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We do have a choice

Wednesday morning Martin Scicluna told readers of the Times of Malta that, poor fellows, they have a Hobson’s choice in the coming election. And if Scicluna says so who is to say otherwise? My friend Prof Joe Pirotta dares to think differently. He sent me this opinion piece, saving me the time and energy to answer Scicluna myself. I trust my readers would enjoy it.  I reproduce it in toto.

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Joe PirottaJoe Pirotta

“Martin Scicluna has long paraded himself as a native-born jewel of objective thinking, a man with massive experience of public service locally and abroad. In his highly manipulative, carefully crafted contribution, Hobson’s Choice (May 31) he targets switchers (his word not mine). Scicluna begins by quoting the Irish statesman, political theorist and philosopher Edmund Burke, for he knows that readers will unconsciously associate his pronouncements with those of Burke thus endowing them with added gravitas.

Scicluna derides the notion that ‘if you set out your “principles” these will survive the first encounter with reality’. If we accept this then why have principles at all? Such a premise, coming from our great thinker, is to say the least, shocking. Nor does he seem to think that a re-affirmation of principles is needed. He tells us that the Nationalist platform is ‘about reintroducing good governance to Malta after four years of “corruption” and maladministration (which in Malta is often referred to as “corruption”)’. The inverted commas underline the message: we have been confusing corruption with maladministration. Thank you Mr Scicluna for this revelation. We yokels are eternally grateful for erudition dispensed for our benefit.

The above, however, is mere preparation for an even more outrageous stance. Metamorphosing into counsel for the defence, Scicluna admits that, ‘there is clear evidence of malice aforethought by Mizzi and Schembri’, but pleads unconvincingly there is ‘only an unsubstantiated perception of corruption’. Perhaps, Scicluna is right. Perhaps Schembri and Mizzi opened companies in Panama because they had finished their Sudoku and wished to kill time. Defence counsel Scicluna demands a ‘smoking gun’, stating that ‘none of the evidence presented to the magistrate about Schembri has been exposed to public scrutiny’. While knowing that the magistrate cannot make the evidence public, Scicluna ignores the fact that the evidence has been published. Why does he do so? And, for that matter, why do his statements have such striking similarities to the defence put up by government apologists?

Would Mr Scicluna, who admits to long experience in the UK, be so kind as to supply readers with the name of ONE politician or public figure in the UK who retained his post after media revelations of misconduct? Does Mr Scicluna dismiss evidence merely on the basis of source while ignoring its quality?

Posing as the objective observer, Scicluna writes that ‘Muscat is undoubtedly guilty of failing to demand the resignations of Mizzi and Schembri as soon as their Panamagate involvement was exposed, and continuing to stand by them. His government is guilty of broken electoral promises and multiple cases of maladministration’. Notice, guilty of maladministration not corruption. A misdemeanor not a crime. On the other hand ‘Busuttil is guilty of ratcheting up the accusations of “corruption” for party political reasons’. So Busuttil should have remained mum, or just mentioned the matter in passing.

By Scicluna’s own admission, Muscat fell far short of expectations that were the foundation of his appeal to voters

Not surprisingly switchers, whom he helped to convince four years ago to vote for Muscat, are Scicluna’s concern. He laments ‘that Muscat had a golden opportunity to change the political face of Malta to deliver on his promises about meritocracy, accountability, transparency and good governance’ and that ‘instead, he betrayed those promises’. By Scicluna’s own admission, Muscat fell far short of expectations that were the foundation of his appeal to voters. Nonetheless, Scicluna is unable to admit candidly that like so many others he has been taken in by Joseph Muscat’s self-proclaimed salesmanship talents. Perhaps he thinks that such an admission would put him on the same cerebral plateau as the rest of us. Instead, he attempts to play down the disappointment felt by so many by adopting the Muscat-serving position that ALL politicians are cut from the same cloth. He proclaims his confidence ‘that, despite declared intentions, Busuttil will crumble and be no different’. Hence, the Hobson’s choice of the title. However, on the basis of Scicluna’s recorded ability to judge character, such a statement is not likely to be remotely accurate.

Not surprisingly switchers, whom he helped to convince four years ago to vote for Muscat, are Scicluna’s concern. He laments ‘that Muscat had a golden opportunity to change the political face of Malta to deliver on his promises about meritocracy, accountability, transparency and good governance’ and that ‘instead, he betrayed those promises’. By Scicluna’s own admission, Muscat fell far short of expectations that were the foundation of his appeal to voters. Nonetheless, Scicluna is unable to admit candidly that like so many others he has been taken in by Joseph Muscat’s self-proclaimed salesmanship talents. Perhaps he thinks that such an admission would put him on the same cerebral plateau as the rest of us. Instead, he attempts to play down the disappointment felt by so many by adopting the Muscat-serving position that ALL politicians are cut from the same cloth. He proclaims his confidence ‘that, despite declared intentions, Busuttil will crumble and be no different’. Hence, the Hobson’s choice of the title. However, on the basis of Scicluna’s recorded ability to judge character, such a statement is not likely to be remotely accurate.

Scicluna next dons the mantle of historian. The Forza Nazzjonali sounds fascist to his ears and warns that on the basis of ‘Malta’s constitutional history of the last 100 years…a “coalition”, no matter how devised, would be a recipe for political tension, in-fighting and governmental gridlock’. Malta had only two coalition governments, 1951-1953 and 1953-1955. Neither government failed because of any of the reasons cited by Scicluna, but because of financial problems beyond the Island’s means.

For his final sleight-of-hand Scicluna highlights his version of the choice facing the electorate. However, he is so desperate to marshal voters away from Busuttil and company that he implies to his less attentive readers that he voted for Alternative Demokratika. After abusing the Green Party for his own purposes, he informs us that he has already made his Hobson’s choice. Nevertheless, the discerning reader is left in do doubt that he voted for more of the same.

I have always respected people who hold different opinions to myself on whatever subject, and I have always defended, and will always defend, their right to express them. But I must confess my extreme allergy to hypocrisy.”

Joseph M. Pirotta

 

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