On Saturday May 7 at 10am, in front of the new Parliament, the Civil Society Network will be organising a non-partisan protest calling for the resignations of Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri. It will be a peaceful protest with no speeches. All individuals and organisations have been invited to attend. Here are five reasons why you should be joining too.
1. It’s time to send a message to governments
Yes, government is in plural for a reason. For years we have seen politically appointed people taking advantage of the system to better their needs and not that of the country. The common good is as mythical as a direwolf in Game of Thrones and it’s because tribalism gets the better of the electorate who cannot distinguish between the good of the party and the good of the country. The previous PN government was taken down because of the lack of good governance and abuse of power. Many thought the situation would be different with the PL in government who promised they would act with the best of practices but their legislature soon descended into an over indulgence of personal favours. It’s time governments realised it is the people who put them into power and that they aren’t as untouchable as they would like to think.
2. This scandal shouldn’t go away because of voter fatigue
If this happens it would be a disservice to each and every one of us. Yes, politics can be boring, and such issues can drag ad infinitum with no sign of redemption in sight. The magnitude of this story meant that it has headlined many a newspaper front page and people are getting bored of it but if the perpetrators get away with a mere slap on the wrist (Keith Schembri so far suffered no repercussions whatsoever, while Konrad Mizzi was shuffled around in an attempt to show consequence), it would be the electorate that ultimately pays the price. This government came to power with a call for good governance and total transparency, and this scandal (together with the Gaffarena deal, the American non-University, Australia Hall and Cafe Premier sale) is nothing but a sign of utter disrespect to anyone who believed things could be any different.
3. Saying sorry is not enough
Konrad Mizzi apologised during his speech on Wednesday when the House was debating a non-confidence vote against him but saying sorry is simply not enough. As a politician he should understand he breached moral and ethical grounds and thus needs to resign. Both the Prime Minister and himself keep saying the people will decide about the Panama scandal but the people have already decided and polls show Mizzi should go. So what other signals do the Prime Minister and Konrad Mizzi want?
4. It is not just about Konrad Mizzi
If Konrad Mizzi did something which breached morals and ethics, then so did the Prime Minister’s right hand man and Chief of Staff, Keith Schembri. The Prime Minister naively said that Keith Schembri is not a political person but this to put it simply, is a lie. Schembri is one of the most powerful political people in Malta. He manages the affairs of the Office of the Prime Minister and is present when major deals are being brokered. He might be a behind the scenes man but that doesn’t make him any less political.
5. Political responsibility has nothing to do with the legality of the Panama accounts.
One of the main defences for Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri has been the “nothing illegal happened” argument. Opening an offshore account is just one of the many financial loopholes the one per cent use to hide their wealth. There are also legitimate uses for having an offshore account - amongst others living in an unstable country where money can be seized without your authority. However, the fact still remains that many times, these companies, especially the ones in countries like Panama who do not share information with tax authorities of other countries, are used for shady dealings such as money laundering. Other times they are a vehicle for tax evasion. It is for this reason that decent politicians would never even consider having such structures in place and it is for this same exact reason that the tax audit requested by the Prime Minister is nothing but a sham. Ultimately this is an issue of political responsibility, of knowing what’s moral and right and of choosing to act ethically.
For more information about the Civil Society Network protest you can check out their Facebook page.