The political parties are celebrating record collections in their Christmas charity telethons. Because in this amateur democracy of mediocrity and shadiness, our political parties are funded through ‘donations’ paid at TV events: embarrassing orgies of grotesque mutual congratulations.
I have no idea how anyone might manage to sit through these things to watch them as entertainment. But someone has.
Here are two questionable slots from both parties’ telethons.
First watch Joseph Muscat hugging the president of their Naxxar committee for a considerable donation of 36,000 euro raised “with the help of Edward Zammit Tabona”.
And now watch Adrian Delia embracing his deputy Robert Arrigo who challenges the envious to survive his announcement that he managed to raise single-handedly 141,000 euro. No acknowledgement of the source of the funds is made.
Robert Arrigo is the uncle of Edward Zammit Tabona who is acknowledged, perhaps accidentally, by Labour’s Naxxar president to have helped in raising funds for Labour this year.
These are not insubstantial amounts. They are more than a matter of loud applause and bear hugging. I can understand the enthusiasm of party employees who are comforted their salaries are secure for the next few months at least.
But we need to make sure our parties are not receiving incentives from businessmen in order to take political and administrative decisions that favour them or in order not to criticise political and administrative decisions that favour them.
The Partit Demokratiku has already flagged the fact that Edward Zammit Tabona is chasing a permit for a 23-storey tower on the Sliema waterfront just opposite Valletta. Significantly the PD had pointed out that process was filed under secrecy rules that are normally reserved for buildings that are particularly security-sensitive like banks or airports. The reasons for the secrecy were never fully explained.
The development application for a new skyscraper on the Sliema waterfront should, in theory, be controversial. Oddly, it isn’t.
We will now need to be assured by both political parties Edward Zammit Tabona has not funded them to an extent that may be clouding their political judgement while no one protects the rest of us from unstoppable over-development.
Both political parties should immediately publish breakdowns of these large amounts and demonstrate to the public’s satisfaction that parties are not being funded in a way that political choices are determined by the funders rather than by the funded.