“Expect now that others, our friends in the opposition, will talk more about the past. That is what those who have nothing to offer for the future do,” Robert Abela said during a political event on 6 February. He was desperately trying to bury the past. Especially now that the election date is set. But the past he’d like to evade is still very much alive.
In Goethe’s ‘Faust’, the devil proclaims, “it’s as good as if it never happened” revealing his overriding objective – the destruction of memory. Abela is doing the same. In suppressing the past, he attempts to cheat the murdered out of the single remaining thing that our powerlessness can offer – remembrance.
In Owen Bonnici’s relentless clearing of Daphne Caruana Galizia’s memorial hundreds of times, in Joseph Muscat’s vehement refusal to set up an independent inquiry and in Abela’s attempt to shut it down early, the objective was the same.
The obstinate conviction of those who do not want to hear anything of the past coincides with a powerful historical tendency. Labour’s mechanisms to suppress painful and unpleasant memories serve highly realistic ends. Labour points out that an all too vivid and persistent recollection of what happened can harm Malta’s image abroad. They take that argument to its natural conclusion that all those intent on recollecting are traitors.
Labour now has an even more urgent realistic end – extending its grip on power and deviating the nation’s attention from past realities. Abela’s objective is the effacement of memory.
“PN is a party of the past,” Glenn Bedingfield said in an orchestrated assault on the nation’s collective memory.
Labour is out to erase the collective recollections of the nation. “The PN wants to take us back to a time when the burden was placed on families – back to a time when the government used to take from the people, rather than give back to them,” he added. He bragged about his Party’s ‘politics of prosperity’.
On the same day, an editorial in The Times of Malta denounced the hospitals’ deal as a scandal of historic proportions: “The €4 billion question now is how will the government mend this massive hole in taxpayers’ pockets?”.
The ‘prosperity’ propaganda that Bedingfield attempted to ram down people’s throats reveals an element of unreality which is Labour’s most destructive feature. The truth is Malta’s debt reached €8.2 billion in November 2021, a staggering 54% increase in just two years. From a surplus of €8 million in 2019, Labour stacked up a deficit of €1.4 billion in 2020 and another €1.2 billion in 2021.
Labour peddles a ‘buy now pay later’ scam – except that they won’t be paying for the reckless debts themselves. They’ve taken a €70 million loan to buy your vote with a €100 cheque. Once Labour is re-elected you will pay back the €70 million, plus interest accrued. Labour’s not giving back – it is taking even more from the people and their children.
Bedingfield’s hollow boasts of prosperity wither away in the face of Malta’s staggering poverty. Fifty per cent of single parents with one or more dependents are at risk of poverty, according to the last EU statistics. That’s a 16.6% increase in just one year. One in 5 (19.9%) of the whole population are at risk of poverty or social exclusion.
True socialists would use that €70 million loan to help people out of poverty, not to buy their own re-election. That’s not socialism – that’s a cynically wicked capitalist ploy.
Labour thinks there is prosperity because their rich friends are getting richer – fast. Millionaires in government, like Robert Abela, are giving tax breaks to their rich friends and funders.
Charles Polidano, ic-Caqnu, negotiated a deal to reduce his €40 million tax bill. Konrad Mizzi gifted Electrogas another €40 million in excise tax refunds. The €84 million gas pipeline payout to Electrogas will also be tax free.
Labour thinks there’s prosperity because Abela made over €28,000 per month. They think there’s prosperity because James Piscopo, former Labour CEO stashed away over €600,000 in a Jersey offshore bank, according to Keith Schembri.
They think there’s prosperity because Joseph Muscat siphoned €120,000 in termination benefits and a €540,000 deal with Accutor AG. They calculate prosperity based on the hundreds of millions in direct orders they hand out to their friends. Or on the obscene amount of money squandered on the Malta film awards, even though they won’t say it.
There is no prosperity while seriously ill hard-working citizens are compelled to buy even the most basic medicines.
Abela complains that his adversaries won’t cease reminding the nation of Labour’s obscene recklessness with people’s funds. But the shadow of the past stretches into the present. The attitude that everything should be forgotten and forgiven is practised by those who committed injustices and criminal abuse and those who benefitted from it.
Abela wants to break from the past because nothing good can live in its shadow. The past he wants to evade is still very much alive. The ghost of what was so monstruous still lingers.
Labour’s response to the past is deeply neurotic – defensive postures when attacked, intense emotions, absence of affect even in the face of the gravest crime, and a repression of the facts. A very great number claim not to have known of events, blaming a secret ‘kitchen cabinet’. But information was available – Caruana Galizia and other brave journalists exposed it and still do.
It is hardly believable that those who knew what was going on, in the Cabinet and in the Party, kept silent with such an unbearable burden. There is a direct relationship between the attitude of “not having known anything about it” and an impassive inexplicable indifference.
We are painfully familiar with the readiness today of Labour denying or minimising what happened. It is difficult to comprehend how they feel no shame in arguing that “she deserved it”. Labour’s haste to produce counter-arguments in order to exempt itself from self-reflection contains something inhuman.
Robert Abela is now going a step further. In the forgetting of what transpired resonates the fury of one who must talk himself out of what everyone knows, before then talking others out of it as well.
The past must serve a critical end – a reminder that it must never be permitted to return. This lesson now assumes a new urgency. Abela is desperate to bury the past. But the past does not pass away.