I can understand where Carmelo Abela is coming from. Sort of.
Take his point of view. A colleague of his was caught with a secret bank account in Panama. He did not resign. Another was caught inebriated during office hours a dozen times and was alleged to have visited a brothel while on business. He did not resign. An EU Commissioner was fired after his factotum solicited a 60 million euro bribe but Carmelo Abela’s boss made him his adviser. Another colleague of Carmelo Abela employed a canvasser who collected tangenti from contractors. He did not resign. Another colleague was forced out when his driver fired his side-arm in traffic only to be reappointed in another role. Another colleague responsible for the police remains in office even after a targeted political assassination is executed on his watch for which zero security preparation was in place.
I mean really, Carmelo Abela will think. When standards are so low how is a persistent series of emails from a slightly overzealous staffer chasing information from a police inspector to answer a citizen’s complaint a cause for resignation?
When standards are so low, you can see where Carmelo Abela is coming from.
But this is what we have been trying to point out since 2013. Standards are so low that the unacceptable is the new normal and the unforgivable attracts sympathy.
Unwittingly in his own defense, Carmelo Abela is representing all that is rotten in our democracy.
A public officer tells a Minister’s rottweiler where to get off. His superiors do not take his side so he asks to be transferred. He swallows his pride even if he is indignant and feels hard done by.
He is then fired for what he feels, rightly as far as anyone can see, are unfair reasons and he’s moving to argue those reasons in court.
Here we have a private individual, whose career has been stunted because he was fussy about doing his job right and would take shit from no one, confronted by the full power of the state. And in an autocracy like Malta what power that is.
Carmelo Abela wields all his power to smash the individual who stood up to him. He goes to a TV station which he owns to be interviewed by someone pretending to be a journalist whom he pays to ask him questions he has written.
This picture here is representative of the failure of democracy in Malta. In a democratic country a politician would feel under pressure from the press hounding him to answer for a clear breach of proper governance rules. In most democracies his boss, worried about being tarnished by his minister’s error, would have pushed him out hours after the story broke.
But not here. Here is a government minister sitting comfortably and massaged by a “journalist” who will facilitate the minister’s case if he gets lost for words at any point while competing with no one’s arguments.
This inequality of arms is grotesque.
And you realise how little they appreciate just how undemocratic this is when you actually hear what Carmelo Abela had to say about Jonathan Ferris: “you will not scare me”.
Scare you, Mr Minister? Scare you how? Is Jonathan Ferris going to bully you with one of his secretaries? Is he going to threaten you with prison like your colleagues have him? Is he going on his TV station to push you around?
You rhetorically asked why Jonathan Ferris came out with the story of your attempt to intervene in his investigations now after so much time. You want to know the answer? Because I asked him that question last week and published his answer this Sunday. No one asked him before now.
Because Jonathan Ferris was after nobody’s blood. He was after truth and after protecting his own right not to be fired from his job precisely for having done it.
How dare you speak about Jonathan Ferris scaring you when you have a prime minister having your back as he has the back of people who committed worse administrative atrocities than yours? Who has Jonathan Ferris’ back? Who is going to protect him from fear of a regime that allowed a journalist to be incinerated when she too uncovered inconvenient truths?
I can see you telling yourself in the mirror this week as the first real crisis of your quiet and calm political life filled your empty agenda: ‘no more Mr Nice Guy’.
That surprises no one. Any nice guy in an autocratic regime that is willing to wield usurped power for its own self-preservation is no nice guy at all.