Our lamented Daphne Caruana Galizia did her best to warn us that the situation is desperate. The deterioration in the ethical standards of Maltese politics, and society in general, has reached dismal levels. The indifferent reaction of a majority of citizens to an assassination, to unbearable government corruption, is unbelievable. Labour politicians have made mincemeat of good governance and democratic procedures, yet their party’s ratings remain intact.

Where are we heading, should we dare hope that this spiralling down can be made to stop? Are we naïve to believe in a possible rehabilitation of Malta? The rot appears so embedded that it does not look possible, in the short run, to climb out of the deep moral mess we are in.

Many notorious nouveaux riche, and old established family business clans, old money, have unashamedly joined in a frenzy of exploitation and looting of the nation’s assets. We may recall a 1990s concession that started with the demolition of the old Hilton hotel that developed into Portomaso, we then progressed to the rape of Tigné Point, now to continue with Manoel island. The ‘Oscar’, however, goes to the dB Group’s St George’s Bay heist, a deal negotiated with the help of prominent legal experts. This dB Group masterpiece of asset-lifting appears soon to be replicated with the “esteemed” Pisani Corinthia Group.

Similar to the business establishment, many members of the professional class, (lawyers, architects, accountants, etc) , who benefitted from a University formation, financed by taxpayers, have given up on their civic responsibilities and operate in a manner that facilitates Malta’s general degradation. They have shortchanged society on a moral and ethical level. Much as they have a right to, Maltese citizens, in general, cannot confidently look up to the professional class to provide judicious guidance and leadership.

The majority of members of our political establishment are not beacons of hope for an improvement in Malta’s public life, but there are still some worthy exceptions

The majority of members of our political establishment are not beacons of hope for an improvement in Malta’s public life but there are still some worthy exceptions, politicians who, in a difficult environment, struggle and succeed to maintain a high level of personal integrity and honest behaviour. These courageous politicians openly speak their mind and call a spade a spade, they do not condition their behaviour to suit their interest and material gain; to them principles still mean a lot.

Marlene and Godfrey Farrugia are an example and their defiant rebellion against rotten Labour is inspiring. Are there such potential rebels among Nationalist members of parliament? Of course there are, upright persons who, on a personal basis, put up a formidable opposition to an administration that is riddled with corruption. They do this in spite of the sorry state of their party, led by an inadequate, not-fit-for-purpose leader, who turned out to be an erroneous freak selection. The mediocre entourage that props this leader compounds the problem.

Is it in Malta’s interest to have a dismally- led and divided Nationalist Party that is split not just at the level of parliamentarians but also at supporters’ level? Is it in Malta’s interest to have a weak Opposition party that is seemingly unable and unwilling to put up a serious and credible opposition to a government intent on an unrestrained pursuit of a corrupt road map?

As the two-party system is not cast in stone, should we welcome a departure from the comfort zone of our predominantly two-party system? The system is proving supremely defective and unable to redirect us to decent ethics in politics. Malta may hope for a possible future exit from the current moral nightmare but for this to happen some milestone event must occur. A breakaway of some house members from the Nationalist Party (mirroring the exit of Marlene and Godfrey Farrugia) may herald the birth of a renewed and invigorated opposition party, made up of upright and principled politicians. A party that may hold its own and grow.

Perhaps Malta needs to break the stranglehold two big parties have on its politics. A stranglehold that has given rise to illicit relations between crooked politicians and local entrepreneurs, developers, hoteliers, legal and audit firms, etc; the list is unending.

Murky relationships have also been developed at an international level, resulting in, among others, a questionable sale of passports, dubious deals on hospitals, universities, power stations and gas supplies. It is baffling how a majority of electors approvingly watch this government increase the assets of Malta through relatively shady revenue streams (passport sales, less than strictly governed finance and gaming sectors, etc), only to paradoxically proceed to grossly undersell and give away valuable assets(public land, hospitals, power stations, concessions disadvantageously granted through pseudo tendering processes, etc) to a select rich few who become richer at the expense of the taxpayer.

A moral impoverishment has taken hold as a majority of citizens have become immune and indifferent to scandalous corruption and erosion of the rule of law. We are truly living in weird times, Malta desperately needs some sanity. The civil society sector, in particular the fearless women of Occupy Justice and many other entities (such as Kenniesa, Shift News, Repubblika), is thankfully alive and reacting to the malfeasance engulfing us. 

Can we hope to see as much from more PN politicians? Will a split or a change in leadership do the trick? In the end politics need not be invariably dirty. In an involved democratic environment, it should deliver and remain relatively clean.

Arthur Muscat writes in his personal capacity.

This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece


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