Living in bubbles that burst

Opposition leader Adrian Delia has won the Constitutional case for access to the report on the Egrant investigation conducted by Magistrate Aaron Bugeja. The Prime Minister, Justice Minister Owen Bonnici and the Attorney General had refused to publish it. They now have egg on their face.

Delia published the Egrant report yesterday afternoon, on the same day as a damning debate took place at the European Parliament with calls for Joseph Muscat to step down immediately as Prime Minister. As Muscat refuses to hang his head in shame at this, Malta must do it on his behalf.

Muscat has been carrying out a farewell tour of Malta and Gozo, like a champion or idol. He proceeds through the streets, waving at the crowds and smiling widely. The scenes are quite surreal.

Meanwhile, each day brings new revelations of alleged illicit activity at the heart of government. More will surely emerge from closer scrutiny of the Egrant report. Initial readings already indicate that the full conclusions of the report were not followed up. The authorities have a lot of explaining to do. These are certainly not the tidings of joy of the Christmas season.

Yet Muscat is wandering from village to village, at times together with the two PL leadership contenders, like this season’s Three Wise Men on the way to the manger, bearing gifts and seeking photo opportunities.

As they stand on stage and greet their supporters, various other political bubbles float in the vicinity. Former minister Konrad Mizzi, for example, had nearly also put himself forward to replace Muscat.

After finally giving in to pressure and resigning on 26 November, Mizzi still believed he stood a good chance to be the next prime minister. He apparently thought that, as he is no longer a Minister and has more time on his hands, he could focus on electoral victories instead.

Having been rewarded by Muscat with the prestigious post of ‘Minister within the Office of the Prime Minister’ after the Panama Papers scandal in 2016, and then Tourism Minister, Mizzi can’t be blamed for believing that anything is possible.

Thousands of people have repeatedly protested in Valletta over the last month. At one time they surrounded the parliament building, and government MPs ended up stuck inside. It must have been quite an unpleasant experience, to say the least. Yet the MPs took a selfie of themselves with wide smiles, as though they were having a great time.

While important entities like HSBC cancelled their Christmas party due to the political climate, the PL parliamentary group celebrated with their usual lunch and published another picture of them all smiling happily together.

Michelle Muscat floats in another bubble. Having just returned from Rome last week, she said, in an injured tone, that the media is unfair. She sat in front of the cameras and asked Maltese citizens to ensure that the ‘values’ which her husband ‘taught us’ are upheld. In reality, Muscat had pulled out of a conference in Rome, had his Papal visit downgraded, and his lunch with the Italian prime minister was cancelled.

Over the last couple of years, particularly in the US, there was a lot of talk about a ‘post-truth’ era. This assumed that people had become so partisan in America that they were immune to factual information.

Here in Malta, we have been like that for a long time already. And when things then go wrong, as they often do in politics, it is a painful experience. The more invested in promoting a political party, including emotions, the tougher it is to recognise mistakes.

With all these allegations linking corruption and murder to his inner circle, Muscat appears to have been politely snubbed at a Council meeting of EU leaders in Brussels last week. But the Labour Party media here in Malta promptly published photos of Muscat in Brussels chatting with EU leaders. As it turned out, those were old photos of past meetings. Now that is more than a bubble, or even spin.

The latest PL line is that after this political blip the Party will be as strong as ever. But the PL cannot emerge unscathed. The rot has set in deep. In the longer term, the sins of the fathers weigh upon younger generations.


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