Sent in by someone known to me:
“I suppose you are quite a great lawyer?” I said, after looking at him for some time.
“Me, Master Copperfield? Oh no! I’m a very ‘umble person. I am well aware that I am the ‘umblest person going,” said Uriah Heep modestly. “Let the other be where he may. My mother is likewise a very ‘umble person. We lived in an ‘umble abode, Master Copperfield, but have much to be thankful for. My father’s former calling was ‘umble. He was a sexton.”
The political portrait of the prime minister is that of a moonlit two-faced Janus. The dark face speaks his well-known despicable views on nepotism, clientelism, the Caruana Galizia family, protests, the independent press, continuation of his predecessor’s policies, shady collusion with his predecessor to ensure a safe transition for Muscat. The bright face metes out the ban on the memorial site clearance, the removal of Justyne Caruana, the removal of Neville Gafa, the police commissioner and other undesirables.
But who is the real Robert Abela?
His father summed him up best when he said he will be his own man. A highly paid footballer was riled by Real Madrid’s supporters when he posed with a banner saying “Wales, golf, Madrid: in that order”. For Joseph Muscat, the priorities have always been “me, the Labour party, Labourites, Labourites and Labourites”. And everything points to Robert Abela being that type of prime minister. He will do cosmetic changes provided they do not harm the Labour Party because his very future depends on the vitality of the party. Everything else is of no consequence, be it Malta or the majority of the populace that has no affinity for the party. The latter do not even figure into the equation of a Labour Party government.
Yes, he will be his own man but in the mould of Joseph Muscat.
- Muscat found a pretext to get the unwanted Anġlu Farrugia out of the way and to replace him with one of his favourites. Abela’s treatment of Justyne Caruana is a re-run of this earlier episode.
- Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici had gone one step further than Mintoff, when ruling through the mob. Likewise, Abela outdid Muscat by naming the largest, most expensive and inept cabinet in Maltese political history so as to buy the loyalty of all the Labour MPs (now more than ever crucial in these uncertain times since almost all the MPs backed his rival).
- Abela speaks Muscat’s double speak. He solemnly declares that Malta has returned to normality while the Labour-dominated police force burns. This Kafkaesque scenario brings to mind the end of the Iraqi invasion in 2003 when in a theatrical, shallow stunt George Bush landed on an aircraft carrier to declare the end of combat in his “mission accomplished” speech. The combat was to rage on for many years yet until the US army finally gave up and ran away. The legal advisor of the scandal-a-day government was scandalised when two opposition MEPs refused to pose for a photo stunt intended to demonstrate normality in Malta. The narrow partisan mind of Abela sees only the stability, normality and tranquillity of the Labour Party and transposes it for that of the entire country.
- Abela lauds his own “changes” of no change. His method of appointing the police commissioner is an extrapolation of Muscat’s splitting of the role of the attorney general. It is nothing but the tinkering of the Venice Commission recommendations to produce a mishmash that contradicts the very essence of the international recommendations. Expect more of the same with the appointment of the judiciary. Abela promised changes with the passport selling scheme so as to improve Malta’s reputation but his machinations are only intended to greedily exploit its money generating potential even more.
- Abela uses favourite clichéd put-downs straight out of Muscat’s handbook “the institutions are working”, “the rule of law is alive and kicking”, “good governance is our priority”, “commercial sensitivity”, “the investigations are ongoing” etc.
Abela’s bright Janus face is not as enlightened as one would expect. This is why:
- Clearing the memorial hundreds of time was incredibly stupid and did immense damage to the Labour P That’s all that matters to Abela– thedamage to the party and to himself. Reversing the strategy he previously acceded to(given it was a collective ministerial decision)was born out of political expediency and certainly not out of his desire for justice or his much touted good will.
- Muscat would not hesitate to throw certain undesirable small fry under the bus so as to salvage his legacy. In a similar vein, Abela sacrifices Gafà, the police commissioner, Konrad Mizzi, Chris Cardona, Keith Schembri, etc. But that’s as far as it goes– noprosecutions, no serious investigations, no arrests. Nothing that would strike at or endanger the soul of the Labour P Nothing to alienate the hard-core Labour supporters. Nothing to stoke unrest from the part of the dismissed miscreants. Rather, in Muscatian fashion since they have become a liability for the party, they are politely shown the door. They are invariably compensated or rewarded for past services hidden under cushy, well paid jobs from the public eye. This needless expense of public funds is intended to buy the loyalty of the dismissed officials. Muscat could not do without that police commissioner. He needed him to keep one step ahead of the investigators. That way he would have the advantage in his tragically very serious Tom and Jerry game of obstructing justice. Abela does not need him anymore, the police commissioner has outlived his usefulness. On the contrary, he cannot do without that doormat of an attorney general. Both the previous and present prime ministers are reliant on such pliant sycophants so they can enact their legal “reforms” unopposed.
- Abela was ooh-aahed by the naïve press for rescinding the corrupt contract Joseph Muscat awarded Konrad Mizzi so as to buy the latter’s omertà. But what about the unnecessary similarly lucrative contracts to Kurt Farrugia, Louis Grech, Joseph Bannister, the corrupt ‘whistle-blower’ in Giovanna Debono’s husband’s case and many others. He cannot afford to have the can of worms opened. This might reveal the murky workings of the Labour Party that are intended to maintain the unity of its power base, Moreover, Abela’s own contracts and generous handouts might come under scrutiny.
- Abela has retained Muscat’s corrupt, inept cabinet. His only “constructive” act was to play musical chairs with them. This won him kudos from the gullible press. And what a motley crowd they are down to a man. Chris Fearne was responsible for Part II of the corrupt hospital privatisation; Edward Scicluna has the distinction of being the finance minister who is being investigated for money laundering and who oversaw the bad reputation of Malta’s financial sector; Owen Bonnici has been found guilty of repeatedly breaching human rights and he resolutely enforced the misrule of law; Ian Borg is a latter day Lorry Sant whose motto is to build, baby, build like there’s no tomorrow. He has a penchant for expropriating private property, ignoring regulations and permits that everyone else has to respect;Michael Farrugia and Carmelo Abela both refuse to assume responsibility for the collapse of the police force under their sequential watches; Michael Falzon was sacked for his role in the Gaffarena scandal, and his legacy is increasing poverty and homelessness; Evarist Bartolo protected corrupt practices in his ministry and allowed the persecution of a genuine whistle-blower; Silvio Schembri was responsible for the cryptocurrency let down; Jose Herrera was the hapless defender of the environment who was involved in the white flag scam; the dim witted Zammit Lewis messed up Air Malta; not to mention the strangely twinned portfolio of Clint Camilleri, a measure intended to reward him for his support of Abela’s electoral bid.
- Taking a leaf out of Muscat’s manual of governance, delay is the name of the game. In Muscat’s case, delaying tactics was his way of averting justice. It was intended to buy time for key evidence to be buried. In Abela’s case, there is an election coming up in two years’ time. He will not allow his party’s electoral prospects to be bruised in any way. The incriminating writing is all over the wall in bold print. There is no need for ineffectual committees to evaluate the Vitals/Stewart deal. What about all the other suspect contracts? And who does he appoint on the committee of good governance or whatever it is? No good can come out of it. The members were Muscat’s loyal, bosom buddies who enforced Muscat’s bad governance policies to the letter. Does Abela seriously think that they will investigate themselves?
- The entire cabinet is tainted, some more than others. They are woefully incapable of salvaging Malta’s reputation. They stood by Muscat throughout. It’s pathetic hearing them plead their innocence on the grounds of ignorance while they rushed to pose for photos with their disgraced ex-prime minister. The red alert signs were all over the place. Everyone could see them, most of all themselves. Nothing added up in Muscat’s incongruous explanations and behaviour. If these politicians are not able to do the elementary political arithmetic of adding one plus one, then they are not qualified to govern. If on the other hand, they had no interest in doing that bit of arithmetic, then they make themselves complicit in the cover up of their disgraced colleagues’ corruption. So now we have suspected criminals (Brian Tonna, Karl Cini, Joseph Muscat, Konrad Mizzi, Keith Schembri, Chris Cardona,the Agius brothers,the police commissioner, Silvio Valletta, Ian Abdilla, Kenneth Camilleri and many others) who remain untouched and free to roam with imp No arrests, no prosecutions, no serious interrogations. If any of these go down, they will take others down, possibly the entire cabinet and even the Labour Party, given the wide ramifications. That is something the savvy, fawning Abela will never permit. He cannot afford to lose the hard-core Labour vote. Indeed, instead of repairing the reputational damage, he has shamelessly gone into electioneering mode (particularly in the second district), using shallow photo shoots a la Muscat and doing door to door canvassing. He panders to the hard-core supporters by terminating contracts with Lou Bondi and Anton Attard (these contracts were awarded in the first place to buy their opposition critics’ silence as they bought off selected opinion writers in the independent press), and by cracking down on poorly attending opposition committee MPs. That’s not enough, so he promises social housing to his supporters. He condescendingly mediates directly between the contractor and the residents of a collapsed building. Dishing out pjaċiri is not his job. The true statesman’s job is to have ensured that when his government unleashed their reckless construction frenzy, it instituted a system that automatically compensates all aggrieved residents for collateral damage, without them having to go through the courts. In the wake of these disasters, the measures introduced by the government he supposedly advised, were woefully inadequate. The rights of all unfortunate victims of collateral damage(not just these) should not be dependent on the “benevolence” of a prime minister.
- None are more unsuited to repair Malta’s image than Robert Abela. As legal advisor to Muscat, he is as responsible as Muscat for all the misdeeds of Muscat’s government. Through his past position, he makes these deeds his own. He boasts that he always spoke his mind whenever he disagreed. We know of his public utterances when he disagreed with what he considered the blandness of Muscat’s policy of nepotism, favouritism, patronage and meritocracy, expressing his concern that it did not go far enough. True, he may have had private disagreements with Muscat’s policies but if so, he was either overlooked or his advice was never sought in the first place. If so, then it may be possible that Abela himself was the recipient of a well-paid phantom job, the kind that the Labour government dishes out so lavishly to its acolytes. If so, then the title of “legal consultant”may have just been a cover up. Coming to think of it, whenever Muscat needed legal advice, he made use of many other lawyers both locally and internationally. On top of that were the hundreds of thousands of euro worth of direct orders that this self-serving greedy politician amassed for himself and his firm through his well-connected post.
The cringing habit of Robert Abela to promote his traits of humility, of sincerity, of trustworthiness, of affected love, of superiority in moral fibre conjure images of the slimy Uriah Heep persona. Perceptive people see through his cloying plastic smile and feigned modesty. From the obsequious greediness to his superior morality complex, Dickens’ dastardly character in the David Copperfield novel gives us the creeps. He repeatedly declares he is the ‘umblest person but he is manipulative and at the same time schemes to lord it over you. He is dishonest and his infamy is related to the fact that he says one thing and means another. He constantly congratulates himself for being the best at something even if it’s grovelling in front of his superiors. Ironically, his ‘umbleness is his chosen path to power. Uriah Heep has become synonymous with a falsely humble ambitious hypocrite. Through that self-effacing, and deferentially affable exterior of Robert Abela you catch a glimpse of the hidden malice within him from his public attitude to the Caruana Galizia family’s quest for justice before he became prime minister.