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Looking beyond March 9

One reason Simon Busuttil gives as to why we should vote PN this Saturday is “because no political party is infallible”. He goes on to say that “Yes, we (the PN) made mistakes that should have been avoided. And we disappointed certain people. I am personally committed to keep the party close to the people and to continue to address unresolved cases not just until March 9 but also thereafter”.

GonziPN lost the support of the majority of its MPs but carried on, trampling on people

It should go without saying that attention to citizens should continue to be given after March 9. But Busuttil feels the need to say it because the track record of GonziPN shows that listening to the plight of citizens ends the moment that the polling booths close. True, the PN works hard until the last minute of election day – even manages to get an hour’s extension to run after lost sheep – but, then, once its job of conning people into voting for it is done, it turns its back on ‘the people’ it has so cleverly coaxed.

Lawrence Gonzi had promised that he would listen and act upon what he hears. But, instead, we have experienced GonziPN turning away from problems afflicting ‘the people’ for too long. GonziPN voted wholeheartedly against a Labour motion on the reduction of energy rates. GonziPN gave itself a salary rise behind the people’s back when it was telling us to make sacrifices because the economy was going through a bad patch. GonziPN lost the support of the majority of its MPs but carried on, trampling on people – as though nothing was happening - with the same arrogance as when it had a five-seat majority.

How can ‘the people’ believe Busuttil now?

During my home visits, people bring out of drawers the letters of five years ago signed by Gonzi, in which they were promised one thing before the election but this changed drastically after the election.

How can GonziPN then say they are on the people’s side when they even dragged their feet on a Whistleblowers’ Act? As shadow minister for public administration, I have for many years pushed for this law, only to get talk and more talk. It was on Labour’s manifesto in the 2008 election, which the party lost by a whisker.

Had GonziPN wanted to stay close to the people they would have made this law one of the priorities. Now, we understand even more GonziPN’s reluctance in carrying this law and appreciate Joseph Muscat’s declaration that this will be one of the first laws a Labour government would pass.

As for public entities and GonziPN’s closeness to ‘the people’, let’s look at one important authority: the Malta Environment and Planning Authority.

GonziPN had ample time to reform Mepa. The Prime Minister had also taken it under his wing. But what were the results? PN general election candidate and current Lija PN mayor calls it “a failed planning authority” in a newspaper interview last week (www.maltatoday.com.mt/en/newsdetails/news/interview/Onlya-clean-sweep-can-save-MEPAIan-Castaldi-Paris-20130220).

The PN mayor also speaks about the wrong attitude at Mepa, “the way it treats citizens and, above all, its apparent habit of adopting ad hoc and sometimes contradictory approaches to the same issues”.

This is the opposite of ‘staying close to the people’, as Busuttil is suggesting. Why should ‘the people’ believe Busuttil now when it is the same Gonzi who let these things happen under his watch? Why should ‘the people’ believe things will be done differently by the same person?

After all, Gonzi said last week that he would not resign if the PN loses the election. I imagine, thus, that he will be Prime Minister if the PN win the election.

But for the time being, GonziPN brought in Busuttil, supposedly the ‘new face’ of the party. Alas, he has failed to impress even the staunchest of PN supporters and has floated from one gaffe to the next in the heavy current of this election campaign.

Busuttil is less concerned about the serious business of good policies than he is about who has a Nationalist or Labour face.

What interests me is not the colour of faces but the implementation of Labour’s proposals, such as those with which I was directly involved as shadow minister: policies on good governance, on an efficient, accountable and transparent public administration and on sound government investments.

What matters to me are the variety of concrete proposals with regard to the unlocking of the full potential of women. Policies to enable mothers and fathers – whether together or as single parents – to find a better work/life balance that will enable them both to share in the rearing and caring of children as well as participating in the labour force.

The latter, to see to the financial obligations necessary to better support the family and in the process help the country’s economy by employing more of its untapped human resources.

Other areas of policy are related to different aspects of family life, such as domestic violence and problems that interfere with the right to a serene and happy life of those involved.

This is what we shall be voting for on Saturday: the needs of Maltese society, policies that will improve lives, not blue or red faces.

[email protected]

Helena Dalli is shadow minister for the public sector, government investments and gender equality.

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