All political careers end in failure, as Enoch Powell wrote. Sometimes, as Roberta Metsola knows – or ‘Unworthy’ Metsola, as I shall henceforth call her – careers start that way. In her last letter about me in this newspaper, she made a futile defence of her position based on my being “five decades older than her”.

Her pen-for-hire diatribe felt like water off a duck’s back. I may be 83 years old but I can, and do, work an eight-hour day, six days a week. I very much hope – and I mean this most sincerely – that, at 83, Metsola will still be alive and, secondly, she will still be fit enough to work. (Does her ageism also extend, I wonder, to our newly-appointed President and Pope Francis?)

When Malta goes to the polls in the European parliamentary elections next week, it is vitally important that the candidates elected to represent us have as their defining purpose the commitment to fight for the good name of Malta and to ensure that overriding Maltese interests always prevail.

In the last European Parliament, for the first time since Malta sent MEPs to Brussels and Strasbourg, two Maltese Nationalist Party MEPS – David Casa and Unworthy Metsola, at 40 years old an ambitious aspirant to the PN leadership – were notable for their determination to put their narrow and misplaced PN interests before Malta’s national interest. Metsola even had the gall to accuse those who were critical of Nationalist MEPs for acting this way of “a thwarted and misplaced sense of pseudo-nationalistic pride”.

Why do I adopt such a damning view of their behaviour? The charge against Metsola and Casa is emphatically not that they spoke about, or drew attention to, any of Malta’s shortcomings in the European Parliament. Which country in Europe does not have deficiencies aplenty and should be held to account?

No. The charges are far more serious for three reasons.

First, it is that they deliberately manoeuvred and insinuated themselves into membership of European Parliament delegations and committees which – in the international emotional reaction following Daphne Caruana Galizia’s brutal murder – were pondering extremely serious issues affecting Malta.

Second, that they did this intentionally, despite it being a clear breach of the European Parliament’s own rules obliging them to declare a serious conflict of interest between their roles as Maltese MEPs (and members of the Opposition Party in Malta) and what the parliamentary committees had been set up to consider. That it was a matter on which the government and the Opposition were clearly at odds simply made the breach of conflict-of-interest rules the more flagrant.

And, third, that they did so calculatedly, with clear premeditation and intent, to ensure they were able to influence the outcome of these reports in such a way as to blacken Malta’s good name for their own narrow party political purposes.

This is the unethical action of which I hold Casa and Metsola culpable. It has harmed Malta severely. They are not worthy of representing it in the European Parliament again. While I accept that our rule of law needs strengthening, for reasons I have previously complained of, these two Nationalist MEPs showed no compunction about painting Malta as a country that does not respect the rule of law – a proposition that is utterly false. Instead of representing Malta’s national interest abroad, they sought to undermine it.

Which country in Europe does not have deficiencies aplenty and should be held to account?

Casa and Metsola have dragged Malta’s name through the mud internationally and actively promoted a Euro-parliamentary rule of law report of abject quality. Our country has been manipulated on the international stage and its economy imperilled by a high-stakes assault to sully Malta’s name for tawdry political advantage.

What was so deceitful and dishonourable about the two MEPs’ behaviour was that they apparently saw no ethical clash in serving on the parliamentary investigations when the European Parliament’s own code of conduct clearly lays down that conflicts of interest should be declared and sanctioned by European Parliament president Antonio Tajani.

As a matter of honour and propriety, Casa and Metsola should have recused themselves from the joint ad hoc delegations. Instead, it is clear from the subsequent reports that they played a major part in their formulation and the provision of so-called evidence and conclusions. In their own minds, so long as it was “politically conclusive”, Malta’s international reputation could be traduced. It was foolish of the Euro-parliamentary committee to rush to judgment and an appalling misjudgement that Maltese MEPs should have connived at such a report on trumped up grounds.

The presence of Casa and, latterly, Metsola on the delegations influenced the outcome and undermined any pretence that it was independent or impartial. These Nationalist MEPs were not neutral and had a massive axe to grind. There was a glaring conflict of interest.

Casa and Metsola were elected to represent the interests of one third of the Maltese electorate. But they had no compunction about actively dragging Malta’s name through the mud for party-political reasons. As European parliamentarians representing Maltese constituents, they should have set the bar high in establishing the burden of proof in parliamentary reports of such importance.

They did not. They are unworthy of representing us again and the sovereign electorate of Malta will have a chance to judge their record on May 25.

What should PN members who care about the good name of Malta do? There are some extremely good candidates standing for the PN. I mention just two: Peter Agius and Michael Briguglio. They have integrity. They have the right qualities and background experience to fight for the wider good of Malta and to become honourable representatives of the people of this country.

PN members should give them their wholehearted support.

This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece

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