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Bullying critics into submission

I am writing this piece right after an inspiring workshop with The Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee. The exercise took place during the International Parliamentary Conference I am attending at Westminster.

Unadulterated fusion of the political with the governmental, camouflaged as customer care
- Helena Dalli

Among other things, Toynbee spoke about the deformities of the press in general and the government press in particular. How the political media is used to spin what is said by critics in an effort to bully them into submission.

She discussed with us the responsibility of certain media for the collapse of civic trust and for fanning the flames of fear, ignoring completely their press code on the publication of ‘inaccurate, misleading or distorted’ material.

This certainly rang a bell, a personal one to boot. Especially since the rants about what I said and wrote lately are becoming neurotic.

True, those who are drowning clutch at straws. They also lose sight of reality with their blatant distortions. For instance, in their huffing and puffing at me for talking about an efficient and meritocratic public service, they ignore what the Public Service Commission told the Government earlier this year:

“... the regularisation exercise highlighted a number of instances in which appointments on trust were used to fill administrative, managerial or technical positions. This gave rise to a concern on the commission’s part that appointments on trust could be used to avoid issuing calls for applications for vacancies that should be filled on the basis of merit.”

In their charades on Net TV and in their party newspapers, the Nationalist Party never quote what the PSC is telling the Nationalist Government. They only distort what I have said.

They never quote the ETC law introduced by a Nationalist Government, which speaks of redeployment. Instead, they repeat to the point of nausea that redeployment ‘means’ political transfers. This, in their bid to scare people. It’s all very rich coming from a government that is no novice in the area of such transfers, but anyhow.

They never quote the Ombudsman’s reports which had specifically said that to get a job or promotion with Air Malta or with the army, for instance, one had to be a Nationalist supporter. And that the Prime Minister had then attacked Ombudsman Joe Sammut for exposing the Government in this way. The same Prime Minister who was himself found guilty of political discrimination. But, no, the virgins continue with their bullying tactics.

Two Sundays ago, the Prime Minister reportedly said in Mqabba: “We have already heard Labour MP Helena Dalli say that as soon as Labour is in power they will carry an audit on all of us. It will mean that they will check who is who.”

This is, of course, a grotesque misrepresentation of what I said. I suspect that in his zeal to distort what I said, Lawrence Gonzi confused me with his secretary general who sent e-mails asking for the transfer of confidential information – about complainants to government ministries and departments – to the Nationalist Party. Unadulterated fusion of the political with the governmental, camouflaged as customer care.

I am also not surprised that the Prime Minister confounds a technical human resource audit done by professionals in the discipline with ‘checking who is who’, as for the Nationalists it is normal to do the latter. It was, after all, another PN secretary general who had said that the civil service must be politicized.

The Prime Minister also has a report commissioned by the PN which tells the Nationalist government that there are people in high positions in the public sector who do not merit to be where they are. They occupy these posts because of their political affiliation and contacts and not because they merit to be in such positions. These decision-makers are the cause of many problems, which the Government is facing because of their incompetence.

Earlier this year, I wrote about how this politicization of the public sector is so convenient for GonziPN and there was no onslaught on me as there is today. I had written:

“…What is the best way to govern? Ideally, it should be by the meritocratic system where public officers – apart from those in ministers’ secretariats – are appointed and promoted on the basis of competence and not by party patronage. But it seems that the latter school, that of having a politicised civil service, is coming in handy for the Nationalist government, especially during this legislature.

“This is why the Government doesn’t even deem it necessary to answer the PSC on whether it agrees with its proposal of ensuring that the practice of a competitive selection process is only relinquished where this is in the public interest.”

It seems the PN could not get away from the facts of the current state of certain areas in the public sector but does not want to hear how this must change.

The Nationalist and Government media are stepping up the attack and increasingly becoming a distorted media bent against every sentence uttered by Labour. They look with a magnifying glass for political ‘scoops’ – which they can spin to suit their purpose – in every word said.

Demonising Labour in order to hold on to power forever is their only regulator.

The Government and the PN hope that their bullying will work. It won’t if we face them down and challenge them every step of the way.

Ms Dalli is shadow minister for the public sector, government investments and gender equality.

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