The third so-called ‘state of the nation’ conference is being hosted by President George Vella today.

From the official statement announcing the conference: “President Vella noted that the subjects planned for this year’s conference are all directly related to the citizens’ everyday life. These include the family, the media and its new challenges in society, cultural and religious traditions, rights, and equality.”

It will all be very interesting, I’m sure. We should be taking stock of our lives as a community, and we should have frank exchanges of views about how things could be made better. No harm in that.

But this is like a parish priest holding weekly meetings to discuss premier league football while abandoning the routine of saying mass. It’s like going to your doctor and instead of being treated to an examination and a prescription, you’re sat down to debate the meaning of the life.

It’s all well for the president to speak about the state of the nation. But the president is not the head of the nation, is he? The president is the head of the state. When’s the last time the president discussed the state of the state? How does he get time to worry about the nation’s “cultural and religious traditions” when the institutions of the republic over which he presides are on a far faster and clearer path to turning into an unrecognisable equivalent of extinction than anything about our nation might be?

When was the last time that the president said that he would call a constitutional convention to openly discuss reforms to the framework of the state? That’s a rhetorical question because I know the answer. It was during covid when the president was justifying the delay of a convention promised when he was still an opposition shadow minister back in 2012. He personally and solemnly renewed that promise when Joseph Muscat made him president in April 2019. Then covid came and the convention had to wait, the president said. We shouldn’t die in the process of improving the constitution.

Covid came and went. The promise to convene a debate on reforming the constitution wasn’t kept.

The president today is not hosting a conference to discuss our failure to make progress on the rule of law reforms we promised the Council of Europe and the European Union to undertake. We are not discussing our failure to change laws to protect media freedom and organised crime. We are not discussing how recommendations by an inquiry that investigated the killing of a journalist have so far been completely ignored.

We are not discussing how the office of the commissioner for standards in public life has been reduced to an internal government review office. We are not discussing how TVM is a propaganda vehicle that is so blatant in its bias that the man who used to run Super 1 thinks TVM is too much. For crying out loud.

We are not discussing how the attorney general pardoned a criminal for shooting at the police while obtaining nothing in return except the continued protection from prosecution for former ministers.

We’re not discussing how a former prime minister is publicly threatening a magistrate not for ruling against him but merely for compiling the evidence that prosecutors might then choose to use against him. Unlikely as he knows that to be given the intimidation and mobilisation of angry mobs, they know he is capable of.

We’re not discussing how the privatisation of three hospitals has been reversed by court order because of fraud and corruption.

We’re not discussing how no institution has yet acted on the Panama Papers scandal of 2016.

We’re not discussing how the courts are hearing criminal cases from arrests that happened 20 years ago and having to acquit the accused because the witnesses don’t remember what they looked like.

We’re not discussing how Yorgen Fenech is still waiting trial for the biggest political crime in Malta’s history nearly five years since his arrest.

The president is not worried about any of that. He’s worried about fireworks and the correct spelling of sufficed pronouns in Maltese poetry. He’d rather you worried about grammar and colourful fest banners that he wants you to be worried about his job. He’s worried about the state of the nation because he doesn’t want you to worry about the state of the state.