The pigs of change

Published: March 5, 2008 at 10:48pm

You really have to watch this video. Turn the volume RIGHT up.

Harry Vassallo and the prison sentence

There is something not quite right about this story, so I am not going into detail until we do have the details.

Yet these are my immediate observations. The government had nothing to do with it, because with the separation of powers, the government can’t influence the decisions or workings of the courts. It was not the government that converted the fine to a prison sentence. It was the courts.

So why did the police turn up to arrest him today when the fine was converted to a prison sentence as far back as October? These are precisely the details we need. In my understanding of these situations, when the police turn up to take you to prison, they give you just enough time to pack your bag. They do not allow you to call a press conference, go home to your wife and kids and decide what comes next.

We need a statement from the Commissioner of Police, and we need to see those court papers.

It appears that this process has been on-going for years, and that the case, or so we were told at the press conference, was decided months ago. Why, then, did Harry Vassallo say nothing about it? He should have been the first to let his supporters know, instead of letting them find out in this manner. Instead, he kept it quiet and even more quietly made his plea for a presidential pardon. He did so even as AD and its activists were raising hell about the plea for a presidential pardon put in by a clerk at the Transport Authority, who had taken a bribe.

I’m sorry to have to point it out at this delicate juncture, but this is along the same lines as Vassallo campaigning for the rights of landlords versus protected tenants when he is a protected tenant himself and refuses to hand the property back to the owners. When he realised that my husband knew about it, as the lawyer for the landlord, he rang him, shouted insults and threatened him with all manner of verbal abuse not to go public with it. My husband is not the kind of man who likes to go public with things, and it had never occurred to him. But Vassallo, of course, was concerned about me.

My first reaction when I read the story was oh God, oh no, I can’t believe this is happening. His poor wife, I said; his poor kids. I even had lots of sympathy for him. We all make messes in our lives; it’s how we handle them that counts. But then I said, for heaven’s sake – if the shopkeeper down the road were to find himself in the same situation, what would we say about it? We would say that he should have put his affairs in order and not let things reach that messy stage. The VAT department is actually not that draconian. Its aim is to collect revenue, not to put people in prison. It would rather have the money than somebody in jail. People are regularly fined for not filling in VAT returns. They somehow get the money together and pay, or they cope with the consequences as best they can.

The thing about Harry Vassallo is that he thinks of himself as a common man with uncommon advantages. Where it suits him, he is the common man – hanging onto the protected tenancy of a place that lies empty, failing to keep his affairs in order, applying for a presidential pardon. And then where it suits him, he exercises his uncommon advantages – expecting to neither pay a fine nor serve a prison sentence, calling a press conference to protest against something that very many others have endured but blamed only their own muddling inefficiency for.

Vassallo kept the whole process secret for all these years – it does take years – so then why didn’t he keep this last stage secret too? Why didn’t he go to his extended family for help, pay the fine and move on, perhaps trying to find ways to pay back his dues? Please don’t tell me that his siblings and in-laws would rather see him go to prison than help him pay the fine.

He had another choice: to be open about it from the beginning. But this hybrid decision, first keeping things hushed and then calling in the press to try to stay the course of justice and score some sympathy votes in the process, worries me. What it tells me is that if Harry Vassallo had got the presidential pardon he asked for, none of us would have known about it. The process was kept quiet right up to that stage, and so the presidential pardon would have been kept quiet too.

This doesn’t ring right. Vassallo has made a political career out of criticising similar failings in other politicians, of telling us that he and his people are the only ones who are squeaky clean, of insisting that AD in a coalition government will police the politicians. Ah, I asked at one point: but then who will police AD?

Harry Vassallo has been challenging the prime minister for refusing to enter into coalition with him. After this, the prime minister must be thinking that it’s a damned good thing he warded off those particular advances. Imagine if, at this late stage in the electoral game, the PN and AD were fighting the election as coalition partners, and this news broke. Vassallo can play the small martyred victim now, but as the coalition partner of a large party machine, he wouldn’t have been able to do that all. He would have embarrassed the Nationalist Party hugely, and might even have cost them the election.

Yes, of course I feel for Harry Vassallo in that position – very much, too. But most of all, I feel for the wife and children whom he has dragged into this appalling mess, standing under the television cameras and blaming the government for persecuting him, as though it was the government who was responsible for filling in his VAT returns.

His persecution mania is now wholly out of control. Some weeks ago, he accused Tonio Fenech of using his (Harry’s) son to score a political point, for which Fenech later apologised. Now here Vassallo is, using his young children to gain sympathy votes at a press conference, portraying himself as the victim of King John’s tax collector. If he doesn’t want his children used, then he should start by not using them himself.

Children of that age should be protected at all times from their parents’ problems. No children so young should be made to stand in front of the cameras and made to worry about things they don’t fully understand, like their father going to prison. I think it is despicable to do this to them. When our front door was set on fire by criminals in the middle of the night 13 years ago, my husband and I worked right through to dawn to clear up the mess, so that when the children woke up, they wouldn’t notice that anything had happened. And then, of course, they went to school and some tactless teacher asked the eldest about it, and he said no, everything was normal at home. I can just imagine how worried those kids are. And it’s not the government’s fault, or the fault of any evil oppressors. It’s their own father who is letting them down.

The latest update as I write this is that the police are investigating because there seems to be a discrepancy between what Vassallo said and what in fact happened.

But this still leaves everyone with a problem – because of course, Harry being Harry, he has made his personal problem a national quandary. If Vassallo goes to prison, we will all be very upset. And if he is given special treatment that is not available to anyone else, purely because he is the leader of a political party, then we shall be upset too – not least because he is the leader of a party that campaigns against just such abuse of the system by politicians.

This isn’t China

There’s a lot of confusion about press cards, so I’m going to weigh in with my two cents’ worth. When I first started working, we didn’t need press cards to go to press conferences. We just turned up. That’s the way it should be. In all these years, I have never had a press card – yet I think you will agree that I am somebody who works for a newspaper.

There were a few times when I needed a press card, but that was only for international conferences and similar events held in Malta. The press card served the purpose of a security pass. It wasn’t proof that I worked for a newspaper. It was proof that I had a reason to enter the premises and that I wasn’t about to let loose with a machine-gun.

Because these events were usually organised by or in association with the government, the security/press pass was issued by the government’s Department of Information. Because the media scene in Malta was still highly undeveloped (a few newspapers and state television and radio), Malta was not accustomed to a system of accreditation by the media organisation itself. This is the system used elsewhere: the press card is issued by the journalist’s employer, and serves simply as proof that the person in question represents that media organisation. It is not proof that he is a journalist.

In the free world, press cards are not issued by the state. I am amazed to find myself having to explain why, when the reasons should be obvious. Any organisation that has the power to issue a press card also has the power to refuse to issue it, and the power to withdraw it. No government should have such power over the very individuals who are there to scrutinise it. Hasn’t this occurred to anyone?

Strange ideas about journalism

I have noticed over the years that there are some very strange ideas about journalism here in Malta. It is assumed by the Labour Party, for example, that I am paid by the Nationalist Party to write my newspaper column – because a newspaper column written as it should be was completely outside the Maltese experience before I started doing it. Yet it was not outside, for example, the British experience and we are not without London newspapers here. So I can only conclude that the people who think like this don’t read anything except the backs of their cigarette packets.

When it was pointed out to them that writing a newspaper column is an actual real job, there was much fluttering among the pigeons, and the Labour elves came up with an interesting new insult: ‘You are a paid columnist’. One wishes to weep, but enough of that is being done in public, so forbearance is called for.

Several years ago, Georg Sapiano, who was then working for television and radio, suggested in conversation that he believed journalists should have warrants like the other professions. (I wouldn’t imagine he still holds the same view as this was a long time ago.) A very heated argument ensued. Journalism is not like accountancy, law, architecture or medicine, I told him. It cannot be put into the same bundle. The other professions require state warrants only for the protection of the citizen, to ensure that clients or patients are not cheated or hurt by a false or fraudulent practitioner.

The role of a journalist is completely different, and a journalist should never be put in a situation where he or she can only write or broadcast with permission from the state (a warrant). This was so obvious that even while I was arguing about it, I felt it was surreal. I argued so forcefully about this that I almost blew Georg’s ears off. Where in the free world do journalists have state warrants?

Now, to my great and abiding horror, I discover after a long absence from the press conference scene that the DOI press card is serving a similar purpose. People are not allowed into press conferences given by pompous officials unless they have one – even if they work for the press. It is beyond ridiculous.

I have had the most terrible battles about this, but to my great disappointment, I find that instead of insisting that the DOI press card system, which crept up on us unawares, is done away with, the Institute of Journalists and the Committee of Journalists – two rival organisations that share a similar problem of being ridden with the employees of political parties – are helping to shore it up.

And so the Institute of Journalists, instead of protesting against the fact that a DOI press card is required for entry to Broadcasting Authority political press conferences, has protested that one such card was given to Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando ‘when it shouldn’t have been’. Yes, I agree that Jeffrey shouldn’t have been given a press card, but not for the reasons that the Institute of Journalists is making a fuss about. He didn’t need one because he is a member of parliament, and if a member of parliament – or anyone else for that matter – wishes to attend a press conference being given by the leader of the opposition, he should be free to do so. I can already see the question coming: how can we let everyone in?

But of course we can, and of course we should. We’ve all seen the televised press conferences on international news channels. The rooms are packed, and you can rest assured that nobody is carrying a press card issued by the government. At most – if the person speaking is a global leader – they might have been issued with a security pass after showing proof of accreditation and identity. Are we now saying that when the leader of the opposition or the prime minister gives a press conference, we have to check journalists for bombs and machine-guns?

I think that the only reason the more unthinking journalists back up this system is because they imagine it gives them status. It is pointless my trying to explain that journalistic status comes only from the quality of your work, and not from your press card. The fact that I haven’t had a press card for around 15 years does not put me on a lower rung, work wise, than the Super One cameraman who has.

There is a certain amount of insecurity among those who work for the media in Malta. There are many strange beliefs – for example, that you can’t hold a political opinion, or express it, if you are a journalist. The result is reams of newspaper columns and articles in which the writers attack everyone and praise no one so as to seem ‘independent’. In their book, independence, impartiality and sheer indifference are all confused.

DOI press cards

But back to the DOI press cards. After the last general election, I went to the then prime minister’s press conference for no greater reason than to catch the mood. We were on track to joining the EU and it was an exciting moment. I wasn’t counting on the woman at the reception desk. ‘Ma tistax tidhol minghajr press card.’

She asked for my name. There wasn’t even the merest flicker of recognition, which led me to conclude that she hadn’t read a single newspaper at any time in the previous 15 years – or listened to Super One. OK, I said – call the soldiers near the door. They’ll recognise me. And of course, they did. Soldiers tend to be good at this kind of thing.

Still that wasn’t enough, so I grabbed a copy of the previous Sunday’s edition that was conveniently lying around, flipped to my column and held it up to my face. There, you see? Still no joy – she had been given orders and by God, she was going to follow them to the letter. Then I brought out my identity card and matched the name to the name above the newspaper column. Look, it’s really me. No response – and I couldn’t get any aides because they were all buzzing around upstairs with their phones off.

So I said, right, I’m going up anyway, and I crossed the courtyard, with the receptionist screaming at the soldiers to arrest me and the soldiers quite obviously unwilling to do so because they could see what a farce the whole thing was. Halfway up the stairs I met a junior aide, covered in embarrassment. The dumb receptionist had rung him in a panic to say that a woman without a press card called Daphne Caruana Galizia was making her way upstairs and the soldiers were refusing to cooperate in stopping her.

The junior aide wanted to know why I didn’t have a press card. I explained that I refuse to hold a press card issued by the state, on principle, and it would be pretty pointless anyway, given that a press card is there to prove that you work for the press and roughly the entire country already knows that.

I am dismayed to see that the system hasn’t changed, that it has in fact become worse, and that journalists themselves are doing their best to encourage and maintain it, thinking that it is to their benefit when it is actually to their serious detriment.

42 Comments Comment

  1. Alex D says:

    I just have one question.

    a) how many people defaulted on VAT payment; b) how many actually went to jail for it?

    My guess is a) hundreds or so; b) none or very few.

    It makes me wonder….

  2. Like everybody else I am waiting for the full facts of the case to come out before commenting. Until now we have Harry’s word that the arrest warrant was issued in October 2007 only to be delivered today (on the eve of an election).

    Incidentally the Commissioner has ordered an investigation not because there is a discrepancy between what Harry said and “what in fact happened” but rather because “Dr Vassallo’s allegations were “totally different” to what was being reported by the sergeant”.

    Choice of words is important at this stage. There is not a discrepancy between VASSALLO and the FACTS but between VASSALLO and what a SERGEANT is saying. If the facts were known there would be no need of an investigation.

    As it is important to point out that this imprisonment for VAT law is a bit anomalous (just like the law that ends up sending pregnant 15 year olds to prison) and is so problematic that of the 141 Presidential pardons granted over the since 2004 a good 132 of them were pardons or reductions in prison sentences for VAT related offences. Says much about the law and about the criminal nature of it all doesn’t it?

    As I said I’m still waiting for fresh info but until now all I can wonder is if PN and AD had been running as coalition partners your scenario might probably never have happened because we would have no arrest warrant to talk about… or maybe not… who knows.

    Happy Birthday Moderator, I wish you four score more at least!

  3. amrio says:

    Something really is not right about this story.

    According to Maltastar ‘Following the press conference, the PN journalist asked a stunned Dr Vassallo for his comment regarding the court’s decision to sentence him two years in jail’ Seeing that the court judgement was handed over in September 2007, is this a case of this NET journalist doing his homework on Court cases and stumbling upon a juicy bit of info?

    Also, it is not clear how kumbinazzjoni the police went to Harry the same day this issue was brought up by this journalist. Seeing that Lawrence Gonzi mentioned political leaders not paying their VAT dues yesterday, could it be that some police guy suddenly remembered about this warrant lying in his bottom drawer and hastily paid Harry a visit?

    Does someone has an answer to these questions?

    [Moderator – are you suggesting that the separation between the judiciary and the executive has been breached?]

  4. J.Attard says:

    You have a point regarding the DOI press card. However bear in mind that not every journalist has the same exposure that you have. While you could prove your identity with a previous Sunday’s newspaper, other journalists (especially new ones) can’t.

  5. John Schembri says:

    I can understand Daphne’s stand , but if I were her I would keep a press card ,handy as a last resort.
    Lately I gave Daphne this advice on the papers.” I hope that Daphne gets hold of a press card before the next elections (she did not have one when Labour was in power) , because without one she would again not be allowed to attend the “by default”Labour Prime Minister’s “press conferences”TMIOS 280108.
    If Jeffery had no press card, we would have missed the”running chicken farce.In one of my comments on the times 010308 I commented
    “Dear Mr Joe Attard this is 2008 not 1996 , freedom of speech is very important for a real Democracy.
    Jeffrey did not disrupt the PRess conference. He spoke impromptu after the conference , and gave real answers in real time to Dr Sant’s inuendos.
    When Dr Sant saw Jeffrey he knew he was not ‘free’ as usual , to make “unfounded allegations” .
    Well done Jeff , you nipped him in the bud!. I don’t mind if other politicians will do the same to their opposing parties, in a civil way , like Jeffrey did.
    Next MLP Press Conference would likely be in a controlled area.”Press card please” .

    Prophetic ?

    Daphne keep ALL your tools handy.

  6. Antonino says:

    Much has been said about JPO’s journalistic career and why he was allowed in when he is a candidate.

    I do not understand why the same does not apply to JOHN SPITERI GINGELL, a candidate in the general elections for Azzjoni Nazzjonali, and who has been appearing in virtually all BA press conferences since the beginning of the electoral campaigns, posing as a journalist for!

    [Moderator – before anyone jumps in to state otherwise, candidatures cannot be withdrawn once the ballot sheet is printed. John Spiteri is and remains a candidate.]

  7. [Moderator – are you suggesting that the separation between the judiciary and the executive has been breached?]

    Legal correction here Mod. (Regarding the “suggestion” by “amrio”. I would say he is asking a question in a very MLPN journalist style – it sows doubt and almost answers itself… we reap what we sow there.)

    In any case regarding the judicial vs executive, none of “amrios” questions imply anything wrong with the judiciary. If anything “amrio” questioned the workings of the EXECUTIVE BRANCH of which the police form part and for which the Nationalist Party in Government are currently responsible.

    In no way am I saying what the answer to amrio’s question is but I think it is fair to make it clear that at no point was the integrity of the Judicial Branch of the State was being questioned in this instance.

    As for the question… pertinent..but I would suggest that people do not rush to conclusions – we can wait till after the election to have light shed on the matter I guess.

    [Moderator – are you suggesting that the surgent received an order from Herbert Ganado Street to notify Harry of the warrant of arrest?]

  8. Anthony Farrugia says:

    All, the Nationalist party needed was this cherry on the cake re: Harry Vassallo’s allegations. Election handed over to Sant… Dr. Sant you don’t deserve it.

    [Moderator – the kitchen incident at PBS studios seems to have inspired a whole host of gastronomical metaphor.]

  9. J.Attard says:

    To John Schembri;

    I am not agreeing or disagreeing with the issue of press card. As a matter of fact, I pointed out that Daphne has a point.

    I just stressed out the thought that while Daphne could prove that she is a journalist because she had a previous Sunday’s newspaper, new ones cant.

  10. Vanni says:

    [Moderator – the kitchen incident at PBS studios seems to have inspired a whole host of gastronomical metaphor.]

    Ah well we have good taste mod :p

    Mind you we can swap for DNA if you wish for ‘a change’. :D :D

  11. m farrugia says:

    Let’s not let anyone distract us during the last days of such a succesful and convincing PN campaign.

    Dr Gonzi is surely investigating the matter since it was very immature of the police to take action on the eve of the election. Such irresponsible action by the police can only do harm to the PN & no one else. The Police official responsible should surely answer why he only took action on the eve of an election.
    Yesterday One TV made quite a fuss about this arrest warrant, they even interviewed Dr Vassallo. Lately One TV have been giving quite a good coverage to AD.

    Who knows maybe it’s an MLP AD plot instead of a PN plot , after all.

    Anyway, the issue next Saturday will still be who is the party best fit to run a country, based on its past performance & on its electoral proposals. The PN has surely proved time & time again they are ready to face challenges & help the country move forward by producing extraordinary Prime Ministers,being positive, stimulating the creation of jobs, ensuring peace of mind and stability, investing heavily in education, health and tourism. Dr Gonzi has been giving excellent press conferences each day, spelling out clearly the way forward. Yesterday’s business breakfast to the financial services was one of the best.

    The MLP has had some of the worst leaders and is only good at criticising. Hearing One News you still do not believe we are on the eve of an election. Not even one item refers to what will Dr Sant do to continue on the good work of Dr Gonzi’s administration, if elected next Monday.

    No other issue should distract the electorate.

  12. Victor Laiviera says:

    Mr/Ms Moderator, are you the only person in Malta who has not yet realised that, under this administration, the separation between the legislative, executive, judiciary and political branches has all but disappeared?

    Wake up and smell the coffee.

    [Mr Moderator – Victor, you are suggesting that the state has mingled its powers, when Alfred Sant twice lifted the arm of the very person who would like to see such a system be set up.]

  13. James De Giorgio says:

    I so agree with Anthony Farrugia. The Nationalists have certainly lost the elections now. Sant must be wringing his hands, this time in GLEE. Who said MLPN? Its MLPAD, and they definitely don’t deserve it.

  14. Graziella says:

    Daphne – I cannot but agree with you more about the Harry Vassallo issue. The facts need to come out today and the issue clarified. There are too many rumours going around that this is some doing of government. We all know that it is not Government who is responsible for filling in VAT returns. The truth is that this process has been on-going for years, and that the case was decided months ago. The first mystery is why now? The second is how come Harry Vassallo said nothing about it. If this happened to you or me we would have been jailed months ago. I just hope that all goes well for him and his family and that the issue is clarified today so that no political mileage is taken from this situation by any of the Parties running for elections.

  15. carlos bonavia says:

    As the “owner” of an illegal boathouse, I have,
    throughout these last few years been subjected to
    all manners of verbal abuse and even been threatened with arrest by Dr. Harry Vassallo – no
    consideration whatsoever came from the good Doctor
    as to what my children’s feelings went. through.
    Now, I still thought of the good Doctor as an
    honest and caring individual, so much so, that I
    even voted for his party at the European elections
    recognizing the fact that I should rise above
    personal materialism.

    Now I get to know that the slimy little beggar
    has been at the wrong end of the VAT dept.
    attentions and, to booth, has also been occupying cheap protected – rent premises.
    Doctor Harry Vassallo please get out of my
    face – run to your pals over at mile end and
    never show your face again. What I’m sorry
    for is Your family

  16. S says:

    Are the Nationalists so stupid to be behind Harry’s arrest two days before the people go out and vote? This is political suicide especially when the Nationalists are trying to gain voters from AD. I always look at the consequences of actions – the effect of Harry’s arrest warrant a few days before election day has produced more hatred towards the Nationalists – again I reiterate are they so stupid? I think not.

  17. [Moderator – are you suggesting that the surgent received an order from Herbert Ganado Street to notify Harry of the warrant of arrest?]

    Am I? Not that I know of. Read carefully Moderator… and it’s SERGEANT in English (you seem to be quite into correcting others so I thought you might like to know). I clarified a comment made earlier after you mistakenly (or not) tried to impute an assumption to “amrios” comment – which assumption was not even being implied. I told you – if anything, the assumption is not that the integrity of the judiciary is being questioned but that of the EXECUTIVE. It all relates to the assumption amrio, and other persons across Malta are right now making – correct or false.

    It is not my assumption. I think you read the end of my comment. Maybe you’d like me to make it? What does it matter, it’s an assumption – a theory presented by the facts. Would it make it truer or falser? No. It will not. Just like assuming that Harry Vassallo is a criminal who should have politicised an issue much earlier to save himself without reading the background about a law that has been criticised by the majority of lawyers as being ridiculously heavy handed – without even going into the matter of whether Harry was actually right in justifying his not being liable in the first place.

    There are facts and there are assumptions. I just clarified a glaring mistake in an assumption you tried to make. the judiciary has nothing to do with it. The Executive would have if the assumptions turn out to be right.

    Besides… you know what we a say about assumptions right? So I better stop before I start to bray.

    [Moderator – I must be reading too much Sandro. No assumptions Jacques, I’m just trying to elicit a clearer response – there’s a lot of hot air, and no one’s really said anything.]

  18. Kyx says:

    I’m not going to take sides on this issue as there is no proof out there as such. It could be quiet disgusting if either of the main parties has meddled in this situation. We would really have reached rock bottom.

    However, having said this I have one important question. The arrest warrant was issued in October. Did someone already have the foresight of what would happen in March? Who stood to benefit from the concealment of the change in the warrant in October? I have a strong belief that whoever tried to coneale this in October stood to use this strategy later on. Let us not forget that the PM called an election 4 weeks ago, not in October. So there is something very very fishy

  19. matthew says:

    To say that there is something fishy about it is the understatement of the century.

    Of course, we don`t know all the facts of the case and it is foolish to comment.

    So let`s stick to what we do know.

    That the leader of the troublesome little green party has been informed that he has been sentenced to go to prison for a decade old tax offence by a ruling party apparatchik, on the very eve of the general elections.

  20. matthew says:

    Not exactly “Brand Malta”`s finest moment if you toy with the wording a little, is it?

    [Moderator – indeed, we don’t want tourists to think that politicians don’t receive legal immunity.]

  21. Daphne Caruana Galizia says:

    Kyx – the only person who concealed anything in this business was Harry Vassallo. He concealed his troubles with the VAT department, he concealed his troubles with the law, he concealed the law suits and the court judgements, he concealed the fact that he had been fined Lm6000, and most important of all, he concealed the fact that he had put in a plea for a presidential pardon, just like those he had criticised so harshly for doing the same.

    And now he comes out with it all, on the eve of an election? He doesn’t have to go to prison. All he has to do is pay his fine – just like you or I would have to do in the same situation. Political leaders shouldn’t be given special treatment – isn’t that what he always says?

  22. Kyx says:

    A million times true Daphne. As you say no one is above the law.

    But I still don’t understand the beginnings of this warrant in October.

    It seems that the reason for keeping this under covers was because close friends are invovled – personal issues. I wouldn’t expect an MP who has some legal battles make them public. Well Vassallo has his reasons but we still don’t know the truth. And this lack of truth is putting everyone in bad light and people are stating things which I believe in the end only a 1/4 of it would be true. We have the right to see whether there was any manipulation on the part of the executive where the Police are conerned or whether it was the Police that acted negligently. Tomorrow is reflection day – can the enquiry still be published, even though it concerns a political candidate?

  23. Adrian Borg says:

    Whoever contrived this is very clever. It has harmed th PN no doubt. I checked three betting sites (Expekt, Betfair and Unibet), their odds are all favouring an MLP victory when yesterday it was mainly evens.

  24. matthew says:

    [Moderator – indeed, we don’t want tourists to think that politicians don’t receive legal immunity.]

    Oh come on mod. The legal part of this issue is the mosquito in the sink. The political part is the elephant in the living room.

  25. Thea says:

    So do I understand this correctly: Harry Vassallo, who has been crusading in favour of landlords against tenants, is himself sitting on an empty property leased to him for peanuts by some unfortunate landlord?
    T Greve

  26. Adrian Borg says:

    Just received the following e-mail:

    Fid-dibattitu li gie rrekordjat dalghodu bejn Gonzi u Sant u li se jixxandar il-lejla fit-8.30pm fuq il-PBS, Gonzi ghamel il-hin kollu jiddefendi u baqa ssumat hekk kif Alfred Sant hariglu l-kuntratt tal-progett tad-diskoteka fil-Mistra ffirmat minn Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando stess fis-17 ta’ Jannar ta’ dis-sena.
    Il-lejla 8.30p.m. fuq TVM.
    John Borg”

  27. Vanni says:

    @ Adrian Borg

    I also received an email, informing me that I won a million Euro.

    Like similar trash, it goes straight to my spam folder.

    You need to update your spam filters :)

  28. Victor Laiviera says:

    Adrian, if this is true, it would be the icing on the cake.

    However, it is not really necessary. The case has been proved beyond any reasonable doubt.

  29. Randolph Bugeja says:

    Looks to me like the Alfred Sant spin machine is working to deflect the people’s attention off the fact that Gonzi trashed Sant.

  30. Daphne Caruana Galizia says:

    Yes, Thea – you understood correctly. Harry Vassallo is campaigning for landlords while being a protected tenant and refusing to hand the eyes back to the landlord even though he leaves the place empty.

  31. Mario Debono says:

    Guys, I also got this email. Its the MLP hiding behind a google account. La solita storia. They sling mud but they do not have the courage or the wherewithal to show their hand. If MLP gets elected, we let the devil in our midst. He has the same look and the same fixated stare as some one who met his end in a bunker in 1945. Its Goebels all over again.

    I did a trace on the email and its here

    From: John Borg
    Subject: Gonzi ssumat.
    Reply-To: [email protected]
    X-YMLPcode: maltalabourparty+28+13426
    MIME-Version: 1.0
    Content-Type: multipart/alternative;

    [Moderator – YMLP: maltalabourparty means that the email was sent from an account at Your Mailing List Provider registered in the name of ‘maltalabourparty’.]

  32. Mario Debono says:

    And for all intents and purposes, Gonzi did get a shaky start but won the debate hands down.

  33. Daphne Caruana Galizia says:

    Kyx (and everyone else who is interested in the Harry Vassallo case) – is publishing regular updates in real time up to midnight today. That’s the most efficient way to keep abreast of the situation as things stand.

  34. Mario says:

    i received this email too re Gonzi ssummat…any comments Daphne?

  35. Victor Laiviera says:

    I am no fan of AD, but you are being hardly fair on Harry Vassallo;

    Let’s be logical:

    1) He rents “protected” premises;

    2) He and his party have been agitating for years for the “protection” to end.

    3) That proves he is ready to sacrifice his personal interests for his principles.

  36. Vanni says:

    @ MR. Laiviera

    I applaud you for taking up the cudgels in defense of HV.

    Wish you would have done likewise with JPO, instead of protecting AS.

    Back to HV. If he was really enjoying protected rent, and so far I have not come accross anything to the contrary, than he should never even have considered committing his party against it. It is one of the basic tenets of politics, that one should cover his bases (I have a feeling that the mod would delete the appropriate word – spoilsport :)) and not leave himself exposed in such a manner.

  37. PR says:

    I too received the ‘Gonzi ssumat’ email. That the Labour Party feels the urge to influence viewers prior to the debate is acceptable, but why does it have to do so in such an underhand manner? Can’t it have the balls to send out an email saying, ‘hey I am the Labour Party and I think so and so about Gonzi’s performance.’ This email not only exposed Labours irresistible urge to deceive us all but also its naivety in trying to cover up its own last minute deceptive tactic – can anyone think of a more suspicious name in Malta to ‘Joe Borg’?

    On another matter. I have desperately tried to extract one word of policy in what Alfred Sant has been saying in the past 7 days. I came up with this pearl of wisdom on how to fill up our hotels. Just in case some readers missed out on Alfred Sant’s words : “The Maltese elderly could also be encouraged to spend time in hotels during winter through the introduction of a joint scheme between the government and the private sector.” Any comments from the MHRA?

  38. Victor Laiviera says:

    I’m sorry, Vanni, but you are not being logical.

    If Vassalo lives in “protected” accommodation and he had pushed a policy of perpetuating that system, THEN you could have accused him of adapting party policy to suit his personal interests.

    But they are fighting openly to end the system from which he is benefiting – and that can only increase his credibility.

    [Moderator – Victor, you are beyond reason.]

  39. Vanni says:

    Ever heard of leading by example, Mr. Laiviera?

    Or in other words, what was he waiting for to give up the lease title? The law to pass? Why did he not make the grand gesture, accompanied by the press clicking away recording the deed to posterity, and present the keys to the owner WHEN he formulated the policy?

    People in politics have not just to be squeaky clean, but have to look as pure as the driven snow. If not, they stand the risk of being compared to Lorry Sant and the rest of the merry men. And I am sure that HV is not of that ilk. But he is not being consistent.

  40. Simon says:

    Re Gonzi ssumat email – kindly note that said email is considered as unsolicited email and hence illegal.

  41. Amanda Mallia says:

    Laiviera – I believe that the “protected” property in question is not a residence, but an office which has not been used for several years.

    Furthermore, some things, though legally right, are morally wrong …

  42. Corinne Vella says:

    Victor Laiviera:
    “I’m sorry, Vanni, but you are not being logical.”

    You’re a fine one to talk. Your attempts at logic are not particularly impressive.

    No one is accusing Harry Vassallo of adapting party policy to suit his interests.

    What people are saying here is that Dr Vassallo’s protected tenancy is in conflict with his own party’s stated policy. The law allows him to retain that tenancy. It does not oblige him to do so.

    And now I am sure you will rise to the challenge of beating your previous attempts at thwarted “logic” with another inane comment.

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