With a government in office threatening to outdo the Sicilian Mafia in the extent and reach of its criminality, it seems outrageous to have to waste time examining the Opposition.
There has never been an easier administration to criticise. Every single member of the ruling Labour Party has been compromised in some way, either directly as a Party to some corrupt deal or scandalous nepotism or obliquely, by offering support to the blatantly corrupt and enabling the continuation of this criminal regime.
Any Opposition worth its salt would be expending every milligramme of its energy on ripping apart the vast web of crimes committed by this government’s representatives and establishing itself firmly as the side of light and right versus the dark, frightening side of wrong currently in office.
And yet, this being Malta, where lies, secrets, self-interest and greed have become acceptable currency, our Opposition is bogged down in internecine quarrels, totally hamstrung by the false ideology of populism that’s threatening, finally, to give the truth to that frustrating, cynical and destructive claim, “kollha l-istess”.
The latest spat between former PN leader Adrian Delia and his nemesis Jason Azzopardi is proving that while “kollha l-istess” may not have been true before 2017, in the years since, it has become true. The truce declared between the two on Thursday evening seems nothing more than an exercise in dishonesty and contempt towards voters. PN leader Bernard Grech’s “solution” only intensifies the conviction that he falls far, far short of expectations.
Delia must go. His closeness to the PL dictates that. His obvious puppet status, his lack of decent values, his attacks on assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, his attempts to pillory his predecessor Simon Busuttil, his efforts to militate his small coterie of supporters against their own Party, his seedy background littered with accusations of money laundering for, and stealing from, Soho pimps.
With everything we knew about Delia and his doings, the man should have been thrown out of the PN the day Grech took his place at the helm. But instead, he offered Delia a shadow ministry, instead he waxed lyrical about Delia’s “value” to the Party, insisting there was always a role waiting for Delia should he choose to take it.
Replacing Delia’s leadership with Grech’s was supposed to have drawn a line under the catastrophic performance of the PN since 2017, the attempt to mould a new Party in the shape of Muscat’s PL: cosying up to corrupt businessmen, taking cash from suspected murderers, begging cash, indeed, from anyone who would give it, despite the ever-tightening strings that came attached to it.
Instead, Grech has perpetuated the rot, by embracing characters such as Delia and his coven of familiars. His claim on Thursday evening that a resolution of the feud between Delia and Azzopardi had been reached was an insult to PN voters and supporters. The feud cannot be resolved without one or both being shown up to be liars. And pushing the feud underground doesn’t resolve it in any way, indeed, it probably makes it more dangerous.
Sadly, it’s beginning to look as though it’s already too late for Grech to save his reputation, both in terms of his response to crucial issues such as passport sales, dodgy contract awards and indebtedness to big business, as well as in terms of his management of the Party and its intricacies.
On Thursday evening, Delia and Azzopardi put out a joint statement declaring they’d reconciled their differences. The statement makes worrying reading, because if it’s genuine, it suggests, among other things, that Azzopardi was lying about Delia when he claimed he’d seen hundreds of messages proving the former PN leader had been paid €50,000 by accused murderer Yorgen Fenech and had pledged to ensure MEP David Casa was not re-elected.
While Delia’s unfitness to politics is perhaps more obvious and glaring, I’m not sure Azzopardi isn’t equally dubious. His supporters, who tear to shreds anyone who dares criticise him, are as full of vitriol and hate as are Adrian Delia’s. For having had the temerity to question certain of Azzopardi’s actions, I’ve been accused of “helping” to get him killed and of assisting Caruana Galizia’s murderers to get away with their hideous crime.
Azzopardi may be doing an excellent job as one of the Caruana Galizia family’s lawyers in the case against her assassins. However, that doesn’t mean he gets a free pass as a politician and nor should he, or his supporters, expect it. The only people who try to smother debate are those who are afraid of what that debate may reveal.
Looking solely at what the public knows, Azzopardi did everything in his power to block divorce legislation on religious grounds, yet left his wife and took up with another woman. He fought the 2017 election campaign on an anti-corruption ticket that targeted the Electrogas scandal as its main priority, yet in the midst of that battle, he rang up one of the shareholders of Electrogas to cadge a free stay in that shareholder’s Tel Aviv hotel.
That shareholder who, by the way, is the uncle, and fellow shareholder, of the man accused of being the mastermind behind the assassination of Caruana Galizia, who first exposed the corrupt Electrogas deal and was murdered just as she was about to publish further damning proof of the criminal intent behind it.
Delia may be “worse” and perhaps Azzopardi’s supporters are right and there’s no equivalence between Delia’s shortcomings and Azzopardi’s, but the fact that one may be “worse” than the other doesn’t in any way mean we should ignore the doings of the other.
The reaction of anointed PN insiders has been the equivalent of the crooks’ signal of a plot underfoot, the tapping of the side of the nose. Bernard Grech is “playing a long game” and those of us unblessed by inside knowledge should shut up and accept that others know more, and better, than we do.
This is not an acceptable attitude. Working in an underhand, secretive manner is despicable, whoever does it and whatever the situation. Did Azzopardi lie when he wrote publicly that Delia had taken money from Fenech in exchange for working against his own MEP, David Casa? Or did Delia actually take the unthinkable step of actively damaging the Party he was elected to lead?
We deserve to know the truth about the people who would seek to represent and govern us. Was Azzopardi “coerced” into signing that statement, and if so, how? What could possibly have been used to force him to sign, against his will, a statement that makes him look like a liar?
Grech’s insistence on public displays of unity does nothing to quell the great sense of unease around his leadership. He would do better to make a clean sweep and allow the Party to start again, shedding any and all of those individuals who’ve been tainted by accusations of deception and sleaze.
Politics may be renowned for being a dirty game, but we don’t have to accept it as such. If Party leaders surround themselves with mendacious backstabbers and disloyal villains, that’s how they’re destined to be perceived and remembered.
As the saying goes, “ma’ min rajtek xebbahtek”. It isn’t always the best policy to keep your friends close and your enemies closer.