Justyne Caruana is the latest name to be enrolled in Robert Abela’s very particular system of rehabilitation for political junkies.
Caruana had faded into political limbo following a double-whammy of resignations in the short span of two years. Like the other potentially rehabilitated political junkie Rosianne Cutajar, Justyne Caruana had to resign due to events linked to alleged Daphne Caruana Galizia murder mastermind Yorgen Fenech.
Caruana’s then-husband, a police officer, had been too cosy with Fenech. Subsequently, a re-instated Caruana was again obliged to resign in a jobs-for-friends scandal. Cutajar, too, cosied to Fenech (an understatement if ever there was one). She ended up resigning from the Labour Party parliamentary group following the leaking of chats between her and Fenech.
Abela has composed a new set of standards for politicians. In his spanking new book on Ethics and Politicians, there are heinous violations of public standards, and then there are misdemeanours. According to Abela, time is a great healer, and persons such as Caruana and Cutajar should be allowed to return to the fold and presumably take up public office once they have sat in the corner long enough to absolve their sins.
“It-trapass taz-zmien” (the passing of time) has become a favourite phrase of Abela, spat out in his conflated, bombastic lawyerese. He rewrites the book on liberal democracy that has existed for centuries. He rips up the unwritten rule that a politician who has betrayed the electorate’s trust is no longer electable, let alone appoint-able to the highest institutions of the land.
It’s not exclusive to Malta, you know, this rule. A good litmus test is what happened in one year in Boris Johnson’s conservative government in the UK.
Resignations abounded for reasons from the breaking of social distancing rules (by a health secretary to boot) to breaches of lobbying rules, sexual impropriety, drug use, and watching pornography in the commons.
Under the normal system of democratic rules and checks and balances, any politician worth his salt would know that a scandal is a one-way ticket out of the political scene.
Parties do not hold on to scandal-affected politicians. Above all, there is no place for them to be recycled and Robert Abela knows that. However, Robert Abela cannot submit to the written and unwritten rules of politics. As I detailed in last week’s article, all of Abela’s moves are attributable to gearing up for elections.
The Movement has chosen. The Movement has chosen to grip the seats of power tightly, which is necessary for the machine to be fed from top to bottom.
First, there was the beginning of the rehabilitation of the Chief Junkie Muscat. “My friend Joseph”, as Robert put it. As the chessboard pieces begin to fall into place and battle lines are drawn, Abela can ill-afford to bother with the standards and requisites of political representation.
Some pieces are dropping out – see (Gozitan MEP) Josianne Cutajar’s decision not to re-run for election. Gaps will be filled by the faithful who have hitherto manned the unmeritocratically filled echelons – see the candidature of Project Green CEO Steve Ellul.
However, Robert needs more than a gamble on new blood. The rehabilitation of disgraced politicians serves two purposes.
Firstly, he might be able to bring electoral heavyweights back into the fold. Secondly, and more importantly, the rehabilitation may be seen by the electorate as a possible whitewashing of the original misdemeanours that had led to the ousting of the political junkies.
The system works that way.
Having transformed the whole system of representation into a money machine that dispenses salaries, contracts and jobs, Abela must put back into place those who can maximise the dividends in voting terms. This way, the rape of our system of representation continues.
It must continue; otherwise, the house of cards that Joseph built and Robert has been entrusted to maintain will come crumbling down. In other words, if we want everything to remain the same, we must change everything.