Independent NGOs and Institutions and other Sob Stories

Throughout the decades, there has been a universal trend to project and invariably interpolate the fallacy of an independent voluntary movement which is politically aloof and has the community’s interest as its sole raison d’etre. This is not a Maltese phenomenon. It is a process which can be pinpointed throughout these last decades in every continent, in every country and within every community.

In Malta, such a puritanical state of affairs within voluntary organisations, pressure groups, civil society representations and NGO composition becomes trickier. It is too hard a pill to swallow. Why? Because Malta is indeed a small, intertwined community where everyone knows each other. It is indeed impossible to project oneself as an independently anonymous player in a community such as ours where a fart in Marsaxlokk reverberates within minutes to the ‘far’ reaches of Marsalforn. It is impossible to keep a secret in Malta, omerta notwithstanding.

Therefore, projecting oneself as a disinterested and independent player within the local political field is as plausible to date as a woman being elected pontiff (notwithstanding the sociologically significant Freudian legend of the female Pope Joan who was supposedly outed as a woman when she fell from her horse due to childbirth pains).

Projecting oneself as a disinterested and independent player within the local political field is as plausible to date as a woman being elected pontiff.

The same goes for various other institutions, associations, unions, media organisations and other related setups. Before I continue my train of thought, this article should in no way be considered as a snub for the thousands of volunteers (or poorly paid NGO employees). Day in and day out, they embark on sterling work within the community, mostly anonymously, with limited resources, rarely praised but with important and utterly essential results which genuinely and positively affect various segments within society. I have nothing but praise for these persons and, throughout my career, have been (and still am) blessed with extensive interaction with a number of such setups.

Again, this is not a Malta only scenario. India is estimated to have more than 2.5 million NGOs which suggest that there is one NGO for every six hundred Indians, many more than the number of schools and health centres available in India.

I am here only referring and highlighting situations related to such setups and their leaders who purposely try to project a cloak of political independence when their political militancy and reasoning is anything but independent. These are easy to pinpoint. The more an organisation shouts out its political independence whilst it is conducting political activism, the more likely it is that it is anything but independent. “The lady doth protest too much, methinks” is a line from Shakespeare’s Hamlet which immediately comes to mind.

Secondly, any organisation, be it voluntary, commercial, representational etc, is led by a leader. Committees, councils, AGMs and all that do have a role, but the leader is precisely that: he/she leads and influences the organisation in its entirety. Thus a quick analysis of a leader of such structures will immediately underline the political leanings, agenda or message of the organisation. This could be pre-planned, ie the organisation would have been founded to suit the political KPIs of its leader, or it could be hijacked (by normal voting strategies, block voting and other methods too long to list here). The end result is always the same: there is no such thing as an independent and neutral political voice within an organisation which is playing politics.

The above thoughts were triggered by the recent announcement that the creator of LovinMalta will be joining the Nationalist Party as one of its chief strategists. That, in itself, is not of import for the subject matter at hand. What is of import is a specific sentence from this gentleman’s press statement announcing such a decision wherein he starts his supposedly ‘new’ political path by literally insulting our intelligence. He stated that when LovinMalta was set up he had wanted to add a “fresh and independent voice to the media landscape”.

One does not go to sleep as the leader of an independent media voice and then, eight hours or so later, wakes up as the PN’s chief strategist. The mere thought of such drivel is more than insulting. It literally projects the sheer inadequacy of the person involved to comprehend that his ‘independent’ smokescreen during his LovinMalta tenure was the joke of the town by all and sundry. Everybody and their sister knew the method by which LovinMalta was used to aid and abet a particular agenda.

One does not go to sleep as the leader of an independent media voice and then, eight hours or so later, wakes up as the PN’s chief strategist.

So, for this new PN chief strategist to believe his own interpolations and warped logic does not augur well. Not for him. But for the Nationalist Party. It is yet another dramatic demonstration of how the present state of that Party still thinks that the electorate can be hoodwinked, manipulated and played around with. And this after one defeat after another, with one survey after another, with Apartheid being officially condoned and executed throughout the rank and file of the PN (let alone non-PN citizens). The age old maxim of ‘not getting high on one’s own supply’ seems to have mysteriously disappeared from the A-Z manual of politics being used in Pieta.

Do not get me wrong. I have the utmost respect for Mr. Peregin. And I genuinely wish him well. My political militancy many moons ago started with my chairing the national students’ movement. It was unabashedly left-wing. Irrespective of our left wing militancy, we still had students coming from the other side of the political spectrum who joined our movement and were as militant as we were. Indeed one of them is an opposition member of parliament and our mutual respect never faltered. The KSU (the University Students’ Council) was also led by an unabashedly PN leaning President. We remain friends to this day because we never bullshitted with our principles and who we were. During those days, the Nationalist Party leaning students at the New Lyceum were led by none other than David Agius, who today is the PN Deputy Leader. Again, our mutual respect and our common Liceo Vassalli roots never diminished throughout the years. David never tried to project himself as an independent or as a Laburist. He never looked down on Labour leaning friends of his. And neither did we. Ironically, David’s right hand man during those student militancy days was later appointed a judge by a Labour government. It was indeed the right decision, because the latter’s integrity and zeal for the law was, and is, impeccable, irrespective of his political leanings.

That is what commands respect in today’s political scheme of things: integrity, reaching out, dialogue and the sincere belief to do one’s bit for the country. Not insulting the intelligence of the electorate by projecting a phony image of oneself. I enjoy carnival masks in February. Not all the year round.


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