That press conference. People were still talking about it over the weekend. It encapsulated much that is wrong in the Republic. The main protagonist was a prime minister who is increasingly self-conscious of how far out of his depth he has found himself. Robert Abela, together with the supposed figureheads of the anti-COVID team, was announcing the new measures to be taken to fight the alarming new peak in numbers.
Unfortunately for Robert Abela, the event had to happen with the presence of the media who were obviously interested in putting his latest optimistic theories of recovery to question. In June last year, Abela had triumphantly announced what would later prove to be a hollow victory over the virus. Earlier this year he had trumpeted his optimism once again seeing the oncoming advent of ‘business as usual’ and a great economic recovery.
The truth has proven to be far from whatever Abela has chosen to peddle until now and he was given a stark reminder by a couple of journalists doing their Fourth Estate best. Which is when Abela lost it. With varying degrees of angry disposition, he shrieked his disagreement and squealed his reluctance to apologise (or take responsibility) for what has been hapless management.
In his defence, Abela repeatedly referred to specific measures that were supposed to be the panacea to all our woes. First, there was the voucher scheme whereby the government pillaged the public purse to distribute those public monies as a remedy for the ills caused by that very government´s bad decisions.
The other great remedy also involved the public purse. Lower property tax rates have been applicable during the COVID crisis. Now while the incentive may be interesting for quite a few, I strongly doubt whether most of the population is wheeling and dealing in property transfer which makes such an incentive rather limited in scope.
Abela was particularly incensed at the journalists who were making quite a good job of highlighting his and his government’s failures. In the same vein as what we had been used to by his disgraced predecessor, Abela chose the way of the bully and the intimidator. This only served to lay bare his predicament. Flailing wildly for the tried and tested winning formula of “40,000 u tkaxkira” in its plethora of forms did not help this time round.
Abela showed a lack of respect for the journalistic profession as well as to the public. The man whose trips to Ragusa last summer gave us a hint of Nero fiddling while Rome burns was back. Abela, and him alone, seems to still believe that the bluff and smoke of words uttered in anger will vaporise problems away.
During the weekend, Abela issued a half-arsed apology for his emotional outbursts blaming them on his sensitivity to the predicament of the catering industry that was suffering the repercussions of the pandemic. Funny, for a moment you would have thought his compassion would be for the sick and vulnerable facing a rapidly evolving virus. But Abela is no Florence Nightingale.
Little surprise then if twice the happy people of Hamrun defied common sense and restrictions. The footballing side of Hamrun celebrated a last-minute victory over the team from Paola by congregating in throngs. Then we had an impromptu tombola organised in a hall somewhere on the main street. The elders evacuated from their numeric randomness exclaimed their disappointment: “It’s not like we killed anybody”. They mirror the irresponsible outbursts of a delirious prime minister who is unable to see the consequences of his regular brash, unscientific, overconfident and spurious predictions.
This too is the undermining of the rule of law in a nation that is led more by chaos and material greed than anything else. Meanwhile, the legal advisors, unmeritocratic appointees and storm of lackeys in the world of Labour proceed to undermine further our legal system through a dangerous Bill amending the interpretation of the Constitution.
Finally, as journalists are harassed by the online army of trolls for doing their job, the Commissioner for Voluntary Organisations has taken it upon himself to act as a hitman for government to pummel the NGO Repubblika into submission.
All of this stinks of an incompetent and corrupt government that is suddenly feeling the heat rise under the collar and is reduced to a hissing, clawing, furball spitefully attacking all around it. And once again those who are doomed to suffer most are the people.