Harry Vassallo wants special treatment
That’s the underlying argument to everything he is saying: that because he is the leader of a political party, he shouldn’t be treated like the rest of us. We have to fill in our VAT returns, we have to pay our fines if we don’t, but he doesn’t – because he’s Harry Vassallo, leader of AD. And since when is not having the money to pay your fine a valid excuse for not paying it? Try using that excuse the next time you get fined and see how far it will get you. Oh, but you’re not the leader of a political party that’s playing the victim, so you can’t call a press conference and make a fuss about it. You just have to ask your family to lend you the money and then hope you can pay them back.
I’m going to use the vernacular again here: sorry, ta – but isn’t this the political party that wants us to believe that it is a cut above the rest and ‘not like the MLPN’? Now here we have its leader, breaking the law and expecting special treatment because he is who he is. And when he doesn’t get that special treatment he calls a press conference, iziffen it-tfal fin-nofs, and tries to score brownie points (and avoid paying his dues) by playing the martyred victim. Why on earth isn’t his wife protecting her children from their father’s political opportunism? How indecent it is to expose those poor little children to the glare of public scrutiny and all that worry they must be feeling, just so that their father can play Poor Harry. It’s unforgivable. I would never have allowed my husband to do something like that – not that, thank God, he would ever have been so hellishly irresponsible, first mucking up his financial affairs and then using the children to pull in the sympathy vote.
Why should Harry Vassallo get away with not paying his fines when there are hundreds of ordinary people out there who have had to pay theirs? This is just too much. Lots of people default on their payments or get fined for not filling in returns. The reason they don’t go to jail is because they pay their dues, even if they have to reach an agreement with the VAT Department to pay their dues by instalments. There have been amnesties since then which Vassallo could have used – but he obviously thinks he is too much of a cut above the rest to have to deal with the problems that we ordinary mortals have to put up with all the time, like filling in forms and dealing with bureaucrats. Why should he have to bother with all that? After all, he’s Poor Harry.
If we have to pay our fines, then so does Harry Vassallo
Vassallo clearly expects to be treated differently because he is the leader of a political party. What he is saying, in effect, is that he doesn’t want to pay the fines but he doesn’t want to go to jail either. Try doing that if you are not the leader of a political party, and see how far it will get you.
Some people, or so I have heard, have succeeded in having their sentences waived through a presidential pardon. Vassallo thought he would try to take advantage of this system. It didn’t work. He shouldn’t have tried in the first place. As the leader of a political party – particularly a political party that prides itself on being purer than the driven snow and different to all the rest – he should realise that he is in a different position to the man-in-the-street. He is in a position of responsibility. He has to be even more careful than the rest.
So he broke the law (however unwittingly and however much we may sympathise with him for not putting his papers in order – we all know it’s a bloody bore) got fined, didn’t pay the fine, got a prison sentence, put in a plea for a presidential pardon, it didn’t work, and now he is kicking up a fuss and accusing the government of persecuting him. If he had got that presidential pardon, I imagine he wouldn’t have advertised the fact. And that’s where we realise that there’s nothing special or virginal about Harry Vassallo. He’s just another politician who’s looking after No. 1 and trying to get away with it.
And what about that presidential pardon?
Now here’s the thing that’s being overlooked. Pleas for presidential pardons go before the cabinet, or at least before the Minister of Justice, who must put in a recommendation to the president. This means that the cabinet knew about the AD leader’s problems with the law – but decently, they kept it quiet and didn’t leak the story to the press. They did so not because they had a hidden agenda but because decent men do not go about leaking stories about other politicians’ financial troubles. Vassallo himself is the one who leaked the story – and what’s more, he did so deliberately on the eve of an election when he thought it would serve the double purpose of helping him squirrel out of paying his dues while at the same time pulling in some ‘poor Harry’ votes.
Harry Vassallo has known about this for months. He lost one of those cases all the way back in 2005. Yes, he has had special treatment – very special treatment – because the authorities have bent over backwards to give him as much time as possible to pay what he owes. The police didn’t go to his home to arrest him. They went to his home to try to persuade him bil-kelma it-tajba that as the leader of AD and a public person, he should regularise his position. And Harry Vassallo seized on that and turned himself and his financial troubles into a public circus involving his poor, poor children. What a shame.
Just pay what you owe, Harry!
OK, so you can say that the bastard government could have recommended the AD leader’s plea for a pardon to the president, and didn’t do so for spiteful reasons. If you think this way, you’re not very imaginative and have poor knowledge of political strategy. If the government wanted to damn the AD leader once and for all, all it had to do was recommend him for a presidential pardon and then make it known that the AD leader’s fines for VAT irregularities had been pardoned by the president.
The immediate effect among the electorate would be ‘Iss hej, the leader of a political party gets special treatment and I have to pay my fines.’ It wouldn’t exactly have helped Vassallo climb in the popularity stakes, and would have exposed him for what he is – just another politician looking after No. 1 and hoping that others don’t find out. If the government wanted to be really mean, it would have approved Vassallo’s presidential pardon, said nothing, and created a situation where it had ‘one over on him’ – a blackmail situation, if you will. It’s precisely because the government is made up of decent people (love them or hate them) that this wasn’t done. But I wouldn’t put it past a Labour government to do something like that – they seem to adore that kind of ghastly behaviour.
Vassallo doesn’t have to go to prison, but he does have to pay his fines. If we have to pay ours, then he has to pay his. He’s got to cast around for the money, find it and pay it. That’s what you would have to do, and it’s what I would have to do. Vassallo has no right to expect special treatment or to cry foul if he doesn’t get treated better than the rest. Nobody wants him to go to prison, and the prison authorities have enough to cope with without finding room to house Harry Vassallo or the budget to keep him there for two years.
Enough of this drama already. Pay what you owe, Harry – it’s what the public expects of you.