If the PN continues to ignore Bernard Grech’s weak leadership, then we can safely say Malta is doomed. The sooner the PN realises it, the sooner the rest of us can start to hope there might be a way out of this never-ending PL nightmare of corruption, criminality and destruction.
The PN is unelectable as it stands because the majority of those opposing dishonesty and tyranny in the government are not likely to approve of a supposed alternative that’s led by, and riddled with, characters that have already shown themselves to be seriously compromised.
The Opposition Leader’s latest ‘gaffes’ have given the Party its last-ditch opportunity to show that it has the stomach to act resolutely and the ability to prove to its former voters that it can indeed be trusted to take the hard decisions.
No matter how loudly the Party’s propagandists shout, most honest people will not vote for a Party or a candidate that has proven to be dishonest in some way, not even if the dishonesty is “less” egregious than that of its opponents.
The ‘false equivalency’ argument that’s used to try and stifle criticism of individual PN MPs and candidates might work on the macro scale – the pre-2013 PN government, despite several corruption scandals of its own, was not “just as bad” as the current PL administration.
But it doesn’t work on an individual level, when the issue is character, except on the most basic level. Yes, a murderer is worse than a thief. But if we’re looking for political candidates we can trust to be honest and to respect the rules that are imposed on everyone else for the good of society as a whole, then clearly, selecting people who have already shown they’re willing to break rules for their own benefit when they thought they’d be able to get away with it is a major red flag.
Just like his predecessor Adrian Delia, Bernard Grech was exposed as having what should have been disqualifying skeletons in his cupboard just before his election as PN leader. That information – whatever its source – should have told vote-holding Party members that he was a non-starter.
Instead, the Party ostensibly battling against the corruption and dishonesty of the PL government went ahead and elected as Leader a man who, when he thought he could get away with it, spent most of his working life breaking the rules. True, they were the rules that most people hate – the rules of taxation – but they’re also the rules that underpin the very concept of community, of common good, and of democracy.
Grech’s ‘gaffes’ this past week, however, have shown something that’s perhaps even more alarming. They show a disturbing willingness to say anything, even if it contradicts something categorical, that he or his advisers, think will win him votes.
The appalling attack by some random priest on PN candidate Emma Portelli Bonnici, was initially dealt with fairly well. Grech condemned the priest’s hate-filled rant against the prospective MP, and the message was sent that the Party would not tolerate this kind of venomous attack against anyone.
But within a couple of days Grech himself was throwing Portelli Bonnici under a bus – and all of civilised society – when he came out with the astonishing statement that totally contradicted the premise of his previous words, that everyone is free to debate and discuss whatever issues they please, so long as they refrain from hatred or violence of any sort.
His new stand was a complete U-turn. The PN won’t tolerate anyone with pro-choice views, he said, thus giving the lie to everything he’d said in his previous statement on the topic. The subject of abortion, this compromised man who waddled his way out of murky obscurity dictated, would not even be up for debate.
I am passionately anti-abortion. But being anti-abortion does not mean shutting down debate and banning those who believe it might be a solution to a very real problem. Being anti-abortion should not mean hysterical attacks on those with different views, especially not in a society that considers itself kind and caring.
How are we supposed to come up with solutions that work for women in difficult situations if we’re not permitted to discuss different options, or to explain why there might be alternatives that benefit everyone more?
Bernard Grech’s statement that anyone who declared themselves pro-choice had no place in the PN was no better, in essence, than the raving priest’s venomous hate-rant against Portelli Bonnici. The harsh words weren’t there, but the principle was the same. Toe the line or you’re out, ostracised, a pariah.
But then, halleluiah, that U-turn became a W-turn – as soon as Grech realised public sentiment was outraged by this attempt to quash debate, silence differing opinions and dictate what everyone was allowed to think. Yet another statement, giving the lie to the previous one, was issued. Debate isn’t banned, after all, he now wants us to believe.
This fiasco, followed closely by the cannabis law debacle, have proven yet again that Grech is entirely unfit for the office into which he somehow got catapulted. His tactics appear to be the very opposite of leadership. He, his opinions, his actions, his behaviour, are swayed wildly and easily, depending on who the last person he talked to was, and how loudly they shouted. Instead of seeking to inspire, he follows where others, sometimes extremely unscrupulous others, lead.
This is the unmistakable sign of the weakest of leaders; a hollow man with no guiding lights. A man whose past makes him vulnerable to predators and precludes his ever being able to stand up to those with ulterior motives.
For many of us, the campaign to rid Malta of the criminal gang that’s hijacked the government and all its institutions has taken on the aspect of war. A political war, not a military one, but still a war – good vs evil, honesty vs dishonesty.
Yet we are doomed to defeat if the only entity in any sort of position to rally the troops is hamstrung by a puppet leader being pulled in a hundred different directions at once.
Sun Tzu, the ancient Chinese general/philosopher who wrote The Art of War, famously said, “weak leadership can wreck the soundest strategy”. It’s becoming clear, too, that weak leadership effectively destroys any hope of even creating a sound strategy in the first place.