MaltaToday | 13 April 2008 | How? Why? What? Where? None of your business

OPINION | Sunday, 13 April 2008

How? Why? What? Where? None of your business

Raphael Vassallo

Quick question now that the dust has settled, and everything has remained more or less exactly as it was before the election. Are you all enjoying your peace of mind? You know, the same peace of mind we were told would be ours, so long as Dr Lawrence Gonzi remains in power… forever?
I sincerely hope so. After all, peace of mind is the one commodity for which there is no known price. (For everything else, there’s always a small contribution to the building of the new Dar Centrali in Pieta’…)
Anyway. My own peace of mind couldn’t be more… um... peaceful at the moment, and this because I now have the reassurance that all our nation’s flaws and shortcomings will receive the full attention of none other than “he who makes all things possible”.
Let’s start with hunting: an activity which tends to banish peace from many a mind at this time of year. But a couple of weeks ago, some obscure institution called the “European Court of Justice” – which by the way happens to be in Luxembourg, and not Strasbourg as some idiot journalist named “Raphael Vassallo” wrote last Wednesday – convened in order to discuss charges brought against Malta by the equally obscure “European Commission”.
The bottom line is that the ECJ must now establish whether Malta was in breach of European law by permitting hunting in spring between 2004 and 2007. The first hearing also had to decide whether to impose “interim measures” which would pre-emptively quash any attempt to allow hunting in spring in 2008.
So much for the theory. In practice, however, the European Union turns out to be a rather gargantuan bureaucracy in its own right; and apart from taking a lo-o-o-o-o-ng time to decide such matters, its Court of Justice also has to have its rulings translated into around 28 languages… which naturally prolongs the final verdict further still.
Meanwhile, April’s sweet showers have truly quenched the drought of March, and the sign of the Ram is a good deal more than halfway through its natural course. In other words, the annual spring migration is already in full swing, and will most likely have long departed by the time the ECJ ruling is finally known… which conveniently allows the government of Malta to simply say nothing and do nothing, while the ECJ does all the dirty work on its behalf.
And so – there being thousands of hunters who are rather cheesed off at this state of affairs, and some of whom are now threatening to reduce Malta to a handful of dust – I thought I’d contact Mr Peace of Mind to find out whether His Decisiveness has actually decided anything in the meantime.
Needless to add, a hugely informative answer was forthcoming from an OPM (Office of Peace of Mind) official within a mere eight or nine hours:
“It is not prudent to comment at this stage.”
Hmm. Yes, I imagine it probably isn’t. Then again, I wasn’t questioning the prudence of commentary; but whether Dr Gonzi’s government had any intention of actually opening the hunting season for spring 2008… you know, like it promised it would before the 2003 referendum, in leaflets and flyers, in newspapers and on TV, and above all in personal letters sent to thousands of hunters’ private residences, all signed by former Prime Minister Eddie Fenech Adami: the same guy who had once guaranteed us all “Fiducja” (Trust). So like a fool, I trusted that his anointed successor would be as good as his word, and therefore pressed his press secretary for a more specific answer.
“It’s a sensitive issue,” came the reply, “Tensions are running high among hunters at the moment…”
Really? You don’t say. And there I was, thinking that the lack of any clear information was itself a major factor in the current escalation of tension. But no matter: the above exchange did wonders for my personal peace of mind, filling me from top to toe with boundless confidence for the immediate future… which I somehow suspect will now be characterised by random acts of violence and hooliganism, and possibly the occasional case of assault and battery to boot.
And I had scarcely absorbed the general implications of this brave new approach to openness, transparency and full accountability, when a colleague of mine sauntered off in the direction the MEPA offices in Floriana… there to assist to Dr Gonzi’s formal annexation of the province to his own portfolio, amid pomp, fanfare and the smell of fresh paint.
God, I wish I was there to witness it all in person. For you see, MEPA reform was a major plank of Dr Gonzi’s re-election strategy; and besides, the workings of the Malta Environment and Planning Atrocity tend overwhelmingly to affect personal lives (and livelihoods) throughout the entire country. You can therefore appreciate that information regarding Dr Gonzi’s proposed reform is something of a sine-qua-non for our national peace of mind. So again: how I wish I was there when the Prime Minister announced his “new era of openness”… only for his press secretary to immediately add that His Transparency will not actually be taking any questions from the press.
Sadly, though, I wasn’t there in person, but you can read James Debono’s story on the front page. What I can say, however, is this: from my own experience of around 12 years dealing with various government ministries and departments, only two things have never really changed: 1) the complete and utter disdain with which the government of Malta continually disregards its obligations to inform the general public; and 2) the complete and utter lack of interest with which the same general public accepts being treated like a doormat.
But who cares? The important thing is that GonziPN offered us all Peace of Mind, and we accepted the offer without even looking at the accompanying price-tag. So from now to eternity, whatever GonziPN chooses to do, and however he chooses to do it, it is quite simply none of our business.

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