For­mer PM Lawrence Gonzi warns against pop­ulist talk

Malta Independent - - NEWS - Gabriel Schem­bri

For­mer Prime Min­is­ter Lawrence Gonzi yes­ter­day in­sisted that politi­cians need to base their poli­cies on val­ues, and warned of the dan­gers of pop­ulist talk.

Speak­ing as one of the main speak­ers dur­ing a panel de­bate which was or­gan­ised by the Times of Malta dis­cussing the US Pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, Brexit, Trump and the rise of the far right par­ties, the for­mer PN leader and Prime Min­is­ter said that in Malta, politi­cians have to be very care­ful with cer­tain state­ments be­cause Malta has a re­al­ity of its own. Dr Gonzi was asked by the mod­er­a­tor to re­act to state­ments by Prime Min­is­ter Joseph Mus­cat that like Trump, he is anti-es­tab­lish­ment.

“Pop­ulism is the res­ig­na­tion of a politi­cian to what the peo­ple want. But lo­cally, we have to talk about val­ues. We talk about ev­ery­thing ex­cept about the val­ues and prin­ci­ples. If we start speak­ing in a way sim­ply to please the pub­lic, we would be mak­ing a huge mis­take.

“There are many who be­lieve val­ues change. I dis­agree. I think a cer­tain num­ber of val­ues can never be changed. We need a pol­i­tics of val­ues to have pol­i­tics of hope.”

Dr Gonzi said that one must not un­der­mine the most ad­vance­ment in civil­i­sa­tion, democ­racy. He said that the enor­mous im­pact of the eco­nomic cri­sis has an­gered the pub­lic and cre­ated a sense of in­se­cu­rity with peo­ple turn­ing against the es­tab­lish­ment.

Alex Sciber­ras Trig­ona, for­mer For­eign Min­is­ter said that this is not merely the ef­fect of the eco­nomic crises, but has been com­ing from many years ago, when com­pa­nies started to move to In­dia and Mex­ico.

Michael Briguglio, when asked to speak about the so­cial me­dia, said that sites like Face­book and Twit­ter are dou­ble edged swords. “Let’s not blame so­cial me­dia. Don’t for­get that what man­aged to gather thou­sands of peo­ple in Tahrir Square in Cairo were Face­book and Twit­ter.”

Wayne Flask, blog­ger and co­me­dian, said that he can­not un­der­stand how the two ma­jor par­ties in Malta say that they are against the es­tab­lish­ment.

“The Labour Party has grown close ties with the busi­ness class and the PN has done so in the past. I think the first thing we need to do is to ask our­selves is who the es­tab­lish­ment is.”

Dr Briguglio said that the word es­tab­lish­ment is a buzz word which is be­ing overused, but does not mean any­thing at all. He said that pop­ulist par­ties are win­ning the lan­guage game, men­tion­ing France’s Marie Le Pen as an ex­am­ple. For­mer AD Chair­man said that the left wing par­ties have a lot to an­swer and have to come up with bet­ter al­ter­na­tives to fight the far-right.

Also present on the panel of speak­ers is Josie Mus­cat who de­fended Don­ald Trump’s call to build a wall and com­pared it to the lo­cal sce­nario. “Wouldn’t you want to send back all the crim­i­nals, mur­der­ers and rapists?”

PD leader Mar­lene Far­ru­gia, who was also present for the de­bate, said that the prob­lem is not the left it­self, but the fact that the left in Op­po­si­tion changes once in govern­ment.

“The big­gest ex­am­ple of all this is our own govern­ment. Isn’t it a left­ist govern­ment that is giv­ing away our land or drag­ging with in­creas­ing the min­i­mum wage? The rich are get­ting richer and the poor are get­ting poorer. The Labour Party has moved away from what we cam­paign for. This govern­ment has drifted away from its own man­i­festo.” Chal­lenged about the fact that she ran with the labour party her­self, she said that she never knew of the pre elec­toral deals.

Photo: Michael Camil­leri

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