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Long haul ahead

June 5 confirmed an astonishingly negative election result for the Opposition, a feared outcome that re-established a 36,000-vote lead for the Labour Party. This setback was amplified with the announced resignation of Simon Busuttil from the post of leader. Overnight 135,000 voters found themselves leaderless in a devastating moment when most in need of reassurance and guidance.

It is clear that the departure of the leader and his deputies was more disastrous than the actual defeat. What was going to happen to the struggle against corruption, the much-desired return to a state of respect to the rule of law, respect towards State institutions and good governance?

Busuttil’s leadership bothered in no uncertain way particular Labour rulers that appear engaged in corruption and whatever else. These people searched incessantly to discover some past corrupt behaviour on the part of the Nationalist leader. As there was nothing to discover, attempts were made to fabricate information about corrupt behaviour by the leader of the Opposition. Busuttil’s reputation for integrity and cleanliness obtained full marks when the closest the Labour propaganda machine could get to him was a pathetic car fuel pilferage probe on his chauffeur, which was unsubstantiated.

After 2013, when corruption exponentially increased and spread, when State institutions started being undermined, Busuttil unequivocally stood for a return to the rule of law and a serious all-out fight against corruption. The 2017 election result, however, confirmed that a Maltese electoral majority is not interested in pursuing such a policy and is, instead, embracing possibly more corruption and law- breaking by politicians, particular entrepreneurs, developers and canvassers.

The island is experiencing an unprecedented frontal attack on basic values. These need to be defended and upheld if our society is to decently survive and prosper. Important institutions like the police, the Attorney General’s office, the military and regulating bodies like the Malta Financial Services Authority and the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit, have taken a battering. It is critical that members of the judiciary, if put under pressure, will live up to their role of ultimate guarantors of impartial upholding of the law.

A strong and properly functioning Opposition is now more than ever required. Such an Opposition needs to be led by a person who scores high on integrity, who can withstand a continuous frontal attack by corrupt elements both within his party and within the adversarial camp. It is very evident that this administration has been and is focused in equal measure on governing as it is on taming the Opposition.

The relief of the Labour Party on seeing the departure of Busuttil can only have one interpretation. His relentless pursuit of the corrupt was haunting particular misbehaving Labourites

Busuttil may have lost an election however this does not indicate that he is not a capable leader. In truth, we have seen a Labour victory due to, among other factors, a massive utilisation of the power of incumbency. Never in the history of elections in Malta has the politically dishonest power of incumbency been so widely exploited. An incredible number of persons, running into hundreds, if not thousands, have been granted employment in non-existent public service jobs. So many hundreds of other fictitious jobs in government-controlled entities have also been dished out.

Several private sector enterprises reported that many employees handed in their resignation to opt for a corrupt public service easy job for life. We also saw a novel manner of public service favouritism, this through the granting of unjustified promotions, heavily backdated to produce a nice payment of arrears in a lump sum. This list of in-your-face malpractices may go on and on.

No doubt the massive Labour victory is also attributable to seemingly limitless campaign funds. The Labour Party also appears to have had access to exceptional foreign electoral consultants. A deviously brilliant exercise of niche electoral marketing managed to corner and consolidate the critical votes of categories of voters (LGBTIQ and hunters), which base their preference on one specific issue, ignoring whatever else. One may also mention the exploitation of a widespread national trait of petty corruption, which corruption gets encouraged and allowed with impunity. This tactic is unashamedly utilised to distract from the more serious corruption by some political heavyweights.

Under the current circumstances the loss of a leader like Busuttil is a very big setback. He is leaving with head held high after a defeat in a battle. Unfortunately, however, the Opposition is engaged in a war not a battle, and wars take time to be won. We all know that capable leaders, with high moral standards to lead a long-term war do not grow on trees, and it is extremely hard to come across them.

A valid leader requires a number of years to develop and mature, and experience is a prime factor that goes to create such a person.

Sound ethics and good moral standards however, are not the by-products of experience and maturity, but rather the result of an ethical upbringing and personal convictions that one believes in and upholds. The combination of capability and high moral standards made Busuttil a valid leader.

So now the choice of a new PN leader, if a new leader it has to be, must also base itself on unequivocal integrity and sound principles. We cannot have compromises, lapses of memory, promised audits, requests for incontrovertible evidence or proof etc. The objective of the new leader should not be an election victory come what may, but a continuation of the fight against corruption, institution bashing, nepotism and bad governance.

The objective is the re-establishment of a sense of decent ethics and civility among the members of the Maltese electorate. An election victory brought about by the pursuit of these clean objectives is the only worthwhile victory. Similar to Busuttil, the new Opposition leader must be feared by a misbehaving adversary party.

The relief of the Labour Party on seeing the departure of Busuttil can only have one interpretation. His relentless pursuit of the corrupt was haunting particular misbehaving Labourites.

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