Our surreal situation
I reckon that both the divorce issue and the forthcoming election will be noted in our future history books as the two events that shook Maltese society out of its slumber. For the past few decades, Maltese society has accepted the dictum “do not fix if it ain’t broken” and preferred instead living a life of double standards where shifting values and social mores have been swept under the carpet. Today, as with the divorce issue, pertinent and piercing questions are being asked. These can be contrasted with boringly inane questions that some persons and journalists ask just to score points for their masters in each of the two main political groups rather than to seek the real truth.
As a caveat I would say that not even the EU referendum campaign managed to elicit soul searching questions. Instead, we had the ironic situation that the group (workers) that had most to gain from EU entry was against while those (protected businesses) who stood to lose most were in favour. This happened because the majority voted according to their political party allegiance and not because they understood what the EU was really about.
But this electoral campaign is indeed changing all that. It started with the Opposition party being questioned, grilled and badgered for coming out with new ideas and proposals. Conscious of this oncoming onslaught, it had kept its proposals under wraps for too long a time, longer than would have been under normal circumstances. But these are not normal circumstances. Big Brother is very big in Malta and unless you are very careful it can destroy you.
As with the divorce event, Maltese society is once again facing a surreal situation.
The side that observes the obvious, that Malta cannot live in a cocoon, that there is a real world outside, that the king is without clothes, and other obvious truths, has to prove its statements. Those who maintain that the world is flat demand proof from the other side for not agreeing with them.
As the underdog, the Opposition party is looked upon with suspicion for expressing the obvious. It has to scientifically prove that burning heavy oil is bad for health. If it does not supply updated medical studies to support its case it must shut up and apologise. It has to prove that new gas power plants are indeed more efficient than oil. Ignore the fact that the UK is planning to build some 20 gas-fired electricity plants. If the PL does not supply all business plans in detail then it has to admit that electricity prices will rise and bankrupt the country. The TV discussion programmes on PBS are getting close to becoming modern courts of inquisition with modern-day questioning techniques seemingly copied from the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.
Admit that there are not enough gas transport ships and repent. Admit that oil is the only fuel the Maltese can and should import, and repent. Admit that reclaimed land in future will not be able to support new structures. Admit that natural gas, when leaked, is heavier than air and would spread across the bay ready to explode and kill. Admit that discussing energy plans in public has precipitated Standard and Poor’s decision to downgrade Malta’s rating. Repent.
But the Opposition party wants to think outside the box. It is strengthened and empowered by all those Maltese and Gozitan people of goodwill who believe that Malta deserves better.
More and more people are coming out in the open on a daily basis and speaking out. For truth’s sake. Where before they were afraid to do so, now they are ready to show their dissatisfaction with the incumbent’s double speak and scaremongering.
They are telling us their version as to why they believe Malta stuck to oil for its power supply in the face of obvious alternatives, why the transport reform went awry, why a new power station had to be involved in a never ending saga, why Malta opted for conspicuous public projects with no significant rate of return, why a very expensive hospital had to become so inadequate in such a short time.
Many questions indeed.
In the meantime we will continue to experience a situation in some media channels which for many open-minded people cannot but be described as surreal.
Edward Scicluna is an MEP and Labour candidate for the fifth and eighth districts.