This has been the week in which the Prime Minister of the Flawed Democracy and his Cabinet have continued to unravel the policy of resignations, dismissals and terminations. Only seven days ago, I was writing about resignations not being an absolution.
The flawed system needs a seeing to that goes far beyond a new coat of paint and a token new face as prime minister. In the meantime, as the land of the Best of Times has continued to slide down tables on democracy and corruption the cosmetic tweaking continued unabashed.
Forgive the repetition in my argument but, the more time goes by, the more I am convinced that the key to understanding Robert Abela’s approach to his tenure in office is his phrase “Ħalluna ħa niggvernaw” (let us rule).
It is reinforced by his constant appeal to the dichotomy that is PLPN and the attempts to frame any criticism as some form of assault on his Party’s divine right to govern. The dismissals and non-renewals of this week must be seen in that light.
On the one hand, we had those that were inevitable because of the massive pressure that had built around the necessity that some people must go. Joseph Muscat had to leave because his position as prime minister was compromised and nonredeemable. Idem Lawrence Cutajar. By the end of this week, we were reading of the severance packages or reappointment of the one or the other.
So much for accountability. Abela refuses to get them to bear responsibility for their inaction lasting almost four full years.
On the other hand, we have a burst of terminations of contracts that could be seen as a step in the right direction – one where the infamous ‘persons of trust’ category is purged once and for all, making way for a system of meritocracy. Instead, just like they do on the 31 March every year, the people celebrated the non-renewal of a contract as though it were some humongous achievement in the name of democratic progress. Lou Bondi will surely be fiddling away with whatever guitar he has purchased lately and laughing at the idea that the joke ultimately fell on the PLPN crowd of adulators.
Now either the citizens of this land are so thirsty for change that any inkling of progress will be hailed as a return to normality or they have been numbed to such a level of naivety that they will cling onto any excuse to return to their normal lives where politics does not occupy the top of their worries.
Whatever the case may be, they are in for a shock when they finally understand that we are eons away from any form of normality.
Castille court’s new tenants
What we are seeing is, in fact, a form of purge. Many signs point to a purge of the Muscat-Schembri related clan in government. The many positions of trust that are being ended purportedly as part of a major ‘clean-up’ are not being terminated with the intention to improve governance. By admission of a senior Office of the Prime Minister source, the underlying reason is “loss of trust”. What or who Muscat trusted (or was forced to trust) no longer enjoys favour in the eyes of the new Sun King.
So while Adrian Hillman, Anton Attard and Bondi (and many more to come) lose their places, we also read that the OPM is being purged of Keith Schembri’s men. The courtesans are obviously changing – but why?
As I said earlier, much of the answer lies in Abela’s philosophy grounded in Labour’s right to govern. As Muscat faded away into the background (or so we think), the spineless Cabinet that had backed him to the hilt until his last hours in Castille rallied around Abela. Abela obliged them by appointing the largest Cabinet in history.
The new ministers and parliamentary secretaries took to their new positions without batting an eyelid. Business as usual – who cares what ministry, so long as the fiefdom can continue.
The politics behind these changes is harder to sell. Abela has inherited a long list of tainted public projects and contracts. Hiding Konrad Mizzi, Muscat and Schembri in some hole away from the public eye will not solve that. The Cabinet he has surrounded himself with is the same Cabinet that trumpeted the achievements of a series of projects that are to blame for Malta’s slide into democratic oblivion and corruption hell. And that is just the tip of the iceberg.
Repetitia iuvant (repeated things help) they say. So here it is. The system is broken. Already Abela’s first cowboy attempt at tweaking an outdated system has backfired.
His new proposals for appointing a police commissioner are just a roundabout way of making things seem to change for everything to remain the same. That is just for the police commissioner. A long road lies ahead and many more changes that take us away from a system of governance where ministers and prime ministers act like mini-Shahs in their fiefs with the law at their beck and call.
Take Minister Jose Herrera and his decision to stop a particular carnival float (the merits of which I shall not enter into). I find myself having to agree with Mark Camilleri, the defrocked Book Council chairman, when I say that it is not for the minister to decide what is and is not kosher for the public. One thing I will not agree on with Camilleri is his claim that the only solution to our country’s ills is the Labour party.
The problem is, and will remain, an obsession by the PLPN to stay in power come what may. So long as they can play their power games, we will be missing the wood for the trees and we will never be able to come to terms with the possibility of even paving the way for a new republic.