It felt good answering the call of Moviment Graffitti yesterday to march in solidarity with people who lost their homes to the greed of next door construction projects and to protest against those whose greed brought their losses about.
Wayne Flask’s literary speech was not just enviable prose. It was a manifesto of anger and frustration. And an indictment of the callous indifference to other people’s lives in pursuit of greater depths of profit whilst ignoring the evidence of the pain and suffering it is causing. The people who lost their homes are the greatest sufferers. But behind them are the rest of us buried in the shadow of unrestricted, poorly managed, only formally regulated, polluting over-development.
You don’t have to be a dyed in the wool Marxist to understand how unfair this is. Though it helps to be one to explain it.
Moviment Graffitti’s Andre Callus then made a short list of sensible demands for reforms in the sector that are shocking not because they are particularly radical or redistributive but rather because in their great part they should be self-evident and obviously fair to the point of being banal.
If anything, the demands are not radical enough because they do not address a root cause of the sack of Malta that we are experiencing and that Wayne Flask explained full well in his speech. That the enablers of this urban massacre of cement and dust are political parties in thrall to the construction and development sector.
The relationship between wealthy funders of political parties and the political parties themselves is transactional and monetary and therefore distorts the public interest considerations that should exclusively drive decision making in public administration. It also ensures the increase of inequalities in our society.
Consider how the victims that spoke at yesterday’s Moviment Graffitti march had one more thing in common apart from having lost their homes. They all belonged to that part of society that had very little, to begin with. They had very little and they lost it all on the altar of the growing profits of the developers digging next door.
Again you don’t need to be a Marxist to think that is unfair.
Politics is supposed to mitigate the unfairness in our social makeup. But if political parties get the money they need to merely exist from the owners of the heavy yellow metal, those owners’ considerations will inevitably take precedence over the needs of people cowering in their homes fully expecting to be buried under the rubble at any moment.
Put simply the MDA gets to write the laws that are supposed to restrict it.
This may sound dissonant but the issue Moviment Graffitti led a march on yesterday is but one side of the same coin of the great crisis within the Nationalist Party that continued to play out yesterday.
Consider how Pierre Portelli, formerly RCC-wannabe to Adrian Delia and now a Colonel Walter E. Kurtz gone rogue deep in Laos simmering in the heart of darkness, yesterday confirmed he has “always had a professional relationship” with the Tumas Group even as he sat in a position of grooming Adrian Delia to become Prime Minister.
The Tumas Group — Yorgen Fenech — is not a member of the MDA and not strictly a developer. But let us concede he has considerable private interests. For one thing, he built a power station and has negotiated for himself and his partners a guaranteed price and consumption rate locked in for the energy he produces which even the poorest cowering in their as yet uncollapsed houses have to pay for, for the next 18 years at least. He’s also alleged, backed by overwhelming evidence, to have sought to bribe politicians handsomely for that arrangement.
Pierre Portelli spoke about having “always had a professional relationship with the Tumas Group” as a matter of pride, contrasting it with Karol Aquilina’s political crime of being my lawyer. Because these days it is ok to have “always had a professional relationship with” Yorgen Fenech, owner of 17 Black and payer of $5,000 a day to Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi but woe betide you for representing Manuel Delia in court on his human rights claim against the government for suppressing the Daphne Caruana Galizia protest in Valletta. Did I need to say I obviously can’t afford to pay Karol Aquilina any money and he does the legal work pro bono? There, I said it.
Pierre Portelli did not specify but I’m going out on a limb here and suggest he does not deliver on his side of his “professional relationship” with Yorgen Fenech on a pro bono basis. Given how damaging it has been to the prospects of the PN taking government over from Labour, it is not inconceivable that Pierre Portelli’s project of inflicting Adrian Delia on the PN may have been an aspect of that “professional relationship”.
It is not only inherently unfair that wealthier people have better access to political influence than poorer ones. It is also corrupt. It is the root cause of poor people having to spend more for their needs of electricity to fund the greed of millionaires even as they cower in fear of their building collapsing or at best suffocate in their closed rooms to avoid the dust and noise knocking them from the 5 different construction projects in their street to satisfy the greed of millionaires.
This is where a little bit more radicalism is needed if we are to address the deep problems and inequalities of living in Malta. Political parties should be funded by the State and private donations capped at amounts that prevent the interests of the rich to take precedence over the interests of the poor.
We’ll then be able to call everything by its proper name — not “friendship” or “professional relationship”, but “corruption” which is what it is.
The fight for good governance and the fight for a socially equitable society are parallel streams in the fight for justice.
I am grateful for Moviment Graffitti’s leadership yesterday.