NEWS | Sunday, 25 November 2007

Britain betrays Malta big time

Foreign Minister Michael Frendo will be returning to his home in Sliema tomorrow, closing behind him a chapter that enticed the whole nation into supporting his bid to head the Commonewealth – a dream now robbed by an Indian diplomat supported by the invisible hand of the British.
The secret vote between 53 nations and regimes came as a surprise for many although Frendo and the Maltese entourage gathered in Uganda for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) were aware the situation was neck and neck by Friday evening.
“I can’t say I’m not disappointed,” Frendo told MaltaToday shortly after the vote, adding his election was never a foregone conclusion.
But observers gathered in the Ugandan capital said Frendo has much to be proud of given the way he tackled some of the thorniest issues to be raised at the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group which decided the suspension of the Pakistani regime.
“I’m proud we gave a very good show,” Frendo said, after long weeks of lobbying and international coverage earning him support from all over the world.
“Despite the result, I believe we have raised our country’s prestige and exposure, and improved our bilateral relations especially with African countries.”
Frendo admitted it was difficult to grasp where the balance tipped against his candidature.
“I don’t think it’s just a question of regions, although I guess the Asians wanted to have someone from Asia,” he said. “It’s closed chapter now.”
The end of this chapter means for Frendo his return to the mundane politics of the 10th district, where he faces a veritable battleground sea full of sharks hunting for the Sliema Nationalist votes, and his own canvassers – from George Pullicino to Francis Zammit Dimech and Dolores Cristina, from Robert Arrigo to John Dalli, Pippo Psaila and Georg Sapiano.

But beyond the realm of local politics, the Indian’s election to the Commonwealth marks Britain’s unashamed double dealing on the international scene.
In his press conference yesterday, Frendo thanked the only other EU member on the Commonwealth besides the UK, Cyprus, making it clear to all he had no words of thanks for the former imperial power.
“Cyprus have shown everyone what solidarity means; what it means to back an EU member in such a bid,” Frendo said. “Their solidarity was crystal clear, unequivocal and honest.”
Last March, Frendo was instrumental in including a strong declaration by the European Union against Iran after 15 British sailors were detained in Iranian territorial waters.
Yet British High Commissioner to Malta Nick Archer went out of his way to tell the world last week that the Queen’s visit to Malta on her diamond anniversary was “a mere coincidence” in a move that was strongly criticised within high government circles as “an unwarranted and silly comment”.
“With hindsight, it is clear Archer wanted to tell the world Malta was no more important than any other country, despite its EU membership, as the world’s press was talking about the Queen going to Uganda from Malta,” a high placed government source said yesterday. “It was a clear message of Britain’s support for India.”
In typical Commonwealth diplomatic gibberish, yesterday’s vote will remain secret unless the outgoing New Zealander secretary general Don McKinnon decides to announce it.
In fact, the Commonwealth avoided mention of an election altogether and just announced the “unanimous selection” of Indian Kamalesh Sharma, the present Inidan High Commissioner in London.
Observers said yesterday night Sharma is bound to face an impossible situation when dealing with Pakistan, given the two countries’ history of border disputes and their continuous flirting with nuclear weapons.
He already gave a taste of his inconsequential politics yesterday night when he refused to speak of his plans to deal with the unfolding crisis in Pakistan.
At 67, the newcomer is as old as the outgoing secretary general and will be stepping down at the age of 75, confirming the Commonwealth’s aged public image.
Also, India is opposing binding itself to climate change benchmarks.
Sharma himself hinted his election was a joke: “Someone arranged for me to take over on April fool’s day so I don’t know if someone knows something which I don’t,” he said, “but I will be taking over in four months, one week is a long time in politics they say, four months is a very long time.”

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