just to close off with another pointless allusion to pop music (The Beastie Boys, this time): ‘there’s never been a better time than… right now’.

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