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Editorial • July 04 2004

A resigning matter

The resignation of John Dalli has brought to an end a very unnecessarily long drawn out affair. The resignation correspondence initiated by John Dalli and exchanged with the Prime Minister warrants closer analysis. It would appear that the resignation is motivated by the incapacity of the Minister to function in an effective manner having been assailed by attacks and calls for him to go by the Opposition and more subtly from other quarters.
The acceptance of the resignation by the Prime Minister exonerates his former colleague from any wrong doing as regards the Iranian shipping accusation and refers the allegation relating to the tourist resources limited to the Auditor General as suggested by John Dalli himself.
A clinical analysis of the alleged wrongdoing reveals a dose of nepotism that inevitably carries political consequences. Modern democracies do demand a standard of ethical behaviour from the political class. To that extent it was always going to be considered as a resigning matter. With hindsight the matter should have been resolved and tackled the minute the first allegations were made.
As a direct corollary of the argumentation in the Prime Minister’s reply one is baffled to understand the sequence of events. After all the Prime minister states that in his view there was no wrong doing about the Iranian shipping affair. He passes over the tourist resources case to the auditor general for his examination yet simultaneously accepts the resignation.
Could all this not have been done as soon as the allegations were announced and could not the minister have been asked to resign pending the outcome of the investigation?
The Prime Minister does not accuse his former Minister of any wrongdoing. The Minister announces and maintains that he has done nothing that requires censoring, yet a resignation is tendered and accepted on the understanding and appreciation of the Prime Minister that his former colleague cannot function properly in the circumstances. Clearly, it is pretty understandable that a Minister’s position does become untenable if circumstances exist which impede him from functioning in a proper manner. In such circumstances it was the correct line of action for the minister to take.
What warrants comment in all this affair is why was it all allowed to drag on for so long with the inevitable consequences the delay carried not least amongst them the accusation that the Prime Minister was dilly dallying and unable to take control of the situation.
The allegations should have been addressed by the Prime Minister earlier. By not doing so consciously or otherwise he allowed John Dalli to drown on his own, worse still there were accusations that the very PN Party machinery may have been involved in his own downfall.
This, if shown to be correct is diabolical and confirms the very serious cracks that are appearing in the Nationalist Party edifice. Gonzi should have resolved the issue immediately and not allowed pressures to build up not only by the Opposition, but from other quarters. The chapter could have been closed earlier and by so doing a lot of the trial by media aspect of the affair would have been avoided.
There can be little doubt that the affair has damaged the government which is showing little knowledge of how to manage information.
An announcement to the media is made on the appointment of a new Foreign Minister before any resignation is made known at all. This all smacks of government by crisis. It all looks messy and lacking any sense of décor. It is also becoming rather difficult to identify who was driving this issue. Was it the Government or the party in Government? How can it all have been allowed to get out of hand with the Opposition media taking up the initiative and preparing the people for a decision that at the end of the day was the Prime Minister’s to take after he chose his own timing. This whole affair could have been Lawrence Gonzi’s making. Amazingly it still remains unclear whether he considers his minister to have committed a wrongdoing or not. If he did, he should have sacked him but if he did not he should have supported him. He did neither and in so doing has certainly not enhanced his image as a decisive person.
Lawrence Gonzi should consider pondering on Harold Macmillan’s political words of wisdom; ‘Events, dear boy events. This is what most easily stirs Government off course’. Indeed events like the John Dalli affair risk derailing the Government especially when government has shown a total incapacity to handle the affair expeditiously.
Beyond this affair it is worth noting that irrespective of the circumstances surrounding the resignation Government is yet again losing the services of a competent Minister. Following the departures of Eddie Fenech Adami and Joe Borg, in John Dalli it is losing a highly qualified, energetic and goal driven Minister who put into place all the fiscal and financial structures.




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