A few days ago the Maltese government finally proposed a motion to strip Muammar Gaddafi of all his Maltese honorific titles. Joseph Muscat’s Labour Party has agreed. After 40 years of Gaddafi boot licking by the Nationalist Party and even more so by the Labour Party, now that the dicatator is politically dead, the two unanimously agree on dropping him.
Stripping Col Gaddafi of his honours is simply not enough to bleach Maltese political consciences and to give them a new virginity. Certain Maltese politicians must now reflect on the damage they have caused to the Libyan people through their multi-decennial servilism towards the Libyan dictator, servilism that could have well been oiled by blood money coming from the North African shores.
In the past, the butchering of a Maltese accountant had been linked to the laundering of Libyan money, which was being deposited in Swiss banks through Maltese intermediaries with high political connections. But all this was only based on hearsay, no proof was ever given, and the cutting to bits of the Maltese accountant has never been solved to this day.
What instead constitutes concrete and factual news today is the fact that the Maltese government has finally revealed the amount of Libyan government assets in our country. In fact, Malta has just frozen a total of €377 million in Libyan government assets, of which €86 million belonged to the Gaddafi family or to entities where they are majority stakeholders.
Let us for the moment forget the €293 million belonging to the Libyan government. What interests me at the moment are the €86 million belonging to the Gaddafi family and entourage. Where is all this money invested? Only in Maltese banks? Are there any business concerns involved? And who are the Maltese partners? Are any politicians involved?
I ask all this because it is well-known that the Libyan institutions in Malta used to “offer” aid to politicians in Malta to strengthen the image of Libya in Malta. I still recall, at the end of 1989, when we had just set up Alternattiva Demokratika, that we were offered this kind of “aid” if we drafted press releases in favour of Libyan issues and, therefore, indirectly in favour of the Libyan regime.
I am proud to state that the AD executive committee of that time unanimously decided that we would not be “bought” in any way by the offers of a dictatorial and bloody regime and we clearly stated “no” to this kind of help. Had we accepted, we could have had important financial resources to fight the political battle against the two major parties in Malta. But no amount of money could buy our dignity and self respect. Personally, I am doubly proud of having refused all offers of sponsored trips to Libya by Libyan institutions and pseudo-NGOs, both when in Malta and in Brussels. Unfortunately, this has meant that I have never visited a country, which has much to offer from a cultural, historical and touristic point of view.
Some other Maltese politicians have not taken the AD attitude. I remember former Labour candidate and MP Dennis Sammut and former Prime Minister Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici spending thousands of Maltese liri on Libyan-sponsored conferences for hundreds of foreign guests at the Jerma Palace Hotel, in the name of a filo-Libyan organisation named Popem. Where did all the money come from?
The recent Libyan crisis has exposed the political doublespeak in our country. Col Gaddafi was one of the first leaders Joseph Muscat rushed off to visit soon after his election as PL leader. A second visit of a strong contingent of “moderates and progressives” (sic!), courtesy of the private plane provided by the Libyan government and leader, was held last summer.
Not to be outdone by their Labour opponent, with Egypt and Tunisia burning and with a “Day of Shame” already announced in Libya, Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi and his Foreign Minister gave us a taste of their perfect timing and intuition by rushing to Libya last February 9 to meet Col Gaddafi, thus helping to give him a vestige of credibility in the process. Luckily, the Maltese Prime Minister came to his senses a few weeks later and denounced the Gaddafi leadership.
Why have some Maltese top politicians been so keen to salute the dictator?
The answer normally given is that we cannot ignore the leadership of a country that is so close to Malta. And this line of reasoning makes sense. But is it also possible that the Maltese government and opposition have been so keen to ingratiate Col Gaddafi also to protect the business interests of certain Maltese politicians?
Il-Mument last Sunday revealed CIA documentation stating that, allegedly, the Gaddafi regime directly financed the Malta Labour Party. European Commissioner John Dalli, a former Nationalist MP and Cabinet minister, has openly admitted he had “established a strong network at the political and executive levels of that country”. Then we have Mosta-based Labour candidate Joe Sammut, who was mentioned by The New York Post as the man who handled hundreds of thousands of dollars on behalf of Mutassim Gaddafi. US diplomacy, exposed by Wikileaks, also alleged that Col Gaddafi’s daughter Aisha is a partner of former Nationalist MP Josie Muscat, something which Dr Muscat has strongly denied.
At least, these are open secrets. Are there other hidden ones? It is imperative that the Maltese government publishes the list of assets of the Libyans in Malta so that any Maltese political connections can be exposed. Any further dithering on such issue would simply amount to a cover-up of any possible past Maltese political misdemeanour.
Prof. Cassola is spokesman on EU and international affairs of Alternattiva Demokratika, the Green party.