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A shot in Sarajevo, two in Gżira

This article appeared in The Times of Malta on Thursday 11th December 2014

A hundred years ago, a shot in Sarajevo led to the beginning of World War 1. The assassination of Prince Ferdinand was followed by statements, political manoeuvring and escalations that led to the Great War, four years of tragedy, bloodshed and wasted youthful lives.

The November shooting in Gżira will also be followed by almost four years of what’s left of this government’s term of office. The statements, political manipulation and escalation we have seen will not have the same effect as the Great War but our youth are also concerned at the lack of any future this government is offering them.

It was an incident that has stripped bare the skeletons that Joseph Muscat’s smiling facade has been covering since well before he took over Castille. While the shooting itself is a crime to be condemned and dealt with by all the rigours of the law, the circumstances leading up to the event and the political shenanigans following it all carry a heavy weight of political responsibility.

The first 20 months of government have seen Labour riding roughshod over everybody in its path. The magnitude of the electoral victory did not humble Muscat, as it should have done given the responsibility it entailed. On the contrary, it has led to an attitude that smacks of the style of the despots and monarchs of old.

It is unavoidable that this sense of grandeur filters down to the followers and acolytes of his leadership. Having a minister’s driver carrying a concealed weapon is symptomatic of this ‘power rules, ok (sieħbi)’ approach to government and the surprise is not that such a despicable incident happened but, rather, that it had not happened before.

Put fuel close to a flame and sooner rather than later it will ignite. Give a minister’s driver a gun, give him the impression that he is in an untouchable position of power and sooner rather than later he will shoot someone. He did. The fact that he missed the man and hit his car instead has no bearing.

Having created the right environment for this incident to happen, thankfully with no loss of life, Muscat’s government added the proverbial insult to injury, the seriousness of the matter being compounded by interference in the due process of police investigations. This happened in parallel with deliberate attempts to suppress the story, twist the facts and consciously lie about the way events had unfolded.

This obfuscation continued for days on end and, at the time of writing, we have just heard recordings of the conversations between the minister’s driver and the police control room.

I shall refrain from any comment as any opinion expressed by myself would be superfluous. The raw contempt which this heavy-handed and light trigger-fingered officer of the law showed towards the norms of behaviour, the police manuals of conduct and towards the law itself are amply exposed in the conversations we heard.

The government’s defence has been the mantra that the Opposition is making political mileage out of this incident. This is again a deliberate misreading of the situation to try to deviate attention from its own serious shortcomings.

The facade is slowly being pulled away from this government’s white marble exterior and we are daily being regaled with stories of the sleaze, filth and abuse that lies beneath.

Twenty months ago, Muscat ran a ‘positive’ campaign, based on the promise that he had a change to offer. Many were those among us, people of good intentions and genuine respect for their country, who were conned into believing that it was a change for the better. Time has proven otherwise, much to the disappointment of many but to the surprise of less.

The silent majority who decided to place their trust in Muscat and his merry men are not fools. They are watching and taking note and they are not happy. On the contrary, they are “angry and disgusted”.
They are angry and disgusted that it was the Prime Minister himself who, a few months ago, turned a convicted criminal into a hero when he labelled Cyrus Engerer as a new “soldier of steel”.

One of his ministers has just tried to follow his example with Sheehan. He failed only thanks to the quick response of the media.

This is what results when the Prime Minister himself sends out the message that if you are part of the ‘family’ you can break the law as much as you like and still find his support.

The silent majority has watched and, as the saying goes: fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice... no way.

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