Around and on May Day, two mass events took place in Valletta, events that were worlds apart. It was not partisanship alone that separated the two crowds. It was their very outlook on life, on doing things right and on keeping morality in politics. They were people who live on the same tiny island but on collision course.

The first crowd called for “truth and justice”. The people carried photos of murdered journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. They held placards with the words Tillgate and Hearnville, referring to companies in Panama said to be owned by Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi and the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, Keith Schembri. Other placards referred to the elusive third Panama company, Egrant.

They are recycled stories, claimed the Labour government, but recent reports by the Daphne Project show there was much more to the initial shock of secret Panama companies belonging to people in very high places. The Prime Minister took no action when that scandal broke. That decision haunts him to this day, as does Ms Caruana Galizia’s murder.

Inversely, a few days later another crowd went to Valletta, in a celebratory mood. It came across as a show of force for the government and not really a Worker’s Day celebration. Joseph Muscat’s Labour Party does not sound Labour anymore.

Dr Muscat rightly spoke of the low unemployment and a budget surplus but, unsurprisingly, made no reference to fresh allegations of corruption and money laundering. Instead, he told his supporters he would be taking some €50 million from the individual investor programme – Maltese passports sold to millionaires with no real intention of settling down here – to build social housing. The message that day was that the ‘working class’, so exalted by Dr Muscat’s predecessor, Dom Mintoff, should be happy with what they receive from the most capitalist government this country has ever seen. Panem et circenses (bread and circuses) at its very best.

It is difficult to reconcile the two mass events and the contrast places the country at a crossroads.

The issues concerning allegations of corruption, the Caruana Galizia murder and the collapse of the country’s institutions are taking a toll on the country. The international damage to the country’s reputation is huge. The Prime Minister hides behind inquiries he did not even call – bar one – and appears unable to move. Hype and media scams do not work anymore. People are expecting answers.

On the other hand, those at the Labour meeting prefer to see the apparent economic growth and excuse everything that has fallen by the wayside, including ethics and morality in politics.

They are two worlds on collision course but they need not collide at all.

Someone must be able to bring the two ‘peoples’ together and convince them that economic growth and political ethics are two sides of the same coin, dependent on each other. It is not a matter of political left and/or political right. That seems long gone.

This is an issue of public morality and it affects every inhabitant of this island. Doing things right is nothing extraordinary to ask. It should be expected in a society that upholds values. Regrettably, right and wrong have become one corrosive mash eating at this country’s soul.

It must be stopped.

This is a Times of Malta print editorial

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