The government of Malta has been scolded again for playing fast and loose with the truth.
The situation could have been resolved quietly if only Prime Minister Robert Abela hadn’t disregarded the message and forged ahead anyway with a Bill that purports to ‘reform’ the media when he should really be reforming the government.
Dunja Mijatović, the Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner, had been working behind the scenes to pressure Abela to honour his government’s commitment to implement the recommendations of the public inquiry into Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination.
When the government tabled the legislation in parliament without the necessary consultation, she made her correspondence public.
A quick skim of the contents made it clear that the confusion is being caused by physics.
The commissioner isn’t aware that Abela and his cabinet inhabit an alternate reality where facts are inverted, and someone else is always to blame.
When Mijatović pointed out that the task required “broad public consultation to include the views of civil society and the journalism community in this legislative process”, Abela said he personally consulted with Caruana Galizia’s family and with international press freedom advocate Article 19.
If only he’d told the Caruana Galizias, who weren’t present at a ‘consultation’ that clearly took place in a secret corner of the prime minister’s mind.
Article 19 agreed that they had in fact met with him, but their consultation took the following form.
‘We’re world-class experts in this area. We’d be happy to help.’
‘No thanks. We have experts of our own.’
I wonder if Abela meant handpicked committee member Saviour Balzan, the government’s favourite propagandist, who doesn’t have a conflict of interest here, no matter how many lucrative public contracts he received.
Anyway, this will all be sorted out once the government finishes ‘reforming the media’ – even though the aim of the public inquiry’s recommendations is not reform of the media but reform of the State.
The Bill Abela is trying to ram through will improve his ability to control perceived reality, thus rendering the other items on the public inquiry’s list a matter of vague verbal commitments backed by total inaction followed by claims of ‘Best in Europe’ level success.
They think it would be helpful if the process is completed before the fifth anniversary of Caruana Galizia’s death, so it looks like they’ve done something.
Speaking of getting things done, Energy Minister Miriam Dalli is putting money in your pocket.
ARMS had been overcharging customers for their electricity and water consumption for years. According to the Auditor General’s 2021 study, these “extra charges” add up to a whopping €6.5 million.
In a case brought against the utility provider by two individuals, the court ruled that ARMS breached the law when calculating these bills and that the customers must be refunded. Still, the Energy Minister has no intention of giving the overcharged money back to anyone else.
Instead, some 80% of customers will receive a refund of between €0 and €8 this year.
Dalli claimed the problem was caused by “an anomaly” in the law but added that ARMS had always correctly applied this law, which means it’s someone else’s fault.
Finance Minister Clyde Caruana is applying a few laws of his own. In an effort to save the beleaguered national airline, he’s now considering offering a second early retirement scheme on the logic that, if someone retires twice, it’ll save the government twice as much money.
Caruana is believed to be inspired by Konrad Mizzi’s 2018 feat of lateral thinking when he made Air Malta profitable for the first time in 20 years by having the government buy the airline’s London landing slots from itself and then hiding the accounts behind the ironclad Freedom from sharing Information Act.
While Caruana wouldn’t provide details on his own plans, he did say ‘what needed to be done would then be done’.
Perhaps he might consider doing with a little help from Economy Minister Silvio Schembri, who has embarked on an ambitious scheme to bring artificial intelligence to Maltese villages.
Okay, yes, Schembri’s citizenship for robots idea never really took off. And Blockchain Island didn’t go anywhere either. But Artificial Intelligence is about to transform the life of every village dweller into something out of science fiction.
Are you ready for it…?
Picture if you will, a rubbish bin that uses Artificial Intelligence to tell the council when it’s full. No more using normal run of the mill intelligence to lift the lid and make that assessment manually. No, this will all happen without human intervention.
Flying cars can’t be far off.