They said it in 2018

We’ve heard and seen a great deal in 2018. We’ve tackled issues along the year to filter fact from fiction, but here are a few prize quotes from members of government this year:

Glenn Bedingfield

“The Speaker rules online portal must retract false claims and allegations against me. [The Shift News] have blatantly lied and if they respect institutions as they claim, the Speaker’s ruling must be adhered to”.

Bedingfield – the one who has zero concerns about corruption – has repeatedly tried, and failed, to silence The Shift News. Last month, he turned to the Speaker of the House, Anglu Farrugia, to order that we amend an article published by The Shift on disinformation on 17 Black – that company set up to give kickbacks to Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi and the Prime Minister’s staff Keith Schembri, according to leaked emails. The Speaker obliged, but our reply was to remind him that his duty was not to serve those who put him there.

The European Court of Human Rights had already ruled against a Speaker who tried a similar move under a previous Labour administration. We refused to change our story, and Bedingfield seems to have known he was trying his luck because it seems he has since deleted the tweet. The fact that he abused parliamentary privilege to silence a media outlet and the fact that the Speaker obliged even though it was beyond his remit, says a lot about the State of democracy in Malta – the one the Venice Commission said is not a functioning democracy.

Keith Schembri

“Maybe I used the ($1 million) to pay your wages like I did over the past three years. I’ve been answering your stupid questions for the past four years.”

This was the response of the Prime Minister’s chief of staff to questions by the Times of Malta on who owned 17 Black (before we knew that Yorgen Fenech did, thanks to no help from the police or the government). After it was pointed out that Nexia BT had named the company as one that would pay his Panama company $1 million a year, Schembri thought it was a good idea to insult the journalist rather than provide answers. Who laughs last, laughs best, because it was the same journalist who exposed the backhand deal.

Michelle Muscat

“I am more socialist than my husband”

The mother of two privately educated children who has exploited and abused the privileges afforded by the State to ensure her two children understand they are are a cut above the rest (a good lesson learnt from the parents’ hubby in Azerbaijan whose two daughters have accumulated more wealth than they can ever live with on the backs of the people they oppress).

Michelle Muscat with Leyla Aliyeva of Azerbaijan, in Malta in 2014.

A woman with a penchant for ball gowns, designer clothes, sparkling jewels, and trips to Dubai her family could never afford on a Prime Minister’s salary, said in an interview with (one guess who could possibly allow her to say that unchallenged) to assert that she understood the people’s problems better than her elected husband.

joseph and michelle muscat

Her ‘team’ of designers, hairdressers, make up artists, drivers, event organisers and general staff at her disposal (she tried to label herself as a First Lady in true Presidential style even before the rest of the country knew her husband was set to redistribute power in the country through a revision of the Constitution that would see him President with the power of a Prime Minister) is worth enough for the Socialist government she claims to represent to build the one single housing unit – the first – ever built under her socialist dream. Not one social housing unit, in five years.

Referred to as the Eva Peron of Malta – a label she probably thinks is a compliment – she unsurprisingly took for herself the ‘volunteer of the year award’ intended to honour citizens who sacrifice their time with family to help those in need.  Only, she was too busy on a trip in the Bahamas to even bother turning up.

Tony Zarb

“The most important thing is that she (Daphne Caruana Galizia) never returns.”

In a video clip uploaded to Facebook on 21 September, the former General Worker’s Union boss – who likes to think of himself as torch bearer for workers’ rights, but one who was only to too happy to exploit them in deals with the government that made millions for the union at the expense of workers, and who was only too happy to suck money from taxpayers to be appointed to consultancies where he does nothing but attack critics of government – confirmed Daphne Caruana Galizia’s death was a good deal for the government.

Rosianne Cutajar

“Through my action I want to send out the message that no woman, not even those in politics, should accept such statements that are nothing more than an attack on her dignity.”

After a busy year insulting a journalist killed with a car bomb planted soon after her Party won another term, and trying to take swipes at a female MEP from the same political family (PES) who dared call out corruption in the Labour Party as being linked to the silencing of the journalist, the former ‘hostess’ selling her services in Sicily under the professional name of ‘Nuxellina’ filed libel suits against two members of the public who used a Maltese idiom including the word ‘whore’ when addressing an argument she raised.

It’s an expression that is commonly used to address both genders – it is an expression about behaviour that stems from the patriarchial system that saw her rise to fame. Nobody was calling her a whore, as was clearly explained – she even tried to use that to say she would sue The Shift for calling out her hypocrisy, although we have yet to see her put her credibility where her mouth was.

Her declared reason for taking legal action against two people who openly voiced their criticism of her role in a government mired in corruption, was ‘to stand up for women’s rights’. Of course, it never crossed anyone’s mind that the move was an attempt to silence critics. Yet her deafening silence and actual encouragement of harassment towards female activists, female MEPs, female journalists, and any woman who dares criticise the Party that took her from Nuxellina to the heart of the Prime Minister’s Office makes her case hard to swallow.

The total hypocrisy of the fact that she is an active member of the Labour Party’s online hate groups that spent the last seven years building a network that organises campaigns of harassment against female activists and journalists, seems to have been lost on her. It wasn’t lost on the rest of us.

Rosianne Cutajar Twitter

Her tweet to Matthew Caruana Galizia, (above), the son of a journalist she continues to hound after her death, was posted on the four month anniversary of her assassination. She said this to a son who was trying to pull his mother out of a car engulfed in flames only to find there was nothing of her left to save. There are those who still spend sleepless nights imagining that horror, but on the day marking four months since her assassination, Cutajar lashed out at the journalist’s son saying his calls for justice were “embarissing” (sic) and “divisive,” in line with the Labour Party campaign that vilified her until she was killed.

Edward Scicluna

“U ejja, come on. You’re going to ask these questions so early in the morning?”

This was the response of the Finance Minister when questioned on whether the licence of Malta-based Pilatus Bank would be revoked following the arrest of its chairman Ali Sadr Hasheminejad in the US. Edward Scicluna seemed unperturbed by the news and said he would wait to get back to the office before having a think about what to do. After having enough time to reflect, in an interview with CBS’ 60 Minutes aired this week, he said “it looked bad, but it’s not bad”.

The hurdles the once-respected professor has had to overcome to keep this government from scrutiny – even having to argue with taxi drivers in South America to convince them that Malta is not corrupt – have removed any doubt that there is any semblance left of the Scicluna who entered politics and the one who will leave it in disgrace.

Jason Micallef

“The situation is desperate. There is (sic) happy people every where you look.”

You wouldn’t expect to need to correct a sentence uttered or written by the chairman of the European Capital of Culture, and yet that’s the least offence. Micallef wanted to take credit for what Valletta 2018 was – and we will happily give that to him.

No decent citizen would want to be associated with the image that such a title – meant to showcase culture – got thanks to Micallef’s lack of culture, education and basic human decency. Take it, Jason. It’s all yours.

He has single-handedly caused so much damage to the country’s reputation that others we were meant to partner with wanted nothing to do to us. We want nothing to do with him either.

Owen Bonnici

“I will not censor anyone for expressing his thoughts”.

Don’t get the wrong idea – the Justice Minister was not referring to citizens whose flowers and candles and messages he orders the removal of on almost a daily basis. Bonnici was only defending the one appointed by the government he forms part of to bring shame to Malta’s name in the European cultural scene.

Bonnici never extended that thought of what he obviously perceives as a generosity to be afforded to those his government wants to protect.  He has proven his eagerness to silence those critical of the government – going as far as barricading a public monument for no credible reason other than stalling those who refuse to stop calling for justice for an assassinated journalist. Bonnici wouldn’t understand true freedom of expression if it slapped him in the face while he’s looking at a mirror wondering if he looks better with a beard.

Joseph Muscat

“I can understand there is a certain jealousy about Malta’s economic success”

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat told MEPs to “get their facts right” before accusing them of being jealous of Malta’s economic success. In his eyes, money laundering, dodgy Iranians, cash-for-passport schemes, and an energy deal that rips taxpayers’ money until their retirement, is a means to an end to his personal success. We are under no illusion that this is a success for the country – but this hasn’t stopped “jealousy” becoming a battle cry used by every troll whenever someone raises any just criticism of Malta.

Konrad Mizzi

“Egrant clears me and Keith Schembri too”.

It’s not the result of ignorance, but sheer manipulation. Mizzi knows the Egrant inquiry did not absolve him. It did not absolve anyone, for that matter. It failed to find evidence to support the claim that the Panama company set up at the same time as Mizzi’s and Schembri’s, belonged to the Prime Minister’s wife.

Konrad Mizzi

We know from the little bit published that lines of inquiry could not be pursued because of secretive jurisdictions. We are all eager to see the full evidence collected by the magistrate that includes testimonies on Mizzi and Schembri relevant to the two inquiries pending on them (wonder of wonders, those two inquiries remain secret despite the clear evidence handed to magistrates).

The government has used the fact that the Attorney General has handed the full findings only to the subject of the investigation (the head of government) and his cohorts – not the public – to launch an assault on critics. It’s very convenient to have all the evidence against you at your disposal, that no-one else gets to see, and to say that the evidence does not say what it actually says but what I tell you it says.

Mark Camilleri

“There is no doubt that if he was alive he would win all possible book prizes.”

The Executive Chairman of the Book Council announced in November that former Labour leader Dom Mintoff’s autobiography was not only the greatest book a Maltese person has ever written, but that it would beat literally every other book in the world when it comes to prize winning.

This is his praise for a former Prime Minister under whose watch the worst human rights abuses and the worst acts against freedom of expression the country has ever seen since its independence occurred.

It’s clearly only one side that Camilleri likes to hear – under the previous Nationalist administration he made a name for himself carrying a coffin to say freedom of expression was dead, but he is now comfortably numb under the government he helped elect. He got appointed to Chairman of the Book Council for his past troubles, and he seemed to forget that a journalist killed is the greatest affront to the cause.

He did not say a word, except to state that a monument  for Daphne Caruana Galizia would be a celebration of ‘fascist ideals’. One of the first things the government he helped elect did was to  award him the highest honour handed out by the State – Gieh ir-Repubblika – for some achievement that escapes anyone but adoring Party supporters who think a national honour is something to be handed out by a Party in government to its supporters.


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