‘The lights finally dim, the applause reaches a crescendo and the ‘super trouper’ lights up the face of ‘Bono’ as he weaves along the front of the stage, glad handing and high fiving his fans.’
It’s not ‘Bono’ though. Despite the fact that the great little Irish singer from U2 can command audiences in single events almost as large as Malta’s Labour supporting majority, it is in fact Joseph. Joseph is on his farewell tour.
Barrack Obama. Remember him? Yes, the 44th President of the United States. The First African American to hold the office and for eight years. A man of great intellectual rigour, a Nobel Prize winner and a man who changed a nation. Remember his ‘farewell tour?’ No, you won’t. He didn’t have one.
Even former UK Prime Minister Teresa May had the decency to make a speech and exit stage right promptly without further ado.
Even African Despot Robert Mugabe did not have a farewell tour.
If Joseph were indeed the retiring rock star and this tour was his last hurrah then the matching album would have to be called ‘Naivety.’ The album sleeve would picture a smiling Joseph, in between his two bandmates, Konrad and Keith, gazing out over an adoring crowd.
Their first album was a great success but sadly, the band was found wanting. The haunting second album sold well but was damned by critics worldwide. Disputes with management, offshore royalties payments and an inability to take criticism took its toll. Some even said that Joseph ‘lip synced’ some of his performances.
I weep for our wonderful archipelago. What have we done to deserve such a Prime Minister and his cohorts? I weep too, for those that blindly follow. What is in their neurological make up? Their DNA? Those who actually believe that Joseph is an accomplished politician, who saved Malta?
In reality, the man responsible for Malta’s ‘boom’ simply sold off EU citizenships, opened the door widely for incoming businesses (with more than a few suspect examples) and invited developers to ‘fill their boots’ as thousands of developments were rubber stamped with impunity. Hardly a scholar of Adam Smith – the philosopher and pioneer of political economy – Joseph’s achievements bland at best. His supporters were too. ‘The bland leading the bland’, indeed.
His behaviour and that of his associates, while he presided over this ‘boom’, has been abhorrent…and it continues. They stand accused of unspeakable crimes. They have systematically undermined the judicial system to suit themselves while covering their tracks in the process.
When asked any questions on kickbacks, undisclosed documents, suspicious relationships and even murder the reply was always, ‘I admit no wrongdoing’. A meaningless phrase, designed to ‘cover all.’ A child is asked, ‘Did you write your name on crayon on the wall?’ He replies, ‘I admit no wrongdoing.’ A wife asks her partner, ‘Who were you with last night?’ You see where I’m going with this one. It is not an answer. It could even be construed as a ‘non denial, denial.’
Well, ‘the game is up.’ There are far too many decent, honest, hardworking people on these islands who will not be silenced until this cabal stand accountable for their actions. They want to raise their families, look after their parents and strive for a better life in a safe and stable democratic society, free from political corruption. These are the people who have the power to change Malta. They will not ‘look the other way’ anymore. They will not settle for liars in positions of power any more. They will not settle for a future with no hope.
We now know that democracy is much more than a mark in a box every few years. Democracy means elected politicians – and civil servants – must be held accountable for their actions. Democracy means the right to freedom of speech, the right to criticise those whose salaries we pay. The right to demonstrate peacefully, without provocation. A free press who will not be bullied. A clear, fair and independent judicial system. A police service which does exactly what it says on the tin. Serves. All of these make for a healthy democracy.
Do not stay silent. Speak up without fear. Voice your opinions. Disagree with the status quo. Write to the media. Call in and disagree on radio phone ins. Attend events and demonstrations. Participate in our country’s wellbeing. Our future.
Do not sit back and criticise passively from your armchair. For if you do, you are as culpable as our malodorous political elite who believe they are ‘untouchable.’
So, Joseph. Depart the stage now. We can all recall rock stars who kept going that little bit too long. Perhaps you could leave with one of Bono’s best lines from his recording, With or Without You, ‘sleight of hand and twist of fate.’
Tom Welch is a former UK Regional Newspaper publisher living in Gozo.