By Charles Schembri:
Irrespective of one’s opinions facts are facts. Fact is truth; and yet fact is subject to one’s interpretation of circumstances. Once again I would go back on the essence of Truth (or Un-Truth). It is so simple to understand. Heidegger would state that the proposal “this is genuine gold” is truth; but also saying that “this is not genuine gold” is truth. Truth has its defined standards, its defined criteria and its defined accord.
In this critique truth stands for employing the tools of disclosure as against concealment and for adhering to the precepts of ethics and recognised good governance as against misconduct.
Irrespective of the mantra of a presumed successful economy, it is more than evident that the country is experiencing an unprecedented vacuum in the distribution of justice in its widest sense. This holds good for all strata of our society; for genuine public officials irrespective of grades, for the business community irrespective of large entrepreneurs big or small businesses, for the whole range of workers irrespective of class and of course for those one would consider the most vulnerable – those mostly silent groups who persist in their claims, who would give in for the over-spilling crumbs.
All this is evident not by the big earth threatening shots splashed on the front pages of our papers; this is evidenced by the little anecdotes of everyday life where living according to ones liberties and responsibilities has become synonymous with loss of faith in one’s empowerment.
That Malta’s image and standing today is in a mess, both on the local and international fora, is a proven fact; even if as on today proof of this general conflagration still need to be so identified by the multifarious ongoing inquiries by the Courts of Justice and the international journalists’ revelations. But the truth one would be looking for is not the evidence of criminal action. The truth lies far deeper than who killed who and who fraudulently recycled money and who usurped one’s liberties. The truth lies much deeper than this tangible visible surface. It goes as far deep as Graham Greene’s “The Heart of the matter” encompassing moral dilemmas.
The compliance, adherence and faithful implementation of law is vested in the civil service and the public sector, including today’s mushrooming authorities. The civil service and ultimately the various public agencies and authorities would fall under the direct remit of our prime minister. The prime minister has the portfolio for the civil service and by inference the workings of agencies, including Authorities.
The prime minister’s office is in itself the highest public institution of the executive government. He has the complete oversight of the workings of his government and its complex web of ministerial portfolios, public service directorates and agencies. He is the person responsible for the Malta public administration end quality product. And this is so, irrespective of whether the modus operandi of his government is as per his ultimate designation, his actual involvement and his endorsement.
The civil service is independent of the executive. In brief its tasks include assisting government in the implementation of its policies and being of service to the whole community with a view to ascertain continuity when a change in administration takes place.
The prime minister has the obligation that the civil service and as applicable the institutions carry out their remits independently of government. This is where the prime minister failed to honour his position. It sabotaged the public sector in general by the random appointment of “persons of trust”, by restraining the advice of public officials on government’s proposed policies through coercion and by exerting pressure on the public sector with a view to implement the government policies irrespective of law and to completely demand that it withdraws from taking action in cases of misconduct. An Auditor General recent report on the public service speaks along these lines.
In all this the prime minister has no way out but to accept full responsibility of all the acts of omission or commission of his government. In years gone by prime ministers like Mintoff, Borg Olivier and Fenech Adami have all at a moment in time shouldered their responsibilities. It would take chapters to recount the anecdotes involved, but all is documented. Those were the times when prime ministers were reputed gentlemen, irrespective whether one would agree with their policies and management of party affairs when in Government. But the lamentable persona of today’s incumbent is the antithesis.
Irrespective of the good work being carried out possibly by the majority of the civil service, often in their day to day routine duties including the subtle implementation of damage control for irregularities by heavy-weights, somehow the mechanisms of the public sector as a whole is in disarray. And characteristically the unions and associations representing these valid contributors towards our improved standard of living remain mum.
What once was and is generally considered to be the remit of the civil service is now being delegated to semi-autonomous authorities that mushroom by the hour. Authorities are not always the correct solution towards more effective management and enforcement of discipline. Specialised government agencies to which the enforcement of law is devolved, still reporting to the Permanent Secretaries in ministries, are the practice in civilised democracies.
One Authority that is missing is an Authority for the Promotion of Corruption and Misconduct. But such authority need not have an autonomous body corporate; it operates discreetly through word of mouth and political influence bypassing the civil service and by the employment of “persons of trust” some of whom do not act in good faith.
Irrespective of surveys on people preferences, and irrespective of outward manifestation of mass support, what the prime minister is asked to acknowledge, I am more than sure that he is aware, is that public officials in high positions and party activists of a certain age who for long years have militated in the party, today express amongst friends how uncomfortable it is living with this labour party.
If somehow the manipulation and sabotaging of the public sector was the vehicle that led to this current social, political and scandalous impasse, the realisation of the fact that the country is encountering problems is the responsibility of the party in government, the party in opposition and of the people.
The prime minister, as an intelligent, mature strategist has certainly recognised that all is not well in this country. Putting up a brave face when faced with facts and living in denial is just a puerile populist approach that certainly was not the LP programme. Believing that those who disagree with your approach to government are demanding your pound of flesh for the purpose of this critique does not hold. And yet justice should prevail.
The prime minister has already recognised that the majority of the people, including those who give in to scandalous favours, are not corrupt, do not believe in sleaze and would rather be bereft of factual misinterpretation of justice. A country’ society is like to a big expanse of water that is more difficult to contaminate that a small rivulet.
The people of this country would not give a damn if you were to be imprisoned or seek a shelter in a distant land. These would be your problems that as yet would need to be proven.
Come first May be your real self, prime minister and call a spade a spade. Your intermittent political comments and initiatives are proof of your weaknesses. Honour your predecessors who like everyone else were not perfect. Never forget that you are not an enemy but an adversary that needs to be defeated.