Muscat: between words and fiction
Barely three weeks after Joseph Muscat was elected and sworn in as Prime Minister, he was reported in the local media to have pledged “to hold out the hand of friendship to the Nationalist Party.”
He was further reported to have stated that, “Government will not treat the Opposition as irrelevant, despite the electoral difference.” “In line with democracy, those with a mandate to govern must respect the Opposition while putting oneself to the scrutiny of the public and his opponents. This government believes that everyone has something to contribute in a Malta for all,” Muscat was further reported as declaring.
Muscat’s pledge at the beginning of the legislature to hold out the hand of friendship was welcome indeed. Also welcome was his declaration that, “in line with democracy, his government would be putting itself to the scrutiny of the public and the Opposition.” Muscat’s pledges made one assume that his Government would be moving in the right direction in the interest of all thus really and truly making Malta belong to all of us (Malta tagħna lkoll) as promised. Nobody could have imagined, at the time that two of his closest colleagues had already started opening secret companies in Panama.
Two months ago, after almost four years from his original pledge, and after what we have been experiencing since the election, Muscat reaffirmed his appeal for unity and his original offer extending the hand of friendship. This latest appeal for unity and once again offering the hand of friendship after all the happenings of the last four years is, putting it mildly, unbelievable. It shows and confirms Muscat’s hypocrisy.
How can Muscat be credible when Simon Busuttil, Leader of the Opposition, claimed that Muscat has never requested to meet him personally? We are aware of the many occasions Muscat attacks, insults or tries to ridicule the Leader of the Opposition and Nationalist MPs - as much as we are aware of how many times Muscat refused to attend televised face-to-face debates with the Leader of the Opposition. The hand of friendship cannot be offered when Government members and certain “persons of trust”, on various occasions, use threatening language directed at the Opposition and at whoever shows disagreement with the Labour Government.
After the experience of the last four years one wonders how Muscat can be taken seriously when, at the start of the legislature, he pledged that “in line with democracy, those with a mandate to govern must respect the Opposition while putting themselves to the scrutiny of the public and his opponents.”
I wish someone would enlighten me as to how many times Muscat and his Government respected the Opposition or how his Government is “putting itself to the scrutiny of the public and the Opposition” when Muscat’s Labour Government is synonymous with lack of accountability and lack of transparency which, in some cases, are leading to scandals sometimes smelling of corruption.
People of good character keep their promises and their commitments. The good character of a person is shown not by the promises and commitments made but by the promises and commitments that the person keeps. Labour never changes, neither with the passage of time nor under different leaders.
Vote Labour, get Labour
Back in history, some thirty years ago, former Labour leader Dom Mintoff told and excessively excited his supporters that, “if this is not enough, we will give arms to all our supporters.” Those were the days of threats and uncontrolled physical violence. Since 2013, Muscat’s Labour is moving the clock back and reminding us of the black days even though not including physical violence. Some are using words of payback or revenge which confirm that Muscat’s Labour still embraces the mentality of the seventies and the eighties. Labour does not change. Once you vote Labour, you get Labour, whoever its leader is.
In recent months, some Labour exponents reminded us of a battle cry used by former Labour leader Alfred Sant; an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. It was mentioned when Toni Abela’s nomination for member of the European Court of Auditors was refused by the European Parliamentary Committee. Ronnie Pellegrini, Chief of Staff of the Minister for Social Dialogue, Consumer Affairs and Civil Liberties in a comment on the social media referring to the Nationalist Party, wrote, “There is no other way for these people: an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”.
After the vote against Leo Brincat in the European Parliament, Alfred Grixti, Chief Executive of the Foundation for Social Welfare Services, who like Pellegrini is paid from taxpayers’ money, wrote that for the Nationalists “the time of reckoning will come” and “if necessary, with you we will use an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”.
It was then the turn of Alfred Sant, former Labour leader and now Member of the European Parliament. In an article about the Panama Papers’ scandal and the negative vote against Leo Brincat as a result of the scandal, Sant wrote, “this invites retaliation of the type of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”. He probably conveniently forgot that in April last year, without mincing words, he declared that Konrad Mizzi should resign in the national interest because of his involvement in the Panama Papers’ scandal.
Snakes, axes and more
The phrase “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” will not however make us forget Justyne Caruana’s reference to the Nationalists as “those are against us, those are snakes”. We will also not forget the incident in Parliament when Joe Debono Grech threatened ex-Labour Member of Parliament and now independent MP Marlene Farrugia “I will come for you and break you” (Niġi għalik u nifqgħek).
The use of provocative language by some Labour exponents has no limits. In April last year Labour Deputy Leader and Minister Chris Cardona, addressing a Labour General Conference, instigated, “If you hit us with a dagger, we will hit you with an axe.” More recently, Minister Evarist Bartolo, speaking about a case of alleged corruption by one of his canvassers in his Ministry, declared; “For every hit that I receive, I will hit twice”.
Words of retaliation or payback directed at the Nationalist Party and others are highly condemnable and a disgrace on who utters them and on Labour. Muscat’s promise prior to the election that the time of us and them will be over and his offer of the hand of friendship after the election are meaningless and hypocritical.
Incitement and provocation
Violence is not only the physical attacks which many of us witnessed in the seventies and the eighties under Labour – the mob rule was also condemned by Joseph Muscat himself in an article in The Malta Independent of September 1998.
There are many forms of violence and these include words of incitement and provocation which are uttered or written. Some Labour exponents, especially Glenn Bedingfield, a person of trust in the Office of the Prime Minister paid from our taxes, also use the social media to show hostility. They attack Nationalist Party exponents, particularly the Party leader Simon Busuttil, and whoever does not agree with Labour or shows disagreement with some Labour Government actions, including the Archbishop and the free press. Even myself and my writings on this newspaper have not been spared of Bedingfield’s attacks.
Such words and writings can provoke and indirectly encourage physical violence which, God forbid, should raise its head once again. These words and writings belie Joseph Muscat’s promise prior to the election that the time of red and blue will be over and his appeal, after the election, for unity and his offering the hand of friendship. Since Joseph Muscat does not stop them, he would be seemingly encouraging or supporting them.
In line with democracy ....
Muscat should remember his declaration of 5 April 2013: “In line with democracy, those with a mandate to govern must respect the Opposition while putting oneself to the scrutiny of the public and his opponents. This government believes that everyone has something to contribute in a Malta for all”.
Muscat himself defined that this is what democracy is about. The contrary, would therefore be undemocratic; and this, according to Muscat’s pronouncement of what is in line with democracy.