I have been credited by some who are blinded by partisan prejudice with putting the current Labour administration into power. When I write an article which criticises one or other aspect of current governance or maladministration, they whine: “But you voted them into power. What can you expect?”, or words to that effect. Would that I had such influence.
One columnist, who is only capable of seeing politics through a single prism, wrote in a recent article in The Malta Independent on Sunday: “People who like to think of themselves as prominent members of society, who embarrassed themselves publicly by boasting about their intention to vote for Muscat, telling us it was time for a change to Labour, and encouraging us to do likewise… are seriously disappointed, I suspect largely at the discovery that they have painfully poor judgement, but will still press on and look for reasons why they should defend with increasing awkwardness this palpable mess.”
Leaving aside the usual ad hominem remarks and her demeaning language, which are her stock-in-trade and a far cry from intelligent criticism (phrases like ‘lower middle class’ and ħamalli tal-flus roll off her pen and pepper many of her articles, bad-mouthing whole swathes of Maltese society who she looks down upon), she rarely deploys arguments to address actual policies.
For the record, this is what I wrote in March 2013: “There are wider arguments for political change over and above those of the institutional corruption, cronyism, patronage and money-laundering, that oil gate appears to have exposed. It is unhealthy, in a democracy whose electorate is so evenly divided, for one party to keep hold of the levers of government for so long. It is bad enough that, because of Malta’s flawed electoral system, the two parties exercise a duopoly. Democracies need to renew themselves periodically, or else almost half the electorate is permanently disenfranchised.
“There is also a positive argument for the Nationalist Party to spend a period in opposition. Despite the rhetoric of the last few weeks, the party has become stale and tired. Every effort by Simon Busuttil to stamp a new look on it cannot disguise its jadedness. Nationalist supporters may think they have a divine entitlement to govern forever, but this is mistaken. A period in opposition will be healthy. It will give the party time to revitalise itself, inject fresh thinking into its policies, heal its divisions and deploy some new faces to its front bench.
“The Labour Party now should have its place in the sun. Let us be clear. A Labour government will not be perfect. It will make mistakes. It will be faced on arrival by all the issues it has failed to address in its road-map and the messy business of daily Maltese politics. But its front bench is no worse, and in some respects is better than those now in government.
“Joseph Muscat has run a skilful campaign… His policies are indistinguishable in their thrust and effect from those of the Nationalist Party, and in many cases are more imaginative. They are certainly more inclusive of Maltese society as a whole.
“Malta needs a new approach to politics and an end to the bitter tribalism that continues to tear this country apart. It stands a better chance of getting this from the Labour Party. If Joseph Muscat fails to deliver on his promise of change, free from the pull of special interests and politics as usual, then his administration will last for only one Parliament. But on the basis of what we’ve seen, it is right that he is given the chance to show what he can do.”
It was an article, as the reader can tell, which was much hedged about and much hyped by others. But it was a far cry from the ringing endorsement of Muscat that the usual partisan PN apologists have convinced themselves it was. Indeed, on rereading it three years later, the last paragraph may well prove extremely prescient.
The problem in Malta is that too many voters are blinded by their prejudices and are unable to see that politics consists of shades of grey. The thickets of superficial and partisan polemic that surround them prevent them from seeing the wood for the trees.
Their historic bigotry gets in the way of objective judgement. They seek to justify themselves for always voting one way, but not the other, based on a blinkered view of what ‘the other’ stands for. This is the cry of bigots through the ages. On such ill-informed prejudices are elections won or lost. For those who seek to think things through objectively and in a non-partisan way, these people only have disdain.
I shall persist in writing for my readers with the object of raising public awareness about issues of the day, stimulating public debate and informing public opinion as objectively as possible, not simply to satisfy sectoral interests within this sadly polarised country.
I shall continue to do this because it is a perspective which, in my own small way, I have been trying hard to promote since I started writing for this newspaper. All my training over the years has been devoted to achieving objectivity and suppressing prejudice. It is my duty as an independent columnist to try to give my readers a view which is as informative and politically impartial as possible, even if some readers don’t agree with it.
I have been criticising as constructively and objectively as I can a lot of what Muscat has done since 2013. I have given praise where it was due and criticism where it was deserved. There has been no holding back on issues of lawlessness, meritocracy, corruption, promotions in the AFM, the sale of passports scheme, governance, the Panama Papers and many others.
Yes, I had written in March 2013 that I thought it was “Time for a change to Labour”. I had also said: “Both parties… are guilty of over-promising and failing to confront the challenges ahead with honesty. In the face of such irresponsible policies, which is the least worst choice of party to lead this country in the next five years?
“The Nationalist Party makes a perfectly respectable case for a safe pair of hands. Better to place one’s future in a party with proven experience and leadership… But an objective observer would have to point out that this is not the whole picture. There is also a dark side… Overridingly, the electoral campaign has thrown up a massive corruption scandal that has raised questions about the government’s competence, accountability and the integrity of many, both in and outside government, who have been very close to it over the last decade.”
If an independent columnist is not capable of being constructive, open-minded and tolerant, if he or she is not free from prejudice and committed to seeking solutions which are just, fair, equitable and for the common good of Maltese society regardless of background, creed or political affiliation, what use do they serve in being mere political mouthpieces of the party they support?
By all means let us sometimes agree to disagree. But I shall continue to give my readers my views as objectively as possible, based on the evidence before me.