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Will Neville Guffaw have the last laugh?

Neville Gafà at a Labour Party mass meeting (Photo: Facebook)

The worst kept secret in Malta has finally been revealed.

Neville Gafa — long known to readers for such stellar pieces of work as the (alleged) Libyan medical visa racket, and for his vacation meeting with a Libyan warlord — works for the Office of the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister didn’t seem to remember this fact last week when asked by reporters. I guess Gafa’s taste in hot pink shirts caused him to blend into the background. “He is employed by the government,” Muscat had said, “but I do not know what his contract says and I don’t have it on me at the moment.”

The exact wording of Gafa’s contract wasn’t the question. That was a deflection. The question was, “Who hired him?”

The avoidance of responsibility is a finely honed art in Malta, but this refusal to be saddled with the former spectacles salesman turned diplomat has gone to ridiculous lengths. It was a game of hot potato, and Gafa was the spud.

It took a parliamentary question to squeeze the answer out of elected officials.

It finally emerged this week that, yes, as The Shift News had already shown, Gafa is employed by the Prime Minister’s own office as a “person of trust”, and has been since January 2019.

He’s apparently a “coordinator”, whatever that means. He was initially a Customer Care Assistant in the Ministry for Health.

After that, he was moved to Projects Director with the Foundation for Medical Services (until December 2018), though no one there seems to remember seeing him. “Health Ministry sources said Mr Gafà had not worked at the ministry offices in Merchants Street since he was implicated in an alleged medical visas racket in 2016,” The Times of Malta reported. But that statement was not quite true, either.

The Shift News has revealed the details of Gafa’s lucrative contract, which includes a car, telephone, ample overtime, and extra pay for being “disturbed”.

Rather than get upset by all this scrutiny, the unofficial official in question replied by mocking a former MEP from the same political group as the Party in the government that employs him. Gomes had led the European Parliament delegation investigating the rule of law in Malta.

Fully assured of the Prime Minister’s protection in Malta, Neville Guffaw is determined to have the last laugh.

We still don’t know what Gafa is doing on behalf of Joseph Muscat, but at least the Prime Minister has suddenly realised he works for him despite the usual attempts to cloud the waters. Was it really so difficult for the Prime Minister to own up to this?

He can take comfort in the fact that he isn’t alone. Muscat is well known for his approach to accountability, which resembles a non-stick frying pan. But when it comes to shirking responsibility, the winner for the Most Inane Line of Government Twaddle During the Current Parliament is… Carmelo Abela.

Please join me in congratulating the Minister of Foreign Affairs for briefly rising above his more visible colleagues. That’s a pretty tall order when you’re the silent member of a government drawn straight from the Brothers Grimm. We’ve got Dopey (Edward Scicluna), Sleazy (Chris Cardona), Shady (Konrad Mizzi) and Greedy (Keith Schembri). We even have Bashful (Owen Bonnici). I wonder which one is Snow White? But let’s not get sidetracked with that lot.

Abela’s political performance has always reminded me of Brick from Anchorman, but this time he’s truly outdone himself.

When asked who Gafa worked for, Abela replied, “What I can say is that he is not an employee of my Ministry. He is a government employee who, as a government employee, has his own responsibilities like every other government employee has to do.”

I’ve never heard such nonsensical waffling in my life.

Well, what I can say is that Guffaw works for someone. Like anyone who works for someone, he is an employee. And he has stuff to do like every other employee does.

At first, I thought this was a parody.

But Abela outdid even that nonsense when he rambled on at great length with this gem of a non-answer: “Gafa is not an employee of my Ministry, he is a government employee. But the most important thing for us is the results we want to achieve vis-a-vis the relationship between Malta and Libya. What is important as well is that Libya be a stable country (sic), where one can work inside the country. We know what the situation is. Our interest as Malta goes away from individuals as in fact there were a number of people who formed part of this delegation.”

Guffaw works for someone. It isn’t me, but he works for someone. But the most important thing is whatever we’re trying to do in the failed State next door, which I’m sure you’ll agree should be stable so we can work there. But it isn’t. And we all know that. So we’re not interested in any individuals that we may have sent there officially… it’s a mess down there anyway.

I’m sorry Minister Abela. Citizens are in fact interested in what Gafa was doing in their name. And he was doing it while on an official delegation sent by your Ministry. You’re Head of Foreign Affairs last time we checked.

I can’t believe they expect people to accept nonsense like this from elected officials as though it were normal. If Gafa was part of a diplomatic mission to Libya, then the Foreign Minister has to answer for it… coherently.

“It wasn’t me, it was him!” should be the new slogan for Malta under this government.

‘If following the law is an innovation, it would be an innovation here’

Foreign Minister commits to public inquiry within three months