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Deadly rebel in kimono

Franco Debono, the disaffected and rebellious backbench Nationalist MP, may have donned a gentle kimono with the publication of a collection of haikus. But his actions vis-à-vis the Prime Minister and the Government have reached a deadlier pitch than ever. Lawrence Gonzi has run out of cheeks to turn and out of dignity too.

To continue to govern when another MP is making it clear he will vote against the Government is beyond words- Lino Spiteri

Given that minister Austin Gatt adamantly says that he will not resign, the Prime Minister, if he is to abide by common decency, has nowhere to turn but to the President, to advise him to issue a writ for a general election. He has wiggle room there; he may opt for a long campaign of some 10 weeks.

But in terms of what he should do, he has not a centimetre of space if he wants to move into the immediate future and into our political history with shoulders thrown back and head held high.

What the Prime Minister ought to do and what he will actually do is another matter. Very evidently, he will not call a general election now.

He wants to drag out his term of office as much as possible. Not for Malta’s sake – even diehard Nationalists are saying that the farce cannot continue, that Gonzi is losing too much respect by hanging on. He does so purely to give the PN more time to recover lost votes, and to try to penetrate more deeply into the 18-25 cohort of young voters.

Otherwise, facts speak out loudly for themselves. They are now saying clearly that at least one minister, Austin Gatt, does not have the confidence of a majority of the House. Colleagues might love him, but one of them hates his guts. Debono has put his lap top where his mouth is and tabled a motion of no confidence in the minister.

If it is debated, as it should be without delay, then bye bye minister. And, since Gatt has carefully spelt out that his car park scheme had the backing of the whole Cabinet, he has drawn the Government into the net he is caught in.

For all that, still the Prime Minister won’t budge. That was made clear when Tonio Borg, as Leader of the House, insisted on Thursday that the Opposition’s motion of no confidence in Gatt over the car park issue will be debated some five weeks from now.

There is no shame in stratagems that Gonzi and his inner circle are stooping to in order to stay in office for as long as possible. Even if they do, and evenif GonziPN wins the generalelection once again, the current unbelievable episodes will taint him for posterity.

To lose one’s majority and continue to govern in coalition with a single MP is already ridiculous. To continue to govern when another MP is making it clear he will vote against the Government is beyond words.

Meanwhile, the gut-snapping efforts to publicise the Government go on unabated. Television Malta has become a record book of the PM’s engineered visits to employers who will receive him and his merry men and women. PBS faithfully reports each visit notwithstanding that most are devoid of news value.

On another plane, the PN continues to drum lies about Labour and wages. A new style may also be in the offing – that of exploiting deficiencies in one’s personal life.

That tactic has already been floated by PN fellow travellers. If it takes root and attracts like for like from Labour, politics will become more lurid a waste of time than ever.

• Debono has offered another face of himself to the public. Love him or hate him, he will not be forgotten as a politician. He now wants to be noted as a poet. And noted he should be, irrespective of what one thinks of him as a politician.

He showed me the draft of his collection of haikus several months ago and I made minimal suggestions to him, which he took on board. His haikusreveal him as a man in love with nature above all else, with a sharp eye for observation and often expressed with a striking turn of phrase.

It is well worth a read. With it Debono joins a fairly long list of parliamentarians from both sides of the House who moved out of their political skin to contribute to the development and growth of our literary scene.

Anton Buttigieg stands out in poetry, not least with his beautiful Il-Muża bil-Kimono, which he translated into The Muse in Kimono.

Debono owes a lot to him and to others who have experimented with this beguiling Japanese style of poetry.

• This column has been going for over 25 years, during which, come rain or shine, I never missed an issue. The sequence will have to be broken.

On Wednesday I have an appointment with destiny which I have no option to miss. It is likely to have the upper handfor a while. I hope it will not be too long.

Meanwhile, my columns in this newspaper and The Times will have to be put on hold.

I hope to return before too long, if my editors will still want me.

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