George Abela and the Dalai Lama
As the Olympic torch travels towards China on its epic journey fraught by anti-Chinese demonstrations, the Chinese authorities still refuse to speak to the Dalai Lama who has, many times over, offered to intervene.
To set the record straight the Dalai Lama has consistently advocated the holding of the games in an atmosphere of peace as befits his fundamental Buddhist beliefs. He has unflaggingly advocated the cessation of the demonstrations. He has tried to pour the proverbial oil over troubled waters by personally intervening and speaking to the Chinese authorities; if necessary by braving the dragon's jaws and going to Beijing himself. However, the Tibetans, especially those scattered in exile the world over, after no less than half a century of oppression, are not listening to him or obeying him.
Ironically, despite the Dalai Lamas appeals, the Chinese authorities persist in accusing him of masterminding this tremendous loss of face that these demonstrations and protests are causing; an accusation that pours even more fuel on the fire than there is already.
The situation had just about deadlocked. The torch was, under pressure, moving inexorably towards Beijing, the demonstrations were happening regardless of both the exhortations of the Dalai Lama, China and, ironically, the International Olympic Committee, when, wonder of wonders, the EU suddenly woke up out of its torpor and has voted for a possible boycott by EU leaders of the games unless China relents and opens conciliatory talks with the Dalai Lama in the hope of reaching a solution. The EU was, in all fairness, pipped to the post by George W. Bush.
The Olympic Committee is furious and angry about what is happening and has, inexplicably and, in my opinion, shamefully, condemned the protests as being against the spirit of the Olympic games, thus echoing China's own stance. So, dear Jacques Rogge, pray, is the Olympic spirit one that can tolerate the racial and cultural oppression of one nation by another larger and far more powerful one? As far as I know the Olympic spirit is epitomised by the maintenance of interracial harmony. You have unwisely selected a host nation whose human rights record still resounds with the sound of gunfire from Tiananmen Square. Will Beijing 2008 be as notoriously memorable as the 1936 Munich ones? If the Chinese do not relent, I believe it will.
This refusal to budge or see reason, this terrible fear of losing face is not something exclusive to Beijing but is happening here and now on our own little sun patch floating in the Mediterranean. Since the March 8 election results that knocked Labour out of the running yet again, there has been a welcome increase of correspondence about why and how Labour lost; far more in fact than why the PN won, which it did by default yet again and on the charisma of Lawrence Gonzi alone.
Apart from observers like myself who have no particular reason to deify the PN but have only voted for it all these years because Labour failed miserably and utterly in providing an alternative, the correspondents, still obviously smarting from the loss of the victory that they were convinced would be theirs, have continued to rake up and cast mud pie after mud pie at the precarious PN fledgling Administration. Is this an attempt to deflect the public's attention away from the internal power struggles in the corridors of the Mile End glasshouse? Very possibly, however it is mostly loss of face just like the Chinese. How is it possible that after 50 years of oppressing a powerless Tibet that Beijing can expect the world to accept it as host for games which, since their inception in ancient times, have promoted and been symbolic of international peace and harmony?
Similarly, how can the sore-headed Labour diehards expect the floaters and pink Nationalists to ever vote MLP with such a dismal track record and under these circumstances?
If one had to write the history of the MLP it will, after a few pages, become fairly obvious that it is built on a concatenation of negatives; the breakaway from Boffa, the loss of the integration battle, the quarrels with the Church, the British authorities, the courts, the period of seething opposition in the 1960s, the return to power in 1971 and the 16 years of terror mentioned only last Friday by the one apologist from the Labour camp who is able to rise above party pettiness and see the big picture.
Domenic Fenech, eminent history professor and former MLP secretary general, has earned my admiration for his very fair, practically dispassionate assessment of what has actually led to the pretty pass we are all in at present. Prof. Fenech is an academic but he is also a realist. He has, in his article entitled What Labour Wants, spelled out the problems that the party has been facing for the last decade and as a true historian has gone beyond 1998 in an attempt to convince his readers that the party does not need reform but new thinking. Prof. Fenech has attempted to exonerate himself from the past and look to the future with a very different MLP in mind. If he can possibly succeed in persuading the rank and file of the MLP that his vision can work then I am prepared to take what he says at full value and not face value.
Therefore, Norman Hamilton et al, for the next couple of months please store your gripes about Where's Everybody? JPO, Mepa, the PfP etc in the kitchen cupboard and concentrate on being part of that new thinking so succinctly expounded and explained by Prof. Fenech.
George Abela is not a traitor to the MLP but will prove to be its saviour. It is the bunch of untouchable MLP pundits on their ivory thrones who refuse to budge who have hijacked and betrayed the party and kept it in ignominious opposition for a full decade and not Dr Abela. Once a charismatic and level-headed leader is elected out of the debris left behind by Alfred Sant and his cronies, then, should it be still necessary, the gripes can be brought out of the cupboard and sorted out in Parliament.
Just as stubbornly as the Chinese authorities still refuse to met the Dalai Lama, the only person who could clinch an agreement, some within the MLP still refuse to admit that their administration has failed dismally in the last 10 years and, just like the Chinese are doing to the Dalai Lama, are painting Dr Abela a blacker shade of black in an attempt to save their tottering thrones and protect their shadowy image, all this at the expense of a party that would have been, if it could, the most equitable, socially just, forward-looking and successful that Malta has ever seen. Instead, we have had to live through times that were short of anarchical mayhem; times that people like me cannot ever forget. It will take a great and forceful leader of vision to rise like a phoenix out of the glowing ashes and lead the MLP out of the political quagmire it is floundering in; a veritable Moses parting the Red Sea!