I have only mentioned the Nationalist Party in passing for the past two years. This is mainly due to the fact that the internal strife of a once-proud movement is painful to watch – even though it is to be expected as part of the life cycle of any political party.

The British Tory Party spent years in the wilderness in the post-Margaret Thatcher days. Even the Maltese Labour Party had a similar dry period after many years in government. It is the nature of things that organisations cannot be on a permanent high. The infighting and bickering are also a consequence of this as resources are stretched, donations from business and lobby groups dry up and things generally just get tight.

However, this expected state of flux within the PN seems to be turning into a deeply rooted structural malaise. The Opposition is far from the headlines, far from public discourse, far from exerting any positive influence on daily lives. It is fading away into obscurity.

Now, partisan supporters can find some joy in watching their political adversaries reduced to this sorry state but having a disaparicido Opposition is not good news for the country. The Opposition is not contributing to any form of consistent, informed debate and is completely absent from the biggest issue affecting the country at the moment – how to cope with environmental challenges that are impinging on the liveability of our towns and villages.

On this issue the Opposition is either silent or else resorting to vague utterances that are neither here nor there. 

For example, on the controversial ITS project in Pembroke, the Leader of the Opposition stated that the PN would support any project which fell within the planning parameters. Now this is the kind of facile statement that makes people’s blood boil – because it is a see-through attempt to sit on the fence. The Leader of the Opposition refuses to give a clear answer as to whether the party thinks that the monstrous project falls within planning parameters and as to whether he thinks it will affect neighbourhood and residential amenity (which is a planning consideration).

He has no opinion as to whether the overbearing tower will have any visual impact on the vicinity (another planning consideration). He has not considered the long shadows to be cast over the area (yet another planning consideration brought up by a hotel group close by). And the cumulative effects of the project do not seem to warrant a response from the Leader of the Opposition, who also relies on the fall-back position of stating that the PN had requested the Auditor General to investigate the contract.

Never mind the fact that the investigation was requested by his predecessor and that the conclusions will not see the light of day until all is done and dusted. This refusal to take a clear position regarding the issues that matter – and which are not being addressed successfully – will spell the death knell of the PN. The notion of cultivating a general air of conviviality and bonhomie just won’t cut it with an increasingly more concerned electorate.

The Opposition persistently chooses middle-of-the-road positions about controversial issues. As my favourite political opinion writer Molly Ivins once wrote: “There’s nothing in the middle of the road except dead dogs and armadillos.”

Certainly not the launching pad of an alternative government.

Outspoken lawyer Anna Mallia has made some very sound suggestions about legal professionals who are actively complicit in the transfer of abusive dwellings such as the houses in Armier. She says that lawyers and notaries who are complicit in the transfers should have their warrants revoked or suspended for a period of time.

Those who grab public land are rewarded a thousandfold

After all, she argues, they are accruing private profit from public property – sites that will be spoilt forever because of their abuse and the State’s inaction.

Shouldn’t there be any form of responsibility or penalty attached to this aiding and abetting of illegality? Why continue strengthening and confirming the idea that illegality is rewarding (a milder version of ‘crime pays’?).

She also suggested that anybody who has not been involved in any form of planning irregularity be given a refund – a legality refund. Again, this makes perfect sense. The situation to date as prevailing under all administrations means that those who grab public land are rewarded a thousandfold. They get to squat on prime sites and limit access to others and future generations. And they can commercialise their abuse with great rewards by renting out their property.

Those who do not resort to such illegality get nothing but grief and being fobbed off by the never-ending bureaucracy of the authorities which should be doing some enforcing. They deserve a legality bonus. Why ever not?


Claire Bonello is appearing instead of Petra Caruana Dingli this week.