By Benjamin Dalli of activist NGO Awturi:

Government cronies have been praising the past year as a year of successes. I’d like to know what they’re smoking.

It would be a lie to say the government did not have a road map. Saying otherwise would undermine the power of Joseph Muscat’s budding cult regime. Naturally, the roadmap did not include moving Malta forward as a liberal democracy. If Malta was promised to be elevated to “L-Aqwa Żmien”, it was instead manhandled into a web of corruption we are told to embrace as positivity.

If my language sounds ‘extreme’, I cordially invite you to take a look at what your republic has been reduced to. It would take volumes to highlight all the factual corruption that has been deliberately unchecked to avoid accountability. After the MEP report, the ball is in their court. Their resignations are pending, although they should have resigned with the first whiff of the Panama Papers.

The increasing influence of construction magnates over the Planning Authority is probably the most blatant example of how corruption impacts each and every Maltese citizen. The air we breathe is becoming more polluted due to increased urbanisation, traffic reduces productivity and increases health risk, archaeological and historical sights are literally bulldozed, and the new buildings are just plain ugly.

More recently, the government deciding, out of the blue, that it wants to wage war on pilots by exercising divisive tactics and bypassing its union (very socialist of you, Labour Party) outlines how pervasive partisan influence has been allowed to permeate into the supposedly divided institutions of power. How convenient is it for the government to see through its offensive by seeking an injunction on the ALPA strike to its newly appointed judge Toni Abela?

Hospitals have been suddenly privatised in a manner that could only have been more corrupt if the deal was signed on a bed of money, the parties involved sipping take-out coffee from Café Premier bought on the way to Montekristo zoo after refuelling in Gaffarena’s petrol station.

Plans for towering structures mushroom all over the Maltese map without studying if these are feasible socio-economically or environmentally. Evidently, they are not. Luxury apartments raise rents higher than working people can afford. There is no talk of improving the decades old infrastructure of roads or drainage systems, the tab thereof will be picked up by the taxpayer, not the beneficiaries of the enterprise.

Party politics should sparsely make it into Parliament, let alone be allowed to pervert the Constitution. As through it isn’t already bad enough that the Police Commissioner and the Attorney General are in the Prime Minister’s pocket, creating a profound conflict of interest that saw the rule of law crumble and impunity for the establishment reign true.

In all this, citizens suffer. Unquestioning citizens pay with their pockets. More vocal activists have their freedoms revoked and their dignity trampled. When Daphne Caruana Galizia started digging deeper into the misdeeds of powerful people on her own initiative, she was murdered.

Was this part of the road map? Yes.

Tony Zarb takes us through this vision of a submissive Malta and shows us what the best times of our nation ought to look like. Quoting him is adequate for he is a rubber-stamped authority and ambassador not only of Muscat’s regime – a former consultant to the highest executive office of our country – but also of our flag – a prized recipient of Malta’s highest honour of exceptional merit, the Ġieħ ir-Repubblika. Thus, that protestors are traitors and activists are whores has official backing.

It is incredible that even when a bulwark of journalism is murdered exposing corruption and when one of the most authoritative democratic institutions in the world points to Malta as a corrupt and undemocratic state, Joseph Muscat smiles at the camera and downplays the allegations. For the first time, Malta’s problems have been exposed for the world to see. There are no more excuses of partisan allegiances or factual ambiguity. To be clear, the responsibility for ensuring Malta’s good name rests solely with our leaders and their representatives. It means addressing problems when they arise, ensuring that the democratic process is not only done, but seen to be done. It thus means avoiding conflicts of interest. It means not insulting the intelligence of the electorate once critics voice their opinions. It means not rubber stamping (even if by omission) armies of trolls sent to spew unintelligible poppycock onto comment boards.

If the Government wants Malta’s name to stop being stained abroad, it should strengthen our democracy, not weaken it. Evidently, the Government can get away with shouldering political responsibility domestically with a few timeous red herrings. Ultimately, its legacy will boil down to its systematically undermining Malta’s constitutional institutions. No matter how they sugar coat it, the facts cannot be disputed.

The Prime Minister, appearing on BBC’s Newsnight, confirmed this all too grimly. For once, the “artful dodger of Europe”, who usually hides behind assiduously performed body movements and inappropriate grins, failed to hide behind compromising eyes and too many loose ends.

As a result of this despicable leadership, the country is ever so divided. If they wanted to bring the country together, they had every opportunity. The rupture they have spawned has pushed Maltese citizens to many extremes.

Whatever has happened thus far has happened under their watch. No populist administration has a happy ending. Whatever deranged, autocratic roadmap the Labour Party has in mind, it is not to strengthen our democracy for future robustness; it is in their own interest, not that of the nation. This should be dizzyingly disconcerting. This Labour Government calls often critics traitors and extremists. It is the one in contempt of the Maltese state.