The Herman Schiavone Kristy Debono incident of this week has all the hallmarks of a trap. Someone appears to have relied on clear vulnerabilities to cause embarrassment and harm, though the list of vulnerabilities and the list of people who benefited from this mess are so long, it is impossible to be sure of the full story.
That is an invitation to speculate, of course, and there’s plenty of that going around.
Taking the explanations of Schiavone and Debono at face value and assuming their sincerity, leads you to suspect someone working at the Tumas Group thought this would be a nice gift to the Labour Party. They caused the last minute change in the appointment and kicked it to the boss upstairs because they assumed, probably rightly, that the PN is too financially desperate to refuse an appointment just because the interlocutor has changed. Once the appointment happened, the matter was leaked to the press and Adrian Delia was once again forced to stay in his habitual half of the field: on the defensive.
There’s a lot to be said for this scenario not least the fact that whataboutism is Labour’s favourite tactic of absolving itself by pointing at what it spins is equivalency in others. If they are dependent on big business, what’s wrong with us doing it as well?
There certainly are very strong answers to that question but One TV doesn’t stick around long enough to hear them.
There’s an alternative and more sinister possibility. The Nationalist Party has been gifting opportunities to Labour like it’s been Christmas every day and just because Labour benefited from this mess does not necessarily mean they were behind it.
Schiavone and Debono hinted several times that they were at the Portomaso Tower on somebody else’s errand. Neither one of them in their written apologies assumed responsibility for seeking the meeting or for setting it up. The cover story of having a meeting with “a Director” of the Tumas Group (which was confirmed in Herman Schiavone’s statement of yesterday) in order to secure “a sponsorship to cover the costs of hiring a small room” (that’s from Kristy Debono’s apology) is just too unlikely to accept unquestioningly.
The PN is starved of many resources: people, money, brains. But if there’s something the PN has a glut of that’s empty “small rooms”. It has more than it knows what to do with.
We also know that the PN has no qualms to make arrangements for “sponsorships” from business holders that at least some of its spokesmen criticise for being on one end of corruption that involves government officials on the other end. Events hosted at DB Group facilities are a regular occurrence. This suggests that party headquarters would not have been averse to solicit or accept funding from the Tumas Group in spite of the Portomaso scandal.
If that is the background to this story, then someone from within the PN leadership who knew about this meeting beforehand thought it would be a good opportunity to push out someone else: whether that is Herman Schiavone or Kristy Debono or whoever sent them to Portomaso in the first place would be unlikely to be known for sure.
Where does this leave the Nationalist Party? For a party that’s already black and blue, they have this past week acquired some fresh bruises. Herman Schiavone’s auto-suspension is probably merely symbolic. He clearly enjoys the confidence of Adrian Delia and in any case, the leader’s list of allies was very thin, to begin with.
But it does not make Herman Schiavone’s gesture any less sincere. Among his various qualities, the man is certainly guided by a visceral, bloody-minded loyalty, albeit misguided still clearly sincere.
That reinforces the impression he was caught in somebody else’s trap and when he realised that, he felt stupid and that he needed to atone.
The same visceral, bloody-minded, misguided loyalty had him defend Kristy Debono. But like all martyrdom, that defence is illogical. If he was innocent of intent and only guilty of not having the wherewithal of cancelling the appointment once he was put in front of Yorgen Fenech, Kristy Debono is at least guilty of no less. She also did not have the wherewithal of cancelling the appointment once she was, unexpectedly as both of them say, put in front of Yorgen Fenech.
So why does Herman Schiavone suspend himself but Kristy Debono stays on?
That — the survival of Kristy Debono — might be a clue as to who in the PN might have known about this meeting beforehand and found it might be just a good opportunity of damaging a rival.
There are people who learn from experience they can survive any earthquake. That makes them confident enough to start shaking the ground themselves.