Frying pans and fire

What a disappointment Bernard Grech is turning out to be. Fence-sitting, wishy-washy and unremarkable, he’s starting to look as questionable as his predecessor was. Neglecting to take the hard decisions needed to get the PN back on track, his bleating about unity and waiting for proof are beginning to make him seem as spineless and innocuous as the fried egg jellyfish in our September seas.

One of the reasons Simon Busuttil was such a superb leader for the PN is that having actively participated in political forums throughout his adult life, he was fully aware of the imperative to do things correctly from his earliest days as a law student. That, together with his innate honesty and integrity, meant he was one of the very few current Maltese politicians with no skeletons in their closets.

Losing Busuttil to the baying of the crowds was the PN’s biggest and most crucial mistake. In selling itself to the lowest common denominator in search of the cheap, populist vote, the PN rendered itself unelectable. Under Delia’s leadership, it was a mess of scandal and controversy, ripped apart by internecine squabbling that highlighted the deep divide within. The vote to oust Delia was long overdue when it happened, but at least it gave some a glimmer of hope that all was not yet lost.

That is, until Bernard Grech was elected leader. Once again, a man with no background in politics, a lawyer with what should have been a disqualifying history of tax irregularities.

Grech’s supporters were quick to attack Robert Abela for having shopped him to the tax authorities. But frankly, that perfectly in-character and predictable act of spite, possibly even fueled by machinations from within the PN itself, was completely irrelevant. Wrongdoing remains wrongdoing, regardless of who blows the whistle on it. The attitude of Grech’s supporters to this was akin to schoolyard bullies chanting “tell-tale-tit” at a child who’s reported the bullying to a teacher.

While many in Malta seem to view tax issues as unimportant, maybe because they themselves have had run-ins with the tax department, or have done their share of fudging over the years, when it’s a political party leader who could become prime minister, it’s a major problem. How can a man who spent 12 years in default with the tax authorities suddenly turn around and order everyone else to pay their taxes or else? This was an issue with Delia and is just as great an issue with Grech.

It’s also one of the major flaws in the idea of having an “outsider” take over the leadership of a political party. What may be seen as minor peccadillos in your average man-in-the-street become the benchmarks for public behaviour when political leaders are not held accountable for them.

And some issues are simply too pivotal to be brushed aside, too momentous to be waved off dismissively. Pierre Portelli, sidekick to ousted former PN leader Adrian Delia and already under pressure for his alleged connections to the owner of 17 Black, Yorgen Fenech, this week resigned his position on the PN executive committee after reports emerged that he planted stories attacking his own party in the Labour media.

According to The Times, when asked what he would do about these reports, Grech said he admired Portelli for having resigned for the sake of the Party. He admires him. He admires a man accused of actively working to sabotage his own Party. A man with so many dark clouds hanging over his head that both his faces are hidden deep in their shadow.

While two-faced backstabbers are a dime a dozen in Malta, it doesn’t make that kind of behaviour any less despicable. And we are entitled to ask why on earth the current leader of the PN feels comfortable about publicly expressing admiration for a person accused of such frankly astonishing treachery.

Asked about whether the PN would be holding an internal investigation into Portelli’s, and Delia’s, misdeeds, Grech fell back on the old favourite of truth-dodging politicians: these are allegations, and he has to wait for the facts before acting. Translation: I’m trying to find a way of wriggling out of doing anything, so as not to enrage Delia’s remaining supporters and to ensure they stick around to vote for me when it counts.

The PN has truly lost its way. Its officials, its MPs, its leaders since 2017 have forgotten what the Party was supposed to stand for. The 2017 election result literally ripped the paper-thin veneer of integrity off the face of the Party and many of its supporters. If dishonesty and corruption was a winning game for PL, then let’s all join in, seemed to be the mantra.

But erasing that surface of honesty and decency has led to catastrophe, at least for those of us to whom it meant anything. It’s becoming harder and harder to see how the PN can ever extricate itself from the moral quagmire it’s plunged itself into.

                           
                               
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mrellul
mrellul
4 days ago

While I fully agree that “Wrongdoing remains wrongdoing, regardless of who blows the whistle on it.” let us acknowledge, at least, that Dr Bernard Grech is in a very awkward position until the cap between PN and PL is substantially narrowed, not just for him but for the good of the country.

M. Galea
M. Galea
4 days ago
Reply to  mrellul

Please! What did Bernard do so far!? Nothing! He did not say or showed that he cares for our environment, not even saying what he will do if elected, anzi he told us that we need to continue building! He s just another rubbish! Hearing his speeches, another useless pathetic politician! No hope at all! So sad infact!

mrellul
mrellul
4 days ago
Reply to  M. Galea

I think the least he says the better in the present situation and the reason for this is the same one I mentioned in my previous comment.

Isle of corruption
Isle of corruption
4 days ago
Reply to  mrellul

He has to do something and give alternatives and be an opposition not an allie of the government,so far he has says nothing and done nothing and it seems as said above he is more of the same.Continuty just like squarepants from invictus

Last edited 4 days ago by Isle of corruption
Running Commentary
Running Commentary
4 days ago

Yes sure Blanche. We need another leader don’t we? How about another delia….Manuel? He’s bitter enough to make Busuttil seem like a lamb in comparison. And that is saying something….

Busuttil was the worst thing that happened to local politics.

Simon Oosterman
Simon Oosterman
4 days ago

That is because in a country full of crooks too few vote for an honest politician.

Simon Oosterman
Simon Oosterman
4 days ago

I have said it before and I’ll say it again: The only real change will come when all honest PLers and PNers join ADPD so that a coalition is needed to form a government.

Joseph Tabone Adami
Joseph Tabone Adami
4 days ago

Let’s not underestimate Bernard Grech’s tenacity, resolve and genuine efforts to re-build the PN in the present difficult circumstances.

He is as well aware at the rest of us what that entails. The problem could be whether he finds the backing – as against back-stabbing – he seeks both from the party base and from the party officials and MP’s to support, nay bolster, his task.

M. Galea
M. Galea
4 days ago

I do not care about the party, any party! He is there for the country and not for the party!

Jools Seizure
Jools Seizure
4 days ago
Reply to  M. Galea

You’re right of course, but in the language of the Maltese, l-ewwel il-partit! As long as we have the upper hand on the other lot, imlejna zaqqna. The political situation in Malta is so dire that nothing short of a complete overhaul will place us on the right track. PL are, by far and away, the most corrupt lot ever seen in western Europe. PN have developed a talent for tripping themselves with every step they take. (Remember when they blamed Busuttil for the electoral loss because he allegedly focused too much on corruption). Was he right or not? Now they prefer not to talk about it and labelling those who dare criticise Grech as back-stabbers. OK – a back-stabber I’ll be then.

Oh, and as for voting for ADPD, how can anyone with half a brain cell ever vote for a party that was created by a couple of turnip-heads who worked tirelessly to propel PL to power. It really is a case of everybody out and let’s start afresh with new faces and new parties. It’s never going to happen, I know. That is why those who do not have a life to waste (for that read those under 30) had better pack their bags and leave this poor excuse of a third-world rogue state.

Joseph Tabone Adami
Joseph Tabone Adami
4 days ago
Reply to  M. Galea

Two feet on the ground can achieve a much surer outcome than one head in the sky!

John Jones
John Jones
2 days ago

Frankly I don’t understand why Politics and Leaders are still such an issue in the smallest state of the European Union. It’s obvious that with each passing day the EU is sucking what’s left of it’s members independence and governments are not much more than local councils. I think it would be much more useful for Malta to concentrate on sending their best to Brussels if they want to improve the lives of those who call Malta their home.

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