Four years have gone by like a flash

When Mus­cat and his cronies were voted into power, five years stretched ahead like an eter­nity.

Malta Independent - - DEBATE & ANALYSIS -


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.

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