The inarticulate thug occupying the post of Speaker of the House sat hunched over, toad-like, on his seat on Tuesday afternoon as parliament prepared to listen to the address from Vladimir Zelensky, president of Ukraine, a man now revered across the free world as a true hero, a modern-day David standing alone against the monstrous Russian Goliath.
The shameful display we were forced, cringing, to witness on 10 May marked a particularly low point for Malta’s parliament and the Speaker in particular. The remarks he insisted on making before Zelensky spoke were among the most dishonourable, smug and self-serving I’ve ever heard.
We’ll pay lip service to offering help, he seemed to say, but we’re constitutionally neutral, so forget about any actual assistance. In fact, while we pretend to pledge support, we’ll be actively working against you in the international fora we have any voice.
The hypocrisy and duplicity are breathtaking. The idea of lecturing the president of a country suffering unprovoked bombardment and attack from a much larger and clearly deranged neighbour about “dialogue” and “diplomacy” is so absurd as to raise questions about the Speaker’s sense of reality.
Can he really have been so oblivious to the outrage his words would cause?
Anglu Farrugia, pugnacious police inspector turned politician, will go down in history as the worst Speaker Malta’s parliament has ever had, and by a long mile. His ignorance of the basic rules, his constant perversions of those same rules, his dismissal of serious offences against those rules in order to favour his own political party throughout the nine years he’s held the post will never be forgotten.
However, his mangling of the English language whenever he’s called upon to say the fewest of words has turned him into a laughing stock of epic proportions. While it’s not unusual for a citizen of a bilingual country to be more fluent in one of those languages, it’s ludicrous that even when he has a pre-written speech, he’s unable to articulate the words or ensure the grammar and vocabulary he’s using is correct.
Doesn’t he even bother to practice? Ask someone to help him learn to pronounce words correctly? To read smoothly, in a natural manner, rather than stumbling his way through a staccato of separate syllables, with a glottal stop between each, as though he were reciting random words out of a dictionary. Has he never tried reading the text before having to do it in public, on television, before an international audience of hundreds of thousands, at least?
But his inability to behave or speak in the manner expected of people in high office across the world pales into insignificance when compared to his unfitness as a person to hold that office.
Farrugia is the cowardly bully accused by assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia as the police inspector who forced her to sign a false confession after holding her in detention for 27 hours in a pitch-dark, faeces-smeared cell, in 1984, when she was 19 and had been arrested on trumped-up charges at the kind of demonstration many of us took part in during those turbulent years.
Later, after the PN government that came to power in 1987 introduced a scheme to help police officers become lawyers – the idea being to strengthen and improve police performance in court, where the abysmal lack of knowledge and professionalism meant untold numbers of crooks were (and still are) avoiding conviction – Farrugia took advantage of the opportunity, somehow managed to graduate as a lawyer while the taxpayer paid his salary, and then promptly left the police force to embark on a career in politics.
This is the man presuming to lecture the president of a country being pulverized by bombs, its children murdered, its women raped, its cities flattened, about neutrality and diplomacy.
Russia’s brute, vicious invasion of Ukraine, should have invoked the most passionate outrage from any Maltese person, after what our own country has suffered in the past, and should have elicited immediate and unequivocal action against those responsible.
Zelensky had to spell this out for Farrugia and his lumpen prime minister: when Russia is raining bombs on a country and pulverizing it with tanks and guns, neutrality is an irrelevance. They need support to repel the invaders, not lectures about non-alignment.
Diplomacy and dialogue are being sought throughout, but if Russia refuses to engage, then the right-minded world has to find another way to make the aggressor listen. Sanctions – stop buying Russian oil and gas, stop paying for the bullets and bombs killing innocent Ukrainians in their homes. And stop selling passports to Russians, withdraw those passports already granted to Russians, stop helping Russian criminals infiltrate European communities and escape with their ill-gotten gains that they now use to help fund this wicked war of aggression on Ukraine.
Of course, Zelensky’s rebuke sailed right over their heads. The speeches given by Robert Abela and Bernard Grech afterwards make it hideously clear that they’d either not been listening to a word the Ukrainian president said, or simply didn’t care. The concern was about potentially losing money should the EU ban the transportation of Russian oil on EU-flagged ships.
‘Our thoughts and prayers are with the Ukrainian people’, all three of them claimed, despite having effectively just told Zelensky to go take a flying jump. While insincerely claiming solidarity with Ukraine, our ‘leaders’ were actively working against its interest – and succeeded. Two days ago the EU changed its mind about prohibiting EU-registered vessels from carrying Russian oil as part of the new package of sanctions, to the Maltese government’s delight – and Zelensky’s dismay.
We’re neutral, Farrugia spluttered incoherently on Tuesday afternoon. Of course. Except where money is concerned.