Opinion: He’s really lost it

If Rip van Winkle woke up in Malta today, he could be forgiven for believing he was in North Korea — at least, if he started his morning by reading Department of Information (DOI) press releases.

A statement published by the DOI this week sank to new depths of Kim Jong Un-ism by using government resources to attack duly elected members of parliament.

“The Cabinet notes that the Opposition was always ready to try and destroy the former deputy prime minister,” it said. “The Opposition was never interested in Malta’s situation, only in immediate partisan political mileage. The Cabinet of Ministers condemns the behaviour of the Opposition in the strongest possible way.”  

This is Malta, a European Union member state.

You’d think Labour is in a blind panic. It certainly is, but the hostile rhetoric it deploys in its official press releases is simply default Labour. That language is not just deplorable. It is embarrassing. 

It’s a breach of the ministerial code of ethics, and this time, it’s not just Silvio Schembri, the insolent smarty pants. This time, the whole Cabinet is responsible.

More than three years ago, the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life found Schembri in breach of Articles 4.9, 4.10 and 7.4. of the Code of Ethics for Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries when he viciously attacked the opposition in another Soviet-style press release, saying, “It is clear that the intention of the PN statement is to cause harm. Its authors are very much aware that they are being deliberately deceitful […] The Opposition strives to harm the country continuously.”

Schembri didn’t just breach the code of ethics. He trampled all over it. That code demands ministers respect the principle of political impartiality of the public service. It demands that ministers “shall ensure that their influence on the public service is not abused”. 

Schembri completely ignored the Standards Commissioner’s advice “to avoid using the DOI for statements intended to score party-political points.” He went overboard with offensive and provocative attacks on the opposition.

The commissioner wasn’t having it. “These are partisan political statements which have no place in an official press release,” he said.  

The commissioner accused Schembri of harming Malta’s reputation, stating, “I do not, however, see the benefit to Malta’s reputation in issuing a partisan political statement through an official channel in the name of the government.” 

Schembri wrote to the commissioner, “In future, I shall make every effort to avoid such statements when these are issued through the DOI.”

The commissioner felt that Schembri’s half-hearted apology and pledge not to repeat the wrongdoing was sufficient grounds for exoneration but issued a stern warning that he would “take a more serious view of similar future cases.”

Now, Schembri — along with the rest of his colleagues — has done it again.

The unfounded accusations levelled at the opposition by Cabinet in the recent official press release are appalling.

The Cabinet accused the opposition of trying to destroy Chris Fearne.  They ascribe bad intentions to the opposition, declaring that it doesn’t have the national interest at heart but is only interested in political mileage. Could anything be more politically partisan?

This is sheer abuse of what should be a non-partisan and apolitical civil service to deliver anti-PN political messages. It is executive capture of state apparatus for partisan point scoring. Ironically Labour engages in the very sordid behaviour it accuses the PN of. 

Labour’s press release constitutes open defiance of recommendations made in the Standards Commissioner’s 2021 report: “I reiterate the recommendation I made in my report of 9 August 2019 for DOI statements to be ‘as factual, non-partisan and authoritative as possible’.”

A copy of that report was given to Silvio Schembri. He has no excuse for repeating the very same breaches that he was warned not to repeat and which he pledged he wouldn’t repeat. 

The rest of the Cabinet also has no excuse. The commissioner sent that report to the Standing Committee for Standards in Public Life, and a copy is available on the commissioner’s website. 

But Robert Abela can’t control himself. He keeps dragging his office, his Cabinet, his government, his party and the entire country down into the muck.

Abela behaves like a spoiled brat, lashing out at the easiest target when cornered. What does the PN have to do with the millions of euro in taxpayer money that Steward used to fabricate incriminating stories about Chris Fearne? 

What does the PN have to do with the fact that Steward paid millions of euro of our money to a UK intelligence company to invent and disseminate damaging stories to discredit Fearne?

But that’s Robert Abela. He’s got to blame someone else for his own stupidity and stubbornness.

Abela kept pumping millions of euro into Steward. He paid Steward more millions than Joseph Muscat did.

Abela even got his own father to negotiate with Steward. He resolutely refused to hear what everybody was telling him.

He ignored the NAO reports. He kept praising Steward despite their utter failures, even after the court found that the entire deal was a fraud. 

Abela dragged his feet until hundreds of millions of euro of our money were siphoned out by Steward. And all along, Steward was spending it to destroy Chris Fearne.

Only the most crooked could use money meant for sick patients, some seriously ill, to pay a company to spy on “the main opponent to the concession”. 

Only the most depraved would spend millions in taxpayers’ money to dig up dirt on those who posed a threat to their endless looting. 

Only the most ruthless would simply make up stories when no dirt was found. 

Abela is furious. The man circulating those false stories and fake bank transactions was Armin Ernst, the very man Joseph Muscat accompanied on that fateful first meeting with Abela, held just days after Abela became prime minister.  

Ernst should have been running our hospitals. He’d been there from the start.  He knew everything about the rotten deals and everybody involved, including Keith Schembri, Joseph Muscat and Shaukat Ali. 

Ernst didn’t think Robert Abela was the “main opponent of the concession”. He knew it was Fearne he needed to target. That alone speaks volumes about Chris Fearne and Robert Abela. 

No wonder Abela is panicking blindly. No wonder he’s lashing out and making such a fool of himself.


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10 days ago

“Opinion: He’s really lost it”. lost it? He never had it in the first place. Always the complete buffoon, managed by Muscat.

Joseph Tabone Adami
Joseph Tabone Adami
10 days ago
Reply to  wenzu

Agreed as regards Abela’s ‘never having it’.

As to his being managed, we were told by none other than Abela’s father himself that his son Robert is ‘a man of his own mind’ – however confused and obfuscated it is by the burdens which, apparently, he cannot, and is not capable of, ever carrying.

simon oosterman
simon oosterman
10 days ago

Hear, hear!

Robert caruana
Robert caruana
9 days ago

The pot calling the kettle black….unbelievable they conspire with foreign company to discredit their own deputy…..sinking to extremely low base

9 days ago

Fearne was Abela’s rival in the PL leadership contest. Maybe he is trying to dissociate himself from the discrediting campaign against Fearne by putting the blame on the PN. This will never remove Abela’s responsibility.

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