The Rolling Sants – Mud-Slinging Tour 2008

Published: March 5, 2008 at 1:31am

Buy the T-shirt at Labour HQ, Mile End

So guess what Alfred Sant did today. He went on a ‘mini tour tal-korruzzjoni’ with the Three Stooges. I am not joking – that’s what he called it. And no, it wasn’t organised by Norman Hamilton Tours, either.

They were in a bit of a hurry, so they scheduled only five stops: the docks (where a journalist reminded him about what happened the last time he raised the subject), the Regional Road bridge (where another journalist asked him whether the next stop would be Birzebbugia, to talk about DNA Mangion’s Freeport flats), and the Transport Authority’s offices (where a journalist asked him whether they would also be going to the airport to talk about the Labour Party’s business delegation to Dubai).

You’re right. You only counted three stops there, not five. That’s because Sant told his press entourage that there wasn’t enough time to make the other two stops – to the MEPA (what a surprise) and to the Ta’ Qali Crafts Village. There’s corruption at the Ta’ Qali Crafts Village? Apparently not – he was only going to drag the press there to talk about asphalting that had never been done. Now that’s a really serious problem. The government should have put the deficit and the Eurozone on hold, and seen to it first.

There was a similar Corruption Tour in the 1996 electoral campaign, but it was much, much busier. They spoke about bus-ticketing machines and barunijiet, paraventi and hbieb tal-hbieb, piling scandal upon scandal. Sant is probably hoping to repeat that success by using the same strategy. In that campaign, people were so focussed on their desire for Schadenfreude, and so impressed by the modern man in his two-sizes-too-large jacket (or is it just that he has unnaturally short arms?) that they never stopped to ask him what he would do once he got into government.

How was he planning to run the country – by shouting abuse from his office window at the Auberge de Castille? To our great horror, we found out that the answer to this question – the one almost nobody asked – was yes. He carried on behaving in government exactly as he had been behaving in Opposition, shouting about hofor and corruption and scaring the bejeezus out of every investor who had half a thought of coming here to set up shop. And all we got was a hofra that grew by the day and soaring unemployment.

Bring it on. We’re waiting.

Chicken Run Sant and his Three Stooges have just two days of campaigning to go. If they don’t use them to tell us what in heaven’s name they plan to do when in government – except wreak chaos, that is – we are never going to find out until it’s too late.

The closer we get to the day, the more ridiculous their stunts and gimmicky campaigning become. And everywhere they go, they look like a funeral procession trailing gloom and doom in their wake. They’re like a bunch of gangster extras from Pulp Fiction – the ones that were left on the shelf just in case the real actors called in sick. Three of them look about as light-hearted as circling vultures, and the other one splits his face into a look-at-me smile every time he sees a camera.

Chicken Run Sant and his winning team in the winning bus

Well I must say, they’re very confident, aren’t they? This week, the kowc tal-bidla has become the kowc tar-rebha. And with all those morose and glowering vultures on board, it isn’t the most inspiring sight.

Sant is turned on by corruption

The only time we ever see him animated is when he’s talking about corruption. Then he gets really excited. His dead-fish eyes light up. His face comes alive. His body actually moves like that of a normal person, instead of the usual lower half of one arm jerking oddly from the elbow, with the trunk of the body and the shoulders rigid as though held fast in a full-body cast. And please don’t get me started on the hands. Each time he holds up his right hand in that palm-upward, thumb and forefinger gesture, the only thing I can think of is how unusually small and neat it is for a man’s. Girly hands on a man give me the heeby-jeebies.

I used to think that Chicken Run Sant had an obsession with corruption. Now I think it’s a fetish. At the merest trigger of a suggestion, he becomes lost in a reverie of kafe jew tnejn, dud fil-gobon, networks tal-hbieb (‘this is the trouble with corruption; they cover up their tracks’). It’s an oft-repeated and well-rehearsed spiel, and it’s now verging on a sick obsession. I can actually see his mind spinning through the plots. It’s the thwarted novelist in him. Chicken Run Sant is out to get Them, but if They confront him, he runs away to the warm safety of Jason and the Super One studio.

Sant goes back to the studio after first checking the premises for signs of Jeffrey

The sight of Chicken Run Sant being turned on by talk of corruption was the (poor) highlight of his Broadcasting Authority ‘press conference’ (for it is anything but) which was televised earlier tonight. This was the one that had to be rescheduled after he fled in his getaway Mazda at the sight of Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando in the recording studio.

The only time we saw him come alive in that dead show was when he found an opening to start banging on about corruption and how They cover Their tracks. Who are These people? Well, we don’t know, do we, because Chicken Run Sant isn’t telling. His latest excuse is that he’s waiting for the Whistleblower Act to protect his sources. Why doesn’t he wait until he becomes prime minister and promote them instead? After all, that’s probably what they had in mind when they passed on their hot tips.

That nice, sensible journalist from Il-Gens asked him how long he’d had his ammunition, but Sant wasn’t telling. ‘It doesn’t matter how long I’ve had it,’ he said. Translated, this means he’s had it for a long time, but doesn’t want to say so because he knows it makes him look like an opportunist out to win an election by any means, rather than somebody who genuinely has the national interest at heart.

The nice journalist pressed home his point (nicely): ‘But do you think it’s the right thing to do, making all these accusations in the last week of the campaign, when the people you are targeting don’t have the right opportunity to counter your claims, and when the people who are voting don’t have the time to weigh up the situation properly?’ Chicken Run Sant wouldn’t budge. Instead he took this as the cue for more excited talk about corruption.

That no-nonsense Amanda from the Nationalist Party press pointed out that he hadn’t called a press conference, published a book in the Sensiela Kotba Socjalisti or reported the matter to the Paraventu Commissioner (my words, not hers) when he was prime minister and his personal assistant – that man who looks like an unemployed waiter, Joe Borg – was found to have been building a ‘farmhouse’ without a permit in a rural area. Sant performed his party trick and blanked her completely, taking her question as yet another cue to thrill to the excitement of corruption under a Nationalist government.

Amanda wasn’t having any of that. She asked him what he planned to do about his shadow minister of finance (and the other one) who had been found not to have declared earnings from flats rented to the Freeport, at a time when both of them were in Sant’s cabinet.

So if Chicken Run Sant becomes prime minister, we’re going to have a minister of justice who was a police inspector in the early 1980s under Lorry Pullicino, and a finance minister who sent his wife to cash his rent-cheques and failed to declare the income. And then Sant has the nerve to scream and shout about the failings of others.

The spiel about the reception class changes yet again

First they said it would mean an extra year in school, and all the kids would leave at 17. Then they said it would apply to all schools – state, church, and independent – because of the national curriculum. Then they justified it by saying it was based on the British system. Then when it was pointed out to them that our system is already the British system because it was set up by the British, and that British children leave compulsory schooling at 16, they changed the story again. Compulsory schooling wouldn’t end at 17, but at 16. But it does so already, we said, and scratched our heads.

So where was that extra year going to be squashed in, then? Perhaps they’ve teamed up with Paul Vincenti and Gift of Life to teach three terms in the womb – nine months is just perfect.

In his BA press conference tonight, Sant tried to clear up the mystery by adding to it. He actually answered one question, and it was about this. A year is not necessarily a year, he said. It could be three months. Or it could be a year. And it could be after kindergarten, or before primary, and you know how some children are born in January and others are born in September (yes, Alfred, we did know that), well that’s what he means and that explains it then.

The nice journalist from Il-Gens, who asked the question, looked as though he had been pinned to the wall by a Scientologist intent on explaining to him how alien beings can spy on his thoughts if he doesn’t wear a tin-foil hat.

And none of us are any the wiser. It looks like this repeater class is going to be a rerun of the tax nightmare of ’96.

A comment posted on this blog, which deserves further attention

“I notice that many people believe that Alfred Sant’s behaviour at the BA press conference was acceptable. Maybe that is why he believes he can behave in such a manner with impunity.

People who think Sant’s behaviour is acceptable are not familiar with the internationally accepted protocols of press conferences. I have attended several and have never seen a situation where any prospective speaker asked for the removal of a member of the audience and called for the police to ensure that it happens, much less a speaker who is a would-be and has-been prime minister.

There have been many occasions when speakers at press conferences faced a challenging audience, knowing their every move and word would be broadcast around the world. That is exactly what they did. They faced their audience and they took their questions. They didn’t split hairs over whether those questioners had a right to be in the room; they didn’t call for the police to remove the people they didn’t like, and they didn’t evoke the letter of the law to back up their presumption that they do not need to respond to questioners they don’t like.

It matters little who mentioned the police first in this row. What matters is that would-be Prime Minister Sant expects the police to help him silence an opponent.

It is sinister that institutions set up to ensure free and fair information fail in their mission because of pressure from a would-be prime minister.” – Corinne Vella

21 Comments Comment

  1. Simon says:

    Good article and makes perfect sense. What are the priorities: sound economy, stability or nhawdu l hemm u ‘l Hawn. From my professional experience, I know how difficult it is to build up a reputation for a country, in order to attract investment.

    Howver, it looks that Saviour Balzan (Malta Today)is quite jolly and excited and has already written the epilogue for Gonzi, to be published next Monday.

    Quote from MT Editorial 4/3/2008: “But if he (Gonzi)is not elected, then I will invite you to read my commentary in next Monday’s election special!”

  2. Matthew Borg says:

    I couldn’t not share this little comment that made me chuckle from; re: Animal Rights…

    David Camilleri said: “Ahna 40,000 sejrin nghidu. NO ANIMAL RIGHTS, VOTE LABOUR!”

    The (natural) response: If Sant can’t even assure human rights, you honestly think he’s going to assure animal rights? I’ll let you and your 40,000 friends voting Labour (oh come on, be realistic, you don’t know 40,000 people and therefore you can’t say they’re all voting Labour) figure that one out for yourselves.

  3. Jonathan Beacom says:

    Hi Daphne,
    I totally agree with you on Dr.Sant’s behavior.. Heaven forbid that he ends up running (ruining) the country !! We all remember what we went through in 96 – 98.


    [Moderator – Jonathan, you are not mistaken. One user posted a scan of the AN flyer that clearly shows John Spiteri Gingell is a candidate. Refer to this comment.]

  4. John Schembri says:

    First we had Alfred Grixti on the Times Blog presenting us his 20 year old face on the Blog , he had to remove it, now I saw Justyne , Helena and all the other MLP women candidates in their late twenties. ……and instead of Dr Sant’s face on the upright box we now have a lovely young brunette in her twenties looking back at us!

    [Moderator – I’m not really sure what this comment is about. John, please clarify.]

  5. Actually, apparently that Gingell guy withdrew his candidature. So Jeffrey was the only one on the panel who was also a candidate.

    Regardless of whether he should have been there or not, Sant should not have been afraid of him. Actually he should have sat down, let JPO say what he wants and then argue about the “scandal” and how it is unethical for JPO to be there in the first place and to have got the Press Card at this sensitive time, making the PN look even worse.

    The fact is that Sant had such an opportunity to make the PN and JPO look even worse, and yet he chickened out and made himself look like the idiot.

    I really liked Corinne’s post too. It is ridiculous for him to ask Jeffery to be removed – even if he shouldn’t have been there in the first place.

    Remember the directive for no journalists to be also candidates is not there so that the speakers don’t have to face tough questions, but so that no one candidate gets more exposure than his colleagues. If the PN were ok with JPO being there and the rest of the candidates were – then, it’s a directive that can be overlooked. S

    Sant seemed to think that the directive was there to protect him.

  6. Cab says:

    Yesterday evening I followed both press meetings on PBS and wondered why the BA in its statement remarked that candiates cannot pose as journalists and at the same time it allowed the AN candiate to sit as a journalist and ask questions to ChickenRun Sant and PM Gonzi!!!

  7. Greta says:


    As always you have hit the nail on the head with you 03/03/08 article.

    To add to it, I bothered to watch MLP Political conference on PBS (you know the one recorded after Jeffrey our balsy blue-eyed dude was not present). And again I found it appalling. Still if you ask me now what I think MLP is proposing – my reply would be – DUUHH or BOQQ! Oh except….tax-free overtime….and a reduction of 50% on the water and electricity bills.

    If I had to be limited in my vision and weigh how I would be personally effected by Labour’s proposals – I still wouldn’t vote MLP, knowing there is a very good chance I will lose my bonus + my husband’s – that’s a personal loss of €1024.92 a year. Then we have the tax-bands which will probably be lowered (i.e. I/we pay more taxes & reduce “the purchasing power tal-poplu”).

    Also, Labour’credibility on the international front is in tatters, so that risks compromising further investment prospects and consequently employment generations takes a downturn too.

    That is it!!!!

    I urge all of you to get hold of yesterday’s Times of Malta and carefully read Austin Gatt’s contribution. He made some valid calculations on the actual gain per caita (average) with regards to the 50% reduction on the surcharge.

    Anyhow, I honestly hope that next Saturday, good sense will prevail and the common good will drive the right party to govern.

    Daph,you go girl – pen and all!!!!!


  8. Charles Portelli says:

    Dear Moderator,

    If memory is not playing tricks on me, a certain Varist Bartolo turned up as a “Journalist” in a similar 1996 BA debate.

    For the record, I have nothing against Mr.Bartolo whatsoever. Yet, at this stage, it would be pertinent to ask some questions:

    Why there wasn’t any objection on Bartolo (1996) or Gingell (2008), while hell broke loose for JPO’s presence as a Medialink representative a couple of days ago???

    Isn’t this a breach in freedom of expression?

    Does this mean that we are -heavens forbid- gradually falling back to the dark 70-80’s years, where intolerance was on a record high? :-S

  9. James De Giorgio says:

    I’m seriously worried Alfred Sant is nevertheless going to win the elections. What do people in this forum think? Daphne, what do you think?

    Brace yourself guys and enjoy these last few days of real democracy, for soon, “call-the-police” Sant (the one with feathers) will start bullying us all.

  10. John Schembri says:

    MLP are presenting themselves as something new and fresh ,while in reality they are old and stale.I’m very afraid of marketing strategy , its all Greek to me.I hope this is a better explanation.
    By the way there are also the local Council Elections and in our locality Labour are fielding a promising candidate known locally as ……. Il-LIMBU.

  11. Matthew says:

    Chris, thanks for clarifying. Watching that whole episode at the PBS studios reminded me of a press conference held by the Russian Navy right after the Kursk disaster. I couldn’t understand what the speaker was saying, but he must have said something that really offended one of the audience members. She was the mother of one of the sailors, and she was accusing the speaker of lying. Two guards walked up to her, stuck a needle in her arm, and she collapsed in her seat. Cowardliness and authoritarianism is a dangerous combination.

  12. Bidu Gdid says:

    Ghaliex qed tghiru meta ghandna bidu gdid gej GHAL KULLHADD!!!

    Araw dan:

  13. No Regrets says:

    Sant has no regrets. This interview is history and that’s for historians.

  14. Sibtijiet flimkien says:

    Min ser jivvota nhar is-Sibt issib l-istruzzjonijiet necessarji hawnhekk

  15. Tmissnix says:

    Ghal aktra informazzjoni fuq korruzzjoni, irrikorri ghand

  16. Charles Cauchi says:

    The stark contrast between Dr. Sant’s doom and gloom laden and unanswered questions press conference and a tired but uplifting and straightforward Dr. Gonzi should convince anyone with a modicum of intelligence who to choose next Saturday.

    The positioning of the two press conferences showed clearly the difference between the Dr. Sant and Dr. Gonzi.

    By the way, is Dr. Sant going to set up an advisory board on planned parenthood to teach prospective mothers on how to plan to have their children at the right time of the year to take advantage of the reception year?

  17. MJ says:

    Alfred Sant’s advisors had a very difficult task to come up with a campaign, and they must be looking forward to seeing it coming to an end.

    I think that there is a very good reason why the MLP campaign has been dominated by conspiracy theories. It’s Sant’s strong point. He’s a good novelist. He’s also very well read, and I’m sure that he came across George Berkeley who (in a nutshell) claimed that in life, there is no reality – just perceptions. In a country where the vast majority of people don’t even read a single book in a whole year, creating perceptions is an easy task.

    Furthermore, the MLP cannot afford to base an electoral campaign on proposals – as experience has taught them that whenever they tried to put proposals forward they made a mess. The devaluation of the Lira, the Reception Class, the 50% deduction from the surcharge and other proposals are a few examples of this. The proposals put forward by the MLP generated more negative comments than positive ones.

    Additionally, Sant is also aware of the fact that he may fall victim of his impromptu proposals – like the VAT removal proposal in 1996. Everyone in his right senses would admit that this was a whole mess. So, it is much easier to keep Sant away from Policies and have him focus on one of his prevalent talents – making up stories.

    He also tried to convince us that a donation that was presented officially in front of the press is an act of corruption. One may argue that it could have been technically incorrect to sponsor a profitable organisation; but to claim it is corruption is ludicrous for want of a better word.

    Ironically, Sant is trying to convince us that he’s whiter than white – when the huge doubts that were cast on his election as MLP leader have never been cleared. In Freudian terms, this is a defence mechanism referred to as ‘projection’. Since the commissioner of police and the ombudsman are a smokescreen, he had appointed three funny-looking creatures to investigate the infamous election. And – wonder of wonders – it was squeaky clean like all the allegations against MLP candidates and/or representatives. If the allegations involve PN candidates, they become undeniable fact. However, if the alleged behaviour was committed by a MLP candidate, Inspector Sherlock Clouseau Sant certifies them as fiction. Anyone who’s not devoid of grey matter can see how sad this behaviour is.

    One must not also forget the Marketing challenge. For Sant’s advisors, it’s a hell of a job to convince the consumers that a product that was tried and proven to be hugely faulty 10 years ago is now a good one. To make matters worse, there have been no improvements on this product and time has left its toll.

    If anything, it just got more rusty!

  18. europarl says:

    They say there are no adverse effects from preaching to the converted. If anything, it gives a psychological boost to the needy.

    Yet my advice is,take it easy. An overkill can backfire so bad you’ll all need psychological help come Sunday.

    Intellectual fascism has a life of its own. It is beyond your control even if it emanates from you.

  19. Adrian Borg says:

    I just got this link by email. Zerop Tolerance!!!

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