Post-debate reflections – Arnold Cassola

Listening to Tuesday’s debate in the European Parliament was painful.  An even harsher replica of the first debate on Malta a few months ago. As a Maltese citizen, having to witness such a barrage against my country sent shivers down my spine.

The 466 votes in favour, 49 against and 160 abstentions, condemning my country, simply said it all: politicians of all hues and shades believe that the rule of law in Malta is not functioning properly.

Did we have to get to this point?

Unfortunately, it is useless blaming the world for its perception of affairs in Malta. The self-defensive approach adopted by MEP Marlene Mizzi, accusing the world of conspiring against Malta, was such a pathetic scene to witness.

Mizzi should know that the damage caused to our country’s image has been self-inflicted since the writing has been on the wall for ages, and the Maltese authorities have willingly stuck their head in the sand, believing no one would notice.

It simply does not work like this in politics.

Unfortunately, the spotlight has been on Malta for the wrong reasons for quite some time now.

In July of 2015, a number of members of the Calabrian mafia were arrested in Malta, but only on the strength of arrest warrants issued by Italy. It would seem there was no independent investigation by Maltese authorities.

These Ndranghetari were making use of Maltese fiduciary companies to launder their dirty money through igaming.

In March 2016, we had Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri involved in the Panama Papers revelations. Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, inexplicably and senselessly, defends them to the marrow.

The scandalous conflict of interest of Joe Bannister, MFSA chairman and deputy chairman of Finance Malta at the same time, is systematically ignored by Muscat.

Why? Because Bannister is Dalli’s man?

The revelations on Pilatus Bank’s association with Azerbaijan money is made known to the world and the lack of action on the part of Muscat’s government remains a mystery.

The arrest by the Italians of the Debonos involved in the ‘Dirty Oil’ diesel smuggling from Libya hits the news. We had long known about it. But the Maltese authorities did nothing about it.

And yet, when I read the Italian magistrate’s 280-page report, I see that there are at least another 11 Maltese mentioned in the whole affair. Maltese omertà?

To crown it all, the mysterious Maltese professor (true or fake?) Joseph Mifsud, former consultant to ministers Evarist Bartolo and Michael Frendo, hits the world news in the Donald Trump-Russia email leak affair.

The cherry on the cake was Daphne Caruana Galizia’s brutal assassination organised by the hidden powers of Malta.

Political? Financial? Diesel smugglers? Drug traffickers? Azeri accomplices?

Who knows!

In view of all this international spotlight on Malta, how does Muscat’s government react? Does it take a pro-active commitment, promising to ensure that the loopholes in our financial services set-up will be immediately redressed?

Of course not.

“We will defend our systems tooth and nail,” says Muscat, abetted and supported by Adrian Delia and Co.

And when the European Parliament commemorates Daphne Caruana Galizia, Muscat cynically flies off to Dubai to sell Henley’s passports. And on the day the European Parliament debates rule of law in Malta, he flies off to Hong Kong to make Henley even richer.

Prime Minister, while you might have been enjoying your couscous in Dubai or your sweet and sour pork in Hong Kong, my country, and us Maltese citizens, were being thrown to the dogs.

Your cynical behaviour is certainly a bitter pill to swallow for us all.

So, stop blaming others for your lack of action when you were supposed to act. Get your act together, if you have any respect for your country and citizens.

As for Adrian Delia and Co., stop playing games: walking out of parliament is certainly no contribution to bettering the comatose state of the ethical and moral standards of Maltese politics.

Arnold Cassola
Published on the Times of Malta​ – 18 November 2017