Speaking just hours after the Financial Action Task Force greylisted Malta, Prime Minister Robert Abela said some people were untouchable in the past, implying this is no longer the case. He should look again.
Below are the names of some people, politicians or otherwise, who have featured over the past weeks and months in connection with serious crime, corruption or grave shortcomings given the office they occupy or used to occupy. Some bask in the sun, others keep their head below the parapet.
The list of shame is long but it is by no means exhaustive: Joseph Muscat, Carmelo Abela, Edward Zammit Lewis, Evarist Bartolo, Edward Scicluna, Owen Bonnici, Ian Borg, Lawrence Cutajar, Silvio Valletta, Marvin Gaerty, Johann Buttigieg, Joseph Cuschieri, Edwina Licari, Heathcliff Farrugia.
Then there is Rosianne Cutajar, the latest to be found manipulating the truth – if not outrightly lying – and breaching ethics, by none other than the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life.
Basing his conclusions on a ‘balance of probabilities’, the standards commissioner found a prima facie breach of ethics when she pocketed more than €46,000 by brokering a 2019 property sale to Yorgen Fenech and failing to declare that income in her declaration of assets. He recommended the matter be referred to the revenue commissioner whose name features in the list mentioned above.
When details about the deal had first surfaced earlier this year, Prime Minister Robert Abela accepted Cutajar’s resignation from parliamentary secretary pending the outcome of the commissioner’s investigation. He confirmed the decision still stands when the commissioner concluded his probe a few days ago. The prime minister also assigned Cutajar’s civil rights and reforms portfolio to Equality, Research and Innovation Minister Owen Bonnici, another name in the list above.
A defiant Cutajar declared she would remain in parliament and contest the upcoming election on a Labour ticket, putting Abela as both prime minister and party leader in an embarrassing situation. Who has the final say: she or the leader?
Is it enough for Abela to distance himself from her by confirming she will no longer form part of cabinet? Will he repeat the mistake of his predecessor and turn a blind eye until the bubble bursts?
Will he make the decisions that genuine party supporters deem necessary? Or will he continue to appease the opportunists who will support him today but stab him in the back tomorrow if they think the sun is not shining brightly enough for them anymore? Which interests should come first: those of Malta and its people or those of his colleagues and their cronies?
Given the cloud hanging over Labour, courtesy of those on the above list of shame and others, should the party not proceed to expel Cutajar as it had done with Konrad Mizzi? For all we know, Cutajar may already be negotiating with the tax department to pay a fine and settle her tax dues. But should the Labour Party continue to allow her to represent it in view of her dubious associations and the standards commissioner’s damning report?
Abela is stuck between a rock and a hard place, declaring he wants to clean up the act and see some heads roll but at the same time fearful of antagonising pro-Labour voters.
The party, but much less the country, cannot afford to go through the sort of turmoil it experienced in late 2019 again.
Impunity has already led to the national disaster of greylisting. The new breed of untouchables could spell political upheaval all over again.
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