I paid an overdue parking ticket last week. Will the PM cut a ribbon for me too?

No. 198 - Celebrating Caqnu

PM Robert Abela
PM Robert Abela

What are we skinning? Prime Minister Robert Abela's decision to inaugurate the new premises of Charles 'Caqnu' Polidano's group in Hal Farrug, despite Polidano Ltd. still being in arrears amounting to millions in unpaid tax, and in the same week in which he held a frosty meeting with environmental NGOs where he refused to budge on any of their complaints.

Why are we skinning it? Because it serves as a delicious microcosm of everything that's wrong in the country, wrapped up in a single week of routine appearances by our PM.

But come on, you can't expect the prime minister NOT to inaugurate a Caqnu project... Why not?

I mean it's... it's Caqnu! It would be like refusing to attend the Gieh ir-Repubblika ceremony at this point. The folksy, and now quasi-nostalgic, adoration of an inculcated business class which Charles Polidano so archetypally represents is, I would argue, a core part of the problem here.

How so? We not only shirk away from actively criticising such figures due to the economic power they wield. We've also endowed them with an aura of inevitability... if not cultural/biological/geological primacy. Caqnu was, Caqnu is, and Caqnu will always be... and without him we shall crumble.

A bit like Queen Elizabeth II was for the England, then? Yes, though I shudder to think what Caqnu's predecessor would look like..

You don't have to cast your gaze TOO far along the horizon. And that's the scary part. Caqnu clones are many, nay, multiple... and they're ready to pounce.

But the company HAS dealt with SOME of their tax issues. Don't you think the prime minister has a point? On what, exactly?

When he said he wanted to send an example to other companies, that if they get their affairs in order, they will be rewarded. But there you have it: it's Caqnu who got the privilege of being 'the example' on which amnesty is bestowed. Would smaller companies -- with smaller infractions, by proxy and proportion -- be accorded the same mercy. I don't think so.

Again, though, you said it yourself: Caqnu is an archetype. Yes, an archetype of the successful Maltese macho businessman; a 'self-made' man -- emphasis on man -- who forges his own path to greatness irrespective of the ethical collateral damage he may cause along the way.

So this is what Abela is defending, in truth. Yes. As a continuity candidate who leans heavily on the status quo, Abela feels that rocking the Caqnu ship will cause him no small amount of discomfort.

But shouldn't leadership be laden with discomfort. I would think so, yes. Doesn't seem like Abela thrives in that environment, though.

He did experience some discomfort during his meeting with environmental NGOs, though. Yes, though by all accounts he was simply enduring their complaints so that he could confirm his allegiance to the Caqnus of this world.

A Malta run by developers, indeed. Just let us vote for Caqnus come next election, and cut out the political middle men who only serve to prop them up.

Do say: "One could take a brutally pragmatic view of the situation and conclude that a business mogul like Caqnu is simply 'too big to [properly] sanction. But that would be giving in to precisely the kind of vulgar cynicism that has ruined the country's ethical standing, environmental credentials and quality of life."

Don't say: "I paid an overdue parking ticket last week. Will the PM cut a ribbon for me too?"