I no longer trust Joseph Muscat

Muscat was born in 1974 and maybe he cannot appreciate how the austerity and excessive centralisation and control of Dom Mintoff wrecked the party, the mediocrity of Mifsud Bonnici drowning it further and the stubbornness of Alfred Sant on EU membership relegating the Labour party to unelectable status

No matter how hard I try to recall what happened in this past year, the lasting taste of 2019 will remain for years to come the precipitous and tragic end of Joseph Muscat.

I am still trying to figure out what went wrong or whether we have all been duped. Is Joseph Muscat such a damn good actor?

Beyond the Petrus and the Bvlgari gifts, there may be other gifts and episodes that we will discover in time. But what is beyond me is the incredible disdain for public opinion and the truth that has undermined the trust we invested in certain political actors.

I am sounding insufferable but please do not forget that Muscat said that he had not met Yorgen Fenech in 2019 and yet it appears that he invited him to his birthday party (was it his birthday party?). Back then, nobody knew the Tumas magnate was a prime suspect in the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, but the Prime Minister knew, and so did Keith Schembri.

Muscat has argued that it was the Security Service that insisted with him it should be business as usual with Yorgen Fenech so as not to give the game away.

Well… inviting Fenech to your birthday party and accepting three Petrus bottles meant that Muscat was not at all uncomfortable with Yorgen Fenech! Did he really need to invite him?

He has now sealed the fate of his legacy by taking his family to Dubai of all places, amidst allegations of his links to Keith Schembri and Yorgen Fenech, who had a Dubai company connected to Schembri’s Panama network.… if he thinks this looks good he must be mad.

Muscat has no idea what he has done to all those who saw a renascent Labour party in 2013.

He was born in 1974 and maybe he cannot appreciate how the austerity and excessive centralisation and control of Dom Mintoff wrecked the party, the mediocrity of Mifsud Bonnici drowning it further and the stubbornness of Alfred Sant on EU membership relegating the Labour party to unelectable status.

Now it seems that Muscat’s successes blinded him, making him out to be cocky and arrogant.

It is hard for me not to agree with the narrative about his services as a ‘salesman’ for the IIP programme and the other allegations about him.

When the Egrant allegations surfaced and force-fed by Daphne Caruana Galizia and Simon Busuttil I stood alone questioning the veracity of the allegation. And the inquiry today surely has made mince-meat of that allegation.

But still, now I can understand why those who pounded Muscat would continue asking the basic question of why did he not remove Schembri and Konrad Mizzi. And of course, that question that seeks a proof of the negative, hard as that is: who is the ultimate beneficiary of Egrant?

These were questions which I had once have short shrift because they were the fruit of the gratuitous prejudice against Labour and Muscat.

Today, I demand clear answers to these questions. I no longer trust Joseph Muscat.

 

*  *  *

 

Yet, in the quest to know the truth, I have read and digested hours of comments about Caruana Galizia in the public inquiry. I can understand the pain, but let us get some facts right and stop distorting the truth. It is not true that Caruana Galizia would write about “all corruption”: she was selective and she did not hit out at sacred cows, one of them being the Nationalist Party and some of its favoured elites and precious politicians and their cronies.

She also did a disservice to her own journalism, the one where what she wrote could not be dismissed or ignored politically, when she wrote up stuff without sufficient and proper verification of the facts, or simply punching down on those who fell short of her ‘class’ standard, usually working-class people, gauche social climbers, Labour activists and their relatives. The innuendo and personal jibes hurt people unnecessarily and allowed them to ignore the veracity of her more important stories.

Muscat was born in 1974 and maybe he cannot appreciate how the austerity and excessive centralisation and control of Dom Mintoff wrecked the party, the mediocrity of Mifsud Bonnici drowning it further and the stubbornness of Alfred Sant on EU membership relegating the Labour party to unelectable status

Do not blame us for having been critical and guarded.

There were many who knew Muscat, Schembri and Yorgen Fenech, the CEO of one of Malta’s largest and most reputable business groups. Fenech wined and dined top CEOs, lawyers and journalists and people from the financial world, and many cherished his friendship. No one knew about this diabolical plan to kill Daphne Caruana Galizia, which is why it is wrong to hit out at those who knew Yorgen Fenech at some point. This ‘guilt-by-association’ malaise has to stop.

Assumptions about police protection lifted from Daphne Caruana Galizia’s home in October 2010 by former Commissioner John Rizzo is another misconception: had she asked for protection to be removed? Did she investigate fuel smuggling in Malta? I don’t think so… not much at least from what she wrote; her few references to smugglers and bomb-makers are passing references and desultory comments about them or their families but hardly investigations.

Sure enough, Keith Schembri, even with the help of the police, must have fuelled the notion that the fuel smugglers were behind the murder of Caruana Galizia. No wonder that they treat him with kid’s gloves.

 

*  *  *

 

Which brings me to another new beginning.

Many people will not realise but it is important to note that decades of newspaper printing as we knew it will come to an end. Next month all newspapers will be printed on digital printers. And it will be a sad day for printing, in terms of quality, feel and price.

What has not been said about this state of affairs is that it come about for two reasons. One is the changing face of the media in the digital and social media age, and secondly, the very business deal that has led to the closure of the press that was printing newspapers.

There is an ironic twist to this story.

Keith Schembri, who single-handedly brought down Joseph Muscat and shamed a country and a party, has practically done the same to the newspaper industry. He had convinced Progress Press (the Allied Newspapers printers) to invest in a new plant and premises which nearly led them to near-bankruptcy, most significantly because of the limitations and inability to keep such an extravagant printing operation sustainable.

The investment that took place in the new plant and premises is hardly eight years old and it left a company gasping for air and a few of its past directors richer: indeed, you may consider that the offshore shenanigans that took place in that time were a precursor of things to come.

Still, instead of coming together with other publishers and join forces in a common company to print for all and keep prices low, the Progress Press preferred taking Schembri’s advice back then. Here we are now. No longer at Progress Press as newspapers are phased out, and instead at a new digital printer.

Keith Schembri’s legacy is there for all to see, one of them convincing Progress to invest in a white elephant.

When the next LIBE committee arrive in Malta, they should stop asking questions about press freedom, and ask questions about the existence of the press.

 

*  *  *

 

Repubblika have just signalled that they could be starting a new political party. PD and AD have sort of said they will join forces.

It does not sound very convincing, but it is more bad news for the Nationalist Party and good news for the Labour Party who love to see a divided electorate and political opposition. It is a chance for the Labour Party to lick its wounds and learn from its mistakes.

Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be one hell of a year. Happy New Year!

More in Blogs