Opinion - Helena Dalli | Sunday, 02 November 2008

Repeating the lies

Just when you think that the PN spinners have stooped too low... you discover that they can stoop even lower.
Last Tuesday evening at around 6.30pm I arrived at the committee where we are discussing the Public Administration Bill, when a colleague told me that she had just heard the news on the Nationalist Party radio that “Helena Dalli attacked the government for pledging to provide victims of breast cancer with Herceptin free of charge.”
There are no prizes for guessing that this is a deliberate, blatant lie. When I think that the Nationalists have stooped too low, they are quick to prove that they can stoop even lower in their declared ‘new way of doing politics.’
You may be wondering: so what was this attack on the provision of free Herceptin, from a person who has been prodding the government for the past 10 years – to no avail – to move on the breast cancer issue?
Last week the Prime Minister announced that the government would be issuing a call for tenders for the supply of the medicine Herceptin. After which, I wrote an article stating that it took the government six months to decide on this. This is because last April, the parliamentary secretary for health had already declared on Saviour Balzan’s Reporter that the government would be providing Herceptin for breast-cancer patients who need it. I criticised the government for dragging its feet for six long months just to decide on issuing the tenders. This, when every wasted day could mean yet another death.
I compared this to the government’s procrastination when it came to the introduction of a breast-screening programme. The Prime Minister had declared in last year’s budget speech that a national breast-screening programme would be introduced this year (2008). The day after this announcement, the head of the oncology department declared that he had not been consulted, and that the resources for the launching of a national breast-screening programme were not available.
This is the reality. In fact the Labour Party has always maintained that we should start first with a screening programme for high-risk patients, as opposed to a national screening programme. But it was the budget on the eve of an election and the Prime Minister was in “anything-goes” mode, even if his pledge was on a very sensitive health matter.
This year, the parliamentary secretary for health went for a walk to raise awareness on the issue. The organizers were urging the Prime Minister to keep his word and introduce a breast-sceening programe. When Dr Cassar was interviewed at the end of the walk, he declared that the government would be conducting a study. Oh dear. So the prime minister hadn’t even looked at a study last year before announcing the launching of national breast-screening programme. No wonder the head of the oncology department felt he should speak up. This shows how lightly the Prime Minister is taking this issue, which, alas, is a tragedy for the victims of breast-cancer.
Anyhow, the day after my article was published the spinners at the Dar Centrali wove a story which said completely the opposite of what I wrote. I criticised the government for taking it easy on providing Herceptin,whilst they said that “Helena Dalli attacked the government because it would be providing breast-cancer patients with Herceptin.”
The barefaced lie was repeated on all the Nationalist media ad nauseam. That is the way the PN spin doctors operate: repeat the lie, repeat the lie, and repeat the lie, until people accept it as the truth.
The story was obviously aimed at fudging my criticism at the government’s procrastination on matters concerning breast-cancer.
Incidentally, after the above-mentioned 6pm news, the radio’s editorial was read out and the topic was ‘procrastination’. My informer told me that she thought she was about to witness a miracle and Radio 101 was going to rap the government on the wrist for its procrastination on the breast-cancer issue. But it was not to be. Instead, the editorial was on how the Prime Minister should not procrastinate and if he has to present the citizens with ‘revised up’ utility bills, he should do it today and not wait for tomorrow.
The Nationalist Party are experts in marketing exercises. In this day of multi-tasking, we have the attention spans of gnats. Many could not be bothered or do not have the time to check facts. So we listen to a piece here and a piece there, and some of it sticks. Nothing, nothing works any more without publicity and lots and lots of PR. You can be the most honest person in the world, stating nothing but facts; but it is the strong PR machine, even if it is manufacturing patent lies, which wins the day.
This can be seen from the last election result alone.

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