After Etienne Grech’s toe-curling performance at the Council of Europe, Malta’s government deployed Owen Bonnici as its champion at the European Parliament’s committee meeting reviewing the rule of law report the EP delegates prepared.
As the diva would say, she can sing it beautifully but if the song is bad no one will like it anyway. Although not quite Etienne Grech’s train wreck, Owen Bonnici walked out without making new friends from that session. His desperate retort that everyone else was painting a false picture of Malta and he was the only one with a grip on reality impressed no one.
We have been through this before. Those of us who hoped for EU membership from 1991 to the referendum in 2003, have been through so many of these face-palming situations. Outside of Malta we would witness Labour spokesmen struggling hopelessly under the pressure of facts, laughed off by European politicians and journalists for their outlandish fear-mongering and their complete lies about EU membership.
The more they embarrassed themselves in the rest of the world, the more their support gained ground in this blessed country of perverse nationalism and irrational contradictions. Alfred Sant would speak to his audiences about Taliban commissioners, about biting off noses of European negotiators, about body bags from military conscription, about an invasion of Sicilian hairdressers forcing local scissors on to shelves, about massive unemployment, and about a brown envelope with a single million liri amounting to the alpha and omega of funding Malta would be entitled to.
They would poke fun at the PN for having quoted the sum of a 100 million in funding which after all turned out to be a grotesque under-estimation.
The lies, the misrepresentations, the twists, the embarrassment. Those enough old enough lived through all this.
And we were told by the older generation of the embarrassment at human rights discussions at the Council of Europe when from Strasbourg they criticised the barbarity of Mintoff’s government in the 70s and 80s. More historical face-palming. More Labour politicians flying to Europe to tell them they’re all mad and critics of the government are giving them the wrong picture of Malta.
I’m working with a German TV crew this week. Yesterday we were filming on the Marsaxlokk waterfront. A small crowd of geriatric militants rushed out from the Labour Party club across the street screaming and gesticulating wildly at the film crew for listening to a “liar who hates Joseph”. That’s me in case there’s any doubt.
I invited the loudest of them to speak to the camera and explain what he believes to be the truth. But obviously there is no argument to dispute the corrupt procurement of the oil tanker they’re faced with every day, or the inexplicably disadvantageous contracting for energy burnt in the power station across their front garden. All there was instead was swearing and shouting and the rather silly accusation that international journalists are here because I, little old me, have paid them to come here.
ARD have been trying to get Joseph Muscat on the microphone for months. His office has ignored their repeated requests and left them unanswered. We heard the prime minister was going to make an appearance today at the unveiling of a plaque marking the opening of the Kappara junction. We went there and asked if he would take questions. We were told to hope.
I sat through Ian Borg speaking about how his government secured the EU funding for Malta’s infrastructure. Sickening. Then the prime minister of Malta Joseph Muscat stood to bask in his predecessor’s glory. Having waited patiently for him to finish I called out to ask if he would answer questions but his car was waiting like the getaway van in a bank heist and he was whisked to safety before the evil journalists could twist his version of the truth with their nasty questions.
I don’t go to many of these jaunts. I did it because the ARD film crew needed to do their utmost to reach Malta’s prime minister and if I was going to be less than 10 metres away from Joseph Muscat I’d be damned if I was not going to try to ask him questions he tries so hard to avoid.
If your minister Owen Bonnici was this morning unsuccessfully attempting to reassure his audience that allegations of corruption were being investigated, why are you, prime minister, personally engaging your lawyers to appeal a court order for the police to investigate the Panama Papers?
If your MP Etienne Grech was this week unsuccessfully attempting to reassure his audience that your critics speak freely in Malta in spite of the inconvenient detail that your “harshest critic” as you call her was killed for doing just that, do you subscribe to your party’s view that your critics are traitors to the country?
Do we still hope for answers? The prime minister’s speaking events have become ever more controlled, the press’s access to him ever more restricted, his appearances ever rarer. He is becoming a recluse, hiding from the glare of the questions and the pressure and the facts that chase him relentlessly.
To Strasbourg he sent Owen Bonnici and Etienne Grech. And he keeps sending underlings where he cannot get away with shutting everyone out. Imagine him like Bonnici and Grech having to look Matthew, Andrew and Paul Caruana Galizia in the eyes and mouth the moronic platitudes he makes his minions say for him. Imagine him publicly and personally face them while blaming their mother for her own death; or as he describes the killing of a journalist in Malta as a fluke like rain from an unclouded sky; or as he accuses them of painting the wrong picture of Malta.
Imagine Joseph Muscat facing the world press and parliamentarians from across Europe demanding justice and international oversight and telling them they are only speaking that way because they are envious of his infallibility. Imagine him telling them that they are listening to liars and traitors and that when they came to check the facts for themselves they were blind to reality.
He cannot do that and that is why he slips into his getaway van on the rare occasions he ventures out in the cold.
The rest of the time he’s inside scheming his own survival.
This government is mobilising all its resources to intimidate, discredit, isolate and gag whistle-blowers. The press reports in Cyprus about Maria Efimova are echoing the same inventions, insinuations and innuendo that Brian Hansford is breathlessly serialising on his Facebook page here. While he tries hard not to spray his shorts he expects us not to realise what’s going on here.
After planting stories in Cyprus, the slander is repeated here ironically with the reinforced credibility of international publication. Those screaming militants on the Marsaxlokk waterfront consider all international reporting their boss Joseph does not like as lies I pay for. But reporting that is convenient to the prime minister however dubious its provenance reinforces the narrative of Joseph’s pharaonic qualities.
More on this as it evolves.
For now a note to all those who pretend never to read this website — to all those who walk around pretending not to have read the Buttardi stories or the rest of the material published here and the other media that are looking to hold power to account:
We understand what you’re doing to Jonathan Ferris and to Maria Efimova. It is not just that you want to the discredit witnesses to secure acquittals like you had done when one of your own was tried for attempting to assassinate Richard Cachia Caruana. You’re doing worse.
What you’re doing is analogous to the thinking of those who killed Daphne Caruana Galizia. It was not just about ensuring she drew no more breath. It was about ensuring they scare and intimidate anyone who might consider continuing her work.
The same thinking is behind your actions against whistle-blowers right now. You’re telling everyone else this is what happens to them if they dare speak up.
You are reinforcing the climate of fear that keeps you safe because that is how regimes survive and thrive: in the fear of those who forget they have the power to challenge them.
We know what you’re doing. And I will give you the temporary satisfaction of knowing that to an extent it is working. People are afraid. And people feel undefended. Owen Bonnici reminded everyone this morning that the Opposition leader Adrian Delia has the government’s back, not the back of the Caruana Galizia sons and of the rest of us. Andrew Caruana Galizia acknowledged that. No political leadership in Malta appears prepared to step up to defend those being trampled by this regime.
It does not mean we’ll stop chasing you though, prime minister. That quiet fury and impassioned rationality of Matthew, Andrew and Paul Caruana Galizia that you saw again this week as you cringed in that too big a chair you fill like a child on a go-to-work-with-mummy-day, is not going away any time soon.
Their example and the example of their mother is not going anywhere.
We will wait you out and we’ll make sure you enjoy the time between now and then as little as possible.