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St Philip’s, Hiroshima and Enemalta

One of the protagonists of this electoral campaign is not contesting the election. He is Dr Frank Portelli. This colourful and very strong debater does not mince words though, from time to time, he minces those who take him up in a debate. Love him or hate him, he has a mind of his own and speaks it loud and clear.

Portelli presence in the campaign triangular in form and is as intriguing as Bermuda’s more famous triangle.

His first controversial entry into the fray followed the announcement that Government was on the verge of concluding a deal with Dr Frank Portelli about his St Philip’s Hospital. I have always looked at the principle behind the deal as an example of a win/win situation. Maltese patients would have had more hospital beds available. This would have brought the end of patients sojourn in Mater Dei’s corridors instead of wards. On the other hand the company owning St Philip’s would avoid bankruptcy or some other kind of financial undesirability.

But the celestial patron for whom Dr Portelli’s hospital was named was not strong enough to prevent all hell breaking loose. A holy (or was it an unholy?) alliance between the Partit Laburista and some Nationalist backbenchers stopped the deal. Now Maltese patients and Dr Frank Portelli have to wait for the election. The deal will now have to be negotiated by the next government, most probably a Labour one.

During the saga Dr Portelli became the bête noir of the media of the Partit Laburista. They rubbished him no end. Then wonder of wonders he became, so to speak, their darling. His words are being quoted and bandied around although not with the same reverence reserved to the words of the Leader himself.

Dr Portelli, like a true and loyal, citizen, took a very strong stance on the allegations of corruption in conjunction with the buying of oil by some Enemalta consultant of yesteryear. The allegations are very serious and worrying both in themselves and in the implications they point towards. Many, and no one blames them, say that what happened years ago can still be happening today and, as it should be, they clamour for action.

Dr Portelli  – and bully for him – made the introduction of the Whistleblower Act, as his battle cry. He asked for the urgent reconvening of Parliament so that the bill becomes an Act. He also said that the level of corruption at Enemalta was so enormous that he can assure all and one that Malta would have a surplus in the next budget if the money paid in commissions would be recouped.

These are sweet words for the media of the Partit Laburista which quite naturally are giving them maximum coverage. The same media is also reminding us that Dr Portelli is still referring to the allegations of corruption in conjunction with Mater Dei.

Truth be said, the Police released a statement on Bondi+ saying that they had investigated the allegations of Dr Portelli in that regard. They even spoke to Dr Portelli on three different occasions but – according to the police - no proof supported Dr Portelli’s allegations. For the Police this is case closed.

Portelli’s triangular incursion in the campaign has a third facet: the gas tanks that the Labour Government would build at Delimara within a short span of time after its electoral victory. Dr Portelli was a guest of TVAM on Sunday January 20 to speak about the safety hazards associated with this plan. And what Dr Portelli said – if proven – is troubling in the extreme.

He said that the USA State Department is worried by the danger that can be posed by tanks holding liquid natural gas. The example of Algeria was given as this could be prone to a terrorist attack.

Portelli said that the energy contained in the gas tanks proposed by the Partit Laburista is equivalent to the destructive energy of 17 bombs dropped on Hiroshima during World War II! He insisted that his conclusion was based on calculations made by the American State Department. The Hiroshima bomb destroyed an area of 40 square miles.

Portelli reminded his listeners of the Um el Faroud tragedy which, he said, was caused by an explosion of gas. If there is an accident at the Delimara tanks, said Dr Portelli, the blast would reach Villa San Souci. God forbid.

The above are not my words by the words of Dr Portelli whose words on possible corruption at EneMalta are being quoted so liberally. If Portelli is worth quoting on Ene Malta isn’t he worth quoting on Delimara?

Let me draw my own conclusions.

Corruption is a cancer that erodes society. A zero tolerance attitude is the only attitude permissible in society. Like the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition I prefer to wait for the conclusion of the police investigations on the subject. The fact that we do not have a Whistle Blower Act should not be a show stopper. The law already gives the power to the Attorney General to protect potential whistle blowers and the Prime Minister has also said that he is prepared to give an amnesty so that the truth comes out.

Regarding the real, possible, imaginary or probable danger of the Delimara tanks I prefer to rest on the words of experts in the field.

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