Tista’ taqra dan l-artiklu bil-Malti
If this is not the boiling point, then I do not know what is. Robert Abela’s ill-judged replies to the driving licence scandal reeked of the rot that has long afflicted Maltese politics.
There it was, the Cosi fan tutti defence that was as remarkable in its brazenness as it was astounding in its crass stupidity. This is no scandal, Abela said. This is no sign of corruption. It is the way we do it.
On the one hand, it is reassuring to see commercial and civil society representatives coming down on the prime minister like a proverbial ton of bricks in a chorus of unanimous disapproval.
On the other hand, the protests tend to seem hollow given how, in many ways, Abela was… telling the truth. And there is the catch.
You see, Abela is not fibbing when he says this is how Maltese politics works. We all knew that. I just had a quick trek down memory lane on my blog, J’accuse, and noticed that I had been harping on about this particularity of the Maltese political system for over 15 years.
Barter politics is what I called it – trading in influence with a twist.
The PL/PN way of doing business (their business of politics) has meant that a large web of favours and bartering of positions of influence has slowly been woven into the very fabric of our political system.
People are in politics to have a say in this system. It is the only way to survive. Similarly, the connection to politics of citizens, small businesses and, of course, of the larger fish is solely dependent on getting a foot in the door of the barter market.
An oft-repeated slogan in one of Joseph Muscat’s masterful campaigns selling dreams was “Mhux lil min taf, imma x’taf” (it is not who you know but what you know). The key to entry into the New Maltese Dream would be skill, not patronage.
We all know where that one went. Flushed down the drains of forgetfulness the day after the elections’ results – meritocracy remained an empty dream of no consequence.
Yes, this is how we do it, and this is how we have done it for some time. Licences and permits, rubber stamps and benefits became currency within the world of political advancement.
To be part of the dream, you had to swallow any sense of pride (what is that worth anyway?) and accept subjugation in the barter system of promises.
The more people are pleased, the more votes are guaranteed. The more votes are guaranteed, the stronger the hold on power. The stronger your position in the corridors of power that distribute more dreams and promises, the more preferential treatment you get.
As this got consolidated, it became a matter of “treating our own well” and “fuck him, he is not on our side”, as we saw in the Mansueto WhatsApp chats.
Make no mistake. At the risk of becoming a pariah by repeating the same mantra that I have for years, I insist that this system is endemic across the board. Labour has simply honed it to perfection if there is perfection in evil corruption.
That, in fact, is how far Abela is correct- that this is how we do it. Where he is abysmally wrong, especially with his being a lawyer and prime minister, is in his hope that this in some way justifies what is, in effect, illegal behaviour.
Trading in influence has brought down greater men than Ian Borg and Abela (not that it would be hard to be greater).
Trading in influence, the business of barter politics, makes a mockery of democratic representation. It eschews any form of real representation and then proceeds to undermine the functioning of institutions.
It is a capital sin against the Rule of Law. We now have clear, irrefragable proof of the sick state of Maltese politics. This is how we do it, and we do it wrong.
“The PN must die” is a mantra I have been guilty of repeating for a long time. The time has come now to update it. The PLPN must die.
The behemoths of Maltese politics are long past their sell-by date. They only know how to “do it” by destroying our political and institutional fabric. The only way for them to redeem themselves would be to start from nothing. Tabula rasa.
That is how we should do it.