On a subject of national interest, I am surprised that nobody has put pen to paper on it. A television programme was aired with a rotten taint of uncalled for comments and, in my opinion, a biased view of John Dalli’s case.

Malta and its representatives cannot and must not be subject to ridicule and humiliation- Lino DeBono

With friends like this, who needs enemies!

As they would say, God protect me from my friends; I can handle my enemies. I find this truly suited the said programme.

It is easy for one to frame a person. It will take years for one to clear the mud thrown. Some will always stick, no matter what.

I know Dalli from the other side of the House of Representatives. We nod at each other, say hello and that’s it. I did not agree with his views on many issues, especially when, as Finance Minister, the Mid-Med Bank was sold.

But I never knew or heard that Dalli was in any way involved in any corruption. Although from the opposing side, I always admired his capabilities as an administrator.

What irks me in this issue of his resignation from the European Commissioner is the timing and the way it was done. To be given a 45-minute ultimatum to resign is a disgrace in itself. One can also say it is shocking and humiliating.

A commentator on TV asked whether this would have been done to a German or French commissioner. I believe not. In Malta, the people often argue and say that the law is strong with the weak but weak with the strong. This certainly applies in this case.

What stands out in this affair is the manner in which it was handled and the timing of the report submitted by a tobacco multinational company to the European Commission just weeks prior to Dalli was expected to launch new tobacco legislation.

For example, it would never cross my mind that such a multinational company would ever commit itself by sending an e-mail mentioning by name a commissioner with whom it would like to deal (hanky-panky).

This, for the simple reason that the e-mail can be copied and can be traced.

Any normal company that wants to dilly-dally when dealing with a serious issue and which can itself be implicated in corruption will never ever dare to damage itself by sending a document that could be traced back to it. This especially when it can have the advice of the best lawyers that money can buy. Surely, any lawyer worth his salt will advise against any kind of incriminating mail or anything of the sort.

The document in question included these incriminating elements: Dalli’s name, the name of the Maltese entrepreneur and also a question about what fees would be charged.

Nothing more damaging could have been written in such a short message.

I shall not refer to the Maltese entrepreneur because I do not know him and know nothing about his character or his integrity. Here, I am only referring to Dalli.

One is justified in asking what is the outcome of this matter. In my view, the outcome further fuels the fire.

The legislation that was to be submitted by Dalli and his office last Monday was stopped and put on hold. Who is benefiting? It is, of course, the multinational tobacco companies that benefit because they have now bought more time to maybe muster enough support to change the proposed directive.

This confirms my suspicions that Dalli was framed.

It was also reported that there have been demands in Brussels for Dalli’s case to be reviewed thoroughly. That would be a step in the right direction.

I followed the comments made on TV by OLAF head, Giovanni Kessler, on the Dalli report. He was asked about the sum of money that was demanded by the entrepreneur. Kessler made his audience laugh by not only saying that it was “huge, gross, substantial” but by also making funny faces and gestures.

Such behaviour was unbecoming and unnecessary. Surely, it was not a dignified manner in which a head and a magistrate should behave.

I wish Dalli the best of luck in his quest for justice. I personally know that when mud is thrown, apart from some of it sticking, no matter what, it will take years to be cleared.

The suffering, agony and hardship to Dalli and, most of all, his family will be enormous.

The name of our country has also been tarnished. Here, too, the mud must be cleared. Malta and its representatives cannot and must not be subject to ridicule and humiliation.

Support, when needed, must be voiced. Frame-ups can never be tolerated. Justice must be done.

Judging by how things stand now, I, for one, firmly believe that Dalli has been framed.

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