Joseph Muscat and his landslide of moral bankruptcy

Muscat leaves a legacy of colossal moral bankruptcy that we won’t get out of anytime soon if the two major parties and their sponsors are not sent to the cleaners

‘Joseph Muscat has betrayed the country’
‘Joseph Muscat has betrayed the country’

Joseph Muscat has betrayed the country.

He betrayed the trust of thousands of his own supporters, even though a misjudged sense of loyalty might prevent some from seeing it. He has betrayed the state, government, and Labour. By protecting his own corrupt henchmen in suits, he has sold off our republic. 

It all makes sense now: all the dodgy flights to Azerbaijan and the accompanying contracts, the sale of passports, the inexplicable permits for ’development’ of government property sold off for peanuts, the setting up of secret accounts for the smooth transfer of massive kickbacks, the easy buyout of Labour MPs - and some from the opposing camp - by giving them paid government positions, the assassination of a journalist who joined all the dots and was about to expose everything. 

I for one was wary of Daphne Caruana Galizia’s reporting.

Her mix of strongly held, sometimes elitist, opinions and deep-seated antipathy towards anything to do with the Labour Party impinged heavily on her credibility when exposing the unthinkable. She also blurred the lines of journalism and commercial public relations, such as when she took on the marketing for Anglu Xuereb’s Verdala golf course, or when she rubbished activists and environmentalists, as well as journalists. I was one of them. She also expected her readers to take her at face value, though she might make extraordinary claims, leaving everyone guessing whether she would ever back them up with evidence. And her historical whitewashing of successive Nationalist administrations’ corruption and highly questionable sale and privatisation of public assets was hard to defend, even as she started taking the new Nationalist Party leadership head on.

Using these successes to justify the government’s excesses is like claiming that the activities of drug cartels in some countries have been largely beneficial

So it’s deeply tragic that just when she was taking on the biggest ever exposé of not her career, but the entire history of journalism in Malta - the majority of us failed to realise the full implications of what she was onto. It is now painfully clear that she was assassinated because of her investigations into the murderous black market of politics and big business. Her portrayal in the international press glosses over all of her less defensible writings, but now that we know what we know about her assassination, that is all irrelevant. Every grievance, every criticism, every disagreement we may have ever had with Daphne now dissolves into insignificance. What matters now is that Daphne Caruana Galizia was assassinated by people protected by the prime minister because she was exposing the truth about their meticulously planned conspiracy of corruption. 

Likewise, every self-proclaimed success that our disgraced prime minister claims is completely irrelevant to the question at hand. Using these successes to justify the government’s excesses is like claiming that the activities of drug cartels in some countries have been largely beneficial, because thousands of families and entire neighbourhoods have benefited from the crumbs that fall from the big table.

That’s why the angry protestors on the streets and the international press are decrying a “Mafia State”: an unprecedented level of corruption enabled by some individuals in the highest positions in the running of our government and state. For them, the stakes were so high that they brought themselves to blow up Daphne Caruana Galizia, to actively obstruct justice, and to throw every spanner in the works, including spinning false stories in the media about the ongoing investigations. 

Now that we know what we know, it is not just the office of the prime minister that we need to question, but every office of the state, from the police commissioner to the head of public service, who has justified ‘positions of trust’. Every government tender, every direct or indirect order, every process involving Maltese public funding needs to be brought back to the drawing board for investigation. Because Muscat has ruined the reputation of everything he has dealt with, including all of his ministers and MPs who keep supporting him in spite of all the shocking revelations that should make any decent citizen sick. 

Even the Opposition party is part of all this. The incestuous relationship with big business was their own invention through decades of neoliberal economic policies and cronyism that made politics dirty, suspect and corruptible. The PN is not fit for purpose at this moment in time. It needs to look in the mirror and go back to basics: being accountable to the public and its constituency, not wallowing in the dark, murky shades of party financing that has brought us to where we are now. When Joseph Muscat, through his Faustian strategist Keith Schembri, vowed to make Labour pro-business, he essentially put the PN agenda on steroids, resulting in some of the crassest mutations in people of the likes of Sandro Chetcuti.

Even the Opposition party is part of all this. The incestuous relationship with big business was their own invention through decades of neoliberal economic policies and cronyism that made politics dirty, suspect and corruptible

Whenever he decides to resign, Joseph Muscat leaves a legacy of colossal moral bankruptcy that we won’t get out of anytime soon if the two major parties and their sponsors, as well as the corrupted institutions of the state – from the police and security services to the attorney general – are not sent to the cleaners.

There is not one person or one institution that can do all that – it would only play into our pathetic tribal instincts to believe that what we need is one more hero. It requires civil society organisations, activists, academics, intellectuals, artists and more journalists to stand up at this moment of truth, but more importantly upright people in government, State positions and the Labour Party to denounce our current state and propose ways to clean up the ruins left by Muscat and his henchmen.

Whoever doesn’t immediately acknowledge this and act on it has no future in the running of our country. 

Karl Schembri is an author, humanitarian worker and former journalist. This is his personal opinion and in no way reflects the views of his employer

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