A collapsing microstate

Watching Malta’s foreign minister squirm uncomfortably in reaction to the hard, direct questions put to him by Tim Sebastian was not a pleasant experience.

Evarist Bartolo bore the brunt of all the punches unleashed by the veteran journalist and it seemed that this was turning into some perverse act of atonement – as if admitting the sins of a government on the international stage would somehow alleviate the heavy burden of guilt that is very well hidden in Labour’s collective mindset.

Bartolo would have us believe that he hung in there notwithstanding the fact that he had seen that all around him was not good. His daily missives on Facebook were not, we are told, the only act of rebellion.

He was one of those notorious characters who attempted the very Maltese “change from inside” approach. Sebastian was having none of it. There’s blood on all your hands, Varist, and time and time again you failed to stand up to be counted.

Which is where Bartolo wheeled out the most pathetic of excuses. Not once but repeatedly. Malta, he said, is small. It is a microstate. A major exponent of the “Best in Europe” Party was tearfully submitting the most absurd alibi in history short of “the dog ate my homework”. The school bully had transformed into a sobbing brat when called to attention by the headmaster.

I am still not sure whether Bartolo believes his own theories concerning measures that have been taken since the advent of Abela at the Labour’s helm. Yet the telling phrase “the rule of family and the rule of friends is stronger than the rule of law” is an integral part of his stream of consciousness.

‘We are helpless Tim’, Bartolo seems to say. We are doomed to living in a microstate where the circles of families and friends regularly outwit, outmuscle and outmanoeuvre the strictures of rule of law that should be holding our society together.

Now, let us for a moment set aside the fact that the last word you may use to describe a fully-fledged member of the European Union is “microstate”. Microstates nowadays live in the shadows of other States and normally are prepared to cede part of their sovereignty in exchange for protection.

If anything, our smallness is manifested in our character – our pettiness, our pathetic acceptance of realities that turn what could be a great democracy into an inhuman machine of corrupt networks bereft of any form of rebellion.

Our smallness is manifested in the way the Labour hegemony has grown over seven years while eroding the State to a core. Yes, Evarist, you were part of this – the microstate of egoistic fatality intent on self-destruction.

The house that Joseph built

It is probably no coincidence that the oldest known Maltese poem concerns a collapsed house. Pietru Caxaro’s 15th century Cantilena is a poem about misfortune, about a house that collapsed because it was built on clay rather than on rock. In 21st century Malta houses do not collapse out of misfortune but due to corruption.

Yes, you read that right. Miriam Pace paid the costliest price of a system where checks and balances are invisible. It is a system that has been painstakingly developed over a long span of years and that has now reached the inevitable point of breakdown.

Back in 1450, the Mdina council discussed the precarious state of the town walls. No action was taken notwithstanding petitions to the Viceroy. In 1454, an internal tower collapsed, and immediate action was taken as funds were voted at the next town council sitting where Pietru Caxaro was secretary. In 21st century Malta, it is not a matter of collecting funds to rebuild a house. The administration is being called to answer for the shortfalls created by networks of persons of trust appointed not for their competence but for their being part of the “rule of family and rule of friends” that Bartolo was so quick to wheel out as an excuse in Munich.

Incidentally, has Ian Borg resigned yet? Will the mounting anger from civil society be forced to simmer away into the background as the usual formula of “change in order to remain the same” is applied?

Small minds

They tell us this is a government that listens. From Aaron Farrugia imploring NGOs to “keep criticising” until he does the right thing (while waste gets remixed and farming land is gobbled up to make way for more waste) to Robert Abela who tries his damnedest to seem like the great listener.

Then Edward Zammit Lewis parades a farcical exhibition for ‘Jum il-Mara‘ (Women’s Day). Apparently, the listening stops there. The parade of Maltese Women was strictly confined to Labour’s glitterati of today and yesterday.

Now I am not only asking for the bleeding obvious – thanks to Occupy Justice and Repubblika for righting that wrong and setting up a Daphne Caruana Galizia stand. Surely however there are many more women who can be celebrated – I saw a meme about Blanche Huber (Malta’s first woman doctor), which also reminded me of Ena Cremona (Malta’s first female lawyer and female Judge at the General Court of the European Union).

No. The government that claims to be listening is unable to think in those terms. It was proof, if any was needed, that it is still stuck in the circle of the “rule of family and rule of friends”. Keep it inhouse.

This microstate just got smaller.

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