There is an old Maltese saying that goes, ‘Bil-flus tagħmel triq fil-baħar iżda ma tixtrix il-ġenna’. I was reminded of this when reading reports of Robert Abela’s Sunday sermon to the converted.
‘Look at the rest of Europe, we’re in heaven here’, he thundered from the safe ground of the latest polls confirming his lead over the Opposition. Here was a new twist to the ‘business as usual spin’ and a step forward from the ‘mewġ fil-baħar’ fiasco to which Abela’s name has become inextricably linked.
Somehow, the Maltese saying seems to fit perfectly as an antidote to Abela’s unfounded propagandistic optimism. Abela’s government tries to ride the feeling of wellbeing concentrating on a financial and economic image that is looking ever so flimsy. The wise words of the old reverberate in our ears as a dire warning that money might seem to build roads on water but will never ever buy you heaven.
Abela would beg to differ. He tells us without any trace of irony that not only is heaven a place on Earth, but that it is right here. It turns out that the rest of Europe is in such a dire situation that Malta, by comparison, is that place where the grass is green and the girls are … well, you get the gist.
Not for the first time, Abela speaks of our fellow member states of the EU in an ‘us vs them’ scenario. He even tries to recruit the Opposition into taking a ‘united’ stand on the matter of citizenship schemes.
Abela needs ‘Team Malta’ to be able to safeguard the economic future of this paradise. Funny how his first appeal is to the Opposition to help preserve the ‘Golden Passport’ scheme – a scheme with loopholes that were indeed abused to turn Malta into a paradise, but one for the criminals and money launderers of this world.
In Abela’s heaven, Malta is still on tenterhooks waiting for that Damocles Sword of a Moneyval report to clear its name from among the fiscal paradises of this world.
You can’t help but wonder whose paradise, whose heaven, Malta really is. The wide brushstrokes used by the prime minister paint a surreal heaven, but his imagery does not hold up to closer scrutiny. Much as he would like to distance Malta’s image from its EU counterparts, Abela must accept that in the struggle to contain and beat the pandemic the EU should be acting as one.
Back to Abela’s heaven though. I fail to see the situation with his red-tinted glasses. Show me heaven, Robert. What heaven has daily news of access being denied to public beaches or the countryside? Which champion of the media invents new parliamentary terms to deny scrutiny of his own actions? Maybe heaven is only reserved for the elect – a Valhalla for the persons of trust and lackeys who keep feeding on direct orders and appointments to public bankrolled positions.
If that were the case then it could be understandable that a relevant portion of the population, one that makes Abela smile whenever he looks at the polls, has been given a ticket to this incredibly special heaven.
Abela’s Labour continues the work of disgraced former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat in that respect. Every day is another day in paradise as it is not roads in water that are bought but the electoral support of those who (some by little, some by much) are promised a place at the table of the greedy supping on the rape and pillage of a nation and its heritage.
No, Robert. This is not heaven. The stench of corruption is still too strong. The compromised politicians and persons of trust are still too active.
After the waves in the sea, we have the promise of heaven. Abela is still on a mission to make us forget that this nation is sick to the core, that it is a nation in which a journalist was killed for asking too much about dealings of the government he inherited.
It’s the wrong kind of paradise, Robert. There’s no heaven to smile about.