Busy... searching for Lawrence of Arabia

Malta needs such a prolific and honest leader, ideally a second Prometheus who in Greek mythology was the titan who stole fire from Olympus and restored it back to mankind


The recent street protests against corruption and sleaze held last weekend in Valletta were heavily attended by youths and others who chanted that they had enough. Given the putrescent stench of bad governance, evasions and stonewalling silence uncovered by the auditor general, you’d think the worst is known.

Since the brutal assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia (now almost six years) more leaked documents show how right she was to pursue the truth of Joseph Muscat’s infamous ‘road map’. Journalists and researchers have unearthed offshore structures set up to host opaque, ready-made deals involving several millions in taxpayers’ money to be squandered in fake hospitals deals, enormous windfall profits and inflated hedging agreements.

Nobody ever found out why, after winning 10 successive elections, Muscat resigned quietly (with an undisclosed generous State severance pay).  In his defence, he maintains that he was never involved in corruption. Yet, he refuses to explain the many red flags around the extensive involvement of Konrad Mizzi, Keith Schembri and others in every suspicious deal that his administration entered into on our behalf.

His replacement, Robert Abela uttered that he was forced to enter into a diabolical pact with the devil, while his opponent to premiership Dr Fearne, after losing popularity vote, quietly acquiesced. It is an open secret that Abela (promising unfettered continuity) takes umbrage at being placed in the same boat as Joseph Muscat, Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri, the triad that landed Abela’s premiership with the festering canker or, as Abela calls it, “the problem I inherited”.  After a show of bravado, he claims that he “always pursued the people’s interest”.

No heroism in this juncture, yet the party faithful do not doubt that Abela’s mind is fixated as being the hero.  So who was the fixer, to have drawn out a devil pact when he was voted in, as the new premier.  Facts show that Abela was the legal adviser to the cabinet during most of Muscat’s tenure. Is he now feeling as positioned between a rock and a hard place? Again, political observers, armed with various NAO reports, wonder why Konrad Mizzi was so cocooned by the party during his interrogation at the Public Accounts Committee when quizzed on Electrogas, Vitals/Stewards and a scandalous Montenegro Wind farm. Some evil tongues say that the party has handled Konrad Mizzi with caution (he is still a back bencher) because, if pressed, with his back to the wall, he will hiss and spit out.

If they rat him out in this tragic comedy, he makes the festering problem ooze something worse. This parody has now entered into the fifth year. It is not a walk in the park, as more stories of large consultancy streams were discovered to have benefited Muscat following his disgraced resignation.  Could it be that under the pretext of having a “kitchen cabinet” most members of Muscat’s cabal allowed themselves to be regularly duped. Possibly, there must have been compensations as otherwise one is surprised to hear, private chats by Roseanne Cutajar that amongst other things, told Jurgen Fenech (in custody for alleged complicity of Daphne’s murder) asserting that she does not mind having more than one job, since in party cliques - most were pigging.

This drama has sapped all the energy of honest stakeholders, who did not or could not be given the golden opportunity to trust their snouts deep in the trough. After a five-year long Court case, it was decreed the privatization contracts signed with Vitals/Stewards as fraudulent and with no effect.  Political observers admit that it would have been impossible to come clean on one corruption scandal without setting off a chain reaction with the others. Those implicated in the same web of corruption clung to power for as long as they could and when one fell, the others followed suit.

Therefore, the state is spinning a tale - it was surreptitiously converting vice into virtue.  Social progress during “Aqwa Zmien” so reminiscent of Muscat’s rule, in truth resulted from the passions and vices of rulers, and their devious schemes which were compensated by self interest, allowing them to allegedly accumulate wealth in Panama companies, in secret Dubai trusts, or basking in luxury holidays paid by an anonymous Jordan benefactor.  Scandals linked to the brutal assassination of a journalist are often white-washed by hypocrisy or pride and one observes that, in this complex society, vice is camouflaged with virtue.

A Central Bank governor (formerly a finance minister) who under his tenure such shenanigans were approved, claims innocence - saying he was regularly excluded from the powerful “kitchen cabinet” clique.  This parody reminds us of the factors that led to our grey listing by FAFT as the only EU country (this has recently been lifted).  Surely, one of the basic lessons learned from the above saga is that when one finds himself in a deep hole, he had better stop digging.

Perhaps, our antidote as a society involves a difficult transformation of personal interests culminating in a virtuous life hailed as a function of collective well-being, care for the environment, probity and good governance. Rather than looking for musical chairs, Castille, in power for the next four years, needs to do some soul searching and recruit a TE Lawrence type to clean the stables. Why TE Lawrence? The answer is that our slate is dirty. It needs scrubbing and only a charismatic leader can bring and revive a broken Humpty Dumpty back to life again.

My choice of TE Lawrence is because history has branded him as one of the most iconic figures of the early 20th century. Lawrence, was also brilliant, brave to the point of foolhardiness, and an extraordinary wartime leader of men. I am adding a brief note about his short life of thirty-five years before he succumbed to a fatal motor cycle accident. He joined the Army in 1914 and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in October, working in the geographical section of the War Office, later as a liaison and map officer. Lawrence was able to exert enough influence to convince the Arab leaders, Feisal and Abdullah I, to support Britain. During the resulting Arab Revolt, he coordinated guerrilla attacks against the Ottoman Empire within a wider British strategy.

In conclusion, Malta needs such a prolific and honest leader, ideally a second Prometheus who in Greek mythology was the titan who stole fire from Olympus and restored it back to mankind.

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