Donald Trump blew a gasket. He unleashed his fury on his unflinchingly loyal and notoriously deferential Vice President Mike Pence. Delusional Donald believed he had won the election by a landslide and expected Pence to break the law by rejecting the electoral college vote in favour of Biden.
So when Pence led the joint session of Congress which would cement Biden’s victory, Donald exploded. He swung his favourite cudgel wildly, tweeting “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our country and our Constitution”.
As Trump descended deeper into depravity, he incited the mob against all those rational enough to accept the election result. “Hang Mike Pence” chanted Trump’s horde as they took over the Capitol. As they smashed windows, attacked police and trashed offices, Pence caught inside, together with his wife and daughter had to be whisked to safety in a secure location.
Pence’s unswerving fealty towards Trump counted for nought. Without a thought for Pence’s personal safety, Trump discarded his vice president and abandoned him to his rabid thugs. If Pence wouldn’t break the law for Trump, he was no longer of use – simply dispensable.
Back here on the rock, medical expert Kenneth Grech discovered just how dispensable he is. At short notice, the Head of the COVID-19 response team was removed from his responsibilities and sent back to what he had been doing before. Like Pence, Grech had caused the authorities much anger. His exile from the COVID realm was the fallout from an extraordinary few days in which teachers’ industrial action prevented public schools from opening after the holidays.
Grech had purportedly recommended that schools should remain closed. But that was not in keeping with the wishes of the supreme leader. And the axe fell.
MUT president Marco Bonnici confirmed that government had denied receiving advice for schools to remain closed. But the union was in possession of an email in which the advice to keep schools closed was explicit. As trust between union and government evaporated, industrial action was ordered instructing teachers not to turn up.
As government scrambled to re-open schools on Monday, news surfaced that Grech had been turfed out – at short notice. Not a minute wasted in exerting vengeance. The sheer ruthlessness was staggering. The fact that Malta had recorded its highest ever number of active COVID cases the night before was of no relevance. The man leading the COVID-19 response team was kicked out.
What Robert Abela had not anticipated was the livid outrage of the nation at the vengeful irresponsibility of his administration. The MAM, MUMN, Malta Association of Public Health Physicians, the Independent Schools Association, the Secretariat for Catholic Education and MUT were all aghast at the brutality of Abela’s government.
Here was a dedicated, silent, hard-working public health doctor providing his expertise to help ensure the health and safety of the nation, stabbed in the back by his own government for doing his duty. The frantic back-peddling that followed was comical. The attempted cover-up and the banal excuses presented by the Ministry were beyond belief.
The ministry submitted that Grech’s “re-deployment” had nothing to do with the advice he had given about school closures. He was needed to work on our national health strategy “since deadlines have approached to prevent the risk of missing out on millions of EU funds for this sector”. Even the Chief Medical Officer was blamed. He required Grech’s expertise to get the strategy back on track, the Ministry spokesperson explained.
Amazingly, those “deadlines” had suddenly crystallised. The national strategy had become a dire emergency requiring the immediate re-deployment of the head of the COVID response team overnight. So dire was the emergency that he was transferred without a replacement – when the country needed him most as it faced its worst ever COVID numbers.
But we couldn’t possibly lose all those EU funds, could we? We can afford to continue to lose millions as the economy falters, tourism stagnates and government debts mount while COVID rages. So might as well move Grech aside to try to rake in “millions” of EU funds for the health sector. Don’t bother that there is no replacement for him – just move him. After all, it’s only COVID – there must be other bigger priorities even as the country’s active COVID cases soar.
Like Pence, Kenneth Grech has become the punching bag of an unhinged authority determined to send out a chilling message. You give us the advice we want or you’re out. Integrity and scientific honesty are simply inconvenient spokes in the wheels.
Shouldn’t Grech have known that January was the prime minister’s newest date for returning to normality? Shouldn’t he have ignored the study published by the Swiss that showed that closure of their schools in spring 2020 was one of the most effective measures to reduce transmission of COVID-19?
After all these years in the public service, hadn’t Grech figured out what public service really means? Taking care of the public, especially public health during a pandemic, has nothing to do with it. Public service is about ensuring that our supreme leaders are always right in the eyes of the public.
If he hasn’t learnt that yet, good thing he’s been moved sideways for some retraining. He should be grateful it’s not hard Labour. Or a violent mob.