Nothing is sacred anymore

JPO was presented to the general electorate by the PN as a sacrificial lamb: resulting in an overwhelming sympathy vote which quite possibly led to the PN victory at the polls.

Cartoon for MaltaToday Midweek by Mark Scicluna.
Cartoon for MaltaToday Midweek by Mark Scicluna.

If confirmation were needed that election fever is upon us, we need only look at the allegations, presentations of transcripts, audiotapes and revelations of so called private conversations.  

It is now understood that nothing is sacred: your 'private' conversations may be taped, repeated without consultation, and warped as deemed fit.

It is difficult enough for journalists to distinguish fact from fiction, what is true and untrue... let alone the public. We are also fed stories from both sides of the political divide and more often than not cannot confirm the source. 

When we do have a source willing to divulge information, it is difficult to convince that source to come clean and declare the veracity of his or her statements.

And with all the press statements, press conferences and leaks from the respective political parties themselves, it is difficult to decipher what is true and what is false.

One thing that is certainly true, however, is that all these accusations and counter accusations stem from the Mistra affair. 

It started in January 2008, when an application for a discotheque was presented to MEPA by a private individual who had entered into a lease agreement with Nationalist MP Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando.

It transpired that JPO had used the services of a certain Lawrence Vassallo - a liaison officer at MEPA and a very close aide to Minister George Pullicino - way back in January 12, 2008. 

Is it possible that, in January of that year, Vassallo did not bring up the subject, in some way or another, with the Minister to whom he was very close, that Pullicino Orlando was interested in seeing the application of a discotheque approved in a Natura 2000 site?

We do not know. What we do know is that on January 12, 2008, Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando met the applicant, together with his consultant George Micallef and Lawrence Vassallo at the MEPA offices.

Curiously, a week before the elections on 8 March, 2008, JPO was arguing that he did not know the applicant.

The rest is history: JPO has been accused of being "economical with the truth"... but the real question is: did the PN leadership know the real facts of the Mistra affair at the time?

In the end, whether it was known or not, the fact is that JPO was presented to the general electorate by the PN as a sacrificial lamb: someone who was wrongly accused by Labour and PL leader Alfred Sant. 

It resulted in an overwhelming sympathy vote for JPO, which quite possibly led to the PN victory at the polls.

There can be little doubt that if the electorate knew the real facts in the Mistra case JPO would not have attained such a high number of first count votes. Probably (but not definitely) the PN may not have won the 2008 election, either

In the meantime we have been presented with transcripts of conversations between JPO and then PN information officer Gordon Pisani: conversations which were said to be noted from memory... conversations which were private and now have become public.

Ironically, these Mistra revelations would not have resurfaced at all, had we not recently experienced the 'Richard Cachia Caruana tapes', with their unsavoury allusions to former ministers Guido de Marco and Lawrence Gatt: again, tapes recorded by an unknown individual without RCC's consent and with the intention of damaging a key figure in the PN strategy group.

The Mistra revelations would not have returned to haunt JPO, if no attempt had been made to convince the PN executive that RCC was not fit to be a member of the PN anymore.

And in the fracas, one of the witnesses, former PN Minister now EU commissioner John Dalli - who had been called to testify by JPO - declared that he would pass on to the Prime Minister the names of senior PN officials who (he alleges) had plotted against him in the 2004 leadership campaign of 2004, passing on damaging information to the Labour party.

It does not stop here. Dalli alleged that his emails had been hacked in February 2012 after it was falsely rumoured that he would contest Lawrence Gonzi after the Franco Debono showdown. And he continued by linking this to yet another hacking attempt only two weeks ago to his refusal to write a letter of support for former permanent representative Richard Cachia Caruana.

The saga continues. The PN now accuses PL leader Joseph Muscat himself of 'leaking' the JPO story in a Broadcasting Authority debate - and now PN MEP Simon Busuttil has alleged that he was unwittingly given advance warning in a conversation with Muscat - then also an MEP - that the PL intended to attack JPO over Mistra.

These allegations are all vehemently denied by Muscat and the Labour party... but where does all this leave the public, if not dazed and confused by the ongoing chaos?

There is a general consensus that all this is leading to political fatigue and getting us nowhere... a further reflection that the standards of political campaigning in this country have reached an all-time low.

The sooner we return to actually debating issues, policies electoral programmes, the better for all concerned.

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