The other day, I was waved down on Republic Street and told off. The gentleman in question – someone I happen to like and who has Labour sympathies – was talking trees at me, questioning my recent pleas to the powers-that-be to leave them alone. He was clearly not having any of it. We traded playful insults. I accused him of living in a backwater and we left on perfectly amicable terms.

But I still found it curious that an article he would have endorsed only seven years before (under a different Nationalist government) had suddenly put me in the proverbial doghouse. An article, I might add, that would undoubtedly have been perceived by the PN then as unfairly pro-Labour.

I intend to stay in that doghouse for as long as this government (and others that follow) continue to wield ‘power’ with power saws, by butchering the very things they promised to protect on their way up.

Mature trees should be inviolate and, like old churches, paintings and old buildings, should be protected by fully enforced preservation orders and notices.

There is something incredibly comforting about a tree which has stood its ground for hundreds of years and which you hope will still be standing long after you are not. Same with old buildings.

Perhaps the trouble with Malta is that nothing is really sacred anymore and even the most ‘official’ safeguards are ultimately useless, all too easily ignored. That is probably the most upsetting part of the Muscat administration – that it had a chance to do things differently and didn’t.

Not only has the casual butchery continued, it has also gone up several notches.

For all the success of the government’s economic strategies, there’s a worrying short-termism and short-sightedness about them.

Development has been too fast and too furious; our infrastructure is simply groaning under the weight of an economy on steroids

Development has been too fast and too furious; our infrastructure is simply groaning under the weight of an economy on steroids. Uglification is rampant and the smell of drainage never far off.

But the root of all evil, the ‘fall-guys’, are always the trees while the litter, dust and noise, the haphazard construction, broken pavements and the resulting ugliness, always seem to overstay their welcome.

Wonderful, majestic trees which hide the ugliness and enrich Malta, lining her roads and making her more beautiful and bearable, are as much a part of our heritage as any Caravaggio or cathedral.

And yet here, they are under constant threat.

So yes, I will continue writing in support of trees and against governments that don’t respect them.

If that makes me ‘anti-government’, then I don’t want to be pro-government. Incidentally, when I criticise or bash the government or when I choose to sing its praises, I do so not because I am pro- or anti-government but because I am pro-Malta.

Much fuss has been made of the M6 documentary Enquête Exclusive. Admittedly, I didn’t watch it all but I did watch a good chunk of it. Truth be told, I found it boring – it was nothing we hadn’t seen or heard before. But what really shocked me was how a documentary concocted by outsiders – clearly playing fast and loose with the rules and doing their best to put Malta in an unfavourable light – could be shared so lavishly on social media by my Maltese fellow citizens. They even seemed to take a perverse delight in doing so.

I refer to ‘outsiders’, although it is obvious that much of the documentary was an inside job.

Now my own experience of documentaries is that they are inherently biased. They are never spontaneous and rarely, if ever, do they capture reality. So while they may not actually lie, they don’t tell the full truth either and can’t be considered legitimate sources of accurate information.

The bias in this particular documentary was quite easy to detect. It began with a series of interviews with Luke Chetcuti, son of the late Paceville mogul Hugo Chetcuti, who also featured briefly. The Chetcutis were never strangers to self-promotion, so it was no surprise that much of the footage was already in the public domain and the whole thing came across as a garbled exercise in ‘cutting and pasting’.

Yet the underlying point of the documentary was, it appeared, the vulgarity of ‘new money, where charity must not only be done but seen to be done. This was then juxtaposed with the Prime Minister and his wife attending the opening of a new Hugo outlet – a blatant attempt to mire the Muscats in their world of bling and bow-tie.

My ‘take’ on all this is quite simply that such urban excesses are a fact of life, and that in 2019 Malta has caught up with Madonna’s 1980s neoliberal ‘material world’. No surprises there, surely. But on the bright side, I am all (and always will be) in favour of charity and making orphans happy. The bigoted inference, that you should not do ‘good’ with ‘bad’ money, is outrageous and an excuse to point the finger. I am quite pleased that the Mother Superior of the Creche stood her ground.

Leaving Paceville behind, we are then plunged into another Malta: the Order of Malta – an infinitely classier world redolent of old money. And yet, even there, the caricature was unmistakeable. Hot on the heels of arriviste bling, the Order came across as equally decadent. And even creepy with its black robes and rituals.

It was at this point that I realised something was not quite right. This is Malta after all, and I ‘know’ people in so-called high places, or have gone to school with them, or the University – I could ‘name-drop’ the Prime Minister, his Chief of Staff, several ministers, some magistrates, and various others.

It wasn’t at all surprising that I happened to recognise a few familiar faces in the ceremony, none I hasten to add in government or the judiciary. And, a couple of calls later, I rumbled the whole show: that M6’s Monsieur Le Pomellec had basically lied to the Chancellor in order to secure the Order’s participation, after assurances to the effect that the production was being filmed strictly for a cultural programme

The end result, as we know, was a sexed-up misrepresentation of facts and a very unsexy series of omissions. All deeply disturbing. This left no doubt in my mind that much of the documentary was distorted with footage wrenched out of context.

I’m not writing here dismissively. This is no exercise in whitewash. I have no interest in painting a Maltese paradise where bad things don’t happen, and I have no objection whatsoever to constrictive criticism and holding government to account.

There are illicit and corrupt goings on most everywhere in the world and Malta is certainly no exception. And while I have no illusions regarding the role politics plays in wheeling and dealing, I have no time for people who love to hate Malta and bash her at every opportunity. Malta is far from perfect, but I won’t stand by and cheer (or share) while some prat sells Malta down the Seine

Cut Malta some slack and remember that disliking or disapproving of the government doesn’t mean you have to applaud outsiders who defecate on your country.

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us