National unity comes with reconciliation. Reconciliation is not a process many would find easy to follow. It is easier to bury what is wrong as if it never happened, as if life goes on without any consequences of the wrong we have buried out of sight.
There are, of course, many aspects of unity, but I will speak here only of political unity and only few aspects of it.
Political unity does not mean that Labourites and Nationalists are to unite under one creed or one method of public service. Unity does not exist because we become the same. Political unity will come to exist between political parties and between voters when that unity is based on a common understanding of what is in the common good and what is not.
Over the last years we have slowly seen the tension of partisan politics increasing. It was ‒ and still is being ‒ nurtured in political rhetoric and political actions.
Polarity in politics rides over misinformation, misguidedness on ethical standards and the play between the shouldering of political responsibility versus the shouldering of legal responsibility.
Polarity in politics thrives where information is lacking and where a government or political parties sneer at journalists for publishing the little information they manage to pry from behind the iron curtain.
Over the last years we have seen a ruthless political machination of misinformation or outright intentional withholding of information. At times this was done to protect cabinet members, appointees to public offices, or friends of friends. At times this was done to cover a shady way of administration. So that even if it was the signing of a memorandum of understanding, there was a need to keep it hidden.
There was no admission of political wrongdoing. There was only continued support for those who were blatantly under massive suspicions of wrongdoing. The intention of misinformation was to use the polarised red-blue monster to stop people from calling for accountability.
Polarisation also came in handy to make people believe that there was no distinction between political responsibility and legal responsibility. And, ultimately, that there is no collective responsibility.
For a number of years, Malta witnessed a constant struggle between the facts published by the media and the rhetoric published by Castille. The highest office of the state fought not the opposition but the media. It was not a presidential political campaign but a battle waged against journalists.
Polarity in politics thrives where information is lacking- Therese Comodini Cachia
The closer to the truth those journalists came, the more the government fought them. At times other politicians joined the government’s side in that battle.
So we ended up with a situation whereby the already polarised debate on the ground was now heightened by being given individuals, whose responsibility towards the public was to publish information about politicians, as targets.
We were asked by prime minister Joseph Muscat and the Labour Party to think of one journalist in particular as the ultimate target. With more journalists gaining access to information despite it being closely guarded under lock and key by the government, it was these other journalists who started becoming the target.
People were asked to think that whatever is published in newspapers is untrue, incorrect and questionable. The only truth was held by Castille. It was not the normal common sense one expects all to have, that is to question everything one reads and hears. No, the public was repeatedly told the facts were incorrect or untrue.
We also ended up with a situation whereby political responsibility ceased to exist. Political rhetoric demanded that there was only legal responsibility. Let institutions work, we were constantly being told.
The institutions often referred to were related to the judicial process. A process which establishes legal responsibility, not political responsibility. Neither prime minister Muscat nor prime minister Abela were able in these last years to draw a clear line of demarcation between political and legal responsibility. Each has protected his soldiers from shouldering political responsibility since no legal responsibility had yet been established. At times, this is evidently still happening.
Castille thought it fit to throw onto the institutions the wrath of the red-blue monster. Those who wanted things to be done better and expected politicians to shoulder political responsibility lost trust in public institutions as these took ‒ and are often still ‒ taking their sweet time to declare whether there is any legal responsibility.
Those who wanted things to remain as is and leave the guys in Castille protected, saw in those public institutions a situation in which the Castille gang was protected but not the members of ordinary families.
Those who could still distinguish between political responsibility and legal responsibility were divided. Some expected political responsibility to be shouldered and when it wasn’t, lost trust in politicians. Some didn’t want political responsibility to be shouldered because corrupt politicians can be corrupted even further.
But when the common person realised he was too common to have his requests satisfied, then he too lost trust in politicians. And there are so many more of us who have lost trust in institutions and in politicians.
It is only a set-up which can lay bare the information kept hidden, which can call politicians and those who served in politics to shoulder political responsibility and which can see justice being done, that can start a process of national unity.
Reconciliation comes with recognising the mistakes, shouldering responsibility and taking decisive action with the intent to do better.
A lot of truth is needed if we as a nation want to do better together. With truth, we need courage and respect.
Therese Comodini Cachia is PN spokesperson for human rights and good governance
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