Political responsibility is the new serenity

‘Political responsibility’ is the latest buzzword to capture the Land of Serenity, and everyone’s spouting it as though they know what it means.

Does it mean resigning for something that happened on your watch, or *gasp* being fired?

Does it mean offering a vapid non-apology when you’re only sorry you got caught?

Does it mean accepting responsibility for the decisions of everyone who works under you — Harry Truman-style, “The buck stops here”?

It’s clearly not just normal responsibility applied to politicians.

Taking normal responsibility means being held accountable for one’s actions. Admitting you’re wrong. Accepting the punishment, whether legal, financial, or career-ending, because you recognise what you did was unacceptable.

It’s a fundamental principle of democratic society that such personal responsibility is extended to include the accountability a minister has for his or her portfolio — for everything that happens in that department, even when authority was delegated to someone else.

Normal responsibility doesn’t apply in Malta, so their use of the term ‘political responsibility’ must mean something else.

Joseph Muscat “shouldered political responsibility” by resigning — or more accurately, by being driven out of power after two months of street protests — not just for his own failings, but for everyone else’s, too. As far as he’s concerned, that means he’s absolved.

Absolved of any further responsibility for the criminal takeover of the government he ran.

Absolved of defending Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri, and of shielding them while they made their deals at the expense of the people.

Absolved of all those tainted contracts reeking of alleged criminal collusion: Electrogas, Vitals Global Healthcare, the Montenegro wind farm fiasco, the passport peddling scheme, and more.   

Someone else might pay with criminal charges and a prison sentence, but not Muscat. He paid already, at least in his own mind.

Anyway, Muscat seems to have landed on his feet. While his inner circle has been in and out of the police depot for questioning — and in several cases, in and out of Corradino — Muscat’s bank balance shot up by €191,000 after he left office.

Convincing his followers that ‘political responsibility’ was the same as actual responsibility was just another lie told by a man who made a career of them.

Poor Carmelo Abela is hopelessly behind the times. He’s still “serene” about spending €7,000 of your money on full page newspaper adverts of his vacant face, when he should be ‘shouldering political responsibility’.

Sure, it’s not as though he helped someone rob a bank, or leaked information about a murder investigation to the suspects. But if you’re really splitting hairs like that, then it’s time to check yourself into a psychiatric facility abroad. Living in Malta has gravely imperilled your sense of right and wrong.

“Political responsibility” clearly doesn’t mean what they seem to think it means, and neither does “mistake”.

That’s how the Active Aging Ministry described a National Audit Office report into the “illegal” 15-year contract involving the St Vincent de Paul residence for the elderly. The ministry said “it respects the NAO report” — respect: to hold in esteem or honour — and plans to study the conclusions so “mistakes” won’t be repeated in future.

It wasn’t a ‘mistake’. Those dodgy contracts were signed on purpose. The only mistake they’d like to rectify is getting caught.

Ignorance is no excuse, either, despite what Edward Scicluna seems to think. I’m not sure what the man in charge of the nation’s bank book was doing while Finance Minister, but ‘his duty’ didn’t factor high on the list.

Scicluna only found out about the illegal St Vincent de Paul Residence direct order — and the massive spend of public funds equivalent to 2% of Malta’s GDP — ‘through the media’. It’s how he found out about the shifty memorandum of understanding for Vitals, too. By reading the news, just like you and me.

Surely a complete inability to do one’s high paying job should result in him ‘shouldering political responsibility’ and resigning. But no. The man who strapped a veterinary cone to his head each morning and stared at his desk, comfortably unaware of anything that wasn’t deliberately placed in front of him, snuck off with a nice lateral promotion and a pay raise, arranged by… you guessed it… himself.

It must be what Scicluna was so busy working on when he should have been protecting the taxpayer.

So yeah, let’s stop accepting this nonsense about ‘shouldering political responsibility’ when they mean nothing of the kind. Cast it into the same cliche dustbin as ‘serenity’ where it belongs.

Demand real accountability instead. No one else will do it for you.

The best thing you could do at this point — apart from taking to the streets like December 2019 —  is to vote Labour out and elect someone who will insist on legal accountability for every rotten deal and every stolen cent.

But what’s the alternative?

The Nationalist Party still can’t decide whether it should take a firm stand against corruption or jump on the Joseph Muscat bandwagon. After all, it’s what the majority of Maltese voters want.

And so the Party that wasn’t interested in Christian Kalin’s offer is now saying, ‘Wait a minute… selling passports isn’t all bad… It makes money, you see…’

As for the illegal €274 million contract for the St Vincent de Paul Residence, let’s be reasonable. They can’t very well pull an Old Mint Street and cancel the thing. What if DB Group and James Caterers stopped donating?

Money trumps principles once again.

That existential rift has paralysed the PN since the 2017 election, and with another gift basket free-for-all on the horizon, it hasn’t gotten any clearer which path they want to follow.

What a long way Malta has come. From the statesmanship of Lawrence Gonzi to the vapid bluster of Robert Abela, via Joseph Muscat’s shameless double-dealing.

From global respectability to the cousin no one trusts with the silverware in less than seven years.


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Colin Formosa
Colin Formosa
3 years ago

Great piece.

Julian Borg
Julian Borg
3 years ago

Another excellent analysis by Ryan. There is another strata of power in Malta that seems to plod along from Minister to Minister – and that is the Public Service and its leadership. They also have a responsibility but have never seen them held to account unless they were caught with their finger in the jar. Permanent Secretaries and Directors pompously walk the streets of the Capital like the own the place, for they too are political appointees who have impunity. My dear father in law, a Perm Sec of integrity is rolling in his grave.

Addio Civil.

3 years ago

Nice one Ryan, told it like it is. Your invite to the Summer ball I’m afraid will most likely be “lost” like a lot of other documents that are most likely shredded. Statesmanship is not a word that can be mentioned in the same sentence as LP, the rules of Boganism preclude such language, your run of the mill adjectives “crook, liar, thief, twat, bastard, murderer, are of course wholly acceptable.

Paul Castella
Paul Castella
3 years ago

Well written on a very important topic too often forgotten when it should be at the centre of the conversation. Well done!

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