Another blast from the past

History is so debatable isn't it? It is immensely difficult to be totally objective and even the most learned and erudite of historians will tend to see things according to their own perspectives and beliefs. In today's world, however, chronicles are immediate and so diverse that partisanship is out of the question. This, however, is a recent phenomenon and it is possible, even here and now, to have Jurassic appearances from ex-politicos who are long past their sell by date denouncing this, that or the other.

Such a blast from the past was the appearance of ex-Premier Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici ranting about the government's recent announcement that Malta would be rejoining Partnership for Peace. I will not go into the implications of the PfP membership apart from declaring that other EU members like Ireland and Austria which are, like us, declared neutrals, have no problem about being members of this organisation and see no threat to their neutrality at all.

Way back in 1995, the PfP issue was a cause celebre, I forget why exactly, however, as soon as the MLP came to power in 1996, Malta, besides tragically withdrawing its EU application, also withdrew from this Nato-sponsored organisation, which, as its name implies, strives for world peace. What is strange is that although since 1998 we have been treading the European "straight and narrow" path to membership and beyond, Malta has only decided to rejoin PfP at this relatively late stage. Logically speaking then it cannot be such a big deal after all and I have been informed that membership will facilitate Malta's involvement in discussions that directly concern European security. Therefore, Dr Mifsud Bonnici can go back into contented retirement where he should stay and leave the running of the country to people who are level-headed and understand the political and strategic exigencies of what our EU membership entails.

It is precisely this patriarchal fire and brimstone approach to politics that the majority of the Maltese people do not want. The legislature of Dr Mifsud Bonnici in the 1980s marked the nadir of our post-independence history. For those too young to remember, the years 1981 to 1987 will always be sadly remembered as the years when the polarisation between the PN and the MLP was at its deepest and most dangerous; years marked by riots, mass meetings, beatings, disappearances, civil disobedience, marches, clandestine schoolrooms, organised mayhem and culminating in a political murder that practically pushed the tattered vestiges of what was left of democracy over Dingli Cliffs for good and all.

Nobody wants this sort of thing ever again, irrespective of whether they are Labour or Nationalist, which is why we are in the state we are in. The fundamental problem is that although in 1996 Malta was promised a "New Labour" and voted it into power, it became evident that leopards do not lose their spots too easily and, by 1998, the PN was back in the saddle. Despite the occasional bucking and bolting, the PN equitation has proved to be efficacious enough to garner yet another five-year term in government. Borrowed time one might say, but necessary for the MLP to put its house in order and not only elect a party leader who will both eschew the negative tactics of his predecessors and convince the entire electorate that he or she is a viable alternative to what may easily become the benign dictatorship of the PN. Ironically, it is a situation that the MLP has, wittingly or not we will never know, fostered and nurtured by keeping Alfred Sant as leader for all these years come hell or high water.

This is precisely why the Nationalist electorate is taking such a keen interest in who is going to opt for the post of Leader of the Opposition and the MLP. Some Labour observers are actually miffed at the idea that the MLP is under such close scrutiny and, like relics of a past era that had best be consigned to the dustbins of history, prefer the old methods of internal cloak and dagger skullduggery and backstabbing that practically destroyed them.

We all have personal axes to grind, some more than others. I will not even start to enumerate the instances of political discrimination I had to put up with in all my years in Mid Med Bank. I am, maybe unlike others, prepared to be magnanimous and, for the sake of Malta, what I want is an opposition that in five years' time can assume the reins of power without the sturm und drang that occurs every time a government changes. Therefore, it goes without saying that I am very interested in the outcome of the MLP leadership race; as interested as the most diehard of MLP supporters; possibly more so! It is in the interests of democracy that the person who is elected must be able to project confidence, stability and level-headedness without partisan histrionics and the tendency to epater le canaille which, as many Labour political observers have noted, is as outdated as Dr Mifsud Bonnici himself.

Today's Malta requires the type of party that appeals to an ever-growing middle class. The socially immobile, the financially impaired, the underprivileged class that Malta certainly had in 1971 does not exist anymore because in the past four decades this island republic has evolved into something quite extraordinarily successful despite the political setbacks it suffered. Once Dom Mintoff fulfilled his mandate and regulated the social reforms that had not yet been fully addressed post Independence, then, the average Maltese, through sheer determination and hard work, pulled his weight to such an extent that our minuscule size has become our strength. Malta's success story escalated from 1987 to this day.

It is sad that the MLP, for reasons best known to it, wilfully excluded itself from the Malta plc success story by refusing to change and adapt.

Today's underprivileged are taken care of by the range of social services available. By appealing to the downtrodden, the oppressed, the so-called working class underprivileged, the MLP was appealing to phantoms that do not exist apart from in the minds of anachronisms like Dr Mifsud Bonnici whom I can never forget or forgive for being with the cohorts of the working aristocracy when they walked into Valletta and who, for reasons that in Catholic Malta I will never understand, then sacked the Curia!

In today's world of internet and YouTube one can get away with practically nothing. A Google alert on a name or an incident will ensure that all news about that name or incident will be notified by e-mail as soon as it occurs. The political claim to transparency carries no kudos as the average person's, let alone the average politico's, life is an open book; a record of which is being kept in the limitless storage tanks of cyberspace. Somewhere in those tanks is Michael Falzon encircled by the MGM cartouche trying to sing Ole Ole Ole in a voice that would make Florence Foster Jenkins blush. However, and here lies the crunch, that momentary aesthetic lapsus is far outweighed by his impeccable behaviour in the counting hall which drew the unreserved admiration of all concerned. It is people like Dr Falzon who are self-made and who owe a debt of gratitude to their parents who made great sacrifices so that their children would make it in life that the MLP must consider. The child of the working class of the 1970s has long come out of its chrysalis and become a butterfly. Pity that the MLP pundits have not noticed yet.

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