There’s an article in The Malta Independent today by Noel Grima which has the word ‘de-muscatification’ in its heading. It’s about how this country needs to reverse the policies of Joseph Muscat in order to start getting things right. It criticises Robert Abela for sticking to ‘continuity’ with the years of Muscat.
There’s another article on the same newspaper by Kevin Aquilina. He compares Joseph Muscat and the Labour Party with Orwellian Pigs who led a change for all the right reasons and proceeded to turn the country, or the farm if you prefer, into a corrupt tyranny that serves their interests.
Both articles start with the premise that Malta in 2013 needed liberation from the nasty Nationalists but the Labour Party which replaced them took up the bad habits of the people they substituted.
There will be time for historical debate. All I would say is this country has never had to wonder how to deal with a former prime minister who, nearly four years out of office, is still the source of a weekly scandal.
No one has yet named Lawrence Gonzi for canonisation. But there’s something to be said for a former prime minister who does not invoice in a month what his client earns in a year from trading in exotic birds. That’s the scandal du jour by the way. Times of Malta report how Joseph Muscat pockets a handsome consultancy payment from a miniscule bird trading company which just incidentally happens to belong to the owner of a casino operating on public land on absurdly advantageous terms given them by the government when Joseph Muscat was prime minister.
I bet other casino operators regret not paying Joseph Muscat a consultancy fee. They could be operating nearly rent free rather than competing with Muscat’s favourite client. Not all casino operators’ WhatsApp chats are in the public domain. Yorgen Fenech told Rosianne Cutajar he wanted to punch Chris Cardona. Yorgen Fenech must have expected a public subsidy to compensate him for operating his casino on his own property. For Joseph Muscat’s up-side-down socialism decreed that the more you had the more would be given to you by the government as long as some of it made its way into Joseph Muscat’s retirement fund, or, if you like, consultancy work.
History will spend some time to discuss how the last years of the PN before 2013 were problematic but I suspect for rather less long than commentators of the present seem to need to do to justify their public expressions of disgust with Labour.
I rather think history will spend more time wondering how a congenital idiot like Joseph Muscat fooled the entire country into hero-worshipping him and giving him the keys to its credibility. You thought Joseph Muscat was smart? Consider how thin are the veils that Joseph Muscat placed on his bribing engines.
How does Joseph Muscat conceal a bribe from Steward Health Care? He has them deposit money into a company held by the owners of VGH which Steward is replacing in Malta. And the company operated by VGH pays him a ‘consultancy’ fee. How does he conceal a bribe from the Dragonara Casino Operations? He has them pay him a ‘consultancy’ fee through their dormant bird trading business.
Is this the quality of this genius? His money laundering layering is as elaborate as a 15-inch Christmas tree with discount shop paper baubles attempting to put on a brave show at the Rockefeller Centre ice rink. With that business genius no wonder the client base of his so-called consultancy business is limited to people who became rich when he was prime minister.
The fact is his conceit is barely hidden. He’s not as smart as he thinks he is or, more accurately, he doesn’t think the country is as stupid as he thinks it is. Of course, the fact that the invoice is raised to an exotic bird company instead of a government-licensed casino owner operating on public land is too fantastical a rabbit out of a two-bit children party magician’s hat to attract anything but utter bewilderment from Angelo Gafà and Victoria Buttigieg. He is safe from the clutches of law enforcement.
For crying out loud Angelo Gafà can’t read a recommendation to arrest and arraign the owners of Pilatus Bank who banked for Joseph Muscat even if the recommendation is sent to him in a 600,000-page inquiry report signed on the front and back by the personal hand of the inquiring magistrate. And Victoria Buttigieg won’t charge a button man in a bank heist part masterminded by Joseph Muscat’s ministers, who shot 75 bullets in the general direction of police officers, just in case the ministers might get into trouble.
So, yes, Joseph Muscat thinks law enforcement in this country is that stupid. He’s not wrong about that.
He is frustrated the rest of the country isn’t. When Times of Malta ask him to comment ahead of publishing yet another weekly scandal he rises to a tall height and fulminates some righteous indignation. Did you expect me, he thundered today, to retire at 48? Which was how Kevin Aquilina’s Orwellian pigs justified sleeping in beds contrary to the original law of their revolution. It’s all right for Joseph Muscat to sleep in a bed without sheets. After he’s not even 50 yet.
Joseph Muscat insists he’s only being paid for his work. How many hours in the day does this genius have? He’s paid hundreds of thousands by a long list of beneficiaries of his munificence in office and claims it’s for work he’s done for them since he was no longer prime minister. What does this guy do then that he expects people to believe in his miraculous abilities?
Demuscatising government policy, as Noel Grima suggests, is a start. We need to demuscatise our national culture, confront the fact that over the last 10 years this country has lived an extremely expensive lie just so the head of the government can look youthful and dynamic. Is that a good thing?
We need to start speaking clearly and free of the ambiguity of plagues on both houses when Joseph Muscat clearly belongs to one house and the other house has never had anything like him. Trying to reduce Joseph Muscat’s individual, self-enriching program to a mere continuation of whatever imperfections existed before he took office will continue to normalise his actions and serve his interests above the country’s.
Joseph Muscat is not the first politician to take a bribe or to drive policies that favour his own or his friends’ interests. But he is unprecedented in our history in terms of scale and single-minded focus on using public office for his personal enrichment. He is no criminal genius because he is no manner of genius. But, to the extent that he was able to be, he is a criminal mastermind.
He swindled the country of money, reputation, and standing in the world. What’s perhaps more serious is that he swindled the country of its self-respect for the nation still struggles to collective regret for having trusted him with leadership. To do so we must as a nation admit the mistake of having empowered him, if not unanimously, at least in great numbers. We must undergo the shame of people who regret having supported tyrants who drove their countries to the ground to the sound of popular applause.
We need yet to come to the point when we admit that we made Joseph Muscat and we continue to make him when we justify him by saying we needed him to replace what came before him. We justify him by neglecting the few – the one – who warned us about him before he took office.
Thousands marched in Valletta yesterday holding the banner ‘Xebbajtuna’. They are rightly angry about the defacing of the country and they are right not to draw the line at 2013. This country has had a poor relationship with its environment since the 1960s. It is historically inaccurate to ignore the fact that the Nationalists were punished politically for their (occasionally incoherent) restraint on construction and development. It is short-sighted to forget that when Joseph Muscat came to power he ‘liberated’, as the greedy concrete lawyers saw it, the construction industry by abolishing or dismantling the effectiveness of any pre-existing restraint on development.
We’d be blind not to see that the people pouring money in Joseph Muscat’s early retirement are the same tycoons slashing at what’s left of the pre-dystopian landscape of these islands. We are right to mourn the symptoms of this greed: the random building, the pointless road widening, the shady bank rolling. But if we stop at the symptoms, if we continue to justify the horror of the last 10 years by any dislike of what came before it, if we insist on coexisting with Joseph Muscat’s justification of his crimes against the future of this country, we are never going to walk away from this.
For his crimes Joseph Muscat needs to see the inside of a prison cell. For enabling him the Labour Party needs to be walked out of power. The first assignment belongs to Gafà and Buttigieg and I grant you they will probably not do it. The second assignment belongs to us.