The government will never admit it but we’re in a bind of their making. Malta has squandered its diplomatic credentials and we are now kicking migrants as if they are to blame for Joseph Muscat and Robert Abela.
Another 90 migrants are presently taking in water from the sea in our search and rescue area. Alarm Phone raised the alert last night.
Yesterday the Italian coastguard reacted to another alert from Alarm Phone by going out for a boat taking in water near Lampedusa. The Italians went out, brought the migrants to shore and kept them on the jetty while looking for a boat for quarantine in harbour.
We’re not reacting that way. The Captain Morgan ‘solution’ has been applied to one boat. Is another soon on the way out to pick up the new arrivals. For now, they’re vomiting on the Mistral. How soon before we’ll have more than dehydration on our conscience?
Or are we looking at a push back to Libya, a breach of the passengers’ fundamental human rights?
Evarist Bartolo, rather pathetically, re-enacted that old Maltese idiom yesterday about cutting off your balls to punish your wife. He threatened political suicide because “Europe” was not addressing the migration problem. It’s not like Malta’s government has been asking it to.
We need to break this down because “blaming the foreigner” (whether they’re young black men, or German bureaucrats in Brussels) is the easiest cop-out for the failed politician anywhere.
“Europe” in the matter of taking on migrants saved at sea is not the European Commission, or the European Parliament or any other Brussels governing institutions that come with EU membership. Taking in migrants is not in the competence of the Union but in the competence of individual European countries.
This anti-EU sentiment is barking up the wrong tree. Even if we left the EU – as some are now suggesting as an efficient way to avoid having to save lives drowning in our waters – we’re still left with the responsibility of saving lives drowning in our waters. And we’d still need to persuade France, Germany, Sweden, Poland (good luck with that, by the way) to share the burden of welcoming people we save at sea.
So Evarist Bartolo can stop being vague about it. “Europe” means the chanceries of European capitals that are not taking his calls.
Evarist Bartolo was part of a government that held the Presidency of the EU and organised a jamboree in Valletta that produced that statue of what a middling god left behind after they shat marble in Castille Square. Over 6 years of diplomacy they could have promoted transferring the issue to the competence of the EU.
Instead they preferred retaining immigration policy out of the competence of the EU. They didn’t want to risk anyone stopping us selling European passports. That short-sighted egoism and greed is now paying off and the only ones suffering are the migrants abandoned at sea.
Joseph Muscat applied his charm and appeal to get other countries to get migrants off his back. But when his mask fell off and Europe realised what they were dealing with, speaking for Malta in the world has become really tough.
Evarist Bartolo thought it would be a breeze. That a little sobbing and saying mea culpa three times at a Tim Sebastian interview would absolve him for not distancing himself from Joseph Muscat’s mafia government even when he knew what was going on.
But this is the real world, Evarist Bartolo. This is not your habitual Super 1 audience that will go from hosanna to crucify him in the space of a day just because some great leader goes on the radio and changes tack.
You are being dragged by the wind you helped Joseph Muscat conjure. You should have abandoned ship when you knew things were going in the wrong direction.
How are you now going to get our European partners to trust you and a government led by Joseph Muscat’s personal attorney? You thought the foreign office would be about collecting photos with popes and princes to leave in your photo album for your grandchildren.
The job of the foreign office is to protect and promote the national interest by investing in relationships with other countries, fostering trust, generating the moral obligation to help a partner in need, if we are in need. Instead your predecessors promoted the interests of Christian Kaelin, his dark and shady customers, Ali Sadr Hashemi Nejad, his dark and shady customers including Ilham Aliyev and his children. And, of course, promoting their agents here Keith Schembri, Konrad Mizzi and Joseph Muscat. To hell with the national interest.
During the last 7 years you thought there would never be the need of the help of other countries. You fully expected l-aqwa żmien to last forever. That it would be ok to let our neighbours soak in the blood of the mafia as we laundered their money for the Mafiosi. That it would be ok to let our neighbours have their tax base undercut if we let business that use their resources pay close to no tax here instead. That it would be ok if we exposed our neighbours to the risk of fraudsters and terrorists entering undetected as long as they left a million bucks each for a passport that costs us 3 euro to produce.
Now we’re out of friends. And the government is, according to Malta Today, making new ones instead. According to that newspaper Malta is breaking ranks with our European partners and speaking directly to Turkey’s human-rights violator Recep Erdogan apparently with the objective of crushing migrants before they make the crossing to avoid us having to push them back to be crushed after.
If this is true and our government is being caught working behind the backs of European capitals, it will be even less likely for them to take Evarist Bartolo’s pathetic pleading calls.
Evarist Bartolo flatly admits he wants to resign in order to soothe his guilty conscience. It sounds like Evarist Bartolo has an understanding of the limits Malta has exceeded over the last several days and the rash determination to continue to do so in spite of the loss of life and suffering those decisions are creating.
To him that feels like being a man of principle. But that’s not what this is at all. A woman of principle, and perhaps at a stretch of the imagination even a man, would have denounced the illegality she was being made to be collegially responsible for just by being a minister in a government that allows people to die at sea, or pushes them back to torture and slavery in Libya, or pens them in a boat unsuitable for the purpose on the high seas.
He would not be saying he’s resigning because of “Europe” causing even more damage by fomenting hatred against an institution that is one of the last remaining bulwarks of the international law-based order. He would be saying he’s resigning because he’d rather sleep well at night than be part of a government that ignores the universal rights of people whatever their skin colour to live, to live free from torture and to be given shelter from abject poverty or bloody war.
I cannot find it in myself to tell Evarist Bartolo to live up to his responsibility and do his job rather than chicken out and resign. His cowardice, his moral ambiguity, his self-centredness and pathological self-pity might prove providential.
Because though he’ll never admit it, he is unsuited for the job he’s in. He will never be able to be taken seriously when speaking for Malta without an explanation why he stuck with Joseph Muscat. It can only get worse as he tries to explain why he stuck with Robert Abela after the terminal decisions taken about migrants since the Easter weekend.
Here’s the tragedy of this. An entire country did not see the wall rushing in our faces as we drove headlong towards it. We enjoyed the thrill of speed and ignored the innocent bystanders we ran over. Now that we’ve hit the wall, crashed against it, knocked it down and came to a crushing halt we’re telling ourselves there was never a wall.
Instead we’re cowering behind a new wall of our own imagination, railing at the bloody foreigners north and south of us and hunting for the fifth columnists within. And Evarist Bartolo threatens to jump out the window while we burn inside the tower. Like that’s going to help anybody apart from him.