Repubblika, the civil society organisation that has become Prime Minister Robert Abela’s prime target, asked for a magisterial inquiry following reports in the international media, including The New York Times and The Guardian, that a soldier had boarded a refugees’ dinghy and severed an engine control cable, placing lives in manifest danger.
It is important to note that Repubblika did not make any accusations, it did not make any allegations and it did not put any soldiers in any dock. All the organisation did was point to those media reports and, in a context of complete silence from Abela, asked for an inquiry to look into what really happened.
The organisation also asked for the inquiry to take into account Abela’s own actions or inactions, in light of the clear and present dangers at sea. People were drowning and it was necessary that the truth emerged.
Abela’s reaction was to attack Repubblika and its lawyers, accusing them of putting soldiers – not to mention himself – in the dock while completely ignoring any reference to the truth of the matter.
Like Joseph Muscat before him, Abela stoked the fires by using Dom Mintoff’s mantra of ‘Malta l-ewwel u qabel kollox‘ and so-called patriots could wrap themselves in a flag.
Cronies like Tiger Man Anton Rea Cutajar – the one who used disabled people to get a permit for his wild animal zoo – was even allowed into an area where journalists cannot even enter to deliver red roses to the army in a scene that was filmed and shared on social media.
Cutajar is ‘in’ with Labour’s core, never mind questions on whether it was drugs that funded his zoo and gave him such a social conscience. When I asked him point blank how he funded such an expensive venture, while he was busy telling me his project was important to the community, he was up on a ladder feeding steaks to tigers most Maltese families couldn’t afford to eat in a week.
“I had companies in China,” he said. Sure.
It was not only Cutajar who joined the usual team of tools, including Tony Zarb, Glenn Bedingfield, Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando and the usual Red Brigade that has been extensively documented targeting dissidents and propping up support for a premier with his back against the wall.
Not content with wrapping himself and his non-social distancing Cabinet in the flag, Abela went on to poke the monster that is the racist bigot slumbering in his own voter base, not to mention the same beast that pretends to be a PN supporter.
Irresponsible is putting it too mildly. Abela didn’t just flirt with xenophobes and racists, he invited them out to dinner and bought them chocolates.
And then, just to give the trolls more food for their slavering gobs, the news came out that Repubblika, true to form, had brought to the inquiring magistrate’s attention that there may very well be evidence that patrol boat P52 crew’s actions might not have been with criminal intent.
For this, for behaving with honour and for doing Abela’s job, Repubblika members were ridiculed on the Prime Minister’s instructions because that is the message he sent. It’s not new – anyone critical of the scandals by this government that continue to be a millstone around taxpayers’ necks has been insulted, dehumanised and discredited for many years under his predecessor.
Abela promised ‘continuity’. Those who had any doubt on what that meant should now be clear about his intentions.
Abela – the one guy who could have nipped all this in the bud by denying the reports in the international media – instead chose to weaponise information to his advantage. The strategy is not new, but ‘continuity’ goes both ways.
As Abela marks his first 100 days as prime minister, he would do well to remember that civil society brought down his king.