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No, both parties are not the same

Article published in MaltaToday on Sunday 6 March 2016

We are going through a phase in which the Maltese electorate, particularly those who trusted Labour because they believed Joseph Muscat’s pre-election promises, are only finding solace in believing that “yes, what we are seeing is shocking and scandalous, but that’s how politics is, and both political parties are the same in this aspect”.

It’s a time of disillusionment with the whole political class.

In these three years we have witnessed a government going from scandal to scandal. Millions of our hard-earned taxes have been spent to reward friends, to bail out friends, and to enrich the pockets of the innermost circle. Cafe Premier and Gaffarena are still fresh in people’s minds.

Ministers have behaved as if they are above the rule of law. In the meantime, the Prime Minister takes no action. Anyone who dares criticise any of his decisions is labelled “negative”, and some long forlorn scandal from past administrations is shoved in his face, enforcing the point that “this already happened”, that scandal is the new norm and not the exception, that this behaviour is to be accepted.

But is it fair to say that the PN in power was no better?

Whilst the PN was far from ideal and had its own share of scandals, I think there lies a huge difference in how these were being handled no longer than three years ago, and how they are being handled now.

Remember when the oil procurement scandal broke out a few months before the last election? The Police Force at the time acted promptly, confiscated emails, interrogated everyone being implicated in the media reports, and took statements from all those involved, including senior Cabinet ministers. In a few words, the Police did their job. After a few weeks, even though the country was going through an election campaign, we already had the first indictments in court.

Fast-forward to today. The biggest scandal in Malta’s political history is uncovered. The circumstantial evidence hanging over a top minister and the Prime Minister’s chief of staff is more damning than what caused John Dalli’s dismissal from the European Commission. An offshore set-up that could possibly be used for money laundering purposes, has been devised for two politically exposed persons. The same financial services company assisting Mizzi and Schembri has also been associated with Lalit Modi, an Indian businessman said to have absconded to Malta to evade money laundering charges, with Indian prosecutors seeking an Interpol red notice for him.

And what do the Police do? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. No investigations are started. No assets are confiscated. No one is interrogated.

That’s exactly what they did when the Gaffarena scandal broke out. Nothing.

Actually, where the hell are the Police? What is the Police Commissioner being paid for? Or is he acting just as another government puppet?

It is obvious that our supposedly independent institutions have been weakened. The authorities, which should be protecting us, the citizens, from the abuses of those in power, are hijacked.

The PN was far from perfect, true. It didn’t do enough to strengthen the checks and balances on government, and the loopholes it left have been glaringly exploited by Labour. But whilst the PN can be accused of not doing enough to tackle corruption, never in all our country’s history have we witnessed the country’s top politicians, those closest to the Prime Minister, involved one way or another in such goings-on. And to make matters worse, with the Prime Minister himself defending them.

The PN has learned a lot from its shortcomings. Simon Busuttil has clearly shown that he is not tolerating any unethical, corrupt or unbecoming behaviour. Under his leadership, individuals have resigned, been suspended or been forced out from the PN. The commitment has been defined clearly in the party’s Good Governance document. We need stronger, independent authorities which can investigate those in power without fear of persecution. The Prime Minister and Cabinet are not kings and rulers. They too should be subject to the same rule of law.

Yes, there are going to be corrupt and sleazy individuals within every political party on planet earth. Even if a new third party is created, it too will have its own share of individuals with bad intentions. The difference lies only in how the party and those in power handle them. And the difference is now plain for all to see.

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