“Let them read books!” does not really carry the same panache as the gastronomic alternative famously (and erroneously) attributed to Marie Antoinette.
In the apocryphal version of history, the soon-to-be headless monarch is purported to have invited the people to “eat brioche” in lieu of the ever-more expensive bread. Be that as it may, the moral of the story is that a member of the ruling class detached from the needs of the people best not fuel the angry flames of an enraged public with such comments.
Julia Farrugia Portelli’s appeal to the person complaining about the power cuts might, of course, be interpreted as an invitation to make hay while the sun shines. Be patient and read a book. She also tried to emphasise that we are all in the same situation.
Of course, the minister’s invitation did not have the palliative effect that she had sought to obtain. Instead, it served to emphasise, if ever there was the need, government politicians’ emotional and mental detachment from the electorate.
The sentiment of outrage and anger shows no signs of abating. There is the danger that the frustration is misdirected – as was the case with the pelting of Enemalta employees who were only guilty of doing their job in the blistering heat. Guilty of having to make amends for the consequences of gross mismanagement and outright corruption. Those workers are not to blame.
The majority of the public, particularly those who bought into the dreams and promises of the ‘moviment‘ since 2013, is still reluctant to point fingers directly at the culprits and originators of all our current ills.
Tuesday’s news was apocalyptic. The danger of low milk stock due to electricity failures. A sudden drop in water service supplies… due to electricity failures. Continued outages notwithstanding declarations to the contrary.
Four people dead of heat-related issues over the weekend. Enemalta is not offering guarantees that a temperature drop will mean an end to power cuts. The government is refusing Opposition calls for the government to declare a state of emergency.
Amid news of a free fall in popularity polls, Abela and his entourage still attempted the stoic autocratic approach. His mishandling of the Jean Paul Sofia saga is far from over. Smacking of insensitivity against which Farrugia Portelli’s retort pales in comparison, Abela continued to ride roughshod over any semblance of democratic process and accountability.
His cause was not helped when a journalist pointed out that the subject of Abela’s thesis had been the independence of the judiciary.
Gone are the days when Abela wrote about protecting the judiciary from legislative and executive intrusions. Even more ironic are his nods (at the time) to the role of the press in furnishing information to the public that ensures accountability by the courts. Far gone.
Nowadays, the state propaganda machine is guilty of censorship worthy of the Biggest Brother yet. The efforts of Public Broadcasting Services and ONE News to whitewash any negativity are regularly assisted by Labour’s rent-a-pundits trying to justify the impossible.
It took a decade of corrupt governance to get to this point. Predictably, all the warnings about the rule of law backsliding and the dangers of corruption could not, would not, be heeded. Instead, we had to wait for the public to feel the pinch. The tangible effects of corruption.
Matthew Caruana Galizia put it best in a Facebook post on Tuesday: “I hope everyone who voted for Joseph Muscat after he sold Enemalta to China and blew all our funds on a gas plant using technology from 30 years ago is enjoying their reward. He promised you Dubai, but you got whatever this is.”
The corrupt wheeling and dealings of the government that led to this infrastructural catastrophe are just beginning to be uncovered. Remember the long hot hours without power next time you tune in to the Public Accounts Committee and see the somersaults and shenanigans that bloated apologists like Glenn Bedingfield go to great lengths to perform in defence of the politicians who rode roughshod over our patrimony, our nation.
Remember the rapid descent into an island of chaos next time you see Robert Abela in denial over the need for accountability. Remember the discomfort and the anger next time you are told to read a book. Remember.
That memory might come in handy the next time you are voting your future away.