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To win, or not to win - Petra Caruana Dingli

Adrian Delia’s political position was never strong, but over recent weeks it has been disintegrating. Questions about the future of the Nationalist Party are glaring, and have been in the news and discussed on television.

Delia’s voice on ongoing events and scandals appears irrelevant and carries no weight. His reactions have little impact, allowing the government to get away with murder (as the saying goes). By and large, his messages seem confused and his political identity is vague. He has unfortunately been unable to unite the different factions and ideologies of the PN, or attract significant support.

His task was always going to be tough, no surprises there. Taking over after such a big defeat was never a likely path to success. Voting for an outsider as new PN leader was not a bad move in itself, but the experiment is failing. The likelihood of the PN winning a general election currently seems negligible. Even if the entire Castille clique had to resign this week over 17 Black or Egrant revelations, Delia’s chances of leading the party to electoral victory could remain slim, which is saying something.

Sorry to have to spell it out, but this alone suggests that as Opposition leader he should hit the road, making space for a more effective counter-balance to the government (and in good time for the next general election).

All this has nothing to do with Delia’s marital separation proceedings. Although, on that subject, it is astounding that some pundits actually wondered whether this fact should have been reported or not.

Delia openly campaigned for his position as a married man with five children, living in Siġġiewi. This was not kept in the background. His wife appeared repeatedly at events, and in photographs and interviews. It is the image they voluntarily projected, together. Were we expected to continue imagining that Delia was still in this situation? That would be fiction, if not deceit.

If the domestic dispute falls within normal parameters (not involving anything illegal, for example) then details should remain firmly behind closed doors. It is nobody’s business and a difficult personal situation should be respected. But the general fact of the separation was certainly newsworthy. Manuel Delia was well in line to publish it in his blog.

Politicians who freely display their private lives as part of their image cannot then turn the switch on and off as it suits them

Politicians who freely display their private lives as part of their image cannot then turn the switch on and off as it suits them. The same goes for the Muscats who, for instance, choose to expose their young daughters to multiple photo opportunities and interviews, including at home.

This is all very smooth when creating positive publicity, but public interest cannot then be turned off like a tap when something negative crops up. Things don’t work like that. When private lives are deliberately and repeatedly put on a public stage, the curtains are open throughout the act.

Morality and kitchen waste

In his budget speech this year, Minister of Finance Edward Scicluna described the separation and management of waste as a “civic, moral and legal duty”. Yes, the notion of morality slipped into government-speak on the environment.

Engaging with the environment on moral terms means thinking about it in terms of right and wrong. It could mean passing moral judgement on those who do not ‘do the right thing’. In this case, perhaps not recycling the waste they generate.

But where is this fine sense of moral engagement, I wondered, when it comes to land use? Why is it selectively applied to some environmental concerns, but not to others? Surely, the destruction of the countryside could qualify, as much as waste separation, for pangs of conscience?

What about the implications of deals like the sale of public land at St George’s Bay to db Group, for example, and the granting of a permit for a major development there, eclipsing the distress of Pembroke residents? What were the moral terms applied to that? We hear nothing of morality on offshore bank accounts either –  but separating kitchen waste is now a moral issue.

The pro-government ‘holier-than-thou’ bashers must have squirmed in their seats at this nod to morality in the budget’s environment section – assuming that they noticed it. These people represent the bedrock of the mentality in Malta that, so long as certain questionable behaviour (even well beyond green matters) is not illegal, then it is fine. Like other things, morals can be selective.

Nonetheless, waste separation is of course an excellent move and we should not detract from its importance. The collection of separated organic waste from households is being promoted by Environment Minister Jose Herrera, and the new scheme began on the last day of October.

On the down side, the information campaign was not strong enough. Some people are still unsure how and when to obtain their special bins for organic waste, or the white degradable bags. In its first week, many households had not yet understood the new schedule either, and uncollected black bags were left in the streets.

Despite its teething problems, the waste separation campaign will hopefully succeed. It has been a long time coming.

petracdingli@gmail.com

This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece

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