‘Malta tagħna lkoll’ is a sham. I refer specifically to the rhetoric of the new Government and in particular to that of Joseph Muscat, rather than to the value of that Government and its Prime Minister.
I wasn’t even told I would be dropped [from the Ornis Committee] and only got to know when I read it in the papers
It’s early days yet to attempt to evaluate the Labour Government. Besides, I quite honestly don’t suppose that it is likely to perform all that badly. Muscat’s Cabinet is probably no worse than Lawrence Gonzi’s.
A mixed bag to be sure, it nevertheless includes a number of competent people who should be given a chance to find their footing and show us their worth.
The podium is where the bogus bit begins. It appears to be Muscat’s intention to drag his campaign slogans kicking and screaming up the stairs at Castille. The problem is that, unlike during the campaign, the deeds now have to match the words.
The ‘Malta tagħna lkoll’ tag was (read ‘is’) made up of two rhetorical threads. The first was that of meritocracy. A government led by the movement, the story went, would usher in a new age when posts would be allocated according to merit.
The cronyism of GonziPN would be no more. Instead it would be a faceless, colourless bazaar of CVs and performance audits.
The second thread was that of reconciliation. Surely a bad case of déjà vu but the strong majority of voters didn’t seem to think so. The idea was that decades of partisan firda (division) would give way to a world in which the Maltese celebrated their consanguinity and kinship day and night, as one.
Given that Muscat insists on harping on it as Prime Minister, we must look into the fit between word and deed. My view is that, so far, the two are as related as Franco Debono and Pope Francis.
Take meritocracy. I was until three weeks ago a member of the Ornis Committee, the body that advises the government on matters related to birds and conservation.
As one might expect, much of the committee’s time is spent discussing hunting and trapping, the idea being to strike some kind of balance between those practices and healthy bird populations.
My presence on the committee had nothing to do with my political leanings. (In any case I have never been what one might call a flag-waving supporter of any party.) Rather, I was appointed on the strength of my knowledge of the field.
Admittedly self-audit is no audit. But it’s fair to say that I’m the only social scientist in Malta who studies hunting and trapping as cultural practices. I have done fieldwork in Malta and abroad and published internationally in anthropological journals. I also maintain strong collaborations with experts elsewhere.
The only time I met (then) Minister George Pullicino was when he called me to his office to offer me the Ornis post. Tellingly, that came a few days after a lecture I gave at University on hunting. I remember him telling me that he would expect me to contribute, and to vote, according to my scholarly evaluation. Since I wouldn’t have been interested in being his puppet, his terms suited me just fine.
I went on to respect those terms. My votes didn’t always match those of the other Government-appointed members. Once or twice I thought I would get a call telling me that my services were no longer required.
That call never came. Instead I was given free rein by the chairman to contribute fully to the workings of the committee. I wrote two reports over and above my normal duties, attended meetings without fail, and contributed to discussions.
Like I said, self-audit is no good. I didn’t expect the new Administration to take my word for it and re-appoint me, just like that. But I did expect them to at least evaluate the value of my expertise and contributions.
The reason I did so was Muscat, who keeps promising a new age of meritocracy in which what matters was not who you know, but what you know.
It turns out I didn’t know the right people. I was simply dropped from the Ornis Committee, no explanation given. In fact, I wasn’t even told I would be dropped and only got to know when I read it in the papers.
Martyrdom is not among my ambitions. Nor do I expect or need anyone’s sympathy. In any case, I have enough on my plate with or without Ornis. The only reason I decided to write about it is that I thought an actual lived example would work better than generalisations.
Not that generalisations would be out of order. In these last three weeks we’ve witnessed a pogrom. Not since the suppression of the Templars have people been thrown out of their posts and replaced with the ‘in’ crowd so swiftly and summarily. Evaluation of merit? I don’t think so.
The other thing Muscat loves to talk about is firda (division). Only he’s completely out of touch with contemporary history.
The last time I experienced partisan firda I had hair food and spot cream on my bathroom shelf. Gravity and time have seen to the last two, the goodwill of both parties to the first. Ironically the surest proof that malignant firda is no more, was the aftermath of the Labour victory itself.
On Monday, March 11 I chanced across some hundreds of Labour revellers carcading their way down into St George’s Bay, watched by onlookers who made it quite obvious that the happiness was not theirs.
It was a fine party. There wasn’t a scintilla of menace or bad feeling; it was all just good-natured fun all round.
Call me naïve but it didn’t seem to me like a country emerging from decades of civil strife. On that one as on meritocracy, Muscat is quite simply all words no substance.
It would be churlish to begrudge Labour such a popular mandate, or to expect them not to rock the boat. In any case, if people had wanted things to stay the same, they would have voted Nationalist.
Rather, it’s specifically Muscat’s bubble that bothers and annoys me. I say he should just give it a solid pin prick and get on with it. The latter he must do himself.
As to the former the facts will see to it, whether he likes it or not.