Continuity, only worse – Ranier Fsadni

Apart from the bonanza of gifts and discounts, Labour’s electoral campaign is based on an implicit promise that voters are expected to read between the lines: Robert Abela will clean up Labour and discretely put an end to the arrogance and abuses, the “accidental” excess that spoiled Joseph Muscat’s record.

A cold-eyed look, however, shows it’s wishful thinking to hope for a break with the immediate past. Not only is there continuity with Muscat’s government, on some counts, it’s getting worse.

A general election was called in 2017 when the prime minister became directly embroiled in accusations of money laundering and links to organised crime. In 2022, a general election has been called just when the new prime minister is himself embroiled in revelations concerning suspected money laundering and organised crime.

Continuity, only worse. Abela’s links to Christian Borg may predate his time as prime minister, but unlike the Egrant claims, there can be no shred of doubt about them.

There’s no doubt about Abela’s involvement in the dodgy land deal, about the suspicious time line, about the apparent conflicts of interest, about Abela’s seeming indifference to Borg’s unexplained wealth.

Abela continues to dodge all questions about this deal when he could easily clear it up. And when asked to confirm if he had entered into similar deals with others, he dodged that question, too.

Then there are the declarations of assets. Muscat’s were never convincing. A balance of €70,000 that never budged? Despite the holidays, despite everything? But at least he made specific declarations.

Abela hasn’t even bothered with that. His declaration is a non-answer. See the tax return, it says — and then he makes sure we don’t see it.

Abela doesn’t even go through the motions of humouring us. He just refuses to declare his wealth.  Continuity, only worse.

Muscat’s government was corrupt, but Muscat did at least pass a law removing the statute of limitations for political corruption. Corrupt politicians can always be prosecuted for their crimes, no matter how much time has passed. However, Abela has vetoed an Opposition bill that targets unexplained wealth.

Muscat went through the motions. He played games with mirrors. He tried to cover up his tracks. Abela doesn’t bother with the motions. He vetoes and refuses to explain both the veto and his wealth.

The bad example he sets influences what takes place elsewhere in government. Infamously, in Muscat’s time, Sai Mizzi was paid €13,000 a month for nothing much, as far as we know. But the government at least insisted she was doing useful work and tried to rationalise her salary.

When The Shift revealed that Chris Fearne’s campaign manager is on a similar salary as the head of the Foundation for Medical Services, no rationalisation was given — not even for the jump in salary (double that received by her predecessor).

The Auditor General has slammed Carmen Ciantar’s contract. Fearne’s response: It won’t happen again… but Ciantar gets to keep her contract.

This is worse than the Mizzi case. The latter was shrouded in mystery. The Ciantar case is official and thrust in our faces. Yes, it was “irregular” but we’re not changing it. In the future, others will be bound by the rules, we will not.

And on it goes. Ministers behave increasingly as though their offices and portfolios are personal fiefdoms. They award contracts and direct orders, sometimes to the tune of millions, to lovers, family and friends.

Have you applied for a social benefit with success? Don’t be surprised if the minister personally informs you — if it just so happens that you vote in his district. Remember to act as though this is a personal gift from him.

This is not a toning down of the worst of the Muscat years, it’s a ramping up. What used to be done by insinuation is now explicit. The arrogance is now official. Politicians behave like colonial lords and masters.

The response to anyone who attempts to uncover the extent of the arrogance, maladministration and corruption? Once more, continuity, only worse.

When Muscat had Daphne Caruana Galizia plastered on a billboard, the worst hadn’t yet happened. When Abela had another journalist, Manuel Delia, plastered on a billboard, Delia was already known to have been in the sights of a nasty set of people, and the Caruana Galizia public inquiry had already said that targeting journalists is dangerous.

Even knowing the worst that could happen, Abela didn’t restrain himself.

We have reason to expect that worse will come. A government lawyer, Joe Gerada, is claiming The Shift’s freedom-of-information requests about his contracts with various government entities amount to harassment and intimidation. Abela has himself referred to coverage of ministers rocked by scandal as veering into “persecution”.

And guess what? The government’s draft laws leave the backdoor open for journalists to be prosecuted for stalking, harassment and intimidation.

Don’t be surprised if, next time, the intimidation of journalists won’t be through libel laws or by shadowing them or through political propaganda. Next time, the law itself might declare journalists’ persistent questions to be harassment. Continuity, but worse.

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Simon Oosterman
Simon Oosterman
2 months ago

Still, it seems that this is what we want. Cry the beloved country!

2 months ago

There is hope that Robert Abela will be the first prime minister in prison.
Probably right after the case of Angelo Gafà, who obstructed the enforcement of laws.

2 months ago
Reply to  KLAUS

If only that were to be the case. Maybe Abela , Gafa and Joseph Muscat and the rest of the crooked gangs could have adjacent cells and could discuss where it all went wrong?

saviour mamo
saviour mamo
2 months ago

Labour transformed slowly but gradually a democratic government to governance by oligarchy. We have as a prime minister who became a very rich man in a mysterious way and he doesn’t want to explain to us how he got his fortune. Together with a privileged group of rich businessmen they are controlling the country.

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