Sant charges government with 'institutional arrogance'
No confidence motion defeated
Opposition leader Alfred Sant said yesterday that a motion of no confidence that the opposition moved against Public Investments Minister Austin Gatt had, as intended, drawn attention to the institutional and personal arrogance that permeated the government.
Speaking at the end of a 10-hour debate in the House, Dr Sant said the people were demanding good governance and respect by the government to national institutions and the people.
What the people were actually seeing was a governemnt that was disconnected from them and shorn of credibility. National institutions including Parliament had been reduced to a rubber stamp because of the government arrogance.
This debate, he said, had signalled to the government that Parliament was there to be acknowledged and respected. Parliament was there to demand accountability and transparency.
The key word in this debate was arrogance, which was evident in everything the government did, emboldened by its five-seat majority, Parliament was there to do its duty of monitoring the administration. Dr Gatt thought he could steamroll over everything and anyone.
The Nationalist Party had no right to project itself as being the champion of democracy. History did not start in the 1970s. One could see what happened in the 1920s and 1930s and the associations with fascism, or what took place in the 1960s in the alliance with the Church to counter the Labour Party. In the early 1970s an attempt was even made to bribe a Labour MP to cross the floor. Then in the 1980s there were bombs outside people's homes and the killing of Karin Grech and Wilfred Cardona. Was Labour responsible for all that?
Dr Sant said the opposition had always wanted national institutions to function efficiently and with a sense of fair play but its efforts were not reciprocated. This could be seen in various appointments, including the appointment of an Acting President. Up to 1996 the practice was for the government to appoint somebody of its own choosing. The then Labour government tried to introduce a system of two Acting Presidents, from different political camps, who alternated. George Hyzler was retained and alternated with Guzè Cassar, a former Labour minister. The 1998 PN government retained the system for some time but after Dr Cassar retired the Nationalist government decided it should be the one to select the new appointee. Labour, however, had felt it should retain the possibility of nominating one of the Acting Presidents.
Dr Sant said that what Malta now had was "institutional arrogance" as well as personal arrogance permeating all sectors.
The Prime Minister himself as well as ministers had resorted to name calling.
He was surprised that Dr Gonzi had even involved himself in a letter in which he demanded that NGOs write to The Times to disassociate themselves from a poster displayed at a protest march reading Vote George, get Lorry. Wasn't it obvious that when one voted for George Pullicino one got Lawrence Gonzi?
Dr Sant said a frequent complaint by members of civil society was that although they spoke to the government, the government then did not heed their arguments.
And then there was the issue of how certain ministers and parliamentary secretaries, such as Tony Abela acted. Dr Abela was using his position to help constituents in a professional capacity.
Although Dr Gatt was the source of this debate, all ministers were under the spotlight. What action had the Prime Minister taken after pirated CDs were handed out at a reception for Foreign Minister Michael Frendo?
Why was the government looking the other way over corruption on the issue of driving licences, which had evidently existed for quite some time?
It was no wonder that many Nationalists were disillusioned by their government. The latest cause for their disillusionment was how, suddenly, the government had decided to extend development zones. Why had the government so far refused to name all those who would benefit from this exercise?
Dr Gatt personified the government's lack of respect and contempt for all and sundry. One only needed to see how many chairmen of state companies had resigned because of his actions, or how the minister had not shown compassion when hundreds of workers lost their jobs in textile factories.
This motion was therefore a signal that the government needed to work with the state institutions with a sense of participation not arrogance.
Dr Sant said the MLP's promise was that it would stay close to the people with a view of giving them back a united, participative society.
The motion of no confidence was defeated, with 30 votes in favour and 34 against.