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Presenting pornolitics

Pity those journalists reporting about the final divorce vote, the shambolic bus service or even pension re-form last Tuesday. They were totally eclipsed by others reporting about Lawrence Gonzi feeding kiwis to hunger striker Emanuel Cini, and tales of pornographic pictures swirling about online, petty vendettas of ex-lovers, drugs, phone calls, leaks, weird coincidences and suspect police timing in the unfolding drama linked to Cyrus Engerer.

A few short months ago, Engerer was relatively unknown at a national level. He made the headlines when he proposed a vote of no confidence in former Sliema PN mayor Nikki Dimech and when he kissed his boyfriend during last year’s Gay Parade, but he was as well known as the scores of other ambitious young men using local councils as their launching pad to a political career.

All that changed during the divorce referendum campaign when he expressed his support for divorce and co-founded the cross-party movement Standup to campaign for its introduction. Then, in the wake of the referendum result, in a desperate attempt to appear ultra-liberal and tolerant, the PN started wheeling out Engerer on every conceivable occasion. The Nationalist spinners started lauding him as the next big thing for the party – the gay guy the Sliema grannies wouldn’t mind voting for.

At that point it seemed that the only way was up for Engerer, that is until he began to implode. He (understandably) disagreed with the Prime Minister’s refusal to vote in accordance to the will of the public as expressed in the referendum and resigned from the Nationalist Party. The ink had barely dried on his resignation letter, when he fell into the welcoming arms of the Labour Party.

Engerer’s overnight conversion from enthusiastic supporter of the PN’s economic policies (he was waxing lyrical about them at the party’s general conference just three weeks ago) to all-out supporter of all things Labour, dented his credibility. People understand and may even admire those who realise that they no longer support a political party’s policies, but changing party allegiance is not the same as changing underpants – there has to be some thought, some period of reflection before new allegiances are forged – otherwise you’re bound to be considered as an opportunist.

A few days after Engerer’s defection, police raided his father’s beach club and his home and found him to be in possession of a small amount of marijuana. And then, just as we had got our head around that and were musing about the sudden vigilance of the police about something which is common knowledge in our neck of the woods, we read that Engerer himself is facing charges of circulating pornography (nude photographs of a former boyfriend) and the misuse of a computer.

The charges against Engerer had originally been filed early last year, but it seems that in the space of 15 months the police couldn’t find a window during which to slot in an interview with him. The unhappy series of coincidences with Engerer senior being arrested after his son’s defection to Labour, followed by the leaking of the charges against Cyrus Engerer, lead many to ask if this was a case of the political vendetta.

Would dabbling in drugs be tolerated as long as one supported the government of the day? And would this closing of an eye to drug use come to an abrupt end if one changed political allegiance? Would the full force of the law descend only upon those who openly disagreed with the Nationalist Party?

Quite understandably the Police Commissioner felt that he had to dispel such rumours and gave a press conference during which he outlined the timeline of events and revealed that Edgar Galea Curmi, the head of the prime minister’s secretariat, had phoned him up about the case relating to Engerer senior. Galea Curmi later said that he phoned the Commissioner to seek assurance that no one from government had exerted pressure on the police.

I leave it up to you to make up your minds about the timing of events and whether the whole saga is just a series of coincidences. However, there is one thing that emerges quite clearly from the whole affair. That’s the fact that politicians think nothing of intervening in ongoing police investigations. Galea Curmi tried to pass off his actions as those of a disinterested bureaucrat making an innocuous inquiry about a routine investigation.

But it’s not quite like that is it? Here we have a top political aide contacting the police on behalf of his godson and making some sort of request. Galea Curmi claims that he simply asked the Commissioner to contact Chris Engerer’s lawyer to reassure him that no political vendetta was being pursued.

Regardless of Galea Curmi’s motivations, he did not act in the appropriate manner as his actions could be viewed as those of an influential member of the Prime Minister’s secretariat attempting to influence a police investigation.

It is disingenuous for him and other so-called political commentators to suggest that it is a matter of little importance. Contrast Galea Cur-mi’s casual attitude in this matter to that of Peter Mandelson, former minister in Britain. In 1998 Mandelson had talked to a Home Office minister in 1998 about a passport application from a foreign national.

When this came to light, he resigned even though he insisted that he never intended to influence the decision on naturalisation in any way at all, merely to pass on a request for information and that the prime minister was entirely satisfied with him.

In this regard Galea Curmi would do well to emulate Mandelson instead of aping Silvio Berlusconi’s antics and interventions into police matters on behalf of underage call girls.

cl.bon@nextgen.net.mt

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