For the past four weeks, we’ve had to sit and watch the PN and its supporters tear themselves to shreds trying to understand what had led to its biggest electoral defeat in history, at a time when any sane person would have been clutching at any straw, even the PN straw, to get rid of the corruption and criminality of the Labour Party.
Never mind that the PN’s former supporters have been telling it exactly what they find repugnant about the Party as it currently stands, never mind that the answer has long been spelt out in numerous articles, comments boards, discussions and, of course, right across every single wall in Malta.
The PN used to stand for decency, honesty, honour, even. The few bad eggs that inevitably appeared were dealt with as soon as anything questionable was alleged – they were asked to resign, put under investigation, and reported to the police when necessary. A couple did manage to escape the scrutiny, but on the whole, the Party acted correctly when it suspected wrongdoing in the ranks.
The current iteration of the Party has, for five years, tried to take advantage of that reputation. Indeed, it’s flaunted and paraded that reputation as its birthright. Because of the decency of our forebears, the arrogant strut said, we are better than the others, we are so supremely superior that no one should even dream of questioning or doubting us.
And yet, as we discovered, ‘they’ as a group are not any better than the ‘others,’ though they work hard to have us believe it. Indeed, it’s the Janus-faced nature of the present-day PN that has killed it.
The PN has tried to present itself as the alternative to the criminal PL gang, but its choices over the past five years have belied the Party’s statements.
After the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, it suddenly began defending her memory and expressing outrage at the vilification and hatred she’d endured. And yet, who among us can forget that the vast majority of PN members had spent the five years from 2013 to 2017 blaming her for the PN’s defeat in 2013?
Simon Busuttil, the PN’s last decent leader, stuck his neck out for her when it mattered, but those of us who really valued her won’t and can’t forget that most of his colleagues did the opposite. And Busuttil was replaced by a man that led to half the Party turning away in disgust.
Caruana Galizia was the first, as she so often was, to expose the rotting skeletons in Adrian Delia’s closet, and he turned on her. And yet, the PN, knowing of his reported dealings with Soho pimps, knowing of his highly-dangerous level of debt and long-standing failure to pay his taxes, went ahead and elected him leader of the Party.
When he was ousted by an internal coup, his proposed replacement was once again revealed to be a tax evader who hadn’t paid his dues, of various kinds, for most of his working life. His shortcomings were minimised and excused to a ridiculous degree and his critics were subjected to vehement abuse.
And still, somehow, the PN continues to expect to be seen as the Party of decency and honesty and rule of law.
Since becoming PN leader, Bernard Grech has demonstrated what hypocrisy means. While ostensibly condemning the PL’s excesses, he’s pandered to the big developers that have run rough-shod over Malta under the patronage of the PL, he’s appeased the hunting lobby that continues to practice poaching, law-breaking and the killing of protected species.
He’s failed to denounce the scandalous passport-selling scam and he’s taken no action against PN MPs and officials who’ve fallen far short of the Party’s supposed standards.
We now learn that his closest aide, handpicked by him, has joined DB Group, one of the worst offenders in the development arena and the recipient of huge tracts of public land under highly-suspicious and excessively favourable terms. This has, of course, led to further criticism.
How could they imagine it wouldn’t? Ray Bezzina’s move proves the PN as it is today is not to be trusted, that its leader is either complicit or an idiot, and that the doubts of so many former PN supporters have been proven right.
The PN lost so cataclysmically because it’s demonstrated over the past five years that it has become a Party of institutionalised hypocrisy. It has entirely lost touch with the principles and values of the past, it has become peopled with manipulative double-dealers who say one thing but do another entirely.
Who can forget how thoroughly the PN tore into PL specimens like Rosianne Cutajar and Edward Zammit Lewis for their connections with accused murderer Yorgen Fenech? The obsequious texts from the former justice minister begging for attention from a member of a notorious family of politician-bribers were revolting in the extreme, while the revelations that the former parliamentary secretary would stand around with tongue hanging out as she waited on the street for the same man to turn up were so pathetic as to be pitiable.
Both were lambasted mercilessly, and justifiably, by the Opposition. And yet, when it emerged that PN MP Jason Azzopardi had begged for favours from the uncle of that same man, a member of the same family known across Malta for bribing politicians, somehow the PN supporters felt this was a ‘minor mistake’. The electorate took that decision for the Party.
The PN may still exist as an entity, but its soul is long-gone. Like the Liberal Democrats in the UK, and its predecessor the Liberal Party, or Whigs, it may struggle on for decades, zombie-like, seeking ways to stay relevant, to reinvent itself, somehow, but the damage its members have done seems irreversible.