Two-bullet Russian roulette
The weak excuses notwithstanding, the fact that GonziPN left out some of the key proposals on good governance and transparency in the recently published manifesto cannot be treated in isolation but as yet another blunder in a campaign where everything that could have gone wrong did so.
Even were one to ignore for a moment – as we can ill afford to do – the serious allegations and “documentary evidence” of kickbacks linked to oil purchases at the time of a Nationalist Administration, there have been far too many projects tainted either with a whiff of corruption or else with promoters whose track record is far less than clean.
The ones that instantly come to mind are the National Audit Office findings about the BWSC saga; the further probing by the NAO into the workings of Wasteserv after the damning irregularities that came to light in the same watchdog’s national annual review; the media reports that the Brazilian company that was meant to plough millions of euro into our economy had been linked with bribery cases connected with Latin American and Angolan ministers; the international blacklisting of the consultants Lahmeyer International that the Government used extensively, particularly in the energy sector; the public knowledge that Trafigura have long been associated with allegations of kickbacks and bribery – most recently, according to reports, with people in high places in Nigeria and Jamaica... and so on and on and on.
On the other hand, a number of projects not only remained on the drawing board in spite of the hype linked to their launch, but in other cases we were proved right – in the sense that some of the promoters involved were not up to scratch and did not have enough clout to put their money where their mouth was. A typical case in point was the White Rocks project, for whose initial promotional launch the Government had taken on board most of the key stakeholders in a desperate bid to try and win public support. This was something that brought memories of the launch of the Smart City project, which has failed to match the high expectations raised during the 2008 campaign. L-Istrina is the only event to have taken place there so far!
These are but some examples of what one should expect from a “more of the same” administration were the Nationalist Party to be re-elected in just over a month’s time: strong on hype but falling far short on deliverables.
Not only have most of their policies been made on the hoof in this campaign but they seem to have lagged behind even in terms of logistics and creative ideas. They are coming across as a politically jaded lot, just going through the motions.
For some to even claim that there might be various elements within GonziPN who are actually planning an electoral defeat in order to start afresh and turn themselves into a trustworthy political force anew, is alarm-ing indeed – even were it solely based on sheer speculation and conspiracy theories.
Throughout the campaign Labour has taken most of the initiatives, with GonziPN log jammed almost virtually in a permanent reactive mode.
Their manifesto itself proved to be a damp squib. Apart from relying on the by now traditional mindset of throwing all caution to the wind in spite of hurriedly put-together ‘costings’ that hardly bear any scrutiny, it seems predestined to help them fail the most important test so far – the credibility test.
Lawrence Gonzi’s biggest political mistake is that he took so long to start smelling the coffee, preferring to allow himself to remain sucked into the vortex of self-denial. This is confirmed by his mightier-than-thou words of self-praise and the degree to which he failed over recent years to emotionally connect with the anxieties of the ordinary citizen while failing to offer real solutions to their problems.
In a number of cases GonziPN turned out to be the main problem rather than the solution. Winning the elections by a hair’s breadth, as GonziPN did in 2008, one would have expected consensus building to be at the forefront of its agenda. On the contrary, it allowed arrogance to get the better of most key ministers, particularly those who happen to be deeply involved in the party’s own electoral machine. I tend to bump almost daily into disillusioned Nationalists who claim rightly or wrongly that after Joseph Muscat, ministers like Austin Gatt are the PL’s “biggest asset”.
This is why the time has come for a change in direction, away from the strife-ridden approach that provided all the ingredients for the cracks that were soon to emerge during this legis-lature within GonziPN’s own parliamentary group.
GonziPN’s staunchest supporters are said to be pinning their hopes of an electoral turnaround on the party’s dirty tricks department coming up with a couple of surprises during the last few days of the campaign. The mere notion of it says it all, even if it were not to be true.
At a time when the country needs unity and a single-minded pursuit of a re-ordered set of priorities, we continue to have forces of division intensifying their negativism with the apparent blessing of even such newcomers as the PN’s new deputy leader.
As the British sitcom suggests, he has been in the thick of it more than others. Apart from being a brainchild of GonziPN himself, and a clone of its real decision makers, he also happens to be the chief architect of the PN’s 2008 election manifesto –one of the biggest rip-offs and hypes in our political history.
A set of empty promises that has turned out to be as welcome as a game of Russian roulette with two bullets!
Leo Brincat is a member of the Standing Parliamentary Committee on foreign and European affairs.