Saturday 20 October 2018

Beware the siege mentality

One of the biggest problems which characterized the Gonzi administration – especially towards the end – was its inability to accept genuine criticism of its shortcomings. Instead it dug in its heels, entrenched itself in its own shell and refused to rectify what was wrong. It was the equivalent of a kingdom under fire which pulls up its drawbridge and barricades itself against what it perceives as a crusading army, in typical siege mentality mode.

Anyone and everyone who pointed out the government’s mistakes were labelled ‘the enemy’ and accused of wanting to bring the government down. So instead of considering that their might be some truth in the complaints which were rife all over the media, Gonzi & Co simply went into deep denial , convincing themselves that they were right and everyone else was wrong. The PN administration became prickly and defensive at the slightest critique and when attempts at nurturing PN-friendly journalists within the independent media still did not get them anywhere, the party turned desperate. Towards the end of the last legislature the election coverage on PBS’ programmes was so blatantly biased towards the government that many viewers simply could not stomach watching them any more.

Another PN tactic was to simply ignore criticism, letting it slide without addressing or acknowledging it, waving it away with an imperious wave of the hand and brazening it out until something else came along to distract us.

From what I am seeing it is the latter tactic which is being used by the Labour party.

When the Lou Bondi appointment was met with a roar of disapproval, the reply given by Muscat was a high-handed, “I know what I am doing”. Oh really, now?  I think the PM has under-estimated (or chosen to ignore) just why the Bondi appointment has upset people so much. And while he might think this is a minor blip which will only slightly dent his popularity and that voters will “get over it”, he seems to have failed to grasp a crucial point. Sure, there are those who might admire his shrewdness for bringing Bondi (and, by extension, the WE media house) on board the Labour bandwagon, but there are many others who simply detest this kind of cynical, manipulative ploy.  Not everyone applauds hypocrisy.

And more to the point, those who were willing to give Labour a chance did not do so that PBS’ bias would now be tilted towards the new government instead. The national station should be there to scrutinize and question and not have a TV presenter who drools over whoever happens to be PM just because he has been thrown a bread crumb from the table of goodies.

What successive administrations keep forgetting is that criticism and objections to certain dubious decisions are a good thing. It means that people have found their voice and are not afraid to use it, even if it means lambasting the very party they voted for. If voters accept every decision blindly, not daring to protest out of fear that they will be labelled traitors or discriminated against, then this country will never move forward. The days of ‘my party right or wrong’ are over.

Healthy criticism based on a clear-eyed assessment of certain decisions is vital if we do not want to end up five years down the line in a situation where the most urgent problems have still not been solved and with the only real change being that a new set of faces have set up their own little empire.

That is why I admire Labour MP Marlene Farrugia for speaking up and telling it like it is, confirming once again that she should have been the one to have been given a ministry. She seems to me like someone who buckles down and just gets things done.

What I find the most exasperating is that so much time is spent conducting endless meetings, drawing up reports and commissioning studies to analyse ‘the problem’ and then going on the media to moan and complain about what a ‘mess was left behind by the others’.  While all this posturing is taking place, I am still waiting to hear of ways and means of how the mess is going to be fixed. Blaming the Nationalists for the problems is no longer going to cut it – you were elected to do a job so just get on with it.

Granted, one has to have all the facts at hand before tackling a problem, but all that is simply a preamble and if it stops there then we are back to what the PN administration used to do – a flurry of activity to give the illusion that “something is being done” only for the crux of the matter to never quite get sorted out.

From the traffic chaos and parking nightmare in Sliema, to the shortage of medicines and overcrowding at Mater Dei, there are a myriad of issues which are affecting our quality of life, causing frustration and, in some cases, even blind rage. A government-in-waiting should have been ready with plans of how to implement the changes necessary (after all, over the last five years, it had the means at its disposal through PQs to gather the information it required).  Now that all the various boards and chairmanships have been set up with new people at the helm, it is time to get going. May I suggest a little less photo opportunities and press conferences telling us what we already know (it takes years for a court case to be settled, no kidding)  and a little more elbow grease. There will be plenty of time to pose in the media when and if we start seeing results especially in the areas which are causing undue hardship.

And while it is true that some voted for a change of government expecting (and in some cases receiving) political favours, there are many, many people whose aspirations have nothing to do with being appointed to any board or to be handed a juicy ambassadorship (despite being hopelessly unqualified for the post).

Most of us just want to live in a country where the infrastructure works and laws are enforced; a country which functions smoothly and efficiently and where you do not come up against a brick wall for even the most trivial of matters.


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