Siġġu is a sculpture of an empty chair, temporarily positioned in front of Queen Victoria’s statue in Valletta as part of Malta The empty throne, by Maltese artist Austin Camilleri, is a replica of the chair that Queen Victoria is sitting on.

The artist’s intent was to elicit a discussion about the neocolonial mindset of some. I am not concerned much about our past political masters. Gladly, our past is behind us. I am more apprehensive about our current ‘masters’ or, to be more precise, those having power behind the throne.

The power behind the throne reverts to times when others were responsible for a monarch’s policies. Prince Albert, husband and consort to Queen Victoria, is a case in point. Through his astuteness, he was the real power pulling the ropes.

Although we democratically choose our representatives are there others behind the seat of power? Who has clout over our republic? Who is calling the real shots? Do we have people like Prince Albert? Is our government just following a script written by people behind the throne?

The political turmoil we experienced these last years, the systematic episodes of sleaze and corruption, the bizarre mega planning permits, the secret offshore accounts, the blatant skulduggery, the damning inquiry reports, the changes to established policies to accommodate certain people, the amnesties of illegalities, the unwillingness of the police force to prosecute and so many shady government dealings make my questions more pertinent.

Honest citizens are questioning if there is a sinister and baleful group of people pulling the strings from behind, dictating the government’s agenda.

Although it is unacceptable to generalise, a number of businesspersons, developers, corporations, former and current politicians and others seem to be pulling the strings to suit their own agenda. Some call them freemasons, scratching each other’s back. I call them ‘fat cats’ suffering from compulsive greedy disorder.

Through their ‘generosity’ and subtle networking with friends in high places, political and not, they shrewdly secure their strategic positions. They know which tune to play and which buttons to press. They hold no political conviction; rather they profess an astute political opportunism. Since they are convinced that money is power, they are not embarrassed to use it to their advantage.

Honest citizens are questioning if there is a sinister group of people pulling the strings from behind, dictating the government’s agenda- Albert Buttigieg

Experience shows that, during the last decade or two, they first milked the Nationalist governments to the last droplet, only now they are sucking out Labour’s soul, turning it into a massage parlour massaging their fat egos. Even a number of Labour’s stalwarts have lamented, observing that some ‘obscure’ businesspersons are fiddling with Labour’s agenda.

It is then high time that both political parties are honest enough to acknowledge that those who were or are still standing behind the throne are a serious threat to our democratic credentials. Both parties must be courageous enough to cut off the umbilical cord and keep them at arm’s length.

Thus, we urgently need to introduce State funding for political parties with clear and assertive guidelines in place.

The longer we take to persuade ourselves to do so, the harder it will be to recover from such degeneration but it will continue to further alienate many citizens, particularly the young.

The writing is on the wall. Our procrastination will continue to yield more citizens opting to become political orphans. In return, this will jeopardise democracy while giving these fat cats more opportunities to consolidate their grip behind the throne.

A healthy democracy comes at a price. State party financing must then be considered an investment for a healthy, vibrant and robust democracy.

Albert Buttigieg is the Nationalist Party’s spokesperson on family affairs and social solidarity.


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