Sunday 21 April 2024

If you criticise…you’re crucified

I’m starting to see a certain pattern here, aren’t you?

Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando went from being the PN’s darling to Gonzi’s bête noire, when he began to object to certain governmental decisions after 2008.   Then, despite all odds, he managed to push through the divorce bill after a harshly fought campaign which saw him go diametrically against his own party’s line, and his days were numbered. He was dropped faster than you could say “referendum” and the mutterings of him not being quite “all there ” began.

Cyrus Engerer went from being the next bright young thing representing the  “liberal” wing of the PN, only to find himself isolated and cast aside when he disagreed with the fact that Gonzi voted No for divorce.  When Cyrus did the unthinkable and went over to Labour, all the knives were out. Once again, there were aspirations cast on whether he was of sound mind and his previously acceptable sexuality suddenly turned dark when a court case filed by a former boyfriend was made mysteriously public.

Which brings us to the colourful Franco Debono. The south of the island suddenly had a  sharp young lawyer who had beaten the older stalwarts at the polls.  He too has been in and out of the news for the last four years, and each time it is because he has criticised the Gonzi administration in some way. Despite having a popular base in his district, he is not looked upon kindly by fellow Nationalists and the events of this weekend have seen him being called all sorts of names as party diehards see their government at risk of collapsing. Predictably, his mental stability is being questioned too.

The common thread in the above three cases is that each politician has claimed to be loyal to the Nationalist party, and yet
because they have spoken openly and publicly on certain issues with which they do not agree, they have found themselves ostracized politically. Cyrus could not take it any more and changed sides, but Franco and Jeffrey have emphatically ruled out that possibility.

With these we have to add other names such as Robert Arrigo and Jesmond Mugliett, part of the so-called backbench revolt which some observers claim has more to do with the fact that they were not made part of the Cabinet than any other issue.

I’m not going to go into the merits of each case; what interests me is how it is being handled and here is where the pattern emerges. Because in every case, the person who is criticizing the party in government is not merely criticised in return. No, he becomes the target of a concerted campaign of utter annihilation and destruction. I remember it being described as a sort of “search and destroy” mission and that is perhaps the most apt phrase I can think of.

It is easy to spot what is happening when anti-Franco posts by anonymous faux patriotic blogs with names like
“ilovemalta” start being posted on Facebook.

Listening to Franco Debono speaking on Bla Agenda about the stress he and his family are suffering at the hands of his own party, I was reminded of what JPO told me in an interview he gave me for this
website.  They have eerily similar tales to tell. Now is this just a coincidence, that both these outspoken men have been subjected to the same kind of treatment and speak of the same kind of hidden manoeuvres and unseen hands pulling the strings?

I have said this before and I will keep saying it – is this the kind of democracy that “is-sewwa jirbah zgur” Eddie used to clamour for back in the awful 1980s? Talk about coming round full circle.  I cannot see how anyone can keep denying
what is staring us in the face: there is a glaring parallel between the way the Nationalist party has become and the way the Labour government under Mintoff had become.

Is driving someone to a nervous breakdown really that different from a physical beating? In 2012, the ‘bombs’ being placed are in the media and throughout cyberspace as each morning you wake up to a new smear campaign. This time round, however, it is the PN turning on its own, which somehow makes it even more disturbing. We are living in a political climate where everyone has been  terrified into submission and acquiescence for fear of being attacked by the equivalent of a pack of wild hyaenas.

Some will say that when Lino Spiteri and George Abela did not agree with Alfred Sant they simply bowed out, but that means we are saying that our political parties allow no room for dissent with the leader – that the leader is above everything and that his power is absolute.   If we continue to allow the cult of the almighty leader to reign we will be doomed to repeat the Mintoff syndrome over and over again.

As for those who are aghast at the prospect of Franco forcing the country to an early election, well they weren’t so upset when the shoe was on the other foot were they? The difference is that while Alfred Sant had only the (formidable) Mintoff to contend
with, Gonzi is struggling to survive against a recurring onslaught of attacks from several backbenchers, with each new wave threatening to be the final one which drags him under. When so many people are telling you to change course because you have completely destroyed the soul of your party doesn’t that tell you something? Has anyone floated the idea to the PM that maybe, it is he who is in the wrong?

Whether it is Gonzi’s fault for not being inclusive enough in  his decisions (especially with a slim one seat majority) or whether the fault lies in the fact that he is surrounded by a group of very ambitious politicians all clamouring for a juicy position – the result is that four years down the line, those 1,500 votes and that by-the-skin-of-his-teeth victory have come back to haunt him again and again.  Was it really worth it in the end I wonder, to have to govern like this, lurching from one management by crisis scenario to another while there is so much which really needs to be done in this country?

I have no idea where all this is heading, whether Franco Debono will continue to put pressure on Gonzi, or whether Franco will cave in himself under the stress. What is for sure is that there does not seem to be room for consensus any more – it’s either my way, or the highway.

Don’t add me to a Facebook group without my consent

Yesterday  I woke up to find that I had been added as a member of a Facebook group asking for Franco’s resignation.  In this group, people are  calling him all sorts of names, posting photos of him in a straitjacket, mocking and ridiculing him at every turn (especially due to his bizarre decision to display his school certificate to show what a diligent student he had been).

I found myself unwittingly a member of this group thanks to FB’s new policy whereby someone can add you to a group without your knowledge. As soon as I realised I removed myself from the group, but I wonder how many people are there and don’t know it, and without their consent, with their presence implying that they support the nasty, vicious things being said.

I’m very careful which groups or pages I join, so I object quite strongly to this deceitful practice. Facebook, as much as I love you, please change this policy because it is very unethical.