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Anna Mallia | Wednesday, 01 April 2009

The party’s brigade

Once upon a time there was a Brigata Laburista. Today it has diluted itself to a mere number. This Brigata Laburista is always criticised by the Nationalist Party, accusing it of indoctrinating our children. The Nationalist Party does not have a brigata, but the interventions made by many of our youngsters in the local media are an echo of Radio 101 and Net news.
Take last Monday’s Bondiplus, where the idea of the production team was to invite young people, supposedly independent or rather reflecting a cross-section of our youths. They turned themselves into parrots of the Nationalist party machine: each echoed what the Nationalist party radio and television are saying, particularly why the leader of the Labour Party did not attend the President’s farewell banquet, how Labour is responsible for the 1980s violence, how Independence Day is above Freedom Day, how EU membership is a blessing for Malta, how education was once was not for all… basically it was just Nationalist propaganda spinning. One of them was even equipped with statistics showing the Leader of the Opposition’s absenteeism from church and official functions.
Listening to their interventions made me sad: sad because it was a pity how they could allow themselves to be manipulated and how they did not have the audacity to tell the television audience they were carrying the Nationalist flag.
At the same time I noticed this chorus was not just only ‘happening’: it was systematic and intentional. Although the Nationalist Party does not have a ‘brigada’, it must have a good network that trains all their people who appear on radio and television.
After Bondiplus, I switched to Family TV and the subject of discussion was the June EP elections. Again, the retorts made by the Nationalist Party candidates were something extraordinary: they knew how to attack and they knew how to use the right words at the right time and above all, they were coached, just as the guests at Bondiplus appeared to have been coached.
This contrasts sharply with Labour, which does not have the logistics to coach all those who face the media. The case of Roderick Galdes is a case in point: he stated to the media that his vote on the MEPA board is a personal vote and did not reflect the will of the Labour party. How wrong Mr Galdes is on that point! He is there thanks to the Labour party and in his vote he must always make sure that he does not embarrass Labour. Another episode of no coaching.
The party machine must take this issue very seriously: it has provide whoever faces the media with figures and statistics and quotes, because in the long run the viewers do not care if the guest is sexy but if the guest is talking sense.
The question of the 1980s is just one example. The Nationalists have been blessed with the fact that until last year, Labour was reluctant to speak of its past. The PN has had a field day hammering the 1980s’ episodes of violence in people’s minds. They are still using the same recipe now and unfortunately there is nobody inside Labour who is able to answer back. Even the Labour leader was weak on this point on Bondiplus last Monday.
But those who lived the 1980s know that even Labourites suffered violence although ‘their’ party was in government. I was a university student at that time, and it was taboo to even utter the word Labour on campus. We left-wing students were barred from speaking our minds and the Nationalists dominated the campus. We were literally in a concentration camp: we had to study twice as hard as them while they could afford the luxury of going out on weekends because we feared we would fail our exams. The situation was so bad, most of us were giving up and leaving the course. Were it not for the intervention of Prof. Guido de Marco, who lectured us at that time, we would not have completed the course. De Marco summoned everybody in class and made it clear to everybody he did not want to hear any politics during class. It is no wonder most of us are eternally grateful to Prof de Marco.
It is easy to point fingers, but what we have failed to show is that in the 1980s, thanks to Eddie Fenech Adami the Nationalist Party never took ‘no’ for an answer. Civil disobedience was its reply to the Labour government. Labour did not budge because it had the majority of seats; the Nationalists would not budge because they had the majority of votes. Eddie conducted a proper protest campaign with mass meetings every single week for five consecutive years. Just imagine: more than 200 meetings in five years.
Obviously, the police did not like this extra work, just as they don’t not like the extra work today with illegal immigrants. They had their own counterpart to tackle: the private police force set up by the Nationalist Party known as “tal-gakketta blu”. They had the task to protect the party people. They were illegal, but they were there to protect the party people.
The energy of the government was devoted to these weekly meetings in order to make sure there were no incidents and the order of the day had to be delayed most of the time because of these mass meetings. The police exceeded the limits too, because they were not trained on how to address provocation either. The government would tell the Opposition not to go to Zejtun as it might be dangerous, but the Opposition went to Zejtun because it would not accept any part of Malta to be out of bounds.
The police officers who embarrassed Labour were later promoted by the Nationalist government, leaving us perplexed as to whether certain officers acted purposely to embarrass Labour. It is still a mystery why Fenech Adami rewarded those officers active in the violence against his own party supporters.
Of course we cannot condone violence, but it is not fair for Labour to take all the blame. Let us not forget that ammunition was found at the Nationalist party headquarters and not at Labour’s. Let us not forget that it was a time when Raymond Caruana and Karin Grech were brutally murdered. Let us not forget that Eddie Fenech Adami said he knew who killed Raymond Caruana and Karin Grech and that once he became Prime Minister he will reveal the information that he has. Needless to say, you all know as much as I do that he did not keep his word.
However the people remember more Raymond Caruana than Karin Grech and this is thanks to the Nationalist Party machine, which commemorates Caruana’s murder with vigour, making sure the people do not forget. Labour no – Labour never found the time and energy to do the same on the anniversary of Karin Grech’s murder. Not even a mention is made on One News on this black chapter in Malta’s history.
Which brings me to the subject of Net and One News. Net News comments on each news item all the time, so that in every item it is always the Nationalist Party that has the last word. As a political party station, that is what they should do: leave the other party breathless and hammer in the message that they are always right after all.
I don’t know why One News does not adopt this pattern once the Broadcasting Authority finds nothing wrong with it. It’s a pity the party does not use the news for its propaganda. For example: if we’re celebrating Woman’s Day, why is One News shy about saying it was Labour who gave women the vote, equal pay, maternity leave, and children’s allowance? They are even shy to state the good things Labour has done. It’s the same with education: the PN accuses Labour of introducing the numerus clausus, but is it possible Labour does not realise that numerus clausus is still in operation under the Nationalist government? Is it too much to remind One News followers it was Labour that made education compulsory?
The solution is simple: copy the PN press releases and make them your own; do the same as the Nationalists do when in Opposition. They call Labour the ‘no party’, forgetting how they said no to everything when Labour was in government. You will recall how in 1998 the PN voted against a motion of tourism notwithstanding a previous government slogan that ‘everybody eats from tourism’, because they always put their party first.


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