Tuesday 16 July 2019

Giving them just enough rope

Hunters have held the country to ransom for too long, and now that they are being treated like the rest of us whenever we break the law, they simply can’t believe it.

This clampdown on illegal behaviour is long overdue although I am not going to wax lyrical because Muscat has done something about it. That’s the government’s job after all; to ensure that the rule of the land is upheld by everyone and not just by those of us who are “foolish” enough to do things by the book.  So yes, it’s good that the PM came down hard on the hunting community, but it is a measure of just how out of control the situation was that we are actually talking about it in astonished tones. After all, shouldn’t law and order be the norm?  (A silly, rhetorical question, I know, in this country where a knowing wink and a phone call to the right person is all that is needed to “arrange” whatever needs “arranging”…”halli f’idejja” (“just leave it to me”).

To me it looks like Muscat was putting up with the hunting lobby’s antics like one would with unruly teenagers, conceding as much as he could, until they finally crossed the last line. As the saying goes, he simply gave them just enough rope to hang themselves.  But did it really need to come to this? I don’t particularly like this way of doing things, because I believe that parameters and boundaries need to be made clear at the outset; whether it’s with children or with men who act like children.

Otherwise, everyone will simply try and get away with as much as they can, safe in the knowledge that most transgressions will slip through and they will be home-free. And, if you don’t quite know “the right people” within one administration, just hang tight, ‘coz the tables will eventually turn and a new lot will waltz in, so that the magic phone call can be made when “someone you know” is eventually in a position of power and influence. Nothing’s changed except the names on the departmental doors.  I’m not really that surprised, only overwhelmed by a feeling of ennui and deja’ vu.  I’m also perplexed that, for all his great PR during the elections which was so spot on, Muscat did not have the imagination and determination to really be different and finally break the vicious cycle.

It’s a very cynical way of running a country and frankly, it has just made a lot of people lose faith in the whole political class and adamantly refuse to vote.  (If you ask me that’s why the local council elections are being postponed – Muscat is afraid of his first litmus test because he can sense the mood in the country has already turned against him).

It has always irked me that if you are decent and quiet and just want to get on with your life, you end up getting the short end of the stick, while anyone who is a loudmouthed bully, threatening members of the press no less, has a carte blanche to do what the hell he likes because everyone is afraid of him.

The illegal squatters in Armier are another case in point. Sure, I would really, really like to have a beach house and wake up to the shimmering sea beckoning to me at my doorstep every morning in summer…who wouldn’t? But you don’t see me staking out a nice patch of land at Golden Bay and building a “room” which eventually gets sanctioned and (sopra corna bastonate) even granted utilities by (oh, the bitter irony) the government itself.  What a slap in the face to everyone who has scrimped and saved to perhaps buy a little flat as their summer home in the time-honoured tradition of the Maltese villegjatura.

Of course, we all know that turning a blind eye to these pockets of people who have blithely continued to break the law  no matter who is in government, all boils down to votes. But is their vote more valuable than yours and mine? There are around 800 boathouses, let’s say that translates into roughly 4000 votes if you count the extended families. Surely the Labour government has plenty of room to manouvere considering it has the kind of majority which seemed unachievable a mere five years ago. For every vote lost by the law-breakers who are no longer protected, I am convinced that the PL would gain at least two votes by those who finally feel that being a decent citizen is, at last, being given the credit that it’s due.

But this is not just about mercenary vote-catching. It’s about doing the right thing simply because it is the right thing. If that holds true for Joe Citizen, it should be even more imperative for those who are at the helm of the nation. The only other alternative is complete anarchy.




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