The gentleman has never been openly partisan though he’s been part of the Labour administration for 7 years moving from one governing board to the next. The argument being put forward here is that Oliver Scicluna “deserves” the seat in Parliament because he’s done good work improving the lot of disabled people. And that therefore, criticism of this manoeuvre is akin to pushing a girl in a wheelchair down a steep hill.
It’s not about ‘deserve’. This is not a reward like being on the honours list or even a promotion to a more responsible position. Members of Parliament in a democracy are not chosen on the basis of merit. They’re chosen by voters on the basis of how many votes they acquire. You are entitled to take the Socratic view that that’s just what’s wrong with democracy, but then let’s do away with the bother of a Parliament and breed philosopher-kings instead.
The people’s right to choose is meaningless if people do not have the right to make the wrong choice. I feel squeamish saying this because as Franco Debono is always keen to remind me, I must not forget my past. I contested a Parliamentary seat once and lost to Toni Bezzina. I don’t want this article to suggest I think I would have been a more useful MP than Toni Bezzina. I don’t think it and it’s not an example I would use.
But if we are to linger on recollections of people’s choices in this neighbourhood people chose Franco Debono over Louis Galea. And then again people chose Robert Abela over Chris Fearne and Adrian Delia over Chris Said.
Those decisions were clearly not grounded on merit. They were grounded on the people’s whimsical preference. Democracy is the worst political system. Except for all the others.
The series of manoeuvres by the Labour Party that will culminate in the co-option of Oliver Scicluna was manifestly intended to supplant the people’s choice, or at least the choice they made in June 2017, on who should represent them in Parliament. Edward Scicluna betrayed his constituents by quitting the job before time. Then Gavin Gulia did the same because he said the prime minister wanted him to stay at the tourism authority. Gavin Gulia’s first duty was to his constituents, not to the prime minister. It is the constituents who hired him as MP, not the prime minister. And yet he ignored his boss – the people – and worshipped the god that pays him more, Robert Abela.
You could see the dynamics play out. Labour wanted to block Charles Azzopardi from getting the parliamentary seat. But they also wanted to block Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando, which is why Gavin Gulia first needed to swear loyalty to the Constitution before he immediately betrayed it with his resignation. That way he prevented his seat from passing to Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando and to pass instead to whomever Robert Abela picked.
Now based on an argument of merit, you do not need to weigh someone who worked for persons with disability for many years against Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando to find someone more deserving of being an MP.
Anyone not living in prison is more deserving than Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando. The man is the limbo champion of political inadequacy. He is the patron saint of the mediocre. He is the Olympic medallist of uselessness.
He refused to join Eddie Fenech Adami’s government as a parliamentary secretary because the job paid less than his dental practice. He shafted Ninu Zammit, his rival on the electoral district he ran for, by campaigning against dumping of inert waste in their shared constituency. In spite of winning an award as a pro-environment campaigner, he secretly went into business to convert a pristine valley into a concrete rave venue. He lied to party and country about it, dragging everyone within a whisker of a catastrophic re-election of Alfred Sant to the premiership. He sabotaged his own party from its back-benches with political vendettas aimed at his imaginary nemeses conjured by psychosis. He switched parties. And he served as hired hand, henchman, in televised bludgeoning hatchet jobs, bashing Joseph Muscat’s detractors.
And they say I should not presume to have an opinion because buses were late the summer of 2010.
I do not have a shred of sympathy for the way Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando was treated by his adoptive party. They used him, squeezed him, put him on TV to perpetrate verbal violence they were too embarrassed to do themselves. But when it came to one thing he really wanted – return to Parliament – they took away from him the seat he secured by vote preferences cast in his name and gave it instead to someone who spent his years looking good picking up a government salary making God’s work.
This is the fate of turncoats. The only people who trust them less than the people they betray, are the people they betray them to. Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando’s longed for return to Parliament, the glorious end to his pining years culminating in the opportunity to sit opposite the members of his former party to rain down his brimstone on them, has been definitively denied. Denied, by his adoptive party that has finally told him just what they thought of him. They would rather anyone but him.
I could say he deserves it. He does. He deserves it as much as Donald Trump deserves being chucked out of Twitter. It gives me as much pleasure to see Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando denied the privilege of Parliamentary office as it pleases me to see Donald Trump denied his social media feeds.
But. I’m horrified that the CEO of a corporation has the power to switch off the voice of anyone whose politics they disagree with, without any basis at law and without due process. Due process would have likely kicked Donald Trump off Twitter years before now. That doesn’t mean I’m ok seeing an unaccountable corporate doing it.
And I’m equally horrified that Robert Abela can push aside the people’s choice for a Parliamentary seat in order to plant someone more deserving. Robert Abela could have publicly endorsed Oliver Scicluna at the next election and let people hopefully choose him over a tosser like Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando. But in a democracy, we leave that decision to the people not do it for them and congratulate ourselves.
We have the single transferable vote in this country which lets voters, not parties, choose who represents them in Parliament. There are of course unforeseen circumstances that may require co-option – death, illness, a genuine lack of candidates. But co-option was never meant for this. On that seat, in Edward Scicluna’s former constituency, Robert Abela has just performed yet another bloodless coup d’état.