“Whoever is responsible must stop ignoring the people.”
That damning accusation did not come from the opposition. This was former cabinet minister and sitting Labour MP Joe Mizzi speaking in parliament.
Labour’s pristine image of unity has started to crack. The lyrics of Jamie Winchester’s song The Cracks are Showing are spot on: “Wake up, wake up, the cracks are showing; there’s a fire in the bush but you keep going; you pushed a dream and created some hell, your leaders lie so you did it as well.”
It does not require many words to speak the truth. And Mizzi’s parliamentary intervention was brief but razor sharp. Mizzi’s conscience seems to have dawned and, though belated, it was still bewitching. The former minister, once obsequious in his loyalty to the leader, is now issuing rueful denunciations.
The thousands of Maltese who understood this government as a national emergency, a threat to democracy and a menace to journalists, find it curious that hardly anyone from within its ranks takes the exit ramp for the road to Damascus. Even after the most disgusting, reprehensible and shameless deeds, party loyalty stifles integrity.
So Mizzi’s speech was as mind-blowing as it was unexpected, its simplicity the beauty of its eloquence, its metaphor bursting through the coarseness. “Ta’ Barkat is smelling again,” he quipped. Referring to the sewage treatment plant at ix-Xgħajra, Mizzi was exposing the stench of sleaze emanating from his own government. “We not only have not improved,” he accused, “but we are regressing – there is an intolerable stench.” Was he really referring to the untreated excrement fouling the air in his second district or was he pointing his fingers at Castille?
“There was a programme for maintenance,” he continued. “I hope this is still ongoing because I have serious doubts.” If the former cabinet minister has his doubts, the rest of us would be forgiven for harbouring some of our own. Mizzi’s doubts legitimise our fears that Labour’s government will never fix its fatal flaws – there is no maintenance programme.
“We’ve solved so many problems in this country,” Mizzi insisted, “why can’t we sort our problem with toilets (latrini)?” Mizzi is rightly concerned. The stench gets stronger and stronger. Yet, Abela’s government carries on as though afflicted with anosmia. But Mizzi was not letting go. “This is not acceptable,” he insisted, “whoever is responsible must ensure that whatever is required must be done – we cannot carry on as if nothing matters, as though we don’t bother about anything.”
Mizzi had not run out of metaphors. “For one-and-a-half years I have been going to Xgħajra and there is a big hole, not even visible, in the dark – this can’t go on.”
The voters of the second district, Labour’s fortress, are feeling exploited and are fed up of moaning and complaining, their MP reported. And when even the loyal grassroots of Cospicua, Vittoriosa and Senglea are livid at their beloved Labour government, seismic tremors will be felt. While their own government takes care of Joseph Portelli, the Zammit Tabonas, the Gasans, Silvio Debono, Yorgen Fenech and Corinthia’s Pisanis, the forgotten people of Cottonera are left to relieve themselves against a tree, deprived even of a public toilet.
The very foundations of Labour’s code of silence were shifting- Kevin Cassar
Mizzi was in combative mood.
He wasn’t backing down. “Whoever is responsible must bear responsibility ‒ we must respect the citizen as a citizen.” Was Mizzi really calling for resignations?
Mizzi had long maintained his silence, but all the time he had been simmering and seething. Beware the man who does not talk and the dog that does not bark because, sometime soon, he will rip the hand that feeds him. Mizzi’s moral awakening and his heartfelt outburst must have left his colleagues stunned, shaken out of their stupor. Long has it been since that timbre and pitch had been heard from their own side of the chamber.
The very foundations of Labour’s code of silence were shifting. The deep-seated gripes of the overlooked masses had finally broken into the ivory tower through their down-to-earth MP, excluded from access to the trough. Robert Abela’s smug confidence must have been shaken by Mizzi’s audacious affront to his authority.
How will Abela respond? Labour’s standard tactic is to interpret any such indiscretion as an intentional reminder that Mizzi deserves his cut too. Nothing that a chairmanship or consultancy post will not remedy. ‘Every man has his price’ is Labour’s driving principle. And Mizzi’s price won’t be too high. That code of silence must be restored, at all costs. And, anyway, those second district voters will never vote PN, with or without their public toilet.
Mizzi will be gently coaxed back into the fold. The whole parliamentary group knows what their government is up to – multi-million dodgy contracts with Vitals, Electrogas, SOCAR and db Group, millions of illegal direct contracts, hundreds of persons of trust, millions of handouts to construction companies, fishermen, fireworks enthusiasts, tax exemptions, development permits and a multitude of other sweeteners for the chosen ones. And nobody squeals. And Labour’s support grows.
When the last tree has been cut down and we will realise we cannot eat money, this disgraceful time will end. Only then will many understand the magnitude of the deception and what lies ahead. The work for years to come will be the restoration of democracy, of decency, honour, respect and the rule of law. Repairing the national fabric will take time and much effort.
But, maybe, just maybe, Mizzi’s heartfelt outburst may signal the start of Labour’s eclipse. Maybe, just maybe, the people will see the truth in Mizzi’s metaphors and realise how they’ve been abused.
Or maybe they will agree with Mizzi’s categorical statement: this is unacceptable. And finally do something about it.
Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.Support Us