Robert Abela, astonishingly serving as prime minister of Malta, seems to think he can continue to con the Maltese population with his false promises, obstructions, obfuscations and outright deceit.
The Times reported last week that accused murderer, money launderer and known briber of politicians Yorgen Fenech had agreed to pay €200,000 to a company closely related to the Labour Party’s media arm in return for “consultancy” services.
This came close on the heels of a report revealing that the PL’s media business owed millions of euros in unpaid taxes.
He was door-stepped and questioned about both revelations. The questions and requests for information gave him a golden opportunity to show the world that he was sincere in his pledge to take seriously the conclusions of the public inquiry into the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
They were pivotal moments for him personally to begin to win back some of his shredded credibility, a critical opportunity to signal to all those who’d contributed to the catastrophe the PL government has created that he meant what he said when he stood up in parliament to vow that things would be different from now on.
Instead, we got more of the same. Abela has a very particular smile for journalists asking awkward questions. As he deflects questions with a combination of word salad, gaslighting and blatant diversionary tactics, he grins triumphantly, and dismissively, as if he’d, yet again, slipped just out of reach in a game of tag with the least popular pupil in school.
His response to the damning report that illustrated the depth of his Party’s dishonesty, its underhand machinations to subvert political party financing regulations and hoover up cash from a known briber of politicians, is proof positive that his promise to implement the findings of the inquiry was false.
By shrugging off responsibility claiming that he “wasn’t even a candidate” at the time the draft agreement with Fenech was created, Abela is proving just how deeply compromised he is by his Party’s tactics of lies and distortion.
Or maybe he’s suffering from early-onset dementia – it does happen, sometimes. He seems to have forgotten that from 2017, on his election to Parliament, onwards, until he became Labour Party leader after his shamed boss Joseph Muscat was forced to resign in disgrace, he served as Muscat’s legal adviser.
While the report points to the agreement having been drafted in 2016, it also refers to two invoices sent to Fenech by B.E.D. in 2018. In that same year, by the way, B.E.D. changed its address to the same Marsa complex that hosts the Labour Party’s media arm, One Productions. This, The Times says, was swiftly changed away again after its journalists began asking questions.
Abela seems also to have forgotten that his wife Lydia served as the Labour party’s executive secretary from 2010 to 2020. If he, in his innocence, was so oblivious to the wily ruses of his own political home, couldn’t he have asked her what she knew?
His cookie-cutter reply to questions about his own Party’s failure to pay the massive sums in income tax, VAT and NI were brushed off equally disingenuously. The media arm of the PL is a private company, can’t be blamed on the Party, besides I wasn’t even PM then…the excuses, blame-shifting and denials have become as predictable as they are absurd.
Independent candidate AD Arnold Cassola pointed out in one of his regular pithy posts drawing attention to the hypocritical doublespeak of local politicians, that, again, Abela’s wife was certainly in a position to know what was going on, for a full decade.
Maybe, as Cassola exhorts, journalists should also be questioning her, but in no way does that exonerate Abela from his obligations as Labour Party Leader.
Nor does it cancel out his duty as prime minister, either. As prime minister of this island, he is responsible for ensuring the recommendations of the public inquiry are implemented. It’s been around six weeks already since the report was published, and so far, there’s been no progress made on any of the crucial points the board highlighted.
One of those points was the imperative that revelations of wrongdoing uncovered by journalists’ work must be taken seriously and investigated. Not ignored, brushed off or dismissed as unimportant or someone else’s fault.
Shrugging shoulders and attempting to confuse matters with pointless circular arguments – whether to actively attempt to bury a story or just out of bloody-minded arrogance – is not an acceptable strategy. Of course, it never had been, but now we have a public inquiry report drawn up by three highly-respected judges, that condemns it.
Robert Abela’s attitude throughout the nightmare that has gripped Malta since Daphne Caruana Galizia was slain has been one of attempting to deny complicity because he wasn’t Party Leader, he wasn’t even a candidate then, he wasn’t even an MP then, he wasn’t in Cabinet then…claiming ignorance as his get-out-of-jail-free card.
But he’s a lawyer, and he knows full well that excuse that doesn’t, and won’t ever, wash. Even if what he’s admitting about himself is true, that he’s so incompetent and oblivious that he was surrounded by crooks, lawbreakers and benders, Party apparatchiks that came up with the kind of devious instrument to illegally accept money from Fenech, even if that were true, indeed even more so if that is true, he should immediately order investigations into both allegations.
His failure to do so, along with his smug grinning dismissal of the journalists’ questions simply prove what most of us have known all along. Abela is still engaged in covering up and protecting the criminals in his Party. He’s made it clear he has no intention of doing his duty as prime minister and empowering, indeed, ordering, the police to act against suspected wrongdoers.
Abela famously promised ‘continuity’ as the reason PL delegates should vote him in as party leader and, therefore, prime minister. His position as prime minister should take precedence over his status as Party Leader. His role as prime minister requires him to put the interests of the country, of the population as a whole, at the top of his list of priorities.
So far, he’s failed to do that. He’s letting us all down, time and time again. He’s putting himself into the same basket that contains Muscat, Konrad Mizzi, Chris Cardona and the rest of that horrific gang of malefactors.
And he’s doing that because, for some reason, he’s putting his loyalty to the villains in his Party ahead of the exigence of fidelity to the nation. So, in that aspect, he’s indeed delivering on the ‘continuity’ he promised.
It will ring particularly hollow when things come crashing down around him, though. And they will. If he fails to implement the public inquiry recommendations, the consequences will go far beyond the few millions of euros his Party owes the taxman.