Ronald Reagan, one of the US’s most beloved, recent Presidents, stated that ‘it has been said that politics is the second oldest profession. I have learned that it bears a striking resemblance to the first.’
I started being active in politics at a very tender age. I was not even eligible to vote when I started assuming office and volunteering within the Labour Party structures. All these years of political activism and political observation have inevitably brought me to concur with Reagan’s statement.
Maltese politics creates an even more savoury background for such a statement. Due to Malta’s size, everyone knows everyone on the island. People with a partisan political past in Malta do not simply disappear for a couple of years and then re-invent themselves as independent bloggers or journalists. Even if they disappear to some remote area like Zimbabwe. Sure, anyone can change one’s profession. But in Malta, there are two major types of journalists – either Labour sympathising journalists or conservative PN empathising journalists. The latter outnumber the former by far. Then there is a very, very rare breed of local journalists who are truly independent without any direct and/or indirect political umbilical cord. But they are hard to find.
People with a partisan political past do not simply disappear for a couple of years and re-invent themselves as independent bloggers or journalists.
So, irrespective of a possible profession change, there is no way on earth that the former Chief of Staff of one of the PN’s most partisan ministers and party bigwigs, who also was, in his own right, an executor of the Nationalist Party policies when in government, who also occupied official posts within the Party, who represented the PN on televised debates, and who was also a PN Parliamentary Candidate… there is no way that this chap turned into an independent blogger cum journalist with no political agenda.
Making an ass of oneself and the local Fantozzi
Now let me be very clear. Manuel Delia has all the rights in the world to say and write and protest to his heart’s content. I have no issue with that. He wrote a whole article trying to repudiate a previous piece I wrote on this Journal and I did not even bat an eyelid. We live in a democracy and it is every person’s right to do and state what they please. Although I would not agree with about 90% of what Manuel Delia writes, I would be the first to condemn any form of attack against him or anyone else for that matter. This is what democracy is all about. Even when one defends bloggers or journalists whose fallacious thoughts are projected as sacred truth. Even when their logic and their arguments are peppered with holes which make them look like the Titanic on methadone. Even when their classist, elitist outlook on life in this little island fogs up their brain patterns and induces them to gargantuan political gaffes which affect more their own party than their intended receiver. Even when they cry wolf and make an ass of themselves.
But this business of painting Malta of 2021 as an island where you need police protection and that everyone is out to harm you because you are a Manuel Delia or a Karol Aquilina is not only pathetic but also puerile. Trying to portrait Malta as a shabby Caribbean or African pseudo-dictatorship tin pot regime is like describing the Vatican City as Amsterdam’s red-light district. Not only is it OTT, but this continued negative whining and bleating boomerangs back to its perpetrators and inflicts more self-harm than it harms the intended political recipient.
This business of painting Malta of 2021 as an island where you need police protection and that everyone is out to harm you because you are a Manuel Delia or a Karol Aquilina is not only pathetic but also puerile.
But facts should also be underlined and exposed. In much the same way that Manuel Delia’s fellow right-wing journalist and ex-PN campaign manager Caroline Muscat exposed the former’s playing with words when he was talking of leaving the country due to threats against his life. It turned out that all Delia had in mind was to take a six-month paid sabbatical abroad, whilst also being paid by the supposed independent Repubblika voluntary organisation, whilst leaving his family in ‘perilous’ Malta.
Saviour Balzan, in his inimitable style, likened this self-styled ‘Mafia’ crusader and his narcissistic overkill of his alleged threats received as the saga of Fantozzi. For those too young to remember, Fantozzi was created in 1968 and featured a hapless accountant, fighting with the vices, the tortures and changes in Italian society. He is an extravagant exaggeration of Italy’s lower middle class. Fantozzi’s perennial bad luck and backfiring antics are the basis of the Fantozzi vignettes and films and continue to show up even after he passes away (in the movie Fantozzi in Paradiso), as, on the way to Paradise, the divine airplane carrying him is hijacked by Buddhist terrorists seeking revenge for terrorism against them before death. In front of Buddha, who comically decides using a wheel of fortune to find out who he will be reincarnated as, Fantozzi is convicted to living his whole previous life once again.
I would call the Manuel Delia saga as the blogger (or journalist) who cried wolf. Any threat against Manuel Delia, or anyone for that matter is condemnable. But to project a hyped-up interpolation that politically linked threats are a modern-day apparition only and solely due to a Robert Abela led Labour administration is ludicrous and completely ridiculous. Only a gullible Italian ‘journalist’ with no idea whatsoever of Maltese political goings-on would be stupid enough to print such a complete fantasy.
Should I have done the same?
As stated many a time, I too was active in politics and gave my youth and countless man hours to the Labour Party and to the socialist philosophy I still believe in. When I was a parliamentary candidate in the nineties, my car was scratched from front to back many a time. In fact, whilst parked within five meters of the Marsa police station, my car was the only Labour candidate’s vehicle sporting a huge (one meter squared) PN initials deeply scratched on its roof. During that period as well, I was a resident contributor to the union’s daily newspaper and my articles were quite in demand and talked primarily of the conservative government’s (surprize, surprize!) long list of corruption prevailing at the time.
It was during that period that the front door of my residence was torched. And when a specific series of articles were published under my name which uncovered a specific series of corrupt practices at one of the government agencies of the time, my home was ransacked as ‘unknown’ intruders went through every room of my house and through every single item, including thousands of books and files, in my library in what was amateurishly camouflaged as a break-in. As if one would leave sensitive documents of such nature in one’s home. I do not even want to bother with the crazy phone calls and the threats I received during those days. Too many to count. They all came with the territory.
My car was vandalised, front door torched, my house was ransacked, but we never went to the foreign press.
I too had to find work as a government consultant outside the shores of my native land. In Dubai. In Slovenia. In Scotland. In Hungary. Every time my company would successfully bid for a local government tender during a quarter of a century of conservative governments within my working years, the blue-eyed honchos at the related ministry would always find a way to halt the tender I had successfully been awarded and issue direct orders to their chosen business partners in my stead. I am not talking about the gross abuse of power against Labourites in the middle of the last century. I am talking about scenarios of the nineties and the first decade of this twenty first century. In 2006, when I was granted the Freedom of the City of London as Marketor of the City, being the only such honour given to a Maltese citizen for works in marketing consultancy in the City of London, I still distinctly remember the look of sheer disbelief and contempt that issued from the startled eyes of the then Malta High Commissioner (an ex-minister whose ministry was one of the main perpetrators of the mentioned tender injustices against me and my firm) who had no idea that he was being invited to this traditional ceremony in the City and to grudgingly be present to my being given such an accolade.
Decades before that, in the period (late eighties and early nineties) when I was Assistant General Secretary of the Party, I remember being regularly hauled in for the customary 48-hour questioning at the Police General Headquarters merely for being one of the officials responsible for democratic demonstrations and protests organised by the Party. I remember the savage onslaught of the partisan Special Assignment Group against striking workers in Luqa which happened specifically when the Secretary General of the Party – now referred to as President Emeritus Marie Louise Coleiro Preca – and her team, including yours truly, visited them for what was supposed to be a simple two-minute solidarity stop. They attacked the workers with gas and one specific SAG officer fully adorned with his anti-riot gear and mask unambiguously targeted Marie Louise herself. It took the combined determination of all present to lead her out of harm’s way on that day.
Even before this period, when I was chairing the national student movement and the Liceo Vassalli students answered our call to protest due to the vindictive transfer of their charismatic headmaster, the late John Michael Testa, by the incoming conservative government, I distinctly remember the armed police and police dogs which were sent to the school as a method of intimidation against mere kids aged between eleven and sixteen.
These incidents were not one-offs. Rightly or wrongly, they were the calculated over-zealousness of partisan politics which constituted the norm of political operations in Malta throughout the decades. And both sides were wrong when such injustices were perpetuated. But none of us cried wolf over such antics. None of us went to the foreign press and gave them sob stories intended to put our country in a bad light. None of us tried to don the martyr’s tunic and created bogeyman stories in order to satisfy a narcissistic need to be akin to one’s self-styled influencer.
I have never been an avid fan of Daphne Caruana Galizia’s venomous, personalised attacks against whoever she was coaxed into attacking by her informants and handlers. But I do know for a fact that if she were alive and watched this brat of an Austin Gatt henchman of yesteryear trying to be more of a Daphne than Daphne herself, she would have readily shred him to pieces by her powerful pen, using personal and hurtful examples of anecdotes from Delia’s public and very personal life to bring him down to size and humiliate him for good. Thankfully and rightfully, Delia’s detractors do not have it in them to do just that and merely regale themselves with displaying colourful caricatures and irreverent (and irrelevant) mentions of the blogger/journalist who cried wolf on Facebook.