On a Rai programme on the Panama Papers last week, Justice Minister Owen Bonnici defended Minister Without Portfolio Konrad Mizzi. His statement reflects this government’s attitude towards good governance and democracy – the reason why I chose to enter the political scene.
Dr Bonnici said the minister had apologised, and that he had never heard a politician apologise before. So we should be grateful we got an apology, as if this was ever going to be enough.
Dr Mizzi and the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, Keith Schembri, should have resigned the instant they were discovered opening up Panama companies just five days after the election.
The fact that they retain their posts so many months later is evidence of things gone wrong at the highest levels of this administration. Joseph Muscat has been unable to take the right decision – he is the problem.
As Malta approaches the EU Presidency, European media will continue to raise the matter. The scandal has cast doubts on Malta’s ability to push through EU anti-money laundering laws while we are at the helm. So, our country’s name will continue to be dragged through the mud.
Why? Because the decision the Prime Minister has taken to keep the two by his side is the wrong one for the country.
This is not a government that prioritises the national interest. The Office of the Prime Minister is acting like a commercial agent for the country, selling off our assets and reputation in a context where there is massive concern over what may be their personal gain from these agreements.
From energy deals to ODZ land in Żonqor, from private banks to public hospitals, it is one deal after another. Concerns are raised, concerns are drowned out. Nothing changes. Scandals are revealed, only to be replaced by the next one. And we keep asking: what are they gaining from it?
The taxpayer-funded campaign to tarnish my reputation is a clear example of why I have decided to take on the challenge of becoming campaign director for the PN
Journalism has a crucial role to play in keeping the government in check. But that is not enough when the government is not playing by the rules of democracy.
That is why I have decided to take a stand. If we want to see a different kind of politics in the country, then we must do something about it.
The government has spent a great deal of energy trying to discredit me. Some very creative writing has come out of the Prime Minister’s Office. I have a whole new, fictitious, personality now.
I would have been flattered by the attention had I not been convinced that taxpayers’ money would have been better spent dealing with the fact that Muscat, Mizzi and Schembri have become the faces of an international scandal that is only set to get worse – at our expense.
A government that spends that amount of energy to discredit a person who decided to take a stand has certainly not got its ducks in a row. The taxpayer-funded campaign to tarnish my reputation is a clear example of why I have decided to take on the challenge of becoming campaign director for the PN. Their attack has only served to strengthen my resolve.
Who should I trust: someone who brought us the EU and gave up a successful career in Brussels to rebuild a decimated party and commit it to honest politics, or someone at the centre of one scandal after another?
This is not about partisan politics; this is about good governance. When I take on my new role next month, I will be working to elect the PN because Simon Busuttil has made it his political mission to clean up politics. When he gave us his word before, he delivered.
When people entrust you with running the country, you are there to serve not to gain. This concept has escaped the Labour Party. In years past, they tried to put us in our place with batons and bombs, now they do it with spin and manipulation.
Their argument that I could not have done my job as a journalist while being impartial shows they have no understanding of professionalism. They fail to mention that I have been a journalist for a number of years and was a vocal critic of the past two Nationalist administrations.
It is because of my deep respect for the profession that I chose to leave when I decided it was time to take a stand. As last week’s anniversary of Black Monday – when Labour thugs burned down the Allied Newspapers’ building – reminded us, the Times will stand. It will do so despite government attacks. It will do so, with or without me.
It is with deep regret that I leave a newsroom filled with such capable and competent people. But it is with strong conviction that I make this move. We deserve better.
Caroline Muscat is the former News Editor of the Times of Malta.
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