Theatrics of the Hard of Hearing

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The advantages of Malta rejoining PfP stand on their own merits. What is striking here, however, is how the Prime Minister, who made it the central tenet of his electoral campaign that his would be “a government of all the people”, transparent and accountable for all its actions, can, within a few days of being returned to office, make a unilateral decision without in any way consulting the opposition on a subject that divides large sections of our population, irrespective of whether that is justifiable or not. – The Times Editorial, 27.03.08

Thus spake the Times editorial today. The editor was right in saying that the advantages of joining PfPstand on their own merits. Of course he could not avoid outlining those very same merits in the second half of the editorial – lest too much PN banging be had in one article. Anyhow, the issue of the PM running off and signing us in without so much as a declaration of intent to the electorate he had so recently “consulted” might be a sign of displeasures yet to come.

Fausto seems to think that when we criticise the way the PN and the government seem to have failed to analyse and absorb the electoral victory by default* it is because we talk out of some sour grapes vantage point. In Colombus’s Egg, Fausto goes to great pains to defend his thrice victorious outgoing Secretary-General. I had not known Fausto to descend to this level of flag-waving, Jason Micallef-style appraisals of politicians. What Fausto chooses not to hear on the other hand is not a question of trophies and victories but the question of reading the signs that this election and the electorate had to offer. When I say that I do not know what Joe Saliba has to gloat about, it is precisely because the man spent a whole program in constant denial of the fact that his party had not just walked out of a campaign with a tremendous wave of support. We got no hint of the “humility” he supposedly was feeling towards the electorate. Now if he is the right person to celebrate three electoral victories (and a referendum – that victory for the party, no doubt) then I will let him free fireworks and all to celebrate to his heart’s content – after all the man is on the way out. So congrats and a friendly pat on the back to Joe.

In the meantime there is a government to be run and a people to be served. Neither of the two get anything out of an electoral trophy cabinet. What the people expect from their government is a governance in consonance with that which had been promised before the election. Anything that goes beyond that must be achieved only through the most widespread of consultations – and not through “Bolts out of the Blue”. When I worry about Joe Saliba’s gloating it’s not (as Fausto may mistakenly think) because I envy his electoral trophies but because I worry that his unjustified sense of overconfident complacency is shared by the people in government (the party is one thing, the government is an all the more serious matter).

That partitarji fail to understand the implications of the last electoral result is understandable. Theirs is the business of trophy counting and flag waving. That the government begins to show the worrying signs of not listening to the message (to the extent that the Times picked up the signals) is not good. Not a good sign at all.

* Going so far as to ascribe the description “victory by default” to all three elections – putting words in my mouth?

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27 responses to “Theatrics of the Hard of Hearing

  1. Guzeppi Grech

    What a pity that this very interesting and insightful blog seems to no longer attract heavy participation from the punters.

    So, and please bear with me here, some controversy needs to be injected.
    Therefore, with tongue heavily inserted in cheek here goes:

    1. Daphne is really a guy, and that’s why Sandro loves him so much.
    2. Gonzi is secretely in favour of Divorce legislation and will get Carm Mifsud Bonnici to push it through surreptitiously.
    3. Joseph Muscat is not a poodle but a shih tzu
    4. Jason’s teeth are false.
    5. JPO has submitted the film footage of his recent performance to the Acadamy for the 2008 Oscars consideration to be held next year.
    6. Victor Laiviera is a Labour sympathiser
    7. Nixon is not a crook
    8. Duminku Mintoff still has a lot to contribute before he kicks the bucket in the year 2056.
    9. Global warming is a myth instigated by the Siberian Tourism Ministry.

    OK that’s enough for now. Please send the cheque by post, usual rates apply.

  2. On the “Wasted Votes” page, Anton Says:

    March 27, 2008 at 12:35 am

    “Let’s be practical Jacques, it’s not the right moment to dream about the ideal democratic representation in parliament. Facts, facts and good governance MUST take over.”

    Yes, facts, facts and good governance MUST take over:

    http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20080327/opinion/editorial

    Thursday, 27th March 2008
    Editorial
    Partnership for peace: A bolt from the blue

    “What is striking here, however, is how the Prime Minister, who made it the central tenet of his electoral campaign that his would be “a government of all the people”, transparent and accountable for all its actions, can, within a few days of being returned to office, make a unilateral decision without in any way consulting the opposition on a subject that divides large sections of our population, irrespective of whether that is justifiable or not.

    This is worrying to say the least as it lays the Prime Minister open to the accusations of arrogance to which his first Administration was so prone. While it might be argued that the opposition is in disarray and the need to deal with the issue was timely, it still remains a strategic decision taken opportunistically without broad consultation in an area of politics – foreign affairs – where there has recently been remarkable consensus between the government and the opposition.”

    “The initiative to reactivate PfP is commendable but the cack-handed manner of its presentation is disappointing.”

    Once again, what did Anton say?

    Oh yes: “Facts, facts and good governance MUST take over.”

  3. Should the PM discuss everything?? Shoul he drop a proposal just because the opposition and/or other interested parties do not agree with it?

  4. Jon, should the PM discuss anything? How can he know what the opposition thinks if he doesn’t bring it up for discussion?

  5. Going so far as to ascribe the description “victory by default” to all three elections – putting words in my mouth?

    Oh come on, you know I never said that.

  6. There’s an easy answer to that, this opposition will say no to whatever the government proposes. Political cheap shots apart, what was mostly disturbing on this issue was that the goverment never mentioned this application in any pre-election speech.

    Howver, again I stress…being a goverment open to dialogue, does not mean that the government is expected to discuss all he does….we will end up having discussions on the width of pavements. Ah sorry we already had discussions on those (remember the whole furore regarding the wide pavements in the Attard-Rabat bypass?).

  7. Talk about missing the point completely Jon. The point is not about getting the approval of the opposition about anything under the sun. The point, as was made by the Times, is that the PN never mentioned that it would reactivate PfP once it would be in government. Given the not so satisfactory result the PN obtained vis-a-vis the electorate, it does not have any right to ignore the people and act without consultation on a matter that was not part of its mandate. Frankly I do not care if the opposition would have nixed it once again… what worries me is that the government did not even go through the motions of faking dialogue on this matter… complacent? cokcy? arrogant? All the ingredients for the omelette are there…

  8. Victor Laiviera

    Are we to understand that Jon equates a decision about the width of a pavement with a decision to joint what is, when all is said and done, a military alliance?

  9. What is the use of worrying ‘that the government did not even go through the motions of FAKING dialogue?’ It is a ‘fake dialogue’ might as well not have it and avoid the pretence and accept the fact that Government can do what it likes without bothering to consider the opinion of the electorate.

  10. Government’s move was rash, undemocratic and contrary to the spirit of neutrality.

    Parliament was not consulted. This decision is even more anti-democratic because it was not mentioned in the electoral programme of the Nationalist Party. The Government should have shown more respect to the Maltese people, especially when neutrality is enshrined in Malta’s constitution.

    The Partnership for Peace is a branch and structure of NATO, whose aggressiveness was shown in recent cases such as Yugoslavia, and which, in the last instance, acts for imperialist interests rather than world peace and social justice. Partnership for Peace Member states are obliged to send their national military planning, programmes and budgets to NATO, which will thus have more geo-political influence. NATO will have more influence on Malta, thus going against Malta’s constitutional neutrality.

    Instead of having a stronger imperialist structure like NATO, there should be a reformed United Nations, so that it is able to take on the missions that are necessary, so that it can respond early and proactively to prevent genocide, for example, should be a global policy priority. Within this context, Malta and the European Union should emphasise the values of peace, equality, social justice and ecological sustainability.

  11. @everhopeful: I think that you took that statement too literally. I was pointing out that the government did not even think it was necessary to FAKE the dialogue let alone hold a real one. I think that underlines how much the electorate, the opposition and parliament has been taken for granted. I was in no way advocating some “fake dialogue” policy.

  12. @Jon (&Victor): Pavements or PfP is not the question. The question is mandate or no-mandate. PfP might turn out to be just as inconsequential as a pavement in Qormi for some people but in both cases the PN in government should only be acting within the remit of what it told the people it would do once in government.

  13. Pingback: PfP - What’s the pFuss? « j’accuse

  14. Personally, I always believed that Malta would be better off if it had to join PfP, and I agree 100% with the decision taken by the government.

    However, it is a rather serious matter, that in the first cabinet meeting, after winning with such a small margin (and after promising more dialogue), the government didn’t wait for parliament to convene and consult the elected representatives of Parliament.

    NATO as an organisation is not the evil people paint it to be. In Yugoslavia NATO made sure there was no further bloodshed – which there would have been if Milosevic and Tudjman would have been left on their own to fight over Bosnia. And goodness knows what would have happened in Kosovo. But that is beside the point. PfP is an organisation which is a branch of NATO – and as far as I know it does not participate in warfare but in peacemaking. Something the UN does in a much less efficient way.

  15. Jacques René Zammit Says:
    March 28, 2008 at 11:06 am

    “@Jon (&Victor):
    The question is mandate or no-mandate.

    The PN in government should only be acting within the remit of what it told the people it would do once in government.”

    Exactly, not more, not less.

  16. Victor Degiovanni

    I do not agree with Andre in the first instance this move was uncostitutional as NATO is a military block and Malta is Nuetral. The fact that only one military block exist today, is irrelevant. Clauses in the Constitution are only changed by a two thirds parliamentary majority, so winning the election does not give the present administration to join. This irreverence towards the constitution of Malta, has been symptomatic with previous administrations, and there were instance when it was grossly transgressed.

    The people are quite right over NATO it is evil. It is also western imperialim’s strongarm. to impose policies on those countries that are not in line. Its interference in Serbia’s internal affairs, and bombing of Bel;grade over Kosovo was such an instance.

    I hope that this grave abuse of not observing the constitutionwill be corrected. The Government upon taking government has sworn to observe, protect and defend the constitution of the Republic of Malta. With this application to join if I am right, the Government is going against this oath

    Victor

  17. I don’t want to go off point, but with all due respect, the “interference in Serbia’s internal affairs” and the “bombing of Belgrade” took place only after Slobodan Milosevic and his gang of criminals (and it’s not me, nor the US – but an international court which says this) decided to go on a free-for-all genocide killing spree. I happen to think it is quite legitimate to intervene to stop genocide from taking place – imperialism or not.

    The Neutrality clause was good when it was introduced – however just like any other constitution and any other writing – it must be viewed within its historical context.

    It’s all being blown out of proportion. Malta joined PfP, not NATO. And Gonzi is not guilty of neglecting the constitution but of by-passing parliament. Rather than worry about whether or not we’re in breach of a clause written in the cold-war period, we should be questioning and raising hell over the fact that Gonzi has not taken the matter to parliament, thereby not respecting the democratically elected members of parliament and reducing parliamentary debate to a mere formality.

  18. Victor Degiovanni

    Still the Constitution has to be ammended if it is now out of date, which I still do not agree, that it is. And PFP is part of NATO.
    In the Case of the ex Yugoslavia it is not as you say, it was Germany the US and the Vatican who started the ball rolling by the dismembering of the federation, and it was very suitable for a western controlled UN court to call Milosovich and his gang criminals because they stood in the way of imperialism. And the handing over now, of Kosovo which Serbia had Soverien rights over, to emigrants gives Milosovich right to prevent it. It was a dirty war and non of the states that formed ex Yugoslavia have clean bloodless stained hands. Serbia of course is the scapegoat as in both World Wars, it held to a standstill German imperialism and gave it a taste of defeat.

  19. Whether joining PfP is constitutional or not is not up to Mike Briguglio or Victor Degiovanni or Fausto Majistral or Jacques Rene Zammit to decide. It’s the Constitutional Court which has the right to interpret the Constitution. So you want a debate? Why not file a case? Where better place to present the two opposing point of views?

    But of course, the whiner won’t because they know they will lose. Someone like Karmenu “Le ghall-Indhil Barrani” Mifsud-Bonnici would use the words of the representative of the old colonial master to interpret our Constitution and offer some light amusement. But it’s said to see someone like Mike Briguglio claim that PfP is a “branch” of NATO. I wonder how he’d defend that in court in the case of a bilateral agreemeny as is PfP. Please, bring it on!

  20. In the Case of the ex Yugoslavia it is not as you say, it was Germany the US and the Vatican who started the ball rolling by the dismembering of the federation

    Yeah, the Swiss Guard did it.

  21. Andre, why was the neutrality point ‘good’? So basically the USA and the USSR were equally bad/good, and so we couldn’t decide? Why is neutrality always considered as ‘good’? Also, the neutrality clause was never respected, since the wonderful 80’s goverment always thought it appropriate to entertain better relations with the Soviet block. Ah, just in case no one knows, we were going to have a major nuclear disaster outside Rinella sometime during the 80’s. Not trying to score any political points here, the 80’s have for long been gone, this is just a piece of history.

    And to give this contribution of mine an intellectual hue, I will ask you to remember where Dante said all neutral persons should end.

  22. Jon, I said something on my blog about this. I wasn’t around when the neutrality clause was introduced – and I am assuming there was some logic behind it. In any case I do believe it’s time to review this clause.

    Regarding ex-Yu – I’m not entering that debate. The facts are there for all to see.

  23. Fausto Majjistral, irrespective of whether one agrees with PfP membership or not, it is rather obvious that it is a branch of NATO. Doesn’t the fact that PfP members have to send national military planning, programmes and budgets to NATO, mean something?

    As the USA Government itself put it “The United States welcomes Malta’s decision to request reactivation of its cooperation with NATO’s Partnership for Peace (PfP) and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council”……

    I am not in favour of isolationist neutrality. However, I beleive that as a neutral island and EU member-state in the heart of the Mediterranean, Malta has much to offer for world peace through active neutrality. PfP membership will jeopardise this.

    The least that the Government could have done was to consult Parliament on the matter. I believe that former Minister Michael Frendo adopted a more prudent and consensual approach.

    Malta’s application is also more

  24. Michael Briguglio Says:
    March 29, 2008 at 6:57 am

    “I am not in favour of isolationist neutrality. However, I beleive that as a neutral island and EU member-state in the heart of the Mediterranean, Malta has much to offer for world peace through active neutrality.”

    You believe too much.

    Has Malta’s active neutrality helped to bring peace in the Near/Middle East?

    Will Malta’s active neutrality bring peace to Tibet?

  25. Victor Degiovanni

    Yes its the Constitutional court that decides and not the Attorny General as was the case with the US ships in the Malta Drydocks.

  26. @Mike

    Fausto Majjistral, irrespective of whether one agrees with PfP membership or not, it is rather obvious that it is a branch of NATO.

    Mike, irrespective of whether one agrees with PfP membership or not, it is rather obvious that it is not a “branch” of NATO. A bilateral agreement between an international organisation and a country does not make that agreement a “branch”. Go and tell that to Vladimir Putin whose country has been in PfP since 1994.

    As to the sharing of information on military programmes, planning and budgets (nice attempt at sophistry there: you’d almost think Malta was contributing to the NATO budget), big deal, countries who have bilateral agreements exchange information all the time.

  27. Pingback: Branching Out - PfP & NATO « j’accuse

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