The Times used just the right verb this morning: bafflement at the PN’s decision to organise Christmas Drinks at one of the Silvio Debono db Group facilities.
The PN and Silvio Debono fell out when the PN criticised the allocation of public land in St George’s Bay to the db Group to develop a massively dense complex there on the British period site that housed the Institute for Tourism Studies.
The concession was criticised because of the manner it was awarded, because of the pricing for the land that is disproportionately below market realities in spite of the fact that this is clearly a purely commercial venture, and because of the density, height and mass of the development.
Silvio Debono hit back by revealing he had been funding the PN. The PN, under Simon Busuttil retorted that frankly that fact, not entirely acknowledged, shows the PN does not allow those who fund it to condition its political views. Labour made a meal of the funding revealed by Silvio Debono, though of course this was classic hypocrisy because the PN was arguing against the concession granted by government, not in its favour.
Silvio Debono and the PN went their separate ways.
Now, at the end of the same year of this massive fallout, the PN is having its season tipple at a Silvio Debono venue.
What happened? Surely this must not merely be brushed off as a consequence of the resignation of Simon Busuttil and the election of Adrian Delia. The PN changed leaders, not politics. Or did it? And surely if it no longer thinks the granting of land in St George’s Bay as scandalous it should say why and how it changed its views. It owes the public an explanation of the change of heart.
And that has to be based on facts that contradict the facts that justified the PN’s original policy in the first place. Does it no longer think the price of the land was below market rates? Because just about everyone but Silvio Debono thinks so. Does it no longer think the planned development is excessively dense? Does it no longer think it is fundamentally wrong for a business to use funding of political parties to negotiate its contracts with government?
In hosting its drinks at a Silvio Debono facility the PN sends out the sign that it has resolved its differences with him. I’m all for reconciliation. But there can be no reconciliation without truth. We need that truth told to us by the PN as loudly as it told us what it held to be true several months ago when it criticised the government for granting the land for the project and eventually broke ties with the developer himself.
In not explaining the process of this change of view, they justify the universal suspicion that political parties are conditioned by the conversations they have with developers in smoke filled rooms.
If the PN wants to dispel this impression (instead of actually creating it) it needs to show a preference for poverty over compromise. If it could not afford Christmas Drinks this year, it should have stayed without rather than have them where people cannot help suspecting their silence is being exchanged for some cheap champagne and vol-au-vents.
The exhausting retort is that Simon Busuttil’s puritanism did not win the PNthe election. Joseph Muscat has had drinks in worse neighbourhoods. After all Silvio Debono is no Ilham Aliyev. Nothing wrong with those premises. It gets twisted when the plan is to be more like Joseph Muscat in order to be able to beat him.
Consider the response of a PN spokesman who indulged in some classic Joseph Muscat sophistry when he was asked by The Times how the PN chose a Silvio Debono venue for its Christmas event when its own criticism had led to an ongoing National Audit Office investigation. “The Nationalist Party will await the outcome of that investigation before commenting any further.”
What? Is that official policy now? The PN will rely on the state’s institutions to conclude their investigations before commenting on matters of controversy, particularly allegations of corruption? If we had such confidence in the institutions of the state why would anyone doubt them investigating Egrant, the powerstation, the tanker and everything else?
Frankly if the PN will reserve judgement until after institutions decide on allegations of corruption, why have a political opposition at all? After all presumably if the NAO finds Silvio Debono and the government did nothing wrong, the PN will feel it cannot comment on the matter. And if it finds something was indeed out of order, the institutions would have done their job without the PN’s help in the matter, thank you very much.
This just doesn’t fly.
Some will tell you you can never win without the likes of Silvio Debono on side. Perhaps. But neither can you win without the people who voted PN in 2017 (in the case of some several thousands having voted PL in 2013) and who right now are looking at the PN’s Christmas Drinks invitation like it came from the aunt that stole all the silver when grandma died.