An open letter to Prime Minister Joseph Muscat — You had a unique opportunity. You squandered it
Dear Prime Minister, it is with a heavy heart that I write this. When you were elected to govern Malta with such a large majority four years ago, it seemed you had the greatest opportunity to make Malta normal.
You turned an unelectable party into one that won the mother of all elections. Thousands of people gave you the benefit of the doubt, fed up with the Nationalist Party in government.
That victory had, however, been long in coming. We, the people, had been calling for changes from the Nationalist Party since 1996. What kept the PN in government from 1998 to 2013 was the fear of the Labour Party, especially its pre-2004 policy on the EU.
Following months if not years of uncertainty, a number of colossal mistakes by the Nationalist government and a slick campaign with the right messages, you managed to achieve what few believed was possible. You managed to convince many of us not to vote for the Nationalist Party.
Our hopes were high. You had all the chance to modernise Malta, to clean the system, to carry out the much needed reforms without necessarily worrying about votes. It was a unique opportunity to make Malta normal, to not have to worry about who governs the country. But alas, you squandered it.
You made mistakes from the first days of government but the economy kept on doing well so many still extended you the benefit of the doubt. You acted tough after the popular reaction to the Manuel Mallia and the Michael Falzon scandals but not when it was your inner core’s turn. The Panama Papers exposed not only secret companies held by your inner core in Panama but also your weakness in dealing with that same inner core. Your inaction to eliminate the rot at the very heart of your government has ended up being your nemesis.
You may ask for all the proof you want about whether you or your wife owned a company in Panama or not, but you abandoned the moral high ground the day you chose to retain your minister Konrad Mizzi and your chief of staff Keith Schembri not withstanding the evidence. Can you blame us for not believing you? You were tough with those on the outer circle who erred but weak with those within your immediate circle, who did much worse
When it started getting too hot in the kitchen, you put on a show about firing Konrad Mizzi but then switched on the air-conditioner keeping him as Minister without Portfolio within your office. He is still the de facto Energy Minister. Who were you trying to fool?
People out there are angry. They are angry because you have done exactly the opposite of what you promised. Where has the pledge of meritocracy gone? Where did the pledge of transparency go? What about accountability? What about Malta taghna lkoll?
Instead of using the comfort of a majority of 36,000 and a Nationalist Party in shambles to build an objective national broadcasting service, you appointed a henchman to the Office of the Prime Minister to target anyone who criticised the government. You thought that you could fight Daphne Caruana Galizia by cloning her in the form of Glenn Bedingfield, but what you failed to realise is that Daphne, like her or hate her, is her own person. Your Daphne is on the public payroll and sits in your office.
All the actions of these four years started to make sense when the emergence of the Panama Papers put everything in context. No one, and I stress no one, would ever have imagined that what were previously merely suspicions would be confirmed in such a shocking and international manner.
The facts that have emerged, helped us see why you dealt with all those you dealt with in the course of this legislature. The sale of Maltese passports will prove to be the country’s downfall whether you are elected again or not. The country has now come to rely on it like a heroin addict trying to get rid of his addiction relies on methadone. At some point the music will stop and we will pay the price. That the Opposition has not declared its intention to stop this nonsense proves the point of our addiction to the easy money. But remember, there is no such thing as a free lunch.
That was just the prelude. The hospitals were privatised and we still don’t know who the real owners are, a large patch of land in Zonqor Point was given to a ‘fake’ university. We committed the country to buy electricity, for the next 18 years, from a power station we did not need. The list of enigmatic decisions that were taken is endless.
But the most problematic decision of all was calling an early election when the country is mired in scandal and in the middle of an EU presidency. While you may point your fingers at journalists, bloggers or the Opposition, you have only yourself to blame for the state the country is in. Had you taken the advice of some of your colleagues, like former Prime Minister Alfred Sant or Evarist Bartolo last year, you would not be in the mess you find yourself in today. Had you fired Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi when you should have done so, the allegations against you and your wife would not have stood alone unless evidence was provided.
You claimed that the media, the opposition and particularly Daphne Caruana Galizia, have tarnished Malta’s reputation abroad. These are crocodile tears. It is your action, or rather inaction coupled with the behaviour of your inner core, that have tarnished Malta’s reputation. It is the failure of Malta’s institutions, starting from the Police to all the other regulators and the Attorney General, who have closed not only the one proverbial eye but actually looked away, when they should have done the decent thing to show that, while there may be bad apples, we have the necessary structures to remove them from the barrel before everything else rots.
The country needed normalcy. It needs a strong opposition that had renewed itself (something that it had failed to do in 1996 because there was no time). Malta needs a solid reputation abroad particularly after the damaging Panama revelations which were all your team’s doing.
The country finds itself at a dangerous crossroads. You have overseen the collapse of our institutions. It is not like they were in a strong shape before but there was an element of function. You have been the one to take advantage of the flaws in the system and render our supposedly independent institutions extensions of Castille.
You have now decided to play Russian roulette. If you win, you might survive but you’re still not out of the woods. But if on the other hand you lose, you are going to bring down the Labour Party with you for good. That might be poetic justice for this sorry spectacle you have regaled us with over the past four years.
Our country deserves better. The Nationalist Party never had, does not have and will never have a divine right to govern the country. It has made huge mistakes in the past for which it is still paying the price. Faced with the electoral options we have today, however, it is the only hope of getting us out of the mess you have created. You, and only you, have given us no choice but to vote for the Nationalist Party in the next election.