There will come a time when the dust will have to settle. There will come a time for reckoning. There will come a time for brilliant minds to do what they know best: pull the country out of its mire.
But that doesn’t mean the fight is over, or that the end has been achieved. Hopefully, there won’t be a moment when we take our eyes off the ball, a moment for complacency, a lapse in our conscience, a twist in our sobriety.
Joseph Muscat may be ending his fiefdom in a matter of weeks, days, with a grandiose clattering of crockery accompanying his fall from grace; a fitting anti-climax to his Napoleonic ambitions.
Without wanting to destroy Labour’s work in the matter of a few sweeping statements, I think it is only logical to say that even the diehard PL supporter understands this machine wasn’t perfect.
The country will survive without Muscat, and so will the Labour Party which needs to reshape, regroup, come down and clean up its act. While the Daphne Caruana Galizia assassination and the very existence of Keith Schembri remain an indelible mark through which history won’t absolve Muscat, there is more to restoring normality than simply overthrowing the king.
For a young Republic such as ours, these years have been trying times. We’ve seen the flat-out acceleration of neoliberal economic policies, coupled with blind institutions who came to consider corruption as matter-of-fact, natural, endemic to government; the “pro-business” approach which came to mean “let them do what they please”; the systematic theft of our democracy, our laws and even our streets by members of the business community.
That a leading member of big business, together with Malta’s most powerful unelected politician (who also hails from the business class) could be involved in the assassination of a journalist is indeed a chilling allegory to the state of our political play: a typical orgy of power and interests conspiring together in a hotbed of corruption. This is material that keeps military juntas, not democracies, going.
They have been trying times for us Socialists too. The serious issues affecting the quality of life of many people have been forgotten throughout the Muscat era, and will remain buried unless we, too, step up to be counted.
We can no longer read about shady €5,000-a-day deals while at the same time knowing that many are still falling below the gerrymandered poverty line, living in garages, sleeping in cars, working for €770-a-month salaries as property and rent prices reach surreal levels.
We can no longer read about the privatisations of hospitals and public spaces with redacted contracts or ridiculous price tags that resemble those of sweat-shop clothing. We can no longer read about overpaid stooges receiving a salary for not turning up to work, and this line isn’t really about Melvin Theuma.
We can no longer read about shady €5,000-a-day deals while at the same time knowing that many are still falling below the gerrymandered poverty line
We can no longer read about the €50,000 salary which the Arts Council pays Lou Bondi, who meanwhile earns other substantial income from the likes of Silvio Debono for what he calls “PR”. Similarly, Robert Musumeci, a graduate in law and architecture who, like a third division goalkeeper in a Champions League final, is out of place, out of depth and out of mind; as his fudged construction reform shows, he should be placed out of sight and dedicate himself to what he knows best: testing mirrors.
We can no longer read about Elizabeth Ellul running the horror-show that is the PA board; and we can no longer accept Frederick Azzopardi bullying farmers and landowners into sacrificing their land and livelihoods to the god of tarmac.
We can no longer have people like Sandro Chetcuti acting as a consultant for “housing” while the taxpayer forks out the servicing of his Ferrari.
If anything, Muscat’s potential successor should be vocal about righting wrongs.
Investigations and jail sentences have yet to be mentioned. And, on another plain, there should be a concerted effort to stop Ian Borg or any of his acolytes from continuing with their trail of environmental destruction. Otherwise, we’ll merely be repeating the Muscat Mistake.
Much has been said about reforming laws, the constitution, limiting the powers of the PM. We’re in agreement with all this, but it’s time to take a pragmatic approach, without undue delays or pomp.
In the last weeks, we have been working on our feedback to the constitutional reform, with our main aim being that of creating a more representative and participative democracy. We are firmly for the removal of electoral districts, the breeding ground of nepotism, favouritism and, ultimately, corruption. But we also believe that democracy goes beyond having a voice once every five years, while citizens yield their right to an ailing political class to do as it pleases during a legislature.
One important aspect of the reforms we expect to be carried out immediately is that within the Planning Authority.
It is clear that, even if many other institutions have allowed rivers of muck to run under their bridges, the PA is a major gateway to corruption.
We reiterate the stance we made during our meeting with an MEP delegation in December: allowing monies to flow into construction and development without significant checks and balances will not solve the problem of business’ patronage over politics. The PA needs to behave like an authority, not a rubber-stamping device for the permanent destruction of our country.
It is no longer the moment to blame previous or current administrations. The PA should no longer be a toy for developers who have politicians in their pockets. We believe board members should be thoroughly grilled by Parliament, instead of getting to decide without having declared their competences and conflicts.
We believe residents should be better represented and their way to justice shouldn’t be a costly obstacle course that will demoralise them into having to accept monstrosities such Townsquare, the db project, Manoel Island, the Mistra project, Jerma, and countless others.
In short, a mere change of leadership won’t suffice.
Let us be clear. Moviment Graffitti has been a thorn in the side of PLPN administrations throughout its 25 years of history.
This group, throughout its existence, has never been silenced by power, bullying or the corrupt system that emerged right after our country’s independence. Those who think we’ll be happy with Muscat’s demise have not understood our mission.
Those who think we’ll be happy when their faction takes power have not understood our determination, and probably mistake it for teenage naiveté.
Be it by protest, direct action, collaboration or consultation, we will push for the necessary changes that will make Malta a serene, liveable place for all citizens, a state where we can finally look up to our politicians for bringing a real, tangible improvement to our quality of life, not one made of propaganda and illusions of trickledown.
We believe, as activists, that our duty towards citizens is to continue working with them in their struggles; that is why we count on genuine leftist individuals to join us in this gargantuan task.
Wayne Flask is a member of Moviment Graffitti.
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