A petition calling for the removal of Archbishop Charles Scicluna is doing the rounds on social media with over 3,200 people signing the petition as of Tuesday morning.
However, the petition is based on the false premise that Scicluna criticised government or the donation given to an organisation that provides accommodation for cancer-stricken children who travel abroad for treatment.
Among the people promoting the petition, is Josef Caruana, a former L-Orizzont editor who works in the communications department of Castille who famously wanted critical journalists to disappear.
The petition erroneously states that Scicluna said that the €5 million donation Prime Minister Joseph Muscat gave to Puttinu Cares derives from illegal funds. Not only did the Archbishop not mention the donation but his retweet came before the donation was made.
This is not the first petition of its kind but the latest call for Scicluna’s removal follows the storm created by the Archbishop’s retweet of an article published on The Shift News.
The article penned by Cedric Farrugia compared the system of patronage and clientelism in Malta to places such as Naples in Italy where organised crime replaced the absent state by creating a social structure which tends to the needs of citizens who have no access to state resources.
The article does not make a direct reference to the current Labour government or any previous administrations but rather describes the system of dependency created over the years by the political class.
It explains how politicians and government officials offer people direct access to state resources in return for votes.
However, many Labour propagandists, including Castille blogger and MP Glenn Bedingfield and Caruana mistook this for an attack on the Labour government and in the ensuing storm, Labour supporters called for Scicluna’s removal.
The petition says “We want his immediate resignation and would like a proper religious person who can lead the people in their religious ways, one who has no political influence.”
In a later Facebook post, Scicluna explained that he retweeted the article to encourage a mature discussion, away from partisan politics, which seeks the best interests of society. However, instead of a debate it created an online storm characterised by vulgar and violent verbal attacks on Scicluna.
Since its inception in 1921, Malta’s electoral system based on proportional representation cultivated a fluid system of political patronage and clientelism.
Clientelism and patronage are what make Malta’s political system functional and any attempt to reform the system is usually met with strong resistance by the two major political parties and their supporters.
Former Labour leader Alfred Sant won the 1996 election on the promise of eradicating patronage and clientelism but this irked many people, including Labour voters, who turned against the former Labour Prime Minister because he threatened to end the game of political patronage.