We’ve been treated often enough to the sight of spineless, opportunistic PL enablers of crime and corruption attempting to exonerate themselves by claiming ignorance of all wrongdoing. But to watch the man now serving as President of this country wheedling and whining that he was just an innocent dupe is truly beyond the pale.
And what a defence, when you think about it. They should form a support group and call it Useful Idiots United.
One has to ask. Why are supposedly independent newsrooms giving these people the oxygen to get their mendacious excuses and justifications out there? It’s extraordinary.
Maybe we all need to watch the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg interview with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s former sidekick and ‘evil genius’ of Brexit, Dominic Cummings to learn how it’s done. There’s no giggling or chuckling with the subject, no back-slapping bonhomie or acceptance of feeble excuses for unbridled iniquity.
There’s none of the chummy behaviour of the journalists doing the recent headline-grabbing interview with disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat, or this latest white-washing attempt by George Vella, just sharp, relevant questions from an interviewer determined to get honest answers.
Vella likes to project himself as one of the few truly honest politicians to merit the title “honourable” all MPs enjoy. Quite apart from the fact that the last eight years has taught us just how undeserving the vast majority of Malta’s MPs are of that honorific, Vella’s claim to be a paragon of integrity and decency is manifest dishonesty that should not be peddled by or pandered to by the independent media.
Politicians who want to be remembered as completely straight and honest ought to keep that in mind at every moment of their careers, and especially when they’re sitting in cabinet surrounded by a gang of the most corrupt crooks ever to plague this benighted island. They need to remember this when they make the choices and take the decisions to support, enable and facilitate the criminal activity of this coven. They need to remember that backing up crooks makes them complicit.
That’s what any interviewer of George Vella should have been hammering Vella with. Not fond memories of common friends and nodding commiseration for the ‘unkindness’ of activists chanting accusations at Vella and his wife as they drove to the Palace. “I don’t deserve it,” Vella whimpered. Vella does indeed deserve it, and much more, for his part in keeping the criminal gang in power.
His failure to stand up and denounce what was going on makes him an accomplice. In the interview, he mewls that he couldn’t possibly have known, that the criminality was being perpetrated ‘under the radar’ by ‘hidden hands’ – quoting, if you please, the report by the public inquiry into journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination that concluded that the entire cabinet of ministers was, and is, responsible for the brutal crime.
This pathetic excuse of ignorance should not ever be accepted. And he, and his erstwhile colleagues Edward Scicluna, Evarist Bartolo and the rest of the silent Cabinet of crooks, should also understand that by attempting to use this justification for their outrageous dereliction of duty to the nation, they are branding themselves as abysmal incompetents, individuals bereft of the most basic ability to discern wrongdoing even as it happened under their very noses.
Such people, if their claims of ignorance were true, have no business hoodwinking the public into electing them to represent its interests. If they really had no idea of what was going on, then they’re admitting to the lacking essential analytical skills, the crucial abilities to examine situations and come to the correct conclusions, which are clearly requisite in any MP.
They’re admitting to being charlatans who shouldn’t be allowed anywhere any kind of decision making position, let alone parliament or Cabinet.
Let’s remember, always, that Vella not only stood by silently as his PL cabinet colleagues began their wholesale ransacking of the island’s resources and reputation – as one screamingly obvious corrupt deal after another was put in place and approved by him – but when he had the chance to do something concrete about it, in parliament, when he had the chance to take a stand, like any honourable person would do, he buckled into compliance and instead defended the criminality that surrounded him.
That makes him complicit. There’s no excuse for that. His claims of ignorance are not credible. It’s not possible to have seen the Electrogas deal, the manner in which it was set up, the terms of the whole arrangement, the reports by assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, the documents uncovered by the Panama papers investigation, and not understand that this was a hugely corrupt endeavour and that the direct links between it and shamed ex-minister Konrad Mizzi were impossible to deny.
His speech in parliament justifying his vote of confidence in Konrad Mizzi, after the latter had been exposed in the Panama Papers scandal as having set up a secret Panama company just days after Labour’s electoral win in 2013, was revolting.
There’s no other word to describe the craven pandering to his corrupt colleagues sitting behind and around him, as instead of condemning corruption, he lambasted the Opposition for the angry ‘tone’ of their speeches and, in full self-righteous flow, declared that the fact the motion itself referred to “strong suspicion” of corruption – as an FIAU report declared – wasn’t sufficient reason for him to doubt Mizzi.
His speech on that fateful day in 2016 brands him an accomplice of the criminals with whom he chose to surround himself. He had the chance to stand and be counted. Instead, he chose to sink into the morass with the crooks and murderers around him.
People in Malta tend to handle Vella with the type of kid gloves that’s, anywhere else, reserved for children. Smiling benignly at poor-me claims, nodding their heads in agreement of obviously mendacious claims. They take his attempt to reinvent himself as some kind of unifying force in the country, a healer of division, a seeker for harmony, at face value, as a credible move for a man with such a past.
But it is not credible. To hear Vella’s true voice, just listen to him talking about university students who objected vociferously to then PL-leader Alfred Sant’s slippery attempts to avoid answering direct questions during a leaders’ debate on campus. The students’ outrage at Sant’s slipperiness was “fascism”, they themselves were a bunch of “ħamalli,” they were “ignorant, stupid… abject, low class.”
The insults hurled at a group of young people with the intelligence and guts to recognise, call out and reject a politician’s dishonest obfuscation and deviation tactics were a sign of who Vella really is. The fury and hatred in his tone of voice just reinforces that reality.
We have short memories in Malta. Vella may be President now, but that does not cancel out his past, as a Labour politician steeped as deeply as the rest in the filth they chose to surround themselves with. Claiming ignorance just won’t cut it.
Instead of hoping everyone will forget his past and simply swallow the white-washed version – the wanna-be peacemaker he desires as his ‘legacy’ – he should instead consider what might have happened had he had the character and the guts to do his duty.
Caruana Galizia was assassinated because the entire cabinet, including Vella, created a culture of impunity that saw one outrage after another go unpunished. If George Vella, or Evarist Bartolo, or Edward Scicluna, or Chris Fearne – or any of the others who claim now they knew nothing, they were working from the inside, they didn’t want to lose their salary – had spoken up, everything might have been different. Everything would have been different.
No, you don’t get a free pass, George Vella.