I’ve seen too many 90s B-movies to know that suspect documents are never lost

The Skinny | No. 44 • The One About the Missing Memorandum

What are we skinning? That initially elusive agreement between Vitals Global Healthcare and the Maltese government.

Why are we skinning it? Because like Keith Schembri’s missing mobile phone, it’s yet another ‘dog ate my homework’ story to emerge from the fallout of the Muscat administration’s twilight years.

How so? The Memorandum of Understanding in question was initially reported to be ‘missing’ by the General Auditor – a curious state of affairs given that one can safely assume it to be of the utmost importance, since it essentially details the prospective privatisation of Gozo General Hospital, St Luke’s Hospital and Karin Grech Rehabilitation Hospital to Vitalis Global Healthcare.

But sometimes, things just go missing. It CAN happen. Yes, plenty of things CAN happen. But when it’s a matter of such consequence, suddenly the stacking up of coincidences and inauspicious timings just fails to cut it as a viable response.

Well anyway, it’s been found, right? Yes, it has. But even the fact that it’s been found so soon after the reporting of its alleged absence strikes a suspect note.

My God! Are you seriously casting doubt on what appears to be a politically efficient manoeuvre, for a change? I know it may sound like that, but calm down.

I am calm. That’s exactly what it sounds like.

You’re being ridiculous. Am I, though? I mean, this isn’t the first time that Prime Minister Robert Abela made a U-turn after public opinion turned against him...

Well, the same could be said for Joseph Muscat. You may be on to something there, albeit in an oblique fashion.

How do you mean? Abela was meant to be the ‘continuity’ candidate from the Muscat administration, even if that transition meant a burning dumpster fire of corruption allegations and an Office of the Prime Minister too close to comfort with the likes of Yorgen Fenech.

All of this is pretty well documented and has been endlessly discussed, and continues to be so. What’s your point? My point is that Abela’s swift action on the hospital agreement, arriving hot on the heels of a confession that it was in fact ‘missing’, is yet another sign of the tense juggling act that he has no choice but to perform as Labour’s first post-Muscat prime minister.

Would it have made you happier if he’d waited a few days, weeks, months before revealing it was found? Don’t be silly. But come on, from a purely rhythmic point of view, it would have been all the less farcical.

Do say: “Robert Abela may have inherited something of a poisoned chalice, and appears to be doing his utmost to parry the worst after-effects of the worst elements of the Muscat administration and its subsequent fallout. While time will tell whether or not he has behaved in the most effective and transparent way possible when it comes to the Vitalis issue, a break in ‘continuity’ may be happening, and the country will likely be all the better for it.”

Don’t say: “I’ve seen too many 90s B-movies to know that suspect documents are never lost. They are shredded. Loudly and definitively while the culprit looks on in sadistic, impish glee.”

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