Four years have gone by like a flash
When Muscat and his cronies were voted into power, five years stretched ahead like an eternity.
Some of us (and boy, how the others mocked) had a pretty fair idea of what was coming next, and the thought of getting through five years of that seemed like a dawning nightmare. We knew it was going to be bad, but we didn’t understand just how creative they would be in making it that way.
But now almost four years have gone by like a flash and it seems hard to believe that we’re just a year away from a general election already. It seems as though the last one has only just ended. They say that time flies when you’re having fun, but it’s equally true that it speeds past when there’s something new every day. The seemingly endless slew of scandals of varying degree has meant that these last four years have been anything but dull and boring, though for all the wrong reasons.
One of the main reasons people rushed to vote out Lawrence Gonzi’s government is because they were tired out by the constant affray in Parliament and outside it, caused directly by the fragility of a single-seat majority and the presence on the Nationalist Party benches of several people with severe personality problems and even a couple with psychiatric disorders. Every day brought a fresh fight and new tension and discord, much of it caused by Muscat stirring the pot from the Opposition benches in close dealings with Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando and Franco Debono, both of whom supported the Opposition from their seats on the government’s side of the House.
That government came across as a bunch of ferrets fighting in a sack and the constant backstabbing and shrieking tantrums were anything but amusing to the electorate. Those five years didn’t pass by in a flash. They dragged on and on while the men who went on to be made Law Commissioner and CEO of the Malta Council for Science and Technology shouted and screamed all over our television screens.
Now, instead of a tantrum or brawl every day, we’ve got ourselves a corruption scandal every week, and the stink of filthy lucre wafts out of the windows at the Office of the Prime Minister, where the significant triad are all cosily headquartered for face-to-face communication: Joseph Muscat, Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri. The breaking waves of corruption stories and reports of cronyism were fascinating at first, like watching and reading a real life organised crime series. But now it is tiring and the reality has hit home hard that this is not something we’re watching, but something we’re living through. Muscat’s 36,000-vote majority has all but dissipated beneath the billowing, fetid clouds of corruption and suspicion, and worn-out people are wondering why they persist in their endeavours when there is a very real risk that it will cost them the general election.
Well, we’ve got to bear in mind at all times that they never meant themselves to be found out. It was only because of the strangest and most unexpected set of circumstances that Konrad Mizzi’s, Keith Schembri’s and Lord Egrant’s top-secret companies, the ones they incorporated in Panama just a few days after coming to power, were discovered. The exact same set of circumstances led to the discovery of some of the shady dealings in which Adrian Hillman, managing director of the influential newspapers the Times of Malta and The Sunday Times, was involved in with the Prime Minister’s chief of staff over several years leading up to and after the general election. And that has provided the context not only for firming up earlier suspicions, but for suspecting every move this government has made since then. Since the discovery of those companies, journalists and electors have in the main stopped trusting the government in what it does and says, and in what its intentions are.
Of course, Glenn Bedingfield still trusts them – but then he would, wouldn’t he, because they pay him. Die-hard Labour Party supporters still trust the government, but then what do you expect of people raised in families who voted for – draw breath here – Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici. And people who like to think of themselves as prominent members of society, who embarrassed themselves publicly by boasting about their intention to vote for Muscat, telling us it was time for a change to Labour, and encouraging us to do likewise (while being extremely rude about me for not sharing their views) are seriously disappointed, I suspect largely at the discovery that they have painfully poor judgement, but will still press on and look for reasons why they should continue to defend, with increasing awkwardness, this palpable mess.
But for the more sensible among us, it’s been like four years on a ghost train at a fun fair, with ghouls popping out at us every step of the way, most of them bearing the stuttering, reddened and puffy visage of the Minister Without A Portfolio, others shrinking rapidly and defined by a single furrow between the brows, and a small minority of ghouls carrying the sort of heavy forehead and slack jaw you would more usually see behind security glass, hanging from a tree, at one of Europe’s metropolitan zoos. We’ve got another year of excitement to look forward to before the big blow-out in which they do whatever they can, and whatever it takes, to make sure they don’t end up in jail, but still get to keep their money.