Let’s put Chicken Run Sant’s behaviour into perspective
My sister Corinne Vella (the 42-year-old who Maltastar.com described as a ‘young student’ whom I had brought along to help me rabble-rouse at the university debate) posted this comment further along. It’s addressed to Victor Laiviera, a personal friend of Alfred Sant who has taken it upon himself to defend him all over the Internet. I don’t want you to miss it, so I’m posting it here.
Corinne is too self-effacing to spell it out herself, but her perspective on the matter is probably one of the most relevant that anyone living here in Malta can give. For the last few years she has worked in the press centre of every single major World Economic Forum Meeting in various parts of the globe, including the January meeting for world leaders in Davos. The press conferences which she helps organize, and for which she is present, are not the sterile and meaningless ‘press conferences’ organized by the Broadcasting Authority, featuring Alfred Sant and a selection of journalists bearing state-approved cards from the government’s Department of Information, but massive events crowded with the world’s top media – CNN, BBC, The New York Times, the London broadsheets, and hundreds of others – and the person being grilled under the spotlight of several television cameras is a world political or business leader. And because Alfred Sant and his friend Frans Sammut, who wrote a hagiography about him in which photocopies of his Harvard certificates were included as colour plates, value these such things far more than experience and ability, I should point out to them that she also holds a postgraduate degree in communications from the London School of Economics.
On this matter, as on others, her opinion is worth a whole lot more than Victor Laiviera’s, friend of Sant.
In my last two posts I mentioned my experience of attending several international press conferences. I did so because it underpins what I have to say on this matter, not to score points over Victor Laiviera, as he seems to think.
I stand by what I said. It is NOT acceptable under any circumstance for a speaker at a press conference to ask for a person to be evicted from the room. The only time this is acceptable is when that person poses a security risk. A threat to life and limb is a security risk. A challenge to accusations of corruption is not. There are no two ways about this. I did not mention this exception earlier as I took it to be self-evident. Given Mr Laiviera’s obstinacy, it appears I was wrong.
Victor Laiviera, as others do, keeps arguing about Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando when the spotlight is shining the other way. If Alfred Sant gets his way, Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando will be out of the political scene and Alfred Sant will be Prime Minister. That is why Sant’s behaviour is the central issue in this dispute. To Sant’s fans, his behaviour is heroic. To others it is sinister. Perhaps even Sant’s fans know this: their only defence of Sant in this matter is to say that his political opponent was in the wrong.
It was Sant’s behaviour, and not Pullicino Orlando’s presence, that disrupted the press conference. Sant the would-be Prime Minister believes it is his prerogative to decide who can say what and when. That is a dangerous belief that Sant’s fans would have us all sanction.
It is, was, and should remain the moderator’s prerogative and responsibility—and not the speaker’s—to manage a press conference. Alfred Sant knows this, which is why he normally moderates his own press conferences, an arrangement that enables him to ignore questioners he does not like.
In the many international press conferences I have attended, there have been several occasions when members of the audience included people who are not journalists.
Many times the open hostility between speakers and people in the audience was known and visible beforehand.
On several occasions, speakers faced questions that caused them great discomfort and embarrassment during press conferences that were being broadcast live on global TV networks.
There have been numerous occasions when a journalist’s existence—not mere presence in the press conference room—was considered by a speaker to be a personal affront and abomination.
I could extend that list, but that will do for now.
NEVER in any of the situations I mention did any speaker refuse to take to the podium unless a member of the audience was first evicted, particularly not under police escort. And if any such request had been made, the press conference host, not just the moderator, would have refused to comply.
You see, when the world’s media are watching, a sensible speaker faces with good grace any challenging question, however hostile, rather than refusing to take any questions at all.
And here, in tiny Malta, with only the local media watching, would-be and has-been Prime Minister Sant could not face up to a political opponent and so he asked for him to be removed under police escort.
Evidently Sant thinks that it is normal and acceptable to silence opponents. Otherwise, camera savvy as he is, he would not have called for the person’s removal under police escort while the local TV cameras filmed his every gesture and word.
– Corinne Vella
These are not from my Little Red Book
The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men – Plato
The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing – Edmund Burke
If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, it expects what never was and never will be – Thomas Jefferson