What was it we were talking about the other day?
Am I the only one who thinks there’s something odd in the social policy minister’s statement? Let’s say I were the social policy minister and learned through the newspapers that my fictitious brother had been picked up by the police in a drug-trafficking case. Would I speak to the prime minister to find out whether “the case involves me in any way”, or would I know that already? The way I see it, you can’t get embroiled in drug-trafficking, even by your own brother, in your sleep and without your knowledge.
That’s why I found his statement strange. It’s not the prime minister who should be reassuring the minister that he isn’t involved in his brother’s alleged dealings, but Dalli who should be reassuring the prime minister that he’s clean and considers his brother to be a pariah. I would have said this:
The case involves my brother but it does not involve me. I have nothing to do with it whatsoever, and dissociate myself most vehemently from my brother’s alleged conduct. I have spoken to the prime minister to reassure him of this.
Whatever the situation, it’s not looking good. I hope John Dalli isn’t going to bury his head in the sand about this one. He can scream and wail but the fact remains that this is one hell of a mess that’s going to taint the government of which he forms part even when it is at one of its weakest points. No, we’re not our brothers’ keepers, but when our brothers are alleged drug-dealers and people with previous convictions (the man is noted down as a relapser) and we’re cabinet ministers, then we’ve got to disown those black-sheep brothers or suffer the consequences of negative public perception. It’s a tough choice, but it’s got to be done. I have this nagging feeling that Dalli is going to turn out to be this government’s Achilles heel. The Labour Party can go to town on this one, and who can blame it?
Drug-dealing depends on protection and networks, and even if the minister never sees his brother, never speaks to him, or has anything whatsoever to do with him, people are going to be left with the perception that this man has been getting away with rather too much for too long and that it was just ‘cikka’ he happened to be busted along with some other people in such a way that prosecution couldn’t be avoided, especially not when half of Malta was gossiping about it.
I’m afraid the minister is just not credible when he says that he learned about his brother’s involvement through the newspapers. What -through my column in The Malta Independent on Sunday, given that I was the only one who wrote about it, and then without mentioning him by name? I find that hard to believe. If I had heard of Sebastian Dalli being taken in for questioning about this drug bust literally within hours of it happening, then I imagine his brother, who is far better connected than I am, especially to the Malta-Libya business networks (which is how I heard) got the news just as I did, if not even before I did. How can it possibly be that I knew something about his brother days before he did (and there was a time-lag of days between my hearing the news and my column being published)? If I knew, then rest assured that hundreds of others did, too.
I would like to think, too, that when and if the police pick up in a drug-dealing investigation the brother of a minister of the state, the police commissioner will pick up the telephone and inform the prime minister immediately. If it didn’t happen in this case, it would be interesting to know why not. I can’t help thinking that the prime minister didn’t find out about the case, as his minister claims he did, through reading my newspaper column. I would think that he knew about it before that, and if he knew, then I would like to think that he summoned his minister for a good grilling.
If the prime minister and his minister think that these two brief and barely credible lines by the minister are going to lead to the public breathing a sigh of relief and saying “Oh, that’s all right then”, they are much mistaken. This one is going to grow and grow, unless the prime minister acts immediately to nip it in the bud, and his minister treats people with a little more respect instead of brushing them off with this rubbish.
The Times, Tuesday, 3rd February 2009 – 15:12CET
Sebastian Dalli accused of association to traffic cannabis
Sebastian Dalli, 52, of Qormi was this afternoon accused in court of association to traffic cannabis on December 27 last year. He pleaded not guilty and was remanded in custody. His arraignment was the fifth to be made after a police operation at Miġra l-Ferħa on December 27 when what was thought to be a consignment of cannabis was intercepted as it was being brought ashore on a dinghy.
Another four men have so far been charged with conspiring to import 30 kilogrammes of cannabis. The police had said in December after the operation that they arrested eight people after intercepting the consignment.
Testimony in court revealed last month that what was thought to be cannabis was actually soap. Mr Dalli was today also accused of the unlawful possession of a firearm, violating police bail, and relapsing.
The court, after taking into consideration the seriousness of the case and the fact that Mr Dalli had in the past absconded police bail and travelled to Libya, decided to remand Mr Dalli in custody.
SOCIAL POLICY MINISTER’S STATEMENT
Social Policy Minister John Dalli said he had been informed about his brother’s arraignment. “I first learnt about the case from the newspapers some days ago and immediately spoke to the Prime Minister, who confirmed that the case does not involve me in any manner,” the minister said.