An epidemic of collective amnesia

Malta is suffering from an epidemic of collective amnesia.

While top government officials have escaped the dreaded coronavirus unscathed, they’ve been struck down by symptoms of selective memory loss that seem to flare up whenever they’re forced to testify in courts and inquiries.

Take the Vitals MOU, for example.

The Shift reported on this clearly illegal agreement last year. The Auditor General examined the contract and concluded the tender process was “staged and deceitful”.

But when it came time to look at an MOU signed well in advance of any public tender for the project, the paper mysteriously disappeared.

Unfortunately, homework-eating dogs didn’t fool anyone. When Daddy Abela told officials to produce the ‘lost’ document or else, the elusive MOU finally turned up.

And that’s when the responses of anyone associated with it changed from ‘doesn’t exist’ to ‘never seen that before…’.

Slow Eddie Scicluna refused to comment, reserving his denials for his testimony before the public inquiry.

Former Economy Minister Chris Cardona doesn’t know anything. He was told to sign a document, so he signed it. For all he knew, it could have been another minibar receipt.

And Keith Schembri said he had nothing to do with it, either. He pointed his stained Finger of Guilt at former Malta Enterprise CEO Mario Galea.

But poor Mario doesn’t know what Keith was talking about. In fact, he emphasised how little he knows by both “categorically” and “strongly” denying he was involved in it. Unfortunately, no matter how many times Mario piles on words that mean the same thing, it doesn’t make his excuses sound any more convincing.

None of this comes as a surprise, of course. Whenever accepting responsibility is called for, shoulders reach quickly for ears and fingers get pointed at someone else.

The only thing they all seem to know with absolute certainty is on which day their paycheques get deposited to their accounts.

Every government official who has testified before the public inquiry has shown similarly alarming symptoms of this same memory loss compounded by temporary blindness.

Officials and persons of trust at the Office of the Prime Minister were especially hard hit.

Ronnie Vella couldn’t remember whether he was at a particular bar in Rabat in May 2017 — until he was shown a photo of himself sitting at the bar in Rabat in May 2017.

Reuben Sciberras, the Tourism Ministry’s Head of Secretariat, and OPM Head of Communications Matthew Carbone had no recollection of a group of Labour Party thugs detaining journalists illegally at Castille, despite both men appearing in news videos of the incident.

And Nigel Vella, the Deputy Head of Communications at OPM, knew nothing about it either, prompting a frustrated Judge Michael Mallia to retort, “Why are you paid if you gave no input? How is it possible that you were between four walls, and you heard nothing?”

But a faulty memory will only take one so far, even at the OPM. Far better to evade the heat by pushing someone else to the front of the class.

The most common strategy now being employed by those with Collective Inquiry Amnesia is a tactic I call ‘Kick Keith’.

The Delphic Oracle of Facebook, Evarist Bartolo, was the latest to trot this one out, comparing himself to Galileo when explaining why he toed the party line on votes of confidence rather than stand by his deeply cherished secret principles.

Of course, Galileo would have been burned at the stake if he hadn’t recanted his view that the Earth revolved around the sun. Getting booted out of a parliamentary group for voting against il-Kink is hardly in the same league.

Bartolo’s choir boy act requires us to believe he was diligently working behind the scenes to ‘do the right thing’ as he applied crushing internal pressure in the form of delicate hints while playing the drama queen each morning on social media.

“I tried to change at least a millimetre of reality,” he told the Board of Inquiry on journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination. And if you squint hard enough, you’ll see that he achieved nothing less.

Besides, it was all Keith’s fault. According to The Oracle, Schembri ran a ‘shadow government’  that orchestrated all these dirty deals — from VGH to Electrogas to kickbacks on passport sales and rampant money laundering through Pilatus bank — plunging the country into a cesspool of corruption.

You might be wondering at this point how it was possible for an unelected businessman to run such a ‘shadow government’ within the government in which The Oracle himself held key ministries.

Bartolo failed to mention the man who made that power possible when he created a new Chief of Staff position for his old school chum.

As for poor Keith, he feels hard done by now that his ex-colleagues are collectively throwing him under the bus to divert attention from themselves.

“Unfortunately for me, I’ve become a comfortable target for some people for whatever is attributed to the government in the time when Joseph Muscat was Malta’s Prime Minister,” he said in a two-page sworn statement.

It’s a difficult charge to wriggle out of given the astonishing amount of corruption that tainted the government of this same disgraced former prime minister.

But Keith’s self-pity didn’t end there. “I’m now used to the fact that there are people who have a vested interest in besmirching my name and involving me in things that were never in my control or that I never had anything to do with.”

Unfortunately, I just can’t take seriously the excuses of a man who had no clue who owned 17 Black when his own Panama company incorporation documents were exposed in the press, but who was forced to admit under oath that he did, in fact, know it was Yorgen Fenech all along.

But don’t worry, it was all totally innocent. Keith planned to do business with Yorgen when he was no longer in government — which is why he needed that Panama company 72 hours after Labour was elected to government.

Schembri has answers for everything, as long as you ask him the right questions. “I’m available to give an explanation of everything I know…,” he said, “but only if I’m asked the way I should be”.

It worked out pretty well as long as his government could handpick police commissioners and judges. But it hasn’t gone well when faced with non-partisan authorities who refuse to lob easy underhand balls for the former chief of staff to bat away.

Perhaps that explains Schembri’s bizarre move from paper baron to fake newspaper mogul earlier this year?

In a pathetic attempt to distance himself from the assassination plot, the author of the ridiculous faux-Malta Today told us in the first person, “I will always remain loyal to the Labour Party. I am convinced that my innocent [sic] is going to emerge for everyone to see”.

Only someone suffering from this strange Maltese collective amnesia could possibly believe it.

Of course, it’s easy for government insiders like Bartolo to kick Keith, given how often his name has popped up in the murder trial. But they’re still afraid to point their fingers at the man peeking out from behind Schembri’s shoulder.

The Oracle’s right about one thing. All roads do lead to Keith — but they don’t stop there.

                           
                               

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