Scicluna’s compassion straw man card: ‘Yes, there was corruption, but think of the children’

The Skinny | No. 48 • Edward Scicluna Testifies

Telling on the Kitchen Cabinet
Telling on the Kitchen Cabinet

What are we skinning? Finance Minister Edward Scicluna’s testimony at the public inquiry into the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia earlier this week. 

Why are we skinning it? Because his statements are rather indicative of the maneuverings of a certain – and most controversial – elements of the Muscat cabinet. 

The ‘kitchen cabinet’, specifically… Yes, Scicluna claims not to have been part of said coterie, which included the likes of Konrad Mizzi and former chief of staff Keith Schembri. 

What did he do when he felt left out? Did he lash out in mad ministerial jealousy and kick up a scene, like certain former backbenchers? Not at all. It appears that the otherwise dignified and gentlemanly Scicluna did manage to keep his trademark composure throughout. 

But this is a problem. In a sense, yes. Or at least, he was composed where composure was the least thing we needed from him. 

What do you mean? Well, if what he’s claiming is true (and to be fair, it does tally with what most of the country has been suspecting for a very long time) then it pretty much confirms that some shady stuff was going on with that coterie. 

He even said they ‘bypassed the system’. Exactly. Would have been nice to hear about that from an authoritative inner critic like him at the time, wouldn’t it? 

Yes, you’d at least expect him to resign. Write the tell-all memoir. Rake in a few bucks worthy of a ‘former finance minister’... Well, apparently he’s already walked away from a lucrative money-raker. 

Oh? Yes, he claims that he abandoned a Brussels post worth over €100,000 to take on the finance minister job. 

Why? Apparently he wanted to ensure that “pensioners and the disabled” get as much financial support as they need, and that he was “happy to see them getting more”. 

A noble goal, certainly, but isn’t it a little bit beside the point? Yes, he played the ultimate compassion straw man card, there, a variant of: “Yes, there was corruption, but think of the children (unborn or otherwise)”. 

Given the alleged scale of financial wrongdoing in the centre of all this, it’s hardly a compelling testimony from the finance minister himself… No, not at all. In fact, he’s effectively saying that he disagreed with a lot of what went on, but that he would have suffered serious political repercussions if he went public with them… 

Presumably sealing the financial fate of the same “pensioners and disabled”. That would be the narrative, yes. 

So he didn’t resign because… he didn’t feel like resigning? That seems to be the long and short of it, yep. 

Do say: “While we should welcome Edward Scicluna’s testimony as further confirmation of the excessive power that the likes of Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri wielded at the time, one can hope that future generations of politicians will do the right thing when they witness wrongdoing, and not just coast by on the status quo.” 

Don’t say: “Kitchen cabinets at work tend to be musty and crammed with month-old jars of gloppy sugar and coffee. Why would Scicluna want to be there anyway?” 

More in The Skinny