Published: March 2, 2008 at 5:29pm
The ugliest part of Alfred Sant’s victimisation of the popular Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando has been left unsaid so far. So I am going to point it out here. Marlene Pullicino, Jeffrey’s estranged wife, is one of the Labour candidates on which the party is staking its hopes. They have lived apart for years, and both have formed other relationships since, but they have a daughter together.
I can’t imagine that the daughter, a university student, is delighted to see her father being persecuted and made miserable by the political party which has embraced her mother. I can’t imagine that Marlene Pullicino approves of the manner in which her daughter’s father, the man to whom she was married for some years, is being hunted down by her party’s giant machine in this ghastly manner. She may not like her estranged husband much any more, but surely she has some compassion for her daughter.
This must mean one of four things: (1) Marlene Pullicino asked Alfred Sant not to do it for her daughter’s sake, and he ignored her because he has no compassion; (2) Marlene Pullicino was the one who told Alfred Sant the story, and if she didn’t, she should make this clear at once; (3) Marlene Pullicino knew what was about to happen and didn’t care because she puts political ambition before her daughter’s well-being; or (4) Alfred Sant and his inner circle kept their ‘ammunition’ hidden from Marlene Pullicino in case she alerted her daughter’s father, which makes Alfred Sant even more of a snake than I thought he was.
Whichever way you look at it, it’s hideous. I repeat, he’s far from being an honourable man. A man like this cannot possibly command respect.
Floods of tears
Alfred Sant’s ugly cat-and-mouse game with Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando has boomeranged. First he made himself look completely ridiculous by refusing to say anything about Pullicino Orlando, even though it was quite obvious that he intended to, while the latter chased him from one press conference to another for 36 hours, ending up in Gozo. Then, when Sant and his entourage got on the Gozo ferry to return to Malta, and realised that Pullicino Orlando had been left behind, they thought of a cunning plan. Sant’s aides called journalists and summoned them to a press conference at Mistra with just 45 minutes to go. They whizzed there and Sant said his bit while Pullicino Orlando was stuck on the next ferry. When a television journalist asked him why the hurried nature of the press conference, and the short notice, Sant smirked like the classroom sneak who has just grassed on the popular kids.
So why has it boomeranged? Simple – people aren’t blind to the fact that if Sant were an upstanding man with the courage of his convictions (he isn’t), he would have said what he had to say in front of the person he was saying it about. He wouldn’t have run like a rat from press conference to press conference, his ‘victim’ hot on his tail, and then waited until he had given him the slip to come out with it. People are asking – why didn’t he have the guts to say what he had to say in Pullicino Orlando’s face? The answer is a straightforward one: Alfred Sant, like all bullies, is a coward, and when somebody is twisting the truth about you, they find it very difficult, if not impossible, to do it with you standing right there listening.
If Sant hoped that this would win him respect, it has done precisely the opposite. All he’s shown us is that he’s not much of a man, far from honourable and seriously devoid of leadership qualities.
Ironically, his attempted hammering of one of the most popular candidates on the Nationalist Party’s list has rebounded badly. If you’re going to pick on somebody, choosing a soft target is not a good idea because it makes you look like a dreadful bully. The fact is that people genuinely like Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando. Even Labour people do. So Alfred Sant just came across as the ugly, nasty, unpopular kid trying to cause trouble for the classroom’s popular charmer – not a good move. When Pullicino Orlando broke down and sobbed in public this morning while raging against Alfred Sant’s spite, it would have been a public relations master-stroke had it been planned, but it was genuine. Real tears, real anger, and a real summing up of how people are now feeling about Alfred Sant in this campaign. He enrages us, because he doesn’t behave like a normal person and he seems to have no emotions whatsoever, coming across as being driven by hatred and rage and a determination to fulfil what he sees as his destiny to become prime minister of Malta once more.
Books and misprints
Labour had five years to produce an electoral programme and came up with a shoddy piece of work full of mistakes, items that have already been carried out by this government, and shortcomings that Alfred Sant described to an interviewer as being caused by a computer malfunction.
And yet, at its mass meeting today, the party is selling a new novella from the Sensiela Kotba Socjalisti – all about the biggest scandals Fred and Jason and their merry men could come up with: what purports to be the full whack on Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando and Ninu Zammit. The Labour Party seems to have invested more time, money and effort in producing this publication than it did in producing its electoral programme.
That should tell you where the party’s priorities lie.
GonziPN is a corrupt liar
At least, that’s what Alfred Sant claims. He’s said it several times over the last few days, and when Lawrence Gonzi demanded an apology, Sant behaved like the gentleman he isn’t and rushed off to Gozo where, after clearly not having had milkshake for breakfast, he told his throng that if GonziPN wants an apology, then GonziPN is not going to get one. Then he made the adult equivalent of a child’s playground neh-neh-neh gesture.
First we had Josie Muscat shouting out ‘jitnejku’ and ‘jiehduh f’ghajnhom’ in his political debates and speeches. And then yesterday morning we had Alfred Sant on his Gozo podium, losing control of his tongue and saying that he doesn’t want young people who live in Gozo to be ‘inkazzati’. Not the best choice of word for a future prime minister.
Some of the most amusing parts of Alfred Sant’s speeches are when he tries to explain technical language and corporate concepts to people at his kowc tal-bidla gatherings. And so it was yesterday morning, when he pulled another health document from his top-hat and tried to explain consolidated funds and miscellaneous fees for hospital services to his unknowing audience. First he read it out in English, then he translated it into Maltese, then he put it into the simplest vernacular, like a fuddy-duddy professor trying to relate to a child and getting it all wrong.
If he is as smart and DBA-ed as he makes himself out to be, then he would have gathered that the miscellaneous fees in question are what non-British non-Maltese people pay when they use our state health services. That’s why they are miscellaneous, and not regular.
But Sant was counting on the fact that none of his people would know this, and that Charlon Gouder and Miriam Dalli weren’t exactly going to challenge him about it either.
Now this is a man with a problem. It’s tough enough doing your work as a journalist when your pay-cheque (without proper overtime payments) is signed by a political party. But sometimes you can find a workable solution within the limits.
Charlon Gouder appears not to have found that solution. His role throughout this campaign has been that of Labour heckler, dispatched to meetings to shout accusations at Nationalist politicians until they crack, lose their temper and snap out something unwise.
So far, Lawrence Gonzi has resisted the temptation to put a rocket under this man, treating him with the kind of resilient patience of a calm and steady uncle coping with a temperamental and rebellious nephew. And the curious thing is that on Xarabank last Friday, even the steadfast Charlon seemed to have ended up charmed by him into a sort of reluctant admiration.
Hare Krishna of Maltese politics
AD’s exponents have taken to calling Malta’s democratically elected governments a system of ‘single-party dictatorship’ or ‘single-party rule’. This is like Alfred Sant declaring that referendums don’t count and that only general elections do. Both statements ignore or disparage the sovereign will of the electorate. Presumably, in their book, tacking a single AD seat onto the edge of a ‘single-party dictatorship’ will immediately make it the sine qua non of democracy.
I can’t help but notice that AD akkaniti are beginning to sound like the brainwashed members of a cult movement, repeating jargon and stock phrases: single party rule, single party dictatorship, tyranny of the oligarchy, coalition works. It’s just too tedious. Alternattiva Demokratika have become the Hare Krishna of Maltese politics, springing out at you with their chants and mantras about coalitions and dictatorships when all you want to do is get on with your shopping.
And like all cults, they just won’t let up and leave the rest of us alone. I wish I had the time and patience to trawl back through the newspapers over the last couple of years and discover exactly at what point the desire for a mere seat in parliament became the fixation on power and being in government purely on the basis of that mere seat.
He’s been inside him
No, this is not my crass choice of expression. It’s that of the surgeon and Labour candidate Anthony Zammit, he who operated on the party leader. Interviewed on one of those Super One sofa-shows, he told his host, who had asked for his views about Alfred Sant (no surprises expected): “Jien l-uniku bniedem fid-dinja li nista nghid li nafu minn barra u minn gewwa…hahahahahaha….u nghidilkom jien, m’hemmx hdura hemm gew.” Oh dear, too much information.
Taken from one of the Internet posts
“Alternattiva Demokratika has declared that it is prepared to form a coalition government with either the PN or the MLP. This frantic effort to assume the power-broker role in the forthcoming general election is, to say the least, nauseating. It amply shows that, indeed, AD is a soulless party made up of political mavericks, whose main aim is to hold to ransom both the PN and the MLP.”
“The PN leadership is correct in dismissing outright AD’s shameful proposal and it would be appropriate for the MLP leadership to follow suit. Malta deserves a stable government so that the full benefits of EU membership are enjoyed by the whole population. What AD is proposing would slide Malta into an ungovernable situation similar to what Italy has experienced over the years since the end of World War II, culminating in the Prodi government of which AD’s Arnold Cassola formed part, until it was brought down due to its fractious composition.”
“AD should be turned down not only by the big parties, but also by the discerning electorate, who have at heart the true well-being of Malta.”
Some people are saying that they will vote AD because they want divorce legislation. I’m puzzled when I hear this. They are usually people who almost certainly have an O-level in maths, though of course, nothing in civic education because it wasn’t (and probably still isn’t) a taught subject at school. The reasoning goes something like this: a Nationalist government will not legislate for divorce, and so I will vote AD.
Then I butt in. How will voting AD help you to achieve your goal, or is it just a symbolic protest vote? The suggestion that it is a protest vote is met with annoyance. Oh, so it is a strategic vote, then. You are voting AD because you imagine that AD can somehow amend the Marriage Act and bring in divorce. I prod a little harder. How do you think AD will be able to do this, with a single seat in parliament? Remember that AD had a seat for three years, between 1989 and 1992 (“I didn’t know that!”) and precisely nothing happened. Then Wenzu Mintoff went back home to Labour.
But AD won’t just have a seat, I’m told. It will be in government. Really? How does that happen, with one seat? It will form a coalition. Who with? The Nationalist Party, of course! As if they’d form a coalition with Labour! I explain that the Nationalist Party has ruled out any coalition and that Harry Vassallo hasn’t ruled out coalition with Labour. Meanwhile, Labour hasn’t said what it will or won’t do because Alfred Sant doesn’t answer hypothetical questions.
So let’s imagine, just for the sake of argument because in this election, as in all others, either one of the main parties is going to get a relative or absolute majority and govern alone, that we end up with an MLPAD coalition government. The MLP has 32 seats and AD has a meagre one. The seat ratio, in other words, is 32:1. Meanwhile, the Nationalist Party, sitting on the Opposition benches, has 32 seats. To push any of its legislation through, Labour is going to need AD’s vote (remember, this is a fantasy, because it can’t actually happen in reality). This means that AD can derail Labour’s legislation. You may think that this is good or bad – whatever. It doesn’t matter for the purpose of this argument. What does matter is this simple fact: you can bring forward legislation with 32 seats, but with one seat, you can’t. The only way that AD with one seat in a coalition government can introduce divorce is by bullying 32 Labour MPs into voting for it. As any seasoned negotiator knows, to do this when it is so vastly outnumbered, it must have considerable leverage. The only leverage I can think of here is the threat to derail some legislation that Labour really wants to get through. Yet divorce is a very big thing in Malta, and so Labour must really want that other legislation strongly enough to trade it for the introduction of divorce. In other words, it’s not going to happen. And commonsense should tell you that if Labour can be persuaded into voting for divorce to keep AD happy with its one seat, then Labour can also be persuaded to bring in divorce alone, without AD playing dog-in-the-manger. And so, for that matter, can the Nationalist Party.
The secret police spy on Azzjoni Nazzjonali
A keen activist has uploaded a video on YouTube, showing an AN public gathering being photographed by Ben Borg Cardona, the tall, large and policeman-shaped photographer of The Malta Independent. The strap-line reads: ‘GonziPN secret police spy on AN supporters.’
Lots of AN supporters are conspiracy theorists who love the dark world of computer games and belong to all these Internet forums where strange people gather at night. “Who is this man?” the video commentary asked. “And why is he spying on us? He appears at every AN meeting, talks to nobody, takes his photograph and leaves. And God knows where those photographs end up.”
They sometimes end up in The Malta Independent. Maybe AN needs a media officer.
Alfred Sant meets a pig
I happened to be watching Super One when they showed coverage of Sant’s last-but-one trip to Gozo. It was worth it, just for that shot of the Labour delegation giving comments to camera while standing around a giant puddle of bright yellow urine, and then saying hello to a large pig which ignored them (sensible fellow). What struck me most were the downcast faces of the Gozo businessmen summoned to a meeting with their hypothetically future prime minister. They looked as though they had been called to meet the Grim Reaper. By an extraordinary coincidence, I also had the television on when NET showed coverage of a similar meeting Lawrence Gonzi had on our sister island. The very same businessmen looked bright and energised, and at least one of them spoke with electric admiration. I think that says it all.
This isn’t me speaking
It’s a comment posted beneath a story on The Times Internet portal. I thought it was rather good.
”Yes, we do want change. We would like Dr Sant to step down from the leadership of his party. We would have preferred him to do so after the 2003 election, as any democratic leader in a democratic country would have done after three consecutive defeats – two general elections and a referendum – and the record shortest government since Independence. Unfortunately, Dr Sant, with his 16 years of leadership, almost 30 years in the MLP, including his presidency of the party in the dark mid-1980s, his democratic gaffes like ‘partnership rebah’, his political blunders like ‘Svizzera fil-Mediterranan’, the electoral promises he failed to keep, and above all, his administrative mistakes, is not in a position to offer anything new, still less so a New Beginning. He was just never fit for the job.”