Having followed local politics from a safe distance for the major part of my adult life, I can confidently state that nothing shocks or surprises me anymore in this blessed country of ours. Not a week goes by without some new “adventure”.

The latest sensational story is the report carried by several newspapers that Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi intends to contest the leadership of the Labour Party should a vacancy materialise. I am dumbfounded by the gall of this man. 

As everybody knows, Mizzi was outed (no allegation here – but a fact confirmed by none other than the man himself) for having secretly, or so he thought, opened a company in Panama owned by a trust in New Zealand soon after Labour was elected to government. 

We need hardly debate why people open companies in jurisdictions like Panama. If we genuinely wish to be honest with ourselves, all those in the know are fully aware that the main purpose for establishing these structures is to hide money and/or other valuable assets (normally in rather substantial quantities) from the taxman or a spouse or other eyes. 

When Mizzi was caught with his proverbial pants down by his ankles, he showed no respect for his Prime Minister, for his party and, above all, for his country. 

He, together with Keith Schembri, should have offered their immediate and unequivocal resignations. Mizzi, however, would have none of it. 

Both should, therefore, have been dismissed on the spot by Joseph Muscat. 

I repeat what I have said many times before. Muscat’s failure to act decisively on this issue was, in my opinion, the biggest failure of his political career. Rather than upholding and defending the national and non-partisan interest, he chose to protect his buddies. 

Instead of sending a crystal-clear message to one and all that his government adopts a policy of zero tolerance on any shady business, he opted to play the political game knowing full well that most of the electorate do not understand the real implications of companies in tax havens etc.

If Joseph Muscat does choose to retire, may I plead with him not to leave the country with a double whammy

Notwithstanding his own smoking gun admission, Mizzi seems to have survived unscathed for several years and he struts around the country like a proud peacock. 

I do not wish to express a view on whether Muscat should or should not contest the next election as that is a decision that he will have to make in due course. I’ll be the first to admit that he has done several good things for the country during his tenure although some of these initiatives, notably the sale of our citizenship, did not do much to enhance our nation’s reputation.

I recently found myself sitting next to a well-to-do couple outside of Malta. 

When I casually asked where they came from, they both declared Malta with a big grin on their faces. When I said I was born in Malta they informed me that they were in fact born in Russia, but they had now become Maltese by virtue of their purchase of our citizenship and happily showed me their passports to prove their point. 

That was not a very pleasant experience for me.

If Muscat does choose to retire, may I plead with him not to leave the country with a double whammy – his exit from politics and the possibility of Mizzi one day becoming Malta’s prime minister. 

I think I voice the aspirations of many who can rise above partisan politics and who have a genuine desire for what is best for our country, when I say: Malta deserves better. Much better.

Tony Zammit Cutajaris a retired businessman.

This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece


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