MaltaToday | 03 August 2008

NEWS | Sunday, 03 August 2008

Yes, everything is possible. Just send Gonzi an email...

It’s easy to get the attention of the Prime Minister in this great Smart City age.
Ask Austin Walker, his former Mizzi Organisation colleague and present MEPA chairman.
Back in 2005, when still chairman of the Malta Resources Authority, Walker discovered that the smartest way to help out General Soft Drinks' general manager Maria Micallef on an industry issue, was to rope in the highest authority in government by simply writing him an email. Little realising that such e-mails quickly develop a life of their own, being forwarded through various government departments, only to end up surreptitiously passed on to the Sunday papers.
But first off, note the unmistakable chummy tone in Walker’s initial address: “Hello Lawrence, How are you, hope very well...”
And indeed the Prime Minister had every reason to be very well. For the email was sent on 26 June 2005: soon after his first anniversary in office, and just a few days before his 52nd birthday.
Almost immediately, however, Walker reverts to the standard monotone of a humdrum work-related request: “I had a call from Maria Micallef telling me that some 5/6 containers of 30cl bottles of Coke have recently been imported in 1 way glass from the UAE,” Walker wrote.
Of particular note is that Coca-Cola is produced in Malta by General Soft Drinks - a subsidiary of the Mizzi Organisation for which both Walker and Gonzi worked for. At the time it was still illegal to import soft drinks in non-returnable bottles.
“Maria had meetings with MEPA and customs but with no tangible results. She has asked me to inform you and if possible hold a short meeting with you to pass you on all the details.”
Alas, poor Maria. Like several thousand of her co-nationals, she fell victim to the merciless bureaucracy that is the Malta Environment and Planning Authority. But her luck is about to change, for Austin Walker – like Joe Saliba three years later – knows that there’s only one person in this country who can guarantee “peace of mind”.
“I know that you are very busy, but it seems that something like this needs your push,” Walker’s email goes on. “I am going to be abroad next week, so if you can meet Maria, I would appreciate it a lot. Thanks and regards, Austin.”
Lawrence Gonzi was in fact a very busy man but he still managed to find time to look into the matter for his old chum Austin.
Please note, however, the starkly contrasting tone with which Lawrence Gonzi sends a terse one-liner to Minister George Pullicino, then responsible for MEPA: “George, get someone to verify the facts of the matter mentioned in this email... Lawrence.”
But then again, Gonzi may perhaps be forgiven his curtness. For he had no reason to doubt that George Pullicino was “very well” at the time, and let’s face it: he also knew his environment minister was not very busy at all.

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