Errors of judgement - Vicki Ann Cremona
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Errors of judgement - Vicki Ann Cremona

Kristy Debono, president of the Council of the Nationalist Party, has described as an ‘error of judgement’ her meeting with Yorgen Fenech – owner of 17 Black – and one of the protagonists in the sordid tale of corruption and horror that is deeply troubling our country, and that is probably at the root of Daphne Caruana Galizia’s atrocious murder. 

The dictionary definition of an ‘error of judgement’ is “a careless or embarrassing mistake”, “a poor, wrong or bad decision”.

However, the extent of the error is to be measured by the gravity of the situation. The action of a teacher who lies to parents about their child cannot be excused solely on the basis of an ‘error of judgement’. A builder who constructs a house which then collapses cannot simply plead to having committed an ‘error of judgement’.

A politician – and a leading one at that – who lies repeatedly to the voters of his/her country – is not simply committing ‘an error of judgement’. S/he is actually going against the very principles that legitimise the position of authority that s/he occupies.

In lying to the people, that politician abuses the limits of political authority.

In this context, Debono’s meeting cannot be passed off simply as poor, careless, embarrassing or stupid. Pleading an ‘error of judgement’, given the importance of her role within the party, may actually be seen as trying to fool the nation into believing her naiveté. If she is naive, then there is no place for her at the top rungs of the party. If she isn’t, then the party needs to see why she initially lied, and take the necessary action. 

Why is the meeting with Yorgen Fenech so serious?

How sad that we are all holding our breaths to see whether there remains, in fact, a real Opposition that goes beyond empty words

It is serious because it appears that Debono is actually trying to take the nation for a ride. It is even more serious because Debono is the party spokes-person for economic and financial affairs. So she, more than anyone else in the party, should understand the gravity of asking for an encounter with anyone connected with Fenech, his money-making resources and his lying cronies, such as Konrad Mizzi, Keith Schembri and the rest of their sorry lot.

Debono’s inability to evaluate the consequences of asking for money, sponsorship or favours from a company he runs reveals – at the very least – total indifference to those ethical values that some members of her party, as well as those of civil society, are still trying hard to defend against all odds. 

Worse still, her party is desperately scrambling to find implausible ways to help her save face, to the extent of sacrificing another member of the same party, Herman Schiavone, who foolishly led or accompanied her in this outrageous venture.

Why is Debono being protected by the top circles of her party? It is public knowledge that her husband, Jean-Pierre Debono, gave up his seat in Parliament to the leader of the party. But is the party, or its leader, under any obligation to the couple for this generous act?

If yes, how far does this obligation stretch? Debono’s meeting has not simply dented the party’s anti-corruption credentials. It has gone at them with a sledgehammer.

If her leader Delia thinks that this behaviour is ‘above board’, then he is either naïve, blind or approves this kind of unethical behaviour.

If any of these three scenarios were the case, then the arguments of those who question his leadership qualities would certainly be justified. And why has no one in the party, except Jason Azzopardi, breathed a word against this type of unacceptable behaviour?

Are they holding their breath because of the upcoming elections for the European Parliament? If this were true, how far we are from the party which fought tooth and nail to take us into Europe!

How sad that we are all holding our breath to see whether there remains, in fact, a real Opposition that goes beyond empty words, meaningless phrases and unimpressive action.

It seems to have become a national pastime for some prominent politicians to lie publicly. What is worse, they are not held to public account for lying and made to answer for their offence towards the nation.

Debono’s ‘error of judgement’ does not only lead one to question her integrity. It also throws a shadow on the value of women in politics, at a time when efforts are being made to promote the presence of women in our highest political institution. 

What truth has actually come out, as Kristy Debono claims, appears dubious. One wonders, have her voters made an ‘error of judgement’ too?

Vicki Ann Cremona lectures at the University of Malta.

This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece

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