MaltaToday, 16 April 2008 | When the Opposition’s away…


EDITORIAL | Wednesday, 16 April 2008

When the Opposition’s away…

The ongoing contest to elect a new leader for the Malta Labour Party appears to have overshadowed much of what is really going on in the country.
In a sense this is to be expected: after all, it is a contest to decide who gets to be leader of the Opposition, as well as the potential next Prime Minister of Malta. For Labour itself, the decision will in many ways consolidate the party’s entire direction and sense of identity for years, if not decades, to come. And considering that the vacuum created by the previous leader’s resignation has already attracted a number of vastly different candidates, representing often conflicting viewpoints and ideologies – from the traditional left to the corporate right – it was inevitable that such a momentous decision would eclipse all other concerns.
But at the same time, it must be said that the incoming Government has been given altogether too much of an easy ride by the absence of any serious opposition; and this may have undesirable consequences for the country as a whole.
Malta is in a curious predicament at the moment. Parliament is shortly to convene, and if the party in Government is still licking its wounds from its costly electoral victory, the party in Opposition appears to be rudderless and in complete disarray. Consider, for instance, the surprise decision to join Partnership for Peace, taken without any consultation with anyone (not even, it seems, with the Armed Forces), and announced but a few days after an acrimonious election. In years gone by, such a unilateral commitment – which, for better or worse, can only alter Malta’s perception overseas – would have elicited howls of protest from a traditionally NATO-sceptic Labour Party. Regardless of one’s personal views on the question of neutrality or the merits of PfP membership, the country was effectively presented with a fait accomplit: something which is unlikely to have happened, were the Opposition focused on its Constitutionally-established role, rather than its own internal problems.
Elsewhere, the Labour Party has also passed up numerous opportunities to take political advantage of the present administration’s occasional faux pas.
Last week, the Prime Minister visited the offices of the Malta Environment and Planning Authority in his new role as the minister responsible for the environment. The visit provided an excellent chance for Dr Gonzi to be quizzed on his electoral promise of reform: and the general public is certainly entitled to an explanation of the Prime Minister intentions.
And yet, the Prime Minister avoided any questions from the media, and has proved reticent ever since. This sort of behaviour is hardly conducive to any transparent and open reform of an already arcane institution; and yet, Dr Gonzi knows he is perfectly free to get away with these and other questionable practices, simply because unlike previous years, there is at present no opposition to breathe down his neck.
Another case in point is the Spin Valley Disco controversy, which now risks spinning off into oblivion as the nation’s attention is hijacked by the MLP leadership election. This newspaper has called upon Dr Pullicino Orlando to face up to his responsibilities and resign his seat in parliament, which now seems to have been won purely on false pretences and downright lies. His failure to resign has so far been met with deafening silence from all and sundry: especially those media which have emerged over the election campaign to be little more than extensions of the Nationalist Party propaganda machine.
Sadly, even the Labour-owned media have been surprisingly less forthright in exploring the ramifications of this scandal; a fact which is doubly anomalous, considering that it was the Labour Party itself which first exposed Dr Pullicino Orlando’s double dealings, and which now appears to have been vindicated.
From this perspective, one can only question the wisdom behind the MLP National Executive’s decision to prolong the agony until 5 June. Admittedly, this will allow enough time to thrash out the party’s internal divisions and reach a decision based on extensive and exhaustive debate. But it also means that the present government will be given five whole weeks – an eternity, in political terms – to proceed with its programme virtually uncontested.
Needless to add, the Malta Labour Party has every right to take its own leadership decisions as it deems fit. But Labour has to also bear in mind that, apart from its own interests, it remains the party in opposition and as such still has a vital role to play in the day-to-day running of this country. The sooner it gets back into the drivers’ seat, the better for all concerned.

Any comments?
If you wish your comments to be published in our Letters pages please click button below.
Please write a contact number and a postal address where you may be contacted.




MaltaToday News
16 April 2008

Nuns take ‘vow of silence’ on Lourdes Home abuse

Back from the wilderness

Labour leadership

MaltaToday in Ombudsman’s 2007 selected case-list

Maltese man charged with human trafficking freed

Bishops call for prayer to defend unborn at Council of Europe

MLP accuses government of being ‘anti-national’

Increase in Maltese travellers in February

New law introduces civil liability for environmental damage

MIDI borehole seeping mud into the sea

Charles Thake sustains minor injuries on ‘Agora’ set

Copyright © MediaToday Co. Ltd, Vjal ir-Rihan, San Gwann SGN 9016, Malta, Europe
Managing editor Saviour Balzan | Tel. ++356 21382741 | Fax: ++356 21385075 | Email