Sidney Hook is considered to be one of the top political philosophers of the 20th century. In his youth, he was a Marxist. Later on, he became an ardent critic of communism and any other extreme ideologies that suppressed democracy. He once wrote: “A positive requirement of a working democracy is an intelligent distrust of its leadership, a scepticism stubborn but not blind, of all demands for the enlargement of power and an emphasis upon critical method in every phase of social life.”

There can be no democracy without questions, without an intelligent distrust in leadership. The onus in a democracy is not on those who ask questions but on the person giving replies.

Over the past weeks, Adrian Delia sought to answer the questions that people within and outside the Nationalist Party put to him.

I would like to think he regained the trust of those who were stubborn but not blind, to use Hook’s words. Time will tell. For trust, of course, is something that needs to be nurtured through constant open dialogue. If the past weeks are the blueprint for the future, then I hope to see the PN unifying and becoming a more cohesive force. We need this cohesion to fight the battles that really matter. The first battle is the one to regain popular trust.

The level of scepticism and cynicism towards politicians is growing. It is spreading particularly among discerning voters who are seeing dangerous patterns emerging.

We live in an editor-less world where fake and real news sit side by side with equal prominence. We live in a world where political charisma is more effective in garnishing votes than political values. We live in a world where hatred is, sadly, again becoming acceptable as a political creed. We live in a world that seems to have given up on the future, a world which is increasingly becoming more and more concerned with the here and now.

The PN I grew up in, worked for and campaigned for in my younger years always stood up for what is right. It championed the values of democracy, of liberty, of justice and social equality. Those values are still at the heart of the PN and are still as, if not more, relevant in today’s reality.

The onus in a democracy is not on those who ask questions but on the person giving replies

Make no mistake, our democracy is under threat with all State institutions hijacked by the party in government.

Our justice system is failing us when it allows clear cases of corruption and money laundering to go unpunished. Social equality has become irrelevant in a society where the dividing line between the haves and the have-nots is growing bolder.

There is a large segment of the population that is prepared to ignore these signs, who are comfortable to look away, possibly because they are happy with how the economy is performing. But more and more people are realising that the situation in Malta is untenable.

Over the past few days, we have seen a number of reports by reputable international organisations and publications dealing with this situation. Transparency International published its Corruption Index. Malta fell to the lowest position ever registered.

We are way below the European Union and Western world average performance.

Malta, sadly to say, is one of the five countries singled out as decliners.

A couple of days before this report was published, Expat Insider said Malta is the biggest loser in its quality of life index.

For those of you not familiar with this publication, it is the most influential publication among expat communities. It reports on the issues that impact the quality of life of those who work outside their home country.

The Economist, also in the same week, carried an article in which it reported that Cyprus and Malta have earned a reputation of financial sleaze.

The Labour government was quick to blame these stories on the Opposition.

The government would prefer if we looked the other way while it carried on doing its dirty business. That will not happen. That must not happen. The PN will continue its fight against the institutionalised corruption that has permeated into all levels of governance. We believe that corruption is legally, ethically, morally and socially wrong. It is a plague that will eventually stifle good, honest businesses.

Malta is sliding down the corruption index. Our country is being seen as a country that thrives rather than fights corruption. Foreigners, particularly those living and working in Malta, see corruption as endemic and present in all levels of government.

This is not the Malta we want to live in. This is not the Malta our fathers fought for.

To regain the Malta we believe in we must work together to eradicate institutionalised corruption. And by together I do not just mean the PN as a unified force. I mean us in unison with civil society, with all persons of goodwill, even if of different political beliefs or opinions for, although we may not necessarily see eye to eye on other issues, we need to stand united against this scourge now bleeding our country.

We owe it to our children.

Mario de Marco is shadow finance minister.

This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece