Abandoned in the hour of need

 Surveys have shown that many Labour voters have crossed the line into non-voting territory. This arrogant attitude will only convince them to stay there permanently

Opposition leader Bernard Grech is right in calling on the government to exit holiday mode and declare a state of emergency.

Apart from a prolonged heatwave that has seen temperatures soar to above 40°C, the country has been gripped by several power outages that have left thousands of people in misery.

The health authorities have confirmed that four people died from heat-related causes over the weekend alone. Many more sought medical assistance.

Elderly people have been left to struggle with a heatwave and no electricity, putting them in a more vulnerable state.

To make matters worse, Mater Dei Hospital’s generators did not kick in when the area suffered a power outage, plunging the hospital in darkness for almost an hour.

On Tuesday, several localities in the northern harbour area suffered water shortages as a result of electricity outages that impacted a pumping station.

Grech addressed Prime Minister Robert Abela directly, asking him to declare a national state of emergency and take the appropriate steps to alleviate the problems people are facing as a result of water and energy issues.

“No pecuniary compensation will make good for what they are enduring… put the police, army and public buildings with energy at the disposal of the public,” Grech said on Tuesday.

The Opposition leader captured the sentiment of the nation that feels abandoned by the government in its hour of need.

Unfortunately, government’s actions have been sporadic, uncoordinated and underwhelming.

Why was a health warning only issued on Monday? Why weren’t air conditioned centres opened for elderly and vulnerable people to seek refuge in while their homes were left without electricity?

This is no longer an issue of foodstuffs that have to be thrown away but one where people have died from heat exhaustion; where people with medical conditions have had to buy generators to keep life-saving medicines and machines going.

Technical explanations by Enemalta’s engineers on why the electricity outages are happening are important but these do not address the wider need of a nation that feels abandoned by its leaders.

It is pointless and puerile for government to defend itself by pointing at the ills of past Nationalist administrations; or worse accusing the Opposition of turning this into a partisan issue.

In the face of government intransigence and neglect, the issue is of national concern. If the PN is being partisan because it is criticising the pitiful state of affairs then so is ADPD and the Chamber of Commerce, which asked for an urgent meeting of the Malta Council for Social and Economic Development.

On Tuesday, ADPD’s Chairperson Sandra Gauci did not mince her words when she said the country has been brought to its knees. “This means a huge burden on families and businesses. Everyone is affected, but the most affected are the vulnerable who are already crushed by inflation and wages that do not meet their basic needs,” she said.

And yet, Abela’s administration remains deaf. Photos posted on Facebook of the Prime Minister and his energy minister in the trenches with Enemalta workers will not pacify the angry and frustrated masses.

Labour can continue to live in perfect oblivion just as the Gonzi administration had done more than a decade ago when it was beholden by a sense of arrogance. The administration can continue to pretend there is no emergency and expect the anger to die down as the heatwave dissipates.

But people are not nincompoops. Surveys have shown that many Labour voters have crossed the line into non-voting territory. This arrogant attitude will only convince them to stay there permanently.