Saviour Balzan | Sunday, 08 March 2009

A year on, and gosh… what a year

No great shakes, but 12 months ago the electorate plodded to the polling booths as it does every five years. I did what I said I would not do, and voted. If only I could have kept my word and not voted.
I had said all along that people should reserve the right not to vote and then I did what I expected people not to do.
A year ago, for the first time in my adult life, politics stopped being the central issue. But still, that little gremlin inside led me to walk away from home where I should have stayed. Somehow I had imagined the fate of this country and that of my late wife Ebba were equally important. They weren’t.
It was a year with pain, smiles, tears, laughs and screams. But it was also a period when I found true happiness again!
The truth is that politics and the politicians that rule or expect they should rule this country are given far too much importance and relevance. Most of the time most politicians are busily worrying of how to stay in power and creating the foundations to anchor themselves to power.
This country and its politicians deserve to be forgotten. The citizens of this country in their vast majority have been led to believe that their future is linked to who resides at Castille.
Well that could be true if any of you depends on Castille to move forward in your career, and more importantly if you are part of the networks that depend on Castille. And being part of the networks means being part of the money-spinning networks.
The first anniversary of Gonzi’s second government has been heralded by the abysmal failures that came with his re-election. His capability in not putting a finger on a problem, and the fact that he is clueless in the face of an impending crisis can just be highlighted.
For I have tried hard to pinpoint the successes of the Gonzi administration in the last year, tried very hard, and yet all I can see is a series of disasters, one after the other.
His refusal to treat migration the populist way is commendable, as are his plans for alternative energy. But they are mere considerations, and not much will come out of them for the coming future.
Just look at the plans for the nature parks at Xaghra l-Hamra (Majjistral) and Dwejra, launched with much fanfare when in reality, it turns out that nothing was done or carried out since their launching. Stanley Zammit resigned as chairman of the Majjistral Park without nobody even batting an eyelid.
Everything, from the sale of the shipyards, the Pharmacy Of Your Choice scheme, and the much promised breast-screening programme, were pledged and carried out without even taking into consideration the implications – financial or resource-wise – and they failed.
On so many fronts the Gonzi administration has failed.
Nepotism is rife, and appointments are purely based on political patronage, a patronage very much linked to whether you are close to the Gonzi clan, rather than just being a ‘blue’ or a Nationalist.
There was never a sign of concern over the million-euro direct tenders issued before the last election. Not one attempt to pacify media concern over allegations of improper procurement procedures, and overspending and duplication of resources.
On the energy crisis front, the introduction of the new tariffs has been an unbelievable confusion, a death knell for business confidence, leading to uncertainty for the small business world and all households.
The waiting lists in hospitals, with all Mater Dei’s teething problems, are still with us.
And the plans for St John’s Co-Cathedral’s extension were just symptomatic of a prime minister who cannot smell the coffee.
Before that there was the MITTS scandal – and only this week the story of another hacking attempt on embassy servers repeats itself. And those who criticise and question the scandal are ridiculed by Austin Gatt and accused of having ulterior motives. In any other democratic country the minister would have resigned and the CEO asked to leave. To even suggest such a thing here is unheard of.
Even the simple introduction of a tax on plastic bags by George Pullcino in these last weeks was suggestive of that great incapacity to manage reform or change.
The presence of so many angry backbenchers and the PM’s helplessness in bringing them back into the party, seems endemic to his premiership.
Gosh! It has been a year, and what a year.
Sadder still is the PM’s disregard for the souls of those who are essentially Nationalists. To rope in Vince Farrugia to stand on the PN ticket is indeed the best example of how nothing really counts anymore to the PM. Surely, if someone like Vince who led to the PN’s defeat in 1996 can stand for the PN today, then something somewhere must be fundamentally wrong.
Is the alternative, Labour? Perhaps. But I am not the one to say it. This is not my credo, my agenda or my mission. I have been too hurt by Labour in the past to stand up to be counted and blow their bugle.
My job is to say things as they are. To be what I have always been, even though sometimes we all change.

John Rizzo should resign
To be precise I will quote verbatim in Maltese what Michael Falzon said a year and a half ago when he spoke in a public forum at the Rabat party club.
“U mort ghand il-Kummissarju, ghax la jista’ jikxef dawn l-affarijiet min jghaddi dawn l-istejjer, ha naghmilha jien issa, halli kulhadd ikun jaf. U mort ghand il-Kummissarju u ha nghid x’ghidtlu lill-Kummissarju, u jikkonfermah hu. Qalli x’se naghmlu, Mike, jekk jirrizulta X jew Y?
“Ghidtlu ha nghidlek minn issa Sur Rizzo, ikun min ikun f’dan il-pajjiz, qed nawtorizzak minn issa bil-quddiem, qabel ma bdejt l-investigazzjoni, biex tipprocedi ghax l-illegali jien nikkundannah…”

“And I visited the Commissioner, since he cannot say who is passing on these stories, I will do so myself, so that everyone will get to know. I went to the Commissioner and I will say what I told the Commissioner and he can confirm this himself.
He asked me, Mike, what if it turns out to be X or Y?
“I said, let me tell you now Mr Rizzo, whoever it turns out to be, I am authorising you now, before starting the investigation, to proceed because I condemn that which is illegal…”

Now, this is what Michael Falzon had recounted back then. If this is true, Mr Rizzo should have the courage and resign. Now. How can a Commissioner of Police ask a politician whether he should proceed against someone?
If anyone doubts Michael Falzon’s statement they can listen to the mpg on

The one-minute resto crit

Traditional Indian home cooking can be discovered at Garam Masala, just next to Msida Church. The restaurant is family-run, the patron is married to a Maltese and the children help out. Serving is slow but the food is different and has a home flavour. No great décor, but the prices are slightly below average. Ginger chicken is a special. We ordered a lamb spinach and a chicken ginger. Good but still not as enticing as Krishna cuisine. I asked for the dishes to be on the dry side and they were very gladly served as such. We downed two J&Bs, a bottle of foreign water, rice and two chapattis and the bill came to €33.45.

Man of the week

Thankfully the planning authority turned down a development application by ic-Caqnu to build 40 apartments in the old centre of Balzan. The MEPA board’s decision was in line with the planning directorate’s recommendation not to give the project the go-ahead. All the board members voted against the project with the exception of Roderick Galdes, Labour’s planning spokesman, who is also the party’s nominee on the board. And one very good reason not to vote for Labour either.
Well to even suggest that Roderick had a frigging good reason to vote for Caqnu’s application is hogwash. To even suggest that Labour is being nice to Caqnu is of course purely hypothetical! But I guess the question is, what else could it be?

Time off

For the next weeks I will be absenting myself from this column.

I hope MaltaToday readers will excuse me, since I will be taking some time off. I hope to return with a saccharine pen and something more purposeful to write about… rather than Gonzi, Muscat and the usual boring politics.

In the meantime my beard is slowly returning to its former glory.

Until next time! And hang on out there with MaltaToday!





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