When truth is optional, and facts are redundant, everyone can celebrate at the end of a match. Even the fallen boxer, well past the 10th count, can tell everyone they’ve won. It’s incredible how all the parties heartily condemned by the Appeals Court over the hospitals debacle have been congratulating themselves for their heroic failures.
Robert Abela was greeted with loud bangs by his MPs like a general returning from battle smothered in laurel leaves. First he minimised the VGH disaster by comparing it the disputes between the Maltese government in the 1990s and Skanska, the contractors who built Mater Dei. There’s an infinite list of differences in the two issues but I’ll name just one. Mater Dei Hospital is there, an edifice which is now in a place where nothing was before. St Luke’s, Gozo General, and Karin Grech hospitals are the same soulless heaps of ruin, film sets for a Walking Dead spinoff, little Pripyats without quite as much radioactive damage as the original.
Robert Abela’s speeches are thick with superlatives. “Excellence”, “the best”, “high quality”, “care”. You hear him, you’d want to check in to St Luke’s for a weekend break. You’d line up outside the administrator’s toilet in Gozo General for the privilege of taking a dump in Steward’s great contribution to our national well-being.
Speaking of Steward, they too pronounce themselves victorious after Monday’s damning verdict. They ignore Robert Abela’s remark in Parliament that the Maltese Appeals Court’s verdict strengthens Malta’s case in the ongoing international arbitration. Nothing wrong with a little glossing over and a little side stepping. Robert Abela side-stepped the fact that the international arbitration case was not the product of some effort on his part to recover wasted public money. The international arbitration case was filed by Steward against him.
And, Steward said, the Appeals Court verdict will strengthen their case against the Maltese government. Their logic would have some merit if you were to follow their premise that as buyers of the concession, they did no wrong. It was the previous owners of the concession who had committed the wrongdoing. Steward argue the government fucked up the concession and then sold it to them like Totò once sold the Trevi fountain to an American tourist without warranty on the pipework.
Steward here enters the classic defence plea when any other form of argument is implausible. They were seen by a thousand witnesses stabbing the victim repeatedly so they can’t produce an alibi to say they weren’t on the scene of the crime. Instead, they plead insanity, or more accurately in this case, pathological cretinism.
They didn’t need major financial advisors to tell them they were buying stolen goods. They could have asked anyone. They could have googled Daphne Caruana Galizia’s reporting. They could have read Simon Busuttil’s speeches. They could have looked at the state of the hospitals years after they were sold, ostensibly to be transformed into corners of medical paradise. We all would have told them this was a scam of the first order.
And yet in they went. And they too speak as if they come out of this looking like they know what they’re doing.
They sure did. They expected that the same government who gave a corrupt deal to VGH would give a corrupt deal to them. The figure of Joseph Muscat in and of itself would have given them an unspoken promise of money for nothing. That’s what VGH had. Everybody knew it. Steward must have known it. But alas Joseph Muscat tumbled out of Castille when he (and they) least expected it. He wasn’t replaced by a crusading anti-corruption puritan. He was replaced by Robert Abela, whose limited imagination is equally corrupt but far less criminally competent than his predecessor’s.
Joseph Muscat, no doubt, shares that analysis but he can’t say it aloud. Instead, he came out guns blazing on Times of Malta today. How does the prime minister of the time live down a court ruling that says that senior government officials with the duty to protect the public interest protected instead the interests of the concessionaires? Apparently by saying that though he was prime minister he wasn’t a senior government official with the duty to protect the public interest. Someone else did it. Some “hidden, vested interest” as he calls it.
Fuck off, why don’t you? The only hidden interests in this story were the shareholders of VGH with whom Joseph Muscat closed the deal. They weren’t, presumably, hidden from him. They were hidden from the public who was never officially told who owned their hospitals until journalists uncovered that well-hidden information.
Face it. What do you expect Joseph Muscat to say now? Do you expect him to apologise? Do you expect him to say this was a mistake? Even if you were to take him at face value, how could he bill the company that was paid by Steward when Steward bought the VGH concession, for the ‘consultancy’ he says he gives them? Given the unmitigated disaster, grotesque waste of public funds, positively third-world degeneration in the provision of health services, and the fact that the three hospitals are today in a worse state than when he first became prime minister (except for the administrator’s toilet in Gozo General), the so called ‘consultancy’ he gave his clients was toxically rotten.
The Nationalist Party never considered privatising the health service. Once the policy emerged when the PN was in opposition, they promised to reverse it if they were elected to power. They were never in power since Labour privatised the hospitals.
And yet Joseph Muscat and Robert Abela seemed to want to blame this mess on the PN who may be innocent of little else but can certainly not be blamed for something it was never a part of.
Where truth is optional you can do more than congratulate yourself. You can blame others for your disasters as well.