Whoever thought that would be a good idea (from his point of view) is either him or someone who never had a conversation with him. Or they never read the report of my interview with him which would have warned them the man would provide the worst possible recommendation for himself.
Prison directors are not contesting elections. They should not need to be particularly media savvy or to come across as sympathetic figures. In the ideal world prison directors report to prison supervisory boards who report to ministers and parliamentary oversight committees, who in turn report to the general public.
We have no oversight to speak of here. Just the Minister — Byron Camilleri — who appears to be adamant not to be the one to fire Alexander Dalli but to privately live in hope that he quits of his own accord.
Perhaps then whoever thought it would be a good idea for Alexander Dalli to go on TV had different motivations than at first may be obvious. Whoever sent him there fully expected him to put his foot in it and justify in people’s mind grounds for his eventual dismissal.
There was a point when Alexander Dalli defended his fascist regime at the prison by asking the scrawny, lanky Mark Zammit if he’s ever had a man three times his size rushing towards him with a bloody knife. If Mark Zammit was picturing that scene his mind will have been sucked down to his clenched sphincter. If he had a bit more sangfroid he could have asked Alexander Dalli if after all he’s ever had a man three times his size rushing towards him with a bloody knife. Because to be honest it did sound like a bit of a bluff.
Then Alexander Dalli went on to belittle the scrawny, lanky Mark Zammit by telling him that in his line of work as a journalist the worst he need fear is a twisted ankle or an electric shock plugging in his laptop. Mark Zammit’s sphincter clenched a bit more but this time he was ready with his bounce back. That’s not what Daphne Caruana Galizia would say, you pig. Or something like that.
Now you can call that remark about no harm coming to journalists insensitive, insulting, arrogant and factually mistaken. But I’m not going to waste any shock over an idiot like Alex Dalli.
I’ll just point out that the comment insulting the profession of the man who was interviewing him on live TV and of everyone writing about him in the news media that are exposing his Idi-Aminesque running of the prisons, was strategically disastrous. The man recommends himself as the military type with situational awareness growing out of his ears. He seems to believe himself such a brilliant chess master that only he would know how to handle a man three times his size rushing towards him with a bloody knife. Ar’hemm ħej.
And then this military genius t’għajni shows he cannot deal with the scrawny, lanky Mark Zammit sitting politely three metres away from him without a knife, bloody or otherwise and no apparent intention to rush towards him. Imagine how well he’d handle the murderous, Scooby-Doo villains of his imagination.
Calls for Alexander Dalli to resign did not decrease after that showing on TV. They increased. But the man should not be fired for looking terrible on TV. The man should be fired for what that TV interview confirmed in the public’s understanding of his character and his suitability to run a prison.
His delusions of grandeur, his dangerous self-importance, his Messianic sense that only he is capable of doing the job he does, his sense of entitlement for a license to bring his wards to heel because any one of them might turn out to be someone Mark Zammit would want to run away from, that’s why he should be made to resign.
The man needs to be removed because he has institutionalised a regime of fear. He refuses to respond to consistent reports that he presides over a prison where privileges and punishment are granted at his imperious pleasure. He is the subject of 25 or more magisterial inquiries which, for the fact that they all started automatically on the back of events that have happened under his watch are in the mere fact that they have commenced at all and in such number and independently of their individual findings, evidence of systemic failure.
We do not know enough to be in any way convinced that any of the several deaths under his watch have been directly caused by his failures or his actions. But at this point, at the rate of the deaths registered up to now, he is a barrier to the determination of the truth about the unexplained end to the lives of too many people.
He needs to step aside ironically because of the reason he was speaking in hyperbolic terms about journalists’ relative safety. He was speaking about his overriding concern for the safety of prison warders who work with inmates every day. Some of those inmates are dangerous people and if they’re going to hurt anyone it’s not likely to be me, but more likely to be someone working at the prison. We all share his concern about that.
Too many times I’ve heard from people who used to work or work now in the prison the description of the situation there as a “pressure cooker”, a “powder keg”, “a time-bomb”, a “disaster waiting to happen”.
In spite of all his braggadocio and jingoistic bluster, Alex Dalli looks to me to be too vain, too self-important, too convinced in the infallibility of his methods, to incompetent, to antiquated, too quick to violence to know what to do if proper trouble erupts in prison. He’s anything but a cool head. He’s power-mad and fascistic in that comical Cadet Eugene Tackleberry from the Police Academy series sort of way which stops being funny the day his bluff is properly called.
And when that happens, and when someone gets hurt, he will not be the one to blame. He’s an idiot. Everyone but he sees that now. The responsibility will belong to the government that keeps him there because they keep him there knowing they shouldn’t.