Thursday 17 January 2019

Keeping people sweet

The longer this administration stays in power, the more we learn about the Nationalist Party’s modus operandi.

It goes something like this:  Someone high up (whether in politics or with political clout because of their connections), does you a favour (say, a permit, a licence) or gives you a juicy contract or job.  You are singled out for this not necessarily due to your merit, but because you are useful in some way. Or perhaps you harbour a strong opinion and are not afraid to voice it and are causing too many ripples – so this is their way of keeping you “sweet”.

After all it is always best to have one’s adversary obliged to you for something and the powers that be within the PN are masters of that game of sly obligation. I call it shutting people up  “the smooth way”  rather than the Lorry Sant/Mintoff way of threatening to blow them up.

There is never any outright or direct confrontation with this particular method – it is all done with smiles and handshakes and pats on the back (but do beware of your back at all times, because there is usually the metaphorical knife).  It’s all very civilised and above board, with what passes for a posh accent, impossibly crisp white shirts, sharply tailored suits and impeccable manners.

In many cases, the person handing out the lucrative tidbits  has had the benefit of a what is known as a “good” education and a privileged upbringing.  In the past this usually meant that one was brought up to have a strong character and sound principles. Somewhere along the way, however, some people from this kind of background have become warped and have started to believe that they are invincible.

Maybe it is the combination of power with the belief that they are on the “morally right” chosen path, and anyone else who does not conform to their mindset simply has “no values” and is on the road to hell.  So their one mission is to stay in power at all costs, because, in their mind, the party they support is  the only natural party of choice to govern Malta (everyone else is, basically, a decadent pagan and a bumbling, uncouth peasant).

Of course, what I’m saying here is nothing new. Jeremy Boissevain zeroed in on it quite a long time ago when he described the way political patronage works in Malta. After all, once you are obliged to a political party for something, you would feel a bit loathe to bite the hand that feeds you.

People play along with this all the time, not daring to criticise because of possible repercussions.  All you have to do is check out how many are commenting online using a  nom de plume rather than their real name out of fear of recrimination.

So, it also stands to reason that  when you don’t “play ball” you are looked at oddly and you can almost see the balloon above people’s heads with the words – “what’s the matter with you,  don’t you know which side your bread is buttered?”

All this, and much more, has been rushing through my head as I read all about the sudden impetus by MEPA and the vigourous stand it has taken vis-à-vis Malta’s prime construction magnate, Charles Polidano, fondly known as Ic-Caqnu. After all these years of basically never being held to account, and after enforcement notices have piled up, probably thrown into a drawer somewhere and ignored, we are suddenly reading headlines asking the police to take action against him.

As we so succinctly say in Maltese, “Bongu”.

So, tell us, what happened? Why now? Why indeed…

You do not need to be a rocket scientist to come to the conclusion that Caqnu is no longer in the good books of the PN.  Wry, cynical eyebrows are being raised all over the place with each new attack on Caqnu, who up until now seemed to be an “untouchable”.    I would not be surprised if his personal life were to become the next target.

The sudden zeal with which MEPA is going after Caqnu rings false with the public because, as so many have pointed out online – what about all the other countless environmental infringements we see around us, which fall under other developers?

It would be great to see our environment being protected so passionately by the very authority which was set up to do so. But we would be more impressed if it were done fairly, openly and consistently across the board – without fear or favour. In a country gasping for fresh air, it would indeed be a breathe of fresh air to finally see some sense in the way MEPA operates – rather than the current hit-or-miss method of coming down like a tonne of bricks on one person, but blithely ignoring anyone else, depending on what is politically expedient.

As panic sets in and this administration belatedly realises it has to be seen to be doing “something” to quell the rising voices of dissent, we can expect more of the same.  So while on the one hand it will continue to dole out sweets to lure back those who might have thought of straying, there will also be instances when the door of the candy shop will suddenly be slammed shut.








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