The author, John Vassallo, wanted this preamble to appear with this new series of articles:

“As a regular contributor to The Times of Malta, I have realised that a series of recent articles since February 2020 have been shelved. Whist respecting editorial independence I have a feeling that they have been refused either because my articles attack some part of the establishment which the Times wishes to protect or for some other reason like lack of space or disinterest in the subject matters. My regular readership have been asking me why I have stopped writing. Since I have not stopped I discussed the matter with the Times’ editors and they know that I will be seeking to have these articles published elsewhere. I am grateful to Truth be Told for accepting to have them published. I am sure my readership will find them and that a new readership may find them interesting. If some phrases may appear dated the shelf life explained above is the reason. Please excuse me. John Vassallo.”

There was a joke about communist dictators. Brezhnev was asked how he dealt with crises. He said that Khrushchev had given him three envelopes telling him to open envelope 1 during the first crisis, envelope 2 during the second and envelope 3 at the third. Well at the first crisis he opened the first envelope and it said “Blame Stalin” which he did. At the second crisis he opened the second and it said “Blame Khrushchev” which he did and at the third crisis he opened the third and it said “Resign and write three envelopes for your successor”.

Well this column by Martin Scicluna, a retired army officer, reminded me of this story especially since the column appeared after the allegations of sabotaging of an immigrant laden boat by the Maltese armed forces, the shutting of ports to refugees in the name of Covid by Robert Abela and the attack on civil society by the PM and full Cabinet when he was in his third crisis after only three months as PM.

It is most welcome to read Mr Scicluna finally criticising Joseph Muscat.

In 2012, we remember Mr Scicluna opening the first envelope, blaming Mintoff as something aberrant from the past and welcoming Joseph Muscat whom he continued to praise throughout all the length of that corrupt regime including after the murder and assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Before the 2017 election he is even reported as having said that even though Muscat may be guilty of criminal acts people should vote for him. Alleged and proven breaches of the rule of law were condoned.

But last week he suddenly opened the second envelope as we are facing attacks on Robert Abela for rule of law breaches. The PM replied with a dictatorial attitude forcing all ministers to sit in rows like stooges with blank faces just as they did under Muscat and some of them just as they did under Mintoff.

Blaming Muscat and criticising him for breaches of the rule of law is like opening Envelope Number 2. On April 15, Scicluna writing about the Rule of Law wrote “Under Prime Minister Robert Abela, the new administration is as different from that which preceded it as chalk from cheese.”

Abela may have smelt, to Scicluna and to many others, of quality cheese, the last two weeks have brought Abela to turn from a perfumed cheese to a mouldy and rotten cheese stinking to high heaven. He attacked Repubblika. He did not attempt to solve the two greatest robberies of our time, the fraudulent sales of the energy sector and the hospital sector to Muscat’s cronies. We must remember that Abela was Muscat’s adviser and part of the previous administration.

Then came the alleged act of sabotage on a boat full of refugees by some members of our armed forces and then shutting our ports and ordering the armed forces to push back boats from reaching our waters and even handing some refugees back to the Libyan prison camps. These could have been rogue acts by a soldier or two like the drive-by murder of Lassana Cisse a year ago in Safi, and if this is so they should be investigated and brought to justice without any damage to our armed forces.

If, on the other hand, it is a decision taken by our highest authorities to stop at all costs any immigrant from being allowed into Malta in the name of Covid protection, then it is a deplorable criminal act and runs against all principles of human rights.

Martin, it’s time to open envelope three and ask Abela to write three envelopes and leave the scene. Since they all sat silently behind him as he attacked our freedom of speech and urged his party activists to commit acts of aggression on protestors, I wonder who will succeed him.

What Abela should have done was to follow Italy. He should have rented or requisitioned a ship or two, maybe a 4000-bed cruise-ship and placed all boat refugees there to be quarantined and cared for and then to get the EU to take their share thereof and not abandon them to their death at sea by thirst, drowning or Libyan prison guards.

Malta has to thank its location, strategically and gloriously in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea with clear waters, great weather and hospitable population. It earns its wealth from this location. But this location also comes with some drawbacks, namely, it is on the direct route for the movement northwards of God’s forsaken peoples from Africa.

We cannot have our political leaders brag and boast about economic success and then not also, at the same time, bear the mantle of responsibility that our location brings with it. It is humane and statesmanlike to persuade citizens to share their new-found wealth with these poor souls sailing in leaking dinghies towards our coasts. It is wrong to attack NGOs, who, speaking for these nameless Africans, have asked for police investigation of those soldiers who either obeyed orders that went against human rights or who acted irrationally on their own.

Many members of the rule of law community to which they once belonged will come forward with letter openers for Dr Abela and Mr Scicluna. I ask our former presidents to intervene in the name of humanity to stop this disastrous road the present PM is embarking our country upon.

Post scriptum: Since this opinion piece was written on the 18th April but before it was published Mr Scicluna published a new opinion piece on the 20th April correctly criticising the present government’s inhumane response to the boat refugees. Thank you.

John Vassallo is a lawyer and former Ambassador of Malta to the EU and Nato. He was a Vice President of Microsoft.