An unsavoury defence

Former GWU boss Tony Zarb has branded Opposition MEPs discussing Malta and the Panama Papers in the European Parliament as ‘traitors’. But over the last year, the same Panama Papers, politicians and advisors, have been discussed endlessly in the Maltese Parliament and media. They featured heavily in the recent electoral campaign.

Imagining that any political controversies going on in Malta can or should be kept ‘local’ or ‘national’ is behind the times. Besides news available through the internet, today even our parliamentary debates, including those on the Panama Papers, are streamed live (or is it assumed that ‘foreigners’ will not understand them?). Zarb’s own unsavoury Facebook comments have been read by the same ‘foreigners’, whose opinion he seems to be so touchy about.

Zarb’s Facebook page has now been shut down and he has created his own little political controversy which certainly does not help his imaginary patriotic cause. Insulting MEPs and encouraging others to do the same on Facebook (a public medium with no national boundaries) does not add up to ‘defending our country’.

Beyond the common market, laws and regulations, the Maltese people voted democratically to join the European Union in 2004, also because of a set of values and standards which underpin the European ideal. This was considered to be in the national interest.

In this scenario when a member state ignores environmental rules and standards, for instance, its citizens might complain to the EU. Are these people traitors? No, of course not. A healthy and safe environment is in everyone’s interest, and in the national interest too. If Maltese citizens join international NGOs and complain to the EU about trapping practices allowed in Malta, is this an act of treason? No, of course not.

If citizens complain to international courts about a breach of human rights in Maltese law, would they be traitors? No, of course not. It is in everyone’s interest that human rights are respected. It is also in the national interest. Likewise, it is in everyone’s interest, including all European citizens, that financial governance throughout the EU is healthy and transparent. Ultimately, this is also in the national interest.

The best way to avoid getting a bad name in front of ‘foreigners’, if that is Tony Zarb’s perceived humiliation of the country, would be to have handled the Panama Papers correctly in the first place.


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