Ambassador-designate faces MPs honestly about drug addiction past and recovery

MPs’ committee unanimously approves appointment of Labour councillor as non-resident envoy to Namibia

Clifford Galea Vella Maslennikov (left) presents his book on his addiction ordeal and recovery to former President George Vella
Clifford Galea Vella Maslennikov (left) presents his book on his addiction ordeal and recovery to former President George Vella

Clifford Galea Vella Maslennikov, a former Naxxar local councillor slated for appointment as non-resident Ambassador to Namibia, gave MPs in the public appointments committee a full disclosure of his public past as a drug addict and subsequent recovery.

The young councillor, president for the Regional Committee of northern local councils, presented himself as a “recovering addict” when asked by MPs about his past.

Nationalist MP Karol Aquilina asked Galea Vella Maslennikov whether there was anything that could “embarrass” the State, a question he said he put to any nominee in the committee.

Galea Vella Maslennikov said he was a recovering addict, having himself published a short biography of his misadventure with drugs. “I believe in honesty… and I have publicly acknowledged my plight. Drugs, mistakenly treated as some form of leisure, are unfortunately the pandemic of our time. There is help available in Malta, and Narcotics Anonymous are a big force in assisting addicts to recover and continue with their lives and careers… if I look back at this experience, I think it has made me a more self-assertive person.”

Nationalist MP Adrian Delia thanked Galea Vella Maslennikov for his honesty, saying it was admirable that the nominee had been forthright in giving such a personal account of his ordeal.

Galea Vella Maslennikov said many bilateral opportunities could exist between Malta and Namibia, specifically through education and MCAST collaborations on shipping, as well as the export of potatoes from Malta to the southern African country.

“I want to do something that is long-lasting for the two countries, not just some memorandum of understanding from which I can walk away. There are many sectors, such as trade, that Malta can benefit from, and there are areas Malta can contribute to in Namibia, especially when it comes to equality sensitivity training in the country,” Galea Vella Maslennikov told the public appointments committee.

According to UNTWO data, there were 899 Maltese tourists who travelled to Namibia in 2017. He hoped to further relations that could lead to visa-free travel between the two countries.

The ambassador-designate listed as possible national priorities the issue of education, together with technological literacy, as well as AIDS policy and mental healthcare, and maritime trade relations with the country.

The committee – Aquilina and Delia for the Opposition, and Andy Ellul, Chris Agius, and Amanda Spiteri Grech – voted unanimously in favour of the appointment of the non-resident envoy

Trade Malta, the public-private partnership with the Maltese Chamber of Commerce, had also explored areas of collaboration to cement mutually beneficial trade relations between Maltese and Namibian businesses.

Diplomatic relations between the two countries date back to pre-independence Namibia when Malta offered training to technicians and nurses during the time of the countries liberation struggle.

Former President Guido De Marco was the President of the United Nations General Assembly when Namibia became independent in 1990. At the time, De Marco was also foreign minister, at a time when both countries were both members of the Non-Aligned Movement, the forum of 120 developing countries that during the Cold War were not officially aligned with or against any major power bloc.

Malta is the first European country to adopt an African strategy outside of the EU with trade a prominent feature in this strategy and is seeking business opportunities in the broader Southern African Development Community (SADC), with Namibia as a gateway and point of entry. 

A number of Namibians have attended Malta’s globally renowned International Maritime Law Institute (IMLI), a world centre for the training of specialists in international maritime law, with two Namibians having graduated from the IMLI in June 2020.