Informed and Unimpressed

Yesterday’s reshuffle news was met with disgust, outrage, and (to the sweet, naïve few) disbelief.

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That the head of a democratic country would choose to keep not one, not two, but three public officials (I’m looking at you, Manuel Mallia) on the public payroll after some pretty bad behaviour is offensive to the people who pay their wages. It makes you wonder just what these men have on the Prime Minister that he would rather risk the wrath of the people who voted him into office than have whatever secret they’re keeping get out.

That naïve disbelief I mentioned earlier remains a little bit of a mystery. As the saying goes: if you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention. Slightly-uncool things have been happening quite regularly of late and unless you’ve been living under a rock (or are wilfully ignoring the obvious signs) you will have noticed that something dodgy is happening. Transparency has become something of a political unicorn – a mythical creature, neither seen nor heard. Dubious appointments, a slew of resignations, the enthusiastic middle finger some fat cats wave in the establishment’s adoring face…it’s been happening and people have been paying attention.

What is the problem with publishing a couple of contracts if they’re all above board? Why the ‘we’re waiting for the investigation to be concluded’ stock answer every time someone steps out of line? Why the hesitation in sacking someone who, as part of the country’s administration and a representative of his or her constituents, should be absolutely and spotlessly clean? Does the government seriously believe everything is hunky dory or is it (secretly, desperately) floundering in a muddy puddle of promises it could not keep, a fragile public trust, increasing suspicion from international players and mounting outrage from the electorate?

"We now know way more than we ever have. And we are pissed."

That last one is becoming a real thorn in the government’s side too. There is little they can slide past the public now, in a world of instant connectivity and that much-maligned ‘Share’ button. 

People today are exposed to the inner workings of our society to a much greater degree than our parents and grandparents had at our age (thank you, Internet). We’ve seen businesses crumble, livelihoods stolen and lives torn apart, halfway across the world, by a global recession we had very little fault in. In Malta, we’ve watched green spaces disappear, our wildlife decimated, our own future careers endangered by the behaviour of those in power. The Internet has brought to light injustices that would easily have been swept under the carpet just a few years ago – institutionalized racial discrimination, police brutality, the profound failures of a democratic system that started out with all the best intentions but has been warped and skewed by corruption and greed.

The power of the Internet of course does not end there. Not only has it brought these issues to the forefront of our collective consciousness, it has also given us a platform to talk about it. And it has been a hugely influential factor in not only giving people a place to speak out (though sometimes, we do wish they’d shut up), but in finding their voice in the first place. Democracy works when people have as much information as possible so they can make informed decisions the next time they step into a polling booth. And we now know way more than we ever have. And we are pissed.

"Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s decision to retain Konrad Mizzi as a ‘minister without a portfolio’ is horrifically offensive to anyone with two brain cells to rub together."

Because you cannot accuse the youth of political apathy any more. Whereas before most of us were kept in the dark – intentionally or otherwise – we are now swimming in facts and data, for better or worse. And you can’t ask us to ignore that or take decisions while under the assumption that we don’t care, or worse, haven’t noticed anything amiss.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s decision to retain Konrad Mizzi as a ‘minister without a portfolio’ is horrifically offensive to anyone with two brain cells to rub together. He now has a job with no responsibilities. While that’s probably for the best, given how untrustworthy he’s proven himself to be (see the Panama Papers clusterf*ck), he should totally be sent to the corner to think about what he’s done, ideally without being given any more taxpayer money. 

Keith Schembri too has held on to his job because, by Muscat’s reasoning, he is not an elected official and so is not subject to the same rules. Hey Mr Prime Minister, lest you forget, you are an elected official, so by extension, so is he. We picked you and you then picked him. We both know he should be removed. Keeping him on the payroll means you condone whatever he was doing in those dodgy, grey-area tax haven jurisdictions where exactly no one chooses to set up a company for shits and giggles. The fact that he’s been implicated is damaging enough and the longer he sits in your office, the harder it is to believe that he doesn’t have you by the short 'n’ curlies over something unsavoury. 

My advice? Take action now – real action, by which I mean a couple of sackings and maybe a heartfelt apology - before it gets worse. The public’s patience with these shenanigans is wearing thin and fewer and fewer people are turning a blind eye to the shady decisions (and I use that term loosely) that are undermining our public institutions. Everyone knows what’s going on and not many of us like it.

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