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Who rules the roost?

Alfred Sant's speech in Parliament last week, in reply to the President's inaugural address, raises some interesting points. It was a bitter speech, spinning a web of paranoia in his mind. In other words, he had to find an excuse for his and, as a result, his party's loss at the last general election. This came in the form of an alleged conspiracy between a wide range of protagonists in private life: the media, professionals and businessmen. As if, if this were true, there is anything wrong with sections of the media, professionals and businessmen favouring the PN over the MLP; they certainly know which side their bread is buttered.

We then had the claim that Air Malta had worked to bring over non-eligible voters for the PN (a claim which has been strongly rebutted by the national airline) and not giving the same facility to Labour voters.

This is a claim also made in part by leadership hopeful Evarist Bartolo. But does this not show crass incompetence on the part of the MLP administration and electoral office?

Over many election campaigns we have had a deluge of applications before our courts for the removal of non-eligible voters from the electoral register. Why was this legitimate tool not used this time round if the MLP knew that many Maltese living abroad did not have the right to vote? Would this have happened if Michael Falzon was still running the party's electoral office? Is this situation not just one of many valid reasons for the whole MLP administration to be removed?

What perhaps stuck out more in Dr Sant's speech was his arrogance in the face of (perhaps self-imposed) defeat.

No sign of apology or, at least, remorse. Just bitterness and self justification. Self-justification for so many miserable mistakes made not only during the last electoral campaign but over many years, including when he was in government. As Leader of the Opposition, not because he should be but because a loosely-interpreted constitution put him there, one would have expected him to keep a low profile and deliver a neutral message. Of his own choice (and quite rightly too), he is not the leader of the party in opposition. There is an acting leader, who is keeping a low profile, merely fulfilling the functionary duties that his role requires. There are also five persons who aspire to be leader come June 5. One of them will be leader.

Dr Sant should not have compromised the new leader and his party with such brash and committed remarks.

He should have realised he was only there because that is what the President had deemed to be the legal position and nothing more. It is a pity that probably Dr Sant's last speech as Leader of the Opposition should be recorded as being so negative and bitter, not to say full of fiction.

As the leader of one of our main parties for 16 years he deserves to go down in a more proper and dignified manner. But, then, is this perhaps a sign that he is still ruling the roost; what with Joe Muscat, referred to as Dr Sant's poodle, leading the race with an impressive majority? I fear that the former leader will still lurk in the shadows, influencing the way the party goes. We'll see!

Meanwhile, Dr Sant, like others, will get a bonus if the Prime Minister's proposal goes through. I was not convinced about this move until I heard the Prime Minister speak on TVM's Dissett last week. Yet, I do now understand that any former minister worth his salt should be compensated for his service to the nation. Lawrence Gonzi made a very valid point. We (including the undersigned) have been harping on the fact that there is a serious lack of valid candidates for ministerial positions. I have written time and again about appointing bureaucrats to the highest executive of the land. There are many who are prepared to serve and will give a very valid contribution to our ruling class but are not prepared to give up their profession or business activities in the process.

I doubt if six months' earnings will draw them in, but, at least, it is a start. Let's give it a try.

And, further, as our new Speaker, Louis Galea, among others, remarked, let us have a substantially increased salary for members of Parliament as well as facilities in the form of secretarial and research staff and adequate office space.

And, as a parting shot, I would like to salute Joe Saliba for his sterling service as PN secretary general. I must admit that, for a long time, I was sceptical about his capabilities in the role. Not least because he stepped into the shoes of so many reputable "giants" who came before him. I must admit that I have been proved wrong. Mr Saliba has surpassed himself and done a great job for the party and the country. I wish him all the best for the future.

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