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The government we deserve - Denis Tanti

Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

“Every country has the government it deserves.” This famous quote is taken from French political philosopher and moralist Joseph de Maistre, who was critical of the 1789 French Revolution with its trinity of “Liberty! Equality! Fraternity!”

Napoleon had succeeded in attaining his ambition of rising to ruler of France after he instilled hope in the people that he was capable of getting the country out of the mess that the country had gotten into by the Revolution.

However, once Napoleon took office his true colours poured out as an arrogant and power-hungry despot. He lost no time in centralising power by personally appointing judges and officials in the government service and bringing all local institutions under his own control.

Napoleon imposed a dictatorship on France, re-established French aristocracy and crowned himself emperor. He handed out the titles in the upper ranks of imperial nobility to his brothers, family members and closest collaborators, who were also granted generous official salaries and benefits packages.

To shape the public to his favour Napoleon made extensive use of patronage, crude forms of propaganda and censorship. He established an over-policed State with spies and informers spread all over the country.

Napoleon bent the rules to suit himself and used force where he failed to get his way by conciliation. He re-enacted anonymous denunciation and arbitrary arrest, and resorted to detention in State prisons without trial and executions even where a person was innocent.

During Napoleon’s 16-year reign over France, liberty was extinguished.

The pre-revolutionary ban on workers’ unions was re-introduced and it was the word of the employer that counted in industrial disputes. Workers were precluded from speaking our against injustices by their employer and faced imprisonment for striking.

Napoleon betrayed the idea of equality by dividing the French society into a politically and socially privileged bourgeoisie (middle) class and a subordinate plebeian class.

History will remember Napoleon as a French statesman and a successful general. Even more, he was an administrator who managed to make beneficial changes to France. Notwithstanding this, historians have denounced Napoleon as a betrayer of the Revolution’s ideals.

History does not repeat itself in exactly the same way, but parallels can be drawn. Just as Napoleon exploitated the opportunities provided by the French Revolution to climb to power, Labour Party leader Joseph Muscat rode upon a tide of political opportunism to become Malta’s prime minister.

During the 2013 pre-electoral campaign, Muscat succeeded in creating the facade of a Labour Party that once in government would put an end to all political injustices and soothe the emotional pains, angers and fears inflicted by a Nationalist government.

Muscat professed the principle of liberty through the slogan Malta Tagħna Lkoll (Malta belongs to us all) and declared he would lead an open and transparent government. He said anti-corruption measures would be the first priority of a Labour government, consisting of a zero-tolerance policy on corruption.

History does not repeat itself in exactly the same way, but parallels can be drawn

Muscat similarly committed himself to the principle of equality through the eradication of all forms of abuse of political power. He promised justice and equal opportunities for everyone and excluded favouring one person over another on grounds of political colour. He said: “You may not agree with us, but you can still work with us.”

Finally, Muscat heralded the principle of fraternity between the Maltese people by saying he would serve shoulder to shoulder with every citizen and put an end to tribalism.

In reality, Muscat broke every pre-electoral promise of good-governance, and instead adopted a corrupt, dishonest and discriminatory style of government. However, quite incredibly the Maltese electorate swallowed his bait a second time around at a snap election in 2017.

After its re-election, the Labour government continued to show its lack of accountability and transparency by seriously prejudicing the people’s right to assess information, raising justified suspicions of abuse of power and corrupt practices.

Tens of millions of euros have continued to be dished out in suspicious direct orders to persons close to the Labour Party to provide their services to the government, often without releasing details of the type of services provided or remuneration given. Calls for expressions of interest have been bypassed on the pretext of exceptional circumstances, and have thus unjustly denied equal access among potential contenders to the award of contracts.

Even where a call was issued, serious claims were raised about whether it was designed to favour a particular bidder. Following the direct intervention of the Office of the Prime Minister, we have seen Gozo Channel discard a recommendation by a board of evaluators for the selection of an offer considered to be the most advantageous.

We have reached a stage where Economy Minister Chris Cardona has persistently declined to give information on official meetings that he says he held during 20 unaccompanied trips paid from taxpayer money that took him all over the world. At the same time, receipts and other important documents related to these visits have gone missing.

We have also assisted to abuse of power by Foreign Minister Carmelo Abela who authorised work at his private residence by an employee of a department falling under his ministerial portfolio. Furthermore, he induced the same employee to accept money in exchange for the personal favour rendered in breach the Code of Ethics for Public Employees.

It seems that under Labour all is possible so long as you are on the right side of the fence.

Justice Minister Owen Bonnici had his own way by the appointment of Consuelo Scerri Herrera, the sister of a fellow Cabinet minister, as judge, despite the fact that she had been censored by the Commission for the Administration of Justice for breaching the code of ethics and subsequently rejected for the same position by the Judicial Appointments Committee.

There is also the case of disgraced former assistant police commissioner Mario Tonna who has somehow found his way back on the State payroll. The responsible ministry has remained silent to questions regarding the correctness of Tonna’s mode of employment and whether he was still under police investigation at the time.

Arrogance of power has continued to blind exponents of the Labour administration. A typical example concerns the denigrating of a Times of Malta journalist by the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri, who publicly referred to questions that he had put to him as stupid.

Evidence of the government’s arrogance has also been manifested by the refusal of the OPM to say on what grounds a personal friend of Prime Minister’s family, Phyllis Muscat, had accompanied them on a two-week visit to Australia, and to quantify how much her visit had cost the taxpayers.

The list of cases of political dishonesty and abuse of power by the current government is a never ending one. Yet, surveys continue to show support by the Maltese electorate to the Prime Minister and his party. This support could be due to the crumbs that people get from under the government’s high table or to political blinkers that distort their vision.

What is sure is that as a nation we have the government and politicians we deserve.

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