Twelve tumultuous months in the life of...
Malta had its fair share of scandals, got a Cardinal and witnessed more parliamentary backbench unrest. Anthony Manduca takes a look at the winners and losers of 2012.
A good year for:
The Vatican’s Promoter of Justice in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and an expert in Canon Law, Mgr Scicluna’s appointment by the Pope as Malta’s Auxiliary Bishop immediately led many to believe that he was being groomed to replace Archbishop Paul Cremona. His wit and ease with the media, even when faced with tough questions, is seen by many as a welcome boost for the Maltese Church.
The respected Rome-based theologian became Malta’s only second ever Cardinal during a ceremony presided over by Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican. Writing in the Catholic Herald, Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith, an English priest and doctor of moral theology, described Cardinal Grech, an Augustinian, as “possibly the most intelligent man alive”.
The popular MEP was elected deputy leader of the Nationalist Party, comfortably defeating Finance Minister Tonio Fenech, who had practically the entire Cabinet’s backing. Dr Busuttil’s election re-energised the PN’s grassroots, presented an opportunity for the party to reach out to floating and disgruntled voters and positioned him as clear favourite to replace Lawrence Gonzi.
Appointed European Health and Consumer Policy Commissioner to replace the disgraced John Dalli, Dr Borg gave an excellent performance during his confirmation hearings at the European Parliament. Despite the Socialists, Liberals and Greens officially opposing Dr Borg’s nomination due to what they considered to be his conservative social policies, there were enough dissenters to ensure his election.
The moderate Labour MEP was unexpectedly thrown into the national limelight when he was elected – unopposed – deputy leader of the Labour Party after the resignation of Anġlu Farrugia. The former Air Malta chairman might be having health problems but insists he is fit enough to co-steer the Labour Party to electoral success in March.
The capital city saw the restoration of many of its historic buildings reaching fruition, the Renzo Piano project taking shape and the much-needed Upper Barrakka lift completed – all as Valletta was nominated European Culture Capital 2018, promising more investment and excitement for the next few years.
The world-renowned Maltese tenor continued reaching new heights and was named 2012 Gramophone ‘Artist of the Year’. He headlined the BBC’s Last Night of the Proms at London’s Royal Albert Hall in the summer and the release of his fourth solo album on Decca Be My Love: A Tribute to Mario Lanza became the first classical album to hit No. 1 on the Danish Pop Chart since the release of The Three Tenors in 1994. He was also awarded a Doctor of Literature Honoris Causa by the University of Malta in recognition of his achievements.
The Maltese DJ duo consisting of Joven Grech and Cyprian Cassar were ranked the 50th best DJs in the world by the British publication DJ Mag. The two moved up 41 places from their 91 ranking last year and managed to beat big names such as Bob Sinclair, Paul Oakenfold and Paul Kalkbrenner.
The young Maltese sprinter provided a rare sight for a national at a high-profile sporting event when she placed third in the second round 100 metres heat at the London Olympic Games with a sprint time of just 0.11 seconds off her personal best. She crowned the year by winning the best female athlete award at the Sport Malta Awards.
After years of bad press and losses, the national airline announced an operating profit in the first half of the year, an improvement of €8.4 million over the same period last year. The Maltese have generally rallied around the national airline as it embarked on a cost-cutting exercise and a major operation to overhaul operation. Air Malta CEO Peter Davies issued a word of caution, however, saying the airline had to do a lot more to cut costs.
A bad year for:
Arrested on suspicion of being bribed by drug dealers, the judge resigned after the Prime Minister presented an impeachment motion against him to the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Accusations include accepting freebies from drug gang members in a case that has rocked the judiciary.
Richard Cachia Caruana
Malta’s EU Ambassador resigned after Nationalist backbencher Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando shocked everyone by voting in favour of an Opposition motion of censure against him while MP Jesmond Mugliett abstained. The motion had claimed Mr Cachia Caruana went behind Parliament’s back when he discussed with representatives of other countries how Malta could rejoin the Partnership for Peace. Malta’s former chief EU negotiator has always strenuously denied the accusation, which was not backed by evidence.
Labour’s deputy leader for parliamentary affairs went from a potential Deputy Prime Minister’s post to the political doldrums overnight when he was forced to resign by party leader Joseph Muscat after he alleged that Magistrate Audrey Demicoli displayed political bias in a judgment. Dr Farrugia’s allegation was made the day after a poor performance in a televised debate on Xarabank with Simon Busuttil. Many political observers believe the Labour leader found the opportune moment to sack a political liability.
Lino Farrugia Sacco
The judge, who is the head of Malta’s Olympic Committee, was rapped by the International Olympic Committee’s ethics commission for entertaining discussions with undercover reporters who were looking for a way to circumvent the official ticketing mechanism. The Nationalist Party called on him to resign and the Prime Minister presented an impeachment motion against him. The judge did not score any brownie points when he accused the Prime Minister of “trying to be funny” when faced by reporters.
Carm Mifsud Bonnici
The soft spoken Home Affairs Minister quit when Nationalist MP Franco Debono voted with the Opposition in favour of a motion of no confidence in him. Dr Debono had been a thorn in Dr Mifsud Bonnici’s side since 2011 and at the beginning of this year the Prime Minister removed the justice ministry from his portfolio in a failed attempt to appease the rebel MP.
The rebel Nationalist MP, who was a problem for the Government all year, was banned by the PN executive from contesting the next election as a candidate. After voting against the Budget in November, effectively bringing down his own Government, Lawrence Gonzi declared him“irrelevant”. His outburst when he arrived at a Xarabank debate between the parties’ deputy leaders won him few friends.
Malta’s European Commissioner was forced to resign following an investigation by Olaf, the EU Anti-Fraud Office, into a complaint made by a tobacco snus producer. The company alleged that a Maltese businessman had used his contacts with Mr Dalli to try to gain financial advantage from the company in return for seeking to influence a possible future legislative proposal on tobacco products. The Olaf report did not find any conclusive evidence of Mr Dalli’s direct participation but said there was “unambiguous evidence” showing he was aware of these events. Mr Dalli, who has since been interrogated by Maltese police, has vowed to clear his name.
The businessman at the centre of the John Dalli affair, Mr Zammit was forced to resign as Sliema deputy mayor soon after the Olaf investigation was announced. He was later charged in court with bribery and trading in influence. And to top off his annus horribilis, Mr Zammit’s circus ran into trouble with the planning authority.
The former Sliema mayor was sentenced to a year’s imprisonment after being found guilty of bribery. He was arraigned after the Sliema council’s former contracts manager claimed he was asked by Mr Dimech to pay him a commission on his salary when he was given his employment contract by the council. Mr Dimech has appealed his sentence.
The former Maltese national footballer was given a life ban by UEFA after being accused of trying to throw a 2007 Euro qualifier game against Norway. The judgment bans the 31-year-old player from football-related activity for life for breaching UEFA’s principles of “integrity and sportsmanship”. The decision on appeal went much further than a previous lower tribunal ruling in August that barred Sammut from the sport for 10 years.