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A Terinu-style scam

The fake, unsigned “notice of transfer” churned out by GonziPN and sent to the homes of government employees last week was the pits. Or shall I say a taste of pleasures yet to come?

The PN’s imagination knows no bounds
- Helena Dalli

The old Terinu story invariably repeats itself in different versions before every election. The PN’s imagination knows no bounds when it comes to fabricating stories in order to trick people into voting for them. Let’s have a quick historical look at the PN’s track record in these matters.

On the eve of an election over 70 years ago, the Nationalists ‘persuaded’ (read paid, thus, corrupted) waiter Ettore Bono, nicknamed Terinu, to sign a false affidavit swearing that he had seen political opponent Gerald Strickland in full Masonic regalia.

The effect of this pre-electoral fabrication had a significant impact on the election result. As Victor Aquilina puts it in his book Strickland House: The Standard Bearers And The Launch Of The Times Of Malta, Book One: 1921-1935, it was “the Nationalists’ nastiest move… which, for the greatest possible effect, they left up to the very last moment of the election”.

In another election, closer to our time, there was Prime Minister Eddie Fenech Adami accusing Opposition Leader Alfred Sant of having kept the former’s son out of University. An untruth over which Sant eventually won a libel suit.

Last election it was the lie about the Mistra contract. Lawrence Gonzi pooh-poohed Sant on the matter during the last television debate before the so-called silent day. Again, it later transpired that it was Sant who was telling the truth. Again it was too late.

This time round, GonziPN started earlier… There was the lie about Joseph Muscat freezing the minimum wage, which, as we all know, is not what Muscat said.

Now they have come out with an ‘anonymous’ note giving a false notice of transfer to government employees. During a press conference last Wednesday, PN president Marthese Portelli denied categorically over and over again that the PN had anything to do with this scam.

She later changed her mind and decided to tell the truth, so she phoned the PL headquarters to admit that it was the Nationalist Party which had sent these notes to the households of government employees.

That it was the PN telling them what ‘will happen’ on July 14, 2013, with the word “transfer” highlighted in red and that “it has been decided that you shall no longer remain in your place of work” and “Labour will decide who deserves to be in your place of work” and “Labour wants the minister appointed by Muscat to have the power to transfer government workers”.

The crass hypocrisy.

GonziPN’s attention has been drawn by many who are concerned about problems of transparency, accountability and efficiency in public administration, among them the Auditor General and the Public Service Commission.

They know that structures for audit are in place and a law on redeployment was introduced by the Nationalist government. They also know that the Government has a redeployment unit. But when Labour speaks about these issues, the discourse becomes one on political transfers.

In my last piece here I quoted the Prime Minister who said: “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.”

To which I replied that “this is, of course, a grotesque misrepresentation of what I said. I suspect that, in his zeal to distort what I said, Gonzi confused me with his general secretary 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”.

Now they have gone a step further and sent fake transfer notices to government employees’ homes, which, they are telling them will ‘occur’ in July 2013.

Does the Principal Permanent Secretary condone this? The civil service staff list is no longer public because of data protection. What does the Principal Permanent Secretary have to say about this abuse of his employees’ personal data? The source for this comprehensive information is the Office of the Prime Minister. Is he not bothered that for GonziPN there is no distinction between party and government?

And what about the Data Protection Commissioner? Does it not worry him that a political party has, and is using, information on government employees in this way?

Not only was the content of the note full of lies but the PN president even lied about the process when she first said that the fake notice of transfer was not coming from the Nationalist Party.

In the meantime, the PN are saying that Simon Busuttil is the new face of the PN. Funny that such an age-old antic should be performed in the same week of Busuttil’s election as deputy leader. Was it Gonzi who said “judge us by what we do not by what we say”?

Helena Dalli is Labour spokeswoman for the public sector, government investments and gender equality.

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