Equality Minister Owen Bonnici, who has been condemned by the courts for breaching the human rights of his own country’s citizens, had the brass neck to write a sanctimonious opinion piece, carried by The Times of Malta, decrying the “defiance of human rights” in Hungary’s anti-LGBTIQ laws.
Of course, he’s right that Hungary’s move is an appalling breach of human rights and should be condemned and resisted with whatever arsenal the EU has available.
But how dare he – a government minister who has been convicted of that exact same crime, breaching the human rights of activists protesting the brutal assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, a murder in which his own colleagues are implicated – presume to lecture the rest of us on how dreadful a crime it is to breach citizens’ human rights?
Bonnici’s shameless cheek isn’t in any way unusual in this island of duplicitous hypocrites. And in his Labour government, this unblushing expression of brazen double standards has become par for the course. Nearly every morning, anyone on Facebook unfortunate enough to have once clicked “follow” on Evarist Bartolo’s page, will be very familiar with the concept.
His nausea-inducing flights of fancy, published at the insomniac hours of 3am or 4am, would have us believe that he’s an honest, unblemished soul completely detached and unconnected in any way with the hideous scandal of his colleagues’ corruption and criminality.
“Maltese people must unite to fight against corruption and criminality, which threatens the whole country,” he wrote piously in March this year, just after the arrest of accused financial criminal and former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri.
And yet, we all know perfectly well that when he was in the privileged position of being able to do something about the rampant corruption and criminality of his colleagues, he did nothing. Not only did he do nothing, but he acted to keep them in power, through his deplorable, repeated, votes of confidence in people like disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat and disgraced former minister Konrad Mizzi.
His cowardice and hypocrisy are what people will remember him for, no matter how many insincere, rambling essays he writes for his fans to fawn over. And they’ll also remember that when this vapid proselytizing invertebrate was faced with having to deal with corruption allegations involving his own canvasser, instead of reporting the malfeasance, he attempted to cover it up.
Hypocrisy, falsity, double standards… politicians, officials, pundits, party supporters and private individuals nowadays seem to believe that making sanctimonious declarations about ethics, values and principles will fool observers into ignoring their actual behaviour.
This phenomenon, employed ad nauseum by the phoney plaster saints Maltese politics is cursed with, whose private affairs are proven to be in direct opposition to their public projections, has become so ubiquitous that you’d be hard-pressed to find a single politician who doesn’t have one set of values for the general public and an entirely different one for him/herself.
And yet, for some reason, the Maltese population seem to accept this dishonesty without quibble. Take the way the supporters of particular MPs defend their heroes from criticism when they fall short, while simultaneously attacking their opponents for the exact same sins.
When the PN elected Adrian Delia as leader despite numerous allegations that he’d been employed to launder the illicit earnings of Soho pimps, that he’d failed to pay his taxes for years and owed tens of thousands of euros to the taxman, more than half the Party’s habitual voters turned away in disgust.
Yet the man they proposed, and later elected, to take his place, Bernard Grech, was proven also to have avoided paying taxes on his earnings for close to two decades, as well as to have failed to declare additional income from hosting foreign students in his home for a year. Those very same people, who’d left the party in droves in protest at Delia’s unsuitability to be PN leader, despite knowing in advance of the vote about Grech’s tax issues, went ahead and elected him leader.
It emerged that Prime Minister Robert Abela had shopped Grech to the taxman. Instead of repudiating Grech and starting over with someone less blemished, the vast majority of anti-Delia PN supporters began defending him. “Robert Abela wanted to damage him”; “But he’s paid his taxes in full now”; “He didn’t really do anything wrong, it was just an oversight”.
Instead of considering that perhaps a habitual failure to pay his taxes might make him unsuitable to be prime minister, should he ever be elected, these PN supporters now make excuses for him, and downplay the significance of a potential prime minister having spent most of his working life not paying his dues.
I was reminded of the pervasiveness of this attitude while watching Jon Mallia’s podcast interview with Manuel Delia. Most of the time, Delia came across as affable, self-aware and confident, even while being quizzed about the Arriva debacle.
But when Mallia asked him about PN MP and Caruana Galizia family lawyer Jason Azzopardi, Delia’s demeanour transformed instantly. He suddenly looked belligerent. His tone hardened, he sat forward in his seat, and his voice rose angrily.
Mallia asked, given that Azzopardi rang Ray Fenech, Electrogas shareholder and uncle of Yorgen Fenech to solicit, and accept, a free stay at a hotel in Tel Aviv, isn’t it hypocritical of you to defend him when you attack so many others who accept freebies from business connections? Isn’t it shocking that when Azzopardi was exposed, he denied it categorically, only to later be proven to have been lying?
Delia, who does indeed do an excellent job of roasting anyone connected with the PL government caught doing anything unethical, dishonest or criminal, dismissed Mallia’s questions impatiently as if to say, it was nothing, don’t bring this up. Similarly, he brushed off the accusation that Azzopardi lied, launching instead into a heated panegyric about the lawyer’s bravery in facing up to Caruana Galizia’s assassins.
Mallia shrank back visibly at Delia’s manner. “I’ll tell you one thing,” Delia said. “I’m not leaving his side.”
Loyalty is an admirable quality, and of course, it’s difficult to turn your back on a good friend. But when you make your living from exposing wrongdoing in the nation’s corridors of power, and your friend also happens to be a member of parliament, you do have to make a choice between friendship and integrity.
Many people seem to ignore the fact that holding people to different standards depending on how close they are to you, is just as dishonest as telling outright lies. Yapping on about false equivalency is just more mendacity. If X did wrong, he did wrong, no matter that Y did worse.
There’s something irredeemably twisted about how measuring wrongdoing by two yardsticks has permeated into every aspect of life in Malta.
Two-faced knuckle-draggers defending PL’s rape and pillage of Malta’s economy with accusations of “arloġġ tal-lira” and “500 euros” are rightly lambasted as hypocrites, but when those doing the lambasting then turn around and make excuses for the misconduct of their own favourites, it compromises everything else they may say. There’s simply no justification for dishonesty, in any of its myriad forms.