We are now in the middle chapter.
This is the darkest hour for the well-intentioned who have stuck out their neck and gave up everything they had to resist the complete take-over by Joseph Muscat and his entourage of underlings.
And what an entourage it is. It is a cast of characters beyond any fantasist’s imagination.
Start with Michelle Muscat who came forth in official government statements and controlled interviews to join the world in mourning her fate. She whose husband is the prime minister has found the hard way that not everybody thinks he’s the best thing since sliced bread.
I will not rant about her interview today on Malta Today. It really does all the ranting for itself. It fits perfectly the profile she has developed in spite of herself, of a self-centered megalomaniac, a woman with the empathy of a mirror, an obsession with herself that is manifestly embarrassing to anyone daring to be embarrassed in her presence.
Consider her now famous line that she was sorrier than her orphaned sons when Daphne Caruana Galizia died. Daphne’s death denied her her revenge, as she imagined it. She speaks from the script of that other demented actor in this high drama, John Dalli, who publicly regretted not having gone as far as killing her himself before someone else had the idea.
And consider her excruciating public parent-teacher meeting as she rebuked her children’s school for not protecting them more.
How? By reporting them to the police, as they are duty bound to do, every time they missed school to meet some prince somewhere? By insisting that their mother doesn’t barge in all the way into the school grounds with her redundant security detail to make sure everyone knows they’re royalty?
Then the other Grand Moff, Saviour Balzan, who is reporting Egrant as some form of Olympic Medal. Again a rant on him is time and energy wasted. He too fulfils his character in a self-fulfilling prophecy that is as comic as a dog chasing his tail.
Who ridiculed him when his great oil scandal turned out to be a damp squib. Come to think of it, who told Joseph Muscat to resign when after the 2013 election an inquiry conducted by his own Edward Zammit Lewis and Owen Bonnici found no evidence of any political involvement in that so-called affair? Joseph Muscat sure made the accusations levelled by Saviour Balzan against Tonio Fenech and Austin Gatt his own at the time. No one challenged him to resign when all was said and done.
Then the Saruman in this saga, Adrian Delia, going about gleefully stabbing himself and laughing, expecting himself entitled to the immunity from political mortality endowed by his master the Sauron of Castille. From his very first day in office, Adrian Delia never understood who his real political rival was supposed to be. Joseph Muscat was never someone Adrian Delia thought he ought to contradict. That was the old way. The new way was hounding Simon Busuttil, and after a year of looking for a pretext, Egrant is supposed to have provided it.
Cyrus Engerer, Wormtounge, thinks Maria Efimova should be extradited. Why? Because the Egrant inquiry concluded the evidence linking the prime minister to a secret company in Panama was too thin for prosecution. Is that how Cyrus Engerer thinks extradition works? People who testify against the prime minister are dragged in chains across borders to face, what exactly? Cyrus Engerer pole dancing?
But these are the jesters on the front deployed by the prime minister while he stays in the background with the true mastermind of this plot, Keith Schembri, the prince of darkness himself.
Sit back and look at all that’s happening: the drip drip dripping of the Egrant inquiry report; the teenage clumsiness of the running of the opposition party; the uncontainable vanity of the prime minister’s wife. Above all, notice all the threats of harsher things to come: withdrawing security from Simon Busuttil in the hope that Daphne Caruana Galizia’s ultimate fate might condition his battle readiness; dancing on Daphne Caruana Galizia’s grave to silence any cheap imitators; clanging the keys of prison to have David Casa and any of his sources quake in their shoes.
To some extent, this has a severely damaging long-term effect of course. The total absorption of the state’s institutions into the power system wielded by Joseph Muscat is now no longer a process. Autocracy has come to pass. Nothing lasts forever of course, and this sort of authoritarianism bears, somewhere within, the seeds of its destruction. It is pregnant with the children that will rise to destroy it.
But the democracy we thought we had, even after all the peaceful transitions since 1987, even with membership in the EU, has failed to stop the threat of the autocratic tendencies of the Labour Party.
This failure will take decades to accept and learn from. Generations of disciples of Joseph Muscat and their descendants, like the blind automatons who still think Dom Mintoff and Lorry Sant were good news, will continue to consider these as golden years even as we wade out of the muck and the slime we’re stuck in.
The harm done to the Nationalist Party itself is secondary to the harm being done to our democracy and our ability to live freely. It is not even worth too much of a mention. Just think for a minute what it means now to have Adrian Delia as shadow minister for good governance.
Think whether any civil servant, any police officer, any frustrated investigator out there who knows of wrongdoing and can prove it is now after all that has happened these past two years, going to speak to the PN shadow minister for good governance and tell him what the government is really up to.
Think what any scared source with a crushed sense of right and wrong will think as they see Maria Efimova metaphorically flogged on the PN’s television station and Jonathan Ferris threatened with prison in an FIAU press statement quickly endorsed and supported by the leader of the PN.
Think then of all the mismanagement, all the corruption, all the bribes, all the cuts, all the pre-arranged tenders, all the jobs for the boys and girls, all the permits where there should be none: think of all they’re getting away with now.
That is the real impact of the Egrant conclusions: Joseph Muscat has arranged for himself and his entire government a blanket absolution on all the wrongdoing it committed until the inquiry conclusions came out. But he also organised a blanket amnesty for all they would yet do, countersigned by Adrian Delia who has unilaterally dismantled the opposition’s ability to find out what the government is doing and reveal what it seeks to hide.
But it’s a middle chapter. This is not how it ends. Inebriated with all this power, deafened by the hysterical adulation of the few who genuinely believe their innocence combined with the admirers who see the good side in the criminal who gets away with, emboldened by the run of a field across from an enemy with silenced guns, they now think, with some good reason, that no one can stop them.
Perhaps they’re right. More likely hubristic euphoria might take this story where right now they don’t expect it to go.