When continuity does not work

The Ancient Greeks would resort to an Oracle whenever a decision needed to be taken. Before facing the enormous Persian army, the Greek States consulted the Oracle at Delphi. The first reply from the Oracle was not to the States’ liking since it told them to give up.

They asked a second time hoping for a better result and were sufficiently satisfied with the characteristically enigmatic “trust in your wooden walls”.

With no Delphic Oracle within reach, Robert Abela has preferred to deliver a message of hope based on the idea of a return to normality.

For normality, we are supposed to infer a return to the golden age of New Labour without the corrupt skin that, without open admission from any of the characters involved, was the reason change was needed in the first place.

Abela and his entourage continue to appeal to the gut movement that projected his Party to government in 2013 with the promise of a new Malta. Therefore, normality is supposed to be the normality of electoral records, of the illusion of prosperity created by what we now know was the corruption-fuelled economic bubble.

Yet in the eyes of Abela’s Labour 2.0, corruption is what happened to other people on other people’s watch.

Although Abela has not proven to be very adept at wearing a physical mask, his Cabinet is prolific in donning a metaphorical mask intended to portray some form of goodwill.

We have seen all sorts of attempts to give the impression of a strong, disciplined government intent on reform and return to democratic stability. And yet there’s the elephant in the room and it has a name – Joseph Muscat.

That is where Abela’s plans for a smooth transition away from the worries and scandals of yesterday hit a brick wall. Or, rather, an elephant.

The disgraced former prime minister has become the albatross that hangs heavily around Labour’s neck. Frankly, how the man still dares to show his face in public is beyond the understanding of any reasonable being.

Without any visible sign of remorse, Muscat is still very much in the limelight dispensing his opinions as though his word is worth anything at all.

We have come to the point where there is no doubt that, in the case of Muscat, the adage “his lips are moving therefore he lies” cannot be more apt.

The disgraced politician interviewed under caution by the police would have us believe that he is simply a friend of the force, providing snippets of his unlimited wisdom to assist them in whatever investigation he had contributed to hindering just a while ago.

His opinion is still sought on issues such as those related to the ever so meritocratic appointments during his sullied term of office.

The headline in the papers was stunning: ‘Joseph Muscat denies conflict of interest at Appeals Tribunal’. This was with regards to the handpicking of Martin Saliba as EPR Tribunal chairman.

It was stunning because the last person to pontificate on what is or is not a conflict of interest is, in fact, the disgraced Muscat.

The list of persons ‘not fit for purpose’ appointed to boards and committees on Muscat’s watch smacks of nepotism, PLPN-style jobs for the boys and the creation of a network of yes-men intended to facilitate the underhand dealings of a corrupt economy and corrupt governance.

Judge Michael Mallia can ask persons involved in administration “Was it not your duty to do something?” but we all know the answer to that lies in the very system Muscat’s men adopted and propagated throughout their tenure.

The tentacles of a corrupt system spread to the lowest levels of the administration, turning our system into a farce.

This was what the backsliding of the rule of law was about and Muscat has slowly become the figurehead of all that is wrong. This brings me back to Abela and his conundrum of wanting to promise continuity while at the same time needing to guarantee a change from the old ways.

Continuity will not work, Robert, because until every element of Muscat’s maladministration is weeded out of our system any type of continuity will only mean embroiling our nation in more of the same.

Take your Minister for Justice, entrusted with the sensitive legal reforms that are supposed to revitalise our democracy. He publicly wept for Muscat’s departure showing us where his heart lay. There will never come a day when Edward Zammit Lewis can look Muscat in the eye (Konrad Mizzi style) and tell him that he was in the wrong.

Every member of Abela’s Cabinet, including himself as a former legal advisor to Muscat, is tainted with the unenviable mark of being a vehicle of continuity for Muscat and his ‘kitchen cabinet’.

Rather than threatening to cut short the terms of the Board of Inquiry into the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia and trying to deflect attention onto ghost walls, Abela would do well to take one long hard look at himself and understand that there is no space for his type of continuity.

The forecourt of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi had three maxims inscribed on a column: “Know thyself. Nothing in excess. Surety brings ruin.”

The ball is in your court, Prime Minister.

Follow Jacques Rene Zammit on his blog J’Accuse.


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