Lest we forget - Claire Bonello

Lest we forget - Claire Bonello

I have often wondered what would happen to Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando if he was starved from the oxygen of publicity for too long a time. Would he shrivel down to a diminutive size – much like a balloon when air is let out of it? Would he become pale and wan instead of retaining that beetroot-red complexion which we have become accustomed to? Would he stage another sobbing saga after hijacking a random camera?

In any case, I never got to find out because JPO resurfaced on TV earlier a couple of weeks ago, on a programme which was ostensibly about hate speech. He seemed to be in his element – the thought of a TV audience must be such a thrill for him, seeing as he has been confined to the realm of Facebook recently.

Our JPO took to the airwaves to get on his favourite hobby horse – Daphne Caruana Galizia and how it is utterly wrong to “glorify” her and how he would not classify her as a true journalist. On and on he went in that baritone voice, expounding about his extended martrydom and being called nasty names.

At one point he even threw in the tragedy that is his life with his car having been scratched (The horror. #JesuisJeffrey) and alleged arson attacks on his clinic (Not his residence, outside, put out by band club enthusiasts). Anyway – at some point – the hate speech theme just faded into the background and it became all about how JPO continues to fixate and bristle with hostility with regards to a murdered woman. 

I did not always agree with Daphne Caruana Galizia and her sweeping generalisations and unnecessary personalisation. The unfounded negative broad brush characterisations of Labour supporters were not justified. She never thought much of me and made it very clear in print too. Be that as it may, I cannot stand people assuming the roles of hard done by victims when they should know better. And we should never forget our political past, in order to be able to make a proper assessment of the political prima donnas hogging the national limelight with their ‘opinions’.

To perpetuate a cycle of hate by doing the very same thing you criticise is abominable

Take JPO’s back story. It’s hard to imagine this, but he was once an up and coming star in the Nationalist Party firmament when the PN was in government. Then – just before the 2008 general election, the Labour Opposition got wind of the fact that JPO had applied to have his land at Mistra turned into a giant disco.

Since Mistra was an ecologically-sensitive area, this may well have scuppered the PN’s electoral chances. So the PN strategists took over. They accompanied him to Daphne Caruana Galizia’s house and she wrote an article for him which was then published in JPO’s name. I remember that article well. It mentioned the fact that JPO did not file the planning application himself (true) but conveniently omitted the bit about him having signed an agreement where he stood to benefit big time by means of lease payments if the application was approved.

It was a case of selective omission. JPO followed this up with crying jags at meetings and his infamous TV appearance. He managed to make it seem as if he was the victim of mud-slinging. Voters took him to heart and the PN won by the slenderest of majorities. He was not made a minister for reasons which were clear to all. Despite this, he was made chairman of the Malta Council of Science and Technology. He voted against the Nationalist government a number of times.

When Labour swung to victory, JPO celebrated. He retained his chairmanship and became a Labour darling, rolling out regularly to fulminate against Daphne Caruana Galizia. He does this to this day, when she was killed in the most atrocious way, citing the tone of her criticism as justification. 

I don’t know much – but this I know. To perpetuate a cycle of hate by doing the very same thing you criticise is abominable. It’s like those people who took umbrage at Tony Zarb’s comments regarding female activists, now turning a blind eye when MP Rosianne Cutajar is addressed in the same contemptuous manner.

To rail against a murdered woman because she railed (disrespectfully) against the late Dom Mintoff is despicable. To pretend you are doing so because you are one with the Labour cause is unbelievable. Because it was the very same Labour cause which JPO worked against in 2008 with the help of Daphne Caruana Galizia. Labour – the whole country – deserves better than this.

Hatred – even hatred towards a common enemy (real or perceived) cannot be the glue which holds Labour or any other party together. To believe that this is the way to go spells ruin for any political entity. As the philosopher George Santayana once wrote: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece

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