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Regurgitating the election - Martin Scicluna

Don't believe the hype, Malta is still a functioning country

The Times of London devoted a whole page to Malta on November 25 (‘Malta tries to bury new sleaze claims’; ‘If I go back, I will be dead, says bank whistle-blower’). I failed to recognise the depressing picture conveyed in the two reports. This is not to fault what the reporter wrote, but to question his credulousness in taking at face value as dispassionate or impartial what he was told by his informants – all of whom had serious political or personal axes to grind.

Nor did I recognise my country, despite the partisan pseudo-hand-wringing of three Maltese MEPs in the confected “debate” in the European Parliament on the rule of law a fortnight ago. It was largely based on insinuation and innuendo that was malign and untruthful. In an era of fake news, never has Mark Twain’s observation that “a lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes” carried more resonance.

As to the precious “concerns” of the Europarliamentary group on “the rule of law” and their strutting self-importance in their demands for safe spaces while here (poor dears), it is worth reminding them that they are the representatives of the institution that epitomises the democratic deficit that lies at the heart of Europe, many of them belonging to countries who have only known democracy and the rule of law for less than 30 years, and that tangible proof of wrongdoing, not hearsay, lies at the heart of the rule of law.

Of course, Malta has been rocked to its constitutional foundations by the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia. But the suggestion that it was due to the collapse of democracy or the rule of law in Malta – swallowed whole by a majority of gullible members of the European Parliament – is a calumny put about by those wishing to regurgitate a general election lost five months ago.

Lest we forget, it was an election lost by the Nationalist Party principally as a result of the divisive and insulting politics instigated by a section of that party and a leadership which chose to fight an entire campaign on the valid but electorally unimpressive platform of “good governance”.

The killing of Caruana Galizia has led the same core followers of her blog to invoke the cry of the rule of law in protest. I suspect that many of those leading it and demanding the heads of the Commissioner of Police and the Attorney General in recompense are allowing understandable emotions to sway their judgment.

I am a convinced advocate of the saying: “De mortuis nil nisi bonum dicendem est” (loosely, “Speak no ill of the dead”). But Caruana Galizia’s death cannot be considered without recalling the pivotal part she played in last June’s tumultuous electoral campaign, or being acutely aware of the long shadow it has cast on Maltese life today.

It is tragic to allow toxic tribalism to continue to poison our public life and the gullible minds of those in Brussels and Strasbourg

To recall these facts is not in any way to underestimate her bravery or acuity as an investigative journalist, but to be reminded that she contributed overwhelmingly to the Nationalist Party’s swingeing electoral defeat and to the sorry state in which the party finds itself today.

Caruana Galizia’s death cannot be considered without recalling the pivotal part she played in last June’s tumultuous electoral campaign.
- Martin Scicluna

There was something distinctly nasty about the PN’s strategy. Throughout the campaign, it was incapable of breaking away from the agenda drip-fed to them by her blog. The principal reason for the PN’s debacle must be laid at her door and a party leadership that was committed to dancing to her tune.

It was a tune that brooked no view of politics in Malta except the one she espoused: visceral hatred for the Labour Party, ad hominem, outdated class-ridden remarks unfairly directed mainly at Labour women and anyone who supported it. In her blind loathing of Labour she could not see the harm that her hate inflicted on the Nationalist cause. She – together with many foul-mouthed elements around her that were allowed free rein to articulate the PN case – contributed significantly to its downfall and its ramshackle state today.

I cannot help surmising that the majority of those disaffected Nationalists opposing the new PN leadership are former avid readers of her blog. Her murder has led the same core followers under a new name to invoke the concocted cry of the rule of law thus undermining the morale of the country and tarnishing its international reputation.

Nobody can dispute the call for better governance and law enforcement, greater transparency and accountability in Malta. Clear answers must be found through the regulatory and judicial processes already under way to the many questions the Panama papers scandal have exposed. The whole sorry episode has been appallingly handled politically. I have been at the forefront of those calling for better governance, both as the former director general of Malta’s only independent think-tank and as a columnist.

But I suspect that many of those leading the cry for democracy and the rule of law, those disreputably declaring that they are “ashamed to be Maltese” as though it were a badge of honour, and those demanding the Commissioner of Police and the Attorney General should resign, have only one objective: to force a new election. Better by far if instead of creating spurious reasons to undermine the government they focused on rallying to their beleaguered new leader of the Opposition to help give him credibility in his key role of holding the government to account.

As we look around us, make no mistake. Malta is still a functioning country as it was before the killing. As it has been for the last half century since independence – imperfect, but a vibrant democracy. There are still courts of law and government can still lose cases. The civil service functions.

Freedom of expression is alive and well. There remains a lively independent press, as well as, sadly, party-controlled newspapers and television. Children go to schools in towns and villages, with shining faces and smart uniforms. Everywhere you will find the welcome and the helpfulness of people. The country is one of the most prosperous for hundreds of miles around.

It is tragic to allow toxic tribalism to continue to poison our public life and the gullible minds of those in Brussels and Strasbourg.

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