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When tragedies are politicised

This article was first published in The Times on Saturday, August 9, 2014

I read with interest yesterday’s Talking Point by Victor Carachi, president of the General Workers’ Union, as it gives a very good glimpse of the GWU’s partisan agenda.

Carachi dedicates the first part of his article to accuse Opposition leader Simon Busuttil of politicising Martin Galea’s abduction. Truth-twisting could not go to a viler extreme.

Let’s remember the facts. The government failed to inform the public of Galea’s abduction before the press uncovered it.

The government failed to ever update the Opposition with developments in Libya. The government did not even want to discuss a motion on Libya presented in Parliament by the Opposition and chided the Opposition for being “alarmist”, stating the situation in Libya was “calm but fluid” and that “evacuation was off the cards”, a full eight days after Galea’s abduction.

No other prime minister had ever left the country, especially the Opposition, in the dark on such an important matter.

Even more shocking was how the government and the Prime Minister behaved on Galea’s release. Given the incompetence of political appointee (ambassador) Mannie Galea in such matters, they asked for the help of consul Marisa Farrugia, who they had first suspended.

Once Farrugia managed to save Galea’s life, the government ruthlessly failed to inform family members immediately, only to have a full entourage, led by the Prime Minister, greet Galea first at the airport and make a political show out of a humanitarian situation.

Had Galea not thanked Farrugia himself, no one would have known about her input because the Prime Minister unashamedly pushed her aside and gave her his back on their arrival.

But what was more sick and disgusting was the way the government spokespersons and Labour-friendly media, including the GWU’s own newspapers, tried to discredit Galea’s story to downplay Farrugia’s contribution for mere political points. No regard to the fact that the man and his family had just gone through such a terrible ordeal.

The government’s head of communications, Kurt Farrugia, went so far as to claim that he might not have been “abducted” and that “the government never had any contact with whoever took him”. If that were the case, then why did the Prime Minister, the Foreign Affairs Minister and the National Security Minister present themselves in full force at the airport as if they had just saved the day?

Yes indeed, such low partisan tactics did end up blowing in the Prime Minister’s face.

Carachi then goes on to defend the government’s proposal to cancel local council elections for the next two years and comes up with the silliest of excuses I have yet heard. He argues that the “government needs to focus on governing the country… rather than having to make a pit stop every year or so, which may impact some important decisions”.

So, in the same article in which Carachi accuses Busuttil of putting “partisan interests before those of the country” and praises Joseph Muscat for “desisting from such low tactics”, he states that because of European and local council elections, Muscat is delaying or shelving important decisions.

If there are decisions that need to be taken but the Prime Minister is putting them off not to damage his popularity, it is him who is putting partisan political interests before those of the country. Lawrence Gonzi did not stand back from taking important decisions, even when they were not popular, if he knew they were for the benefit of the country and the common good.

If Muscat wants to put “Malta first and foremost” and really work for the “national interest”, he should have the courage to do the same, and not cancel every election scheduled during these four years to cowardly avoid shouldering responsibility for some important decisions.

Indeed, as Carachi states, there is more to democracy than just having local council elections. Having a supposedly independent workers’ union acting as the government’s lap dog and remaining silent on what Enemalta employees are currently going through is maybe more worrying. Or would real action in the workers’ interests jeopardise the union’s bid to rent out its property to ARMS Ltd and Transport Malta? I would be very surprised if that were so because income should never be more important than workers’ rights and democracy.

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