Malta sure has a lot of enemies for such a small island.
Everyone seems to be conspiring against us.
Just this week, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat accused the Rule of Law Monitoring Group and others in the European Parliament of having fallen victim to “direct or indirect interference by Maltese political forces with an overly partisan agenda.”
I must say I’m astonished at the power of these Maltese political forces.
For the domestic squabbling of a small island to be able to set the agenda of 28 other countries and their representatives, such that they engage in single-minded efforts to persecute that tiny country, is remarkable.
How jealous they must be of Malta’s booming economy, which is now neck and neck with the city of Aberdeen.
Conspiracy theories that blame foreigners or domestic “traitors” for everything that goes wrong in Malta is a useful distraction technique, but it isn’t the only tactic being applied by the government to claim credit for the good and deflect the bad.
Whenever Malta’s sale of EU passports comes under scrutiny by member states who don’t appreciate the fact that Muscat and Henley & Partners chairman Christian Kalin are deciding who can reside in their countries, the government brushes a few crumbs from the table and they pat themselves on the back about it.
Social housing (promised year after year but never appeared)! Apartments in London for Puttinu Cares! See what our passport programme is giving you?
But don’t look at the other hand, or you’ll see what the passport scheme is giving them: commissions for everyone, inflated rents for empty apartments, and some nice kickbacks it seems for the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff and Brian Tonna (we can’t know for sure because the magisterial inquiries have never seen the light of day).
When there aren’t any crumbs to throw the masses, the other favourite diversion tactic is whataboutism.
“What about Portugal?” they say. “They have a golden visa scheme, too!”
They neglect to clarify that other EU countries like Portugal are accepting cash for residence permits. Residence visas expire, and they can be revoked. Citizenship is for life. Only Malta, Cyprus and Bulgaria sell EU citizenship — and Bulgaria is preparing to cancel its programme, after having sold 50 passports since 2013.
The government loves to drive the narrative that Malta is being picked on unfairly.
Just another instance of large countries bullying a small country — as though global politics can be boiled down to schoolyard conflicts. Perhaps that’s a reflection of how Alfred Sant, the former Labour Prime Minister who did everything he could to stop Malta joining the EU but is now an MEP, and Finance Minister Edward Scicluna see the world?
But the real distraction campaign is happening closer to home, and it always involves sleight of hand.
Each time a new scandal hits the papers, the government propaganda machine turns up the volume on its favourite meme.
It’s begun to sound like one of those tedious hit singles that plague the airwaves every summer. This one’s called, “We’ve Never Had It So Good!”
Dig deeper and you’ll see that this much-advertised tale of economic success is backed by very expensive rating agency reports paid for by your tax dollars. These reports are even written using data supplied by the client: your government.
Argue all you want about policy. That’s what politics is about: heated discussion followed by compromise. But please, can we dispense with this bizarre idea of political conspiracies?
It might play well with a domestic Maltese audience when former prime minister Alfred Sant stands up in the European Parliament and says, “Factually incorrect and skewed accusations are being made about Malta, so that so-called inquiries could be launched”, and that, “investigations of this type seek to tarnish the image of the island.”
But to anyone outside Malta, this sounds like the sort of nonsense usually associated with chemtrails, the Illuminati, and “vaccines cause autism”.
Are the Nationalist opponents of Muscat and his Merry Band of Kleptocrats really working some dark magic over the entire EU parliament?
Or is the simpler answer that something really is rotten in the state of Malta?
Are industrial powerhouses like Germany jealous of the economic performance of an island micro state?
Or are they seriously worried that Malta represents a security risk for the entire European Union?
The island is becoming a dirty back door into Europe, where anyone with enough money to pay a kickback can slip into all the other Schengen zone countries undetected. And the same is true for their illicit laundered money, thanks to Malta’s lax law enforcement.
You’ll have to live with that toxic reputation long after Muscat’s inner circle rides off into the sunset with the hay they made while the sun shone.
They’re taking the hay and the sunshine with them, and you’re stuck with the soiled reputation they leave behind.