Monday, 11 February 2013

Biggest story of the campaign

This article was published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 10th February 2013
Corruption- the greatest story
of the campaing so far

Four weeks’ today we will know what the election verdict is.     Having passed the half way mark it is relevant to ask what so far has been the biggest story of the campaign.
Any scientific survey would show that the issue which has dominated the hearts and minds of the electorate is not in fact a campaign issue.   It is the corruption scandal involving commissions paid to an inner circle of politically appointed executives involved in oil procurement.

The police are reportedly close to pressing charges against some of those involved.    There has been talk of granting immunity to one of the persons implicated who has agreed to give evidence to strengthen the case of the prosecution.  On the other hand the Police have said they have enough evidence to press charges.
This is a delicate issue and politicians in the last few days of their term should be very careful from taking any initiatives.   Let the Police do their work and let them request the granting of such immunity if they feel the need for additional evidence to bring into the net suspects that cannot be otherwise prosecuted.

Politicians have their finger in the pie in this matter so any initiatives they may take are subject to misinterpretation.   At the very least there is political responsibility of whoever appointed the persons implicated to a position of trust holding a public office.
Whoever trusted these persons is at the very least responsible for gross political misjudgement and should acknowledge their responsibility by making public declaration accepting political responsibility and standing aside from seeking any political position.

I find it hard to accept that whoever was involved was fooling his political masters, lining up private pockets without giving rise to any suspicions.   As responsible politicians, they should suspect anyone who conducts a life-style and carry wealth which is not reflective of income officially declared.  In a small island like ours extremes tend to stand out like a sore thumb and only the blind do not suspect foul play, although it takes valiant journalists to turn suspicions into hard proof.
One has a right to be suspicious to the degree of joining the dots.   Why has the PN government repeatedly turned down all proposals to shift from HFO to LNG just as in parallel people trusted by politicians were putting a hidden corruption tax on the nation’s oil procurement costs?   And why during its long tenure of power, against specific pledges in their electoral manifesto and against all governance standards of modern democracies, the PN showed no enthusiasm at all to pass serious legislation about the financing of political parties, about the introduction of a whistle-blowers act and against the removal of legal prescription related to fraud committed by people holding a political office?

This is the true story of the campaign.   It is what has shocked people of goodwill and what is persuading many of the remaining undecided voters that they cannot trust this outgoing fatigued administration to be put in charge again of the nation’s ship.
The Prime Minister has every interest to try to escape from the political shadow of the most serious corruption case in the Maltese political history by  trying to implicate that the PL are already befriending contractors.    In so doing he is more and more sounding like the prostitute that gets scandalised by the virgin wearing skirt two-inches above the knee.

He argues that the biggest story of the campaign is the Opposition befriending contractors and pursuing business friendly policies.    In the mind of the PN, Joseph Muscat  is already guilty of the sin of intention because according to the PN, measuring by their own standards, Muscat  is at fault because he is already befriending those who rightly form part of Malta taghna lkoll theme.  Little do they care that Muscat’s PL is promising the introduction of good governance legislation as a priority in parallel  with the Budget for 2013 and before exercising any material executive authority. 
If the PL were to be influenced by the Prime Minister’s innuendos they would have to change their campaign theme to exclude contractors from their ‘lkoll’ definition.   But why should they?  Malta needs contractors as much as it needs  entrepreneurs, shop-owners, doctors, lawyers, architects and accountants.   

But what Malta needs above all else is energised new administration, people who do not feel too comfortable in their position ( so comfortable in fact that they publicly profess that the electorate would be crazy to trust anybody but them with the reins of the country),  people to take care of the taxpayers funds with the same standards of care they apply for their own property to ensure that the taxpayer gets maximum mileage for every Euro of tax paid.
What Malta needs is for political parties to be forced to come clean about the funds they collect to finance not only their election campaigns but also all the funds they collect to finance their operations and capital expenditure.  

What I know for sure and can vouch for first hand is that Labour built its capital assets ( HQ and Media ) when in opposition, when every cent had to be collected by small donations from the small donors who attach no conditions to their generosity and who have no claim to playing the tune after having paid the piper.  
In contrast the PN built their patrimony from the seat of government where the practically unlimited executive power held over an inordinately long tenure sets a fitting scene for strong suspicions, fortified by irrefutable circumstantial evidence, that the PN had access to financing with strings attached.    In the absence of their willingness to publish their financial statements it is more than a bit rich for the Prime Minister to argue that Muscat’s  including contractors in the ‘lkoll’ definition of the PL’s campaign is the biggest story of the campaign.

For me the biggest story of the campaign proper so far is the contrasting stance of the respective parties.   The positive vibrations of the Labour’s message of unity and togetherness is the antithesis of the PN’s scaremongering that the Labour lot if elected will drive the country to the wall and no one but themselves should be trusted.   The contrast whereby Labour addresses itself to the shrinking residual pool of undecided voters by offering them invitations by other non-politically active persons who have already decided to make the swing, as against the PN’s abrasive warning that they would prejudice all that they have acquired even if they let Labour in for just five minutes, let alone a full legislature.
The greatest story of the campaign as we have crossed its half-way mark is that the PN’s campaign never lifted off the ground, that the momentum was and remains behind Labour and that many undecided who had already written off the PN from deserving a fourth consecutive term are now shifting from doubtful to neutral and from neutral to warm versus Labour seeing that Muscat has extended the boundaries of the PL from a party to a movement they can work with even if they do not embrace its traditional core values.

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