Some junior minister whose name is not worth remembering has stated that the Passport Papers reports are an “attack on Malta”. The ludicrous nature of this kind of statement has long been lost among members of the Tagħna Lkoll movement. It should be so trite a cliché to recall that nationalism is the refuge of scoundrels and yet nationalism is the refuge to which members of this movement have taken whenever they are subject to criticism.
Then you get Foreign Affairs Minister Evarist Bartolo daring to quote Sandro Pertini: “God forbid that anyone defends corrupt people, out of loyalty or solidarity to their Party.” This from the man who cited Malta’s “rule of family and friends” as an alibi for his spineless stance in face of corruption during an interview with Tim Sebastian. Remember? He was not defending the corrupt but, rather, “I had a survival strategy where I could fight another battle”. It would be surprising if he believes himself.
The Passport Papers are really another example of the fact that what has hitherto been dismissed as spurious allegations are in fact grounded in reality. I have long held the view that the IIP scheme was illegal at a European level for several reasons including, but not limited to, the fact that what was really on sale was a package of EU rights and not a simply Maltese sovereign property.
EU law misgivings aside, the whole operation was surrounded by an aura of sleaze and corruption to the point that it had become a Pulcinella secret. Everybody knew its weaknesses and shortfalls, but nothing was done about it so long as the money was rolling in. Everybody under the sun knew of the lax conditions imposed on applicants. The clouds of suspicion loomed large on the role of Henley & Partners and that of the former disgraced prime minister turned salesman.
The defence of the scheme was couched in terms of “easy money” that allows the nation to deal more comfortably with its “sovereign debt” than it would otherwise. Even Abela’s government (Tagħna Lkoll, the sequel) is desperate to keep the scheme in some form notwithstanding the fact that, given the latest revelations, it should be relegated into oblivion along with the myriad other schemes and projects concocted by the political and business mafia.
There must be a reason why what is essentially a Pulcinella secret still survives in defiance of all odds. It is the same reason that allows that excuse for a Minister for Transport and Infrastructure to deliver his equivalent of ‘Let them eat cake’ for the 21st century. Faced with complaints that outdoor gyms are not up to standard, the Minister for Aesthetic Vacuum and Cheap Retorts barked that the complainants should get themselves a gym membership.
There it is. This delusion that our members of government have that public money is their own. A delusion enabled by the thousands of “Prosit Ministru” chanting acolytes of the regime. The Kings of the Concrete Jungle revel in the blind acclamation received from the masses who have been trained to beg for the use of their own taxes.
An absurdity that reaches its climax with so-called charities such as the Marigold Foundation being funded by monies diverted from the public purse. A government of charlatans and snake-oil merchants can afford to be ‘transparent’ in its operations since it knows that there are two unassailable truths that keep it going: First, the people will always acclaim its workings so long as they are led to believe that they are getting their share. Second, there is always the “institutions are working” excuse.
Our watered-down institutional set up has suffered another blow with the appointment of a young lawyer from Robert Abela’s stable to the chairmanship of the Gaming Authority. Yet, “the institutions are working” remains the preferred mantra. Until of course an institution does not behave as it should.
Do not look far. Commissioner for Public Standards George Hyzler is now under constant daily attack after he found MP Carmelo Abela guilty of misusing public funds (there again goes Labour’s disdain for the public purse). There too, the true face of Labour’s attitude towards the functioning of institutions, another Pulcinella secret, is laid bare.
It is no longer a secret that this government’s fortunes have always depended heavily on an intricate web of deceit and corruption. Pulcinella’s secret is a secret no more. Will knowing be enough to bring about any change?
‘The thing that fascinates me most about us Italians is the propensity to be indignant for the secrets of Pulcinella, and then go back to sleep’ – anon.