Orwellian incoherence – Kevin Cassar

Watch Clayton Bartolo play Vicky Pollard from ‘Little Britain’ – “Yeah but no, but yeah but no, but yeah but no”. It’s worth every second.  This is pure Orwellian incoherence of the highest order.

Bartolo dodged every question, deflecting each one with rambling rants.  He mocked the journalist and laughed in his face as his minder harassed and heckled Times of Malta journalist Mark Laurence Zammit as he uselessly attempted to get a single straight answer out of the minister.

The exchange started innocently enough.  “How much did the film festival cost?” That seemed to have pressed the minister’s pomposity button. “The Mediterrane Film Festival,” he kicked off, giving the impression he was just about to answer before starting to smirk, “In fact, I already answered your colleague just last week”.

“I’m asking you because you didn’t tell him (how much it cost),” the journalist replied.

Frantically backpedalling, Bartolo continued: “I answered your colleague, and I told him I don’t like to speculate with numbers – because, first of all, there’s no point stating what you’re spending without trying to indicate what you’re getting in return.”

He then dived into a disjointed political rant, lambasting the opposition party in a classic knight move.

“The rhetoric of those trying to claim that the country got nothing back is poor, and I dare say pathetic because this isn’t true.  And whoever tries to say that this was simply a waste of money has absolutely no idea how the film industry works, has no vision for this industry and is stuck in the past when there were some who wanted to shut down the film studios and replace them with a fish farm. If the Nationalist government of those times had its way, today we would not only have no film industry…”

Clayton Bartolo exited reality. “With the investments we are making, we are offering opportunities for everyone.”

That is absolute fiction. It’s the stuff of films.  The Malta Film Commission listed just seven local production companies on its website for foreign filmmakers to engage.  All the rest were excluded. Several reputable companies were removed from the list and were denied the opportunity to work with foreign film companies.

In 2020, the Malta Producers Association (MPA) called for the “immediate resignation” of Film Commissioner Johann Grech and insisted there should be a level playing field for all stakeholders with “an open and transparent” public directory of service producers.

In a letter to the Tourism Minister, the Prime Minister and the Commissioner for Standards, the association declared that “any shred of trust” in him had been “completely obliterated”.  The MPA even filed a judicial protest against Johann Grech in his personal capacity and in his official capacity as Film Commissioner complaining that he was “abusively promoting” a select group of service providers.

No action was taken against Grech.  Instead, he was given three more years to head the Malta Film Commission. He’s still there.

The MPA also submitted a formal complaint to the Ombudsman to investigate the Film Commissioner’s alleged corrupt practices.

But Grech continued to squander millions of taxpayer money.  In just two years, he spent €600,000 on travel alone.  In the three months before the 2022 general elections, he handed out over €2 million in direct orders to the suppliers of Labour’s electoral campaign.

Labour’s chosen ones, such as Mario Philip Azzopardi and Jean Pierre Magro, received hundreds of thousands of euros through the PBS-Malta Film Fund without any public call.  Azzopardi also received the film finance co-production fund three out of the four times it was awarded.

That is Clayton Bartolo’s idea of “offering opportunities for everyone” – everyone who’s ever helped Labour. And nothing for the rest.

Mark Laurence Zammit insisted, “What is the problem for you to tell us this is how much we estimate it will cost?”

Off went the minister again. “Because this is not an issue of giving an estimate, this is… I didn’t tell you we don’t know exactly (what it cost),” he let slip.

“What I am telling you is that once we have the final report in our hands – and it won’t be long, just a few weeks – we’ll come before the media, give all the presentations we need to give, we’ll show what the country got out of it, because it’s useless telling you it cost us this much because then you will ask me what we got out of it, that’s going to be your next question.”

“Did it cost more than one million?” the journalist persisted.

“Once we have the report in our hands, you will have your answer,” Clayton mocked, chuckling to himself.

“Did you issue tenders? How many direct orders?” he was then asked.

As soon as the minder heard the words ‘direct orders’, he pounced.  He started interrupting and hassling the journalist as he laughed in the journalist’s face.  “The previous journalist took longer than I did,” Zammit protested. “He answered you. He answered you, come on, he answered you,” the minister’s minder repeated.  No, he didn’t.

This was Bartolo cynically and arrogantly defying accountability and transparency. This was the minister insulting the public, sneering at our helplessness as his film commissioner pumps millions of euros into the pockets of Labour’s backers.

The whole interaction would be hilariously comical if it weren’t tragic.

How much did it cost? I told you. No, you didn’t. I told your colleague. No, you didn’t. I told your colleague that I wasn’t going to tell him. Because I don’t speculate about numbers despite knowing exactly how much it cost.  And because there’s no point telling you, without also telling you what we got. And if I tell you, you’ll ask me another question. So you’ll just have to wait. Not long. Just a few weeks. I’m not going to tell you. And those damned Nationalists…

Yeah, but no, but yeah, but no. Clayton Bartolo is Malta’s Vicky Pollard.  If he doesn’t know who that is, he should ask his friend David Walliams. He’ll tell him.

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Francis Said
Francis Said
2 months ago

What is constantly irritating and undemocratic is always criticizing the Nationalists.
Public funds are contributed and should be administered with utmost correctness and accountability for all who contribute. Irrespective of their political creed.
When deciding on a project, some sort of budget for that project is not determined? This is the basic principle of proper financial planning. So the not so Hon. Minister should at least disclose that figure, then as and when he has in hand the final figure give a comparison of the two.
In 2022, the MTA overspent it’s annual budget allocation by over 2 million euros. What was the discrepancy due to.

saviour mamo
saviour mamo
2 months ago

One of the first things we teach our kids is how to sit on a poo and do the right thing. This man Clayton Bartolo seems never have been trained and it shows. Metaphorically , of course.

Mark Sant (Misha)
Mark Sant (Misha)
2 months ago

This is a gem of a piece. The comparison of Clayton Bartolo to Vicky Pollard is so apt!

2 months ago

As a shareholder I ask why BOV is financially supporting the film commission?

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