Aw, hi, onorevoli

Published: July 2, 2010 at 1:42am
I hear there are some pompous gits in Malta who want my tiara.

I hear there are some pompous gits in Malta who want my tiara.

I learned through Lino Spiteri, writing in The Sunday Times this week, that 12 years ago there was a campaign afoot among members of parliament to have themselves called ‘onorevoli’ right up until they departed this mortal coil – even if they were no longer members of parliament, and even if they sat in the house for just five years.

I was much impressed – negatively, it should go without saying. What surprised me most is that Lino Spiteri, who portrays himself in his writing as being above such petty scrabbling for 19th-century Sicilian village status, was a party to the campaign. He signed the petition which was promoted by Labour MP and former minister Joe Cassar and Nationalist MP and former minister Joe Fenech.

This is how Mr Spiteri described the situation:

(The petition) made a simple proposal to the prime minister of the time which would cost nothing – that former parliamentarians continue to be called Onorevoli during their lifetime. It was not an unreasonable thought. Judges, magistrates, ambassadors, army officers – all continue to be called by their rank after they retire, as do parliamentarians in various countries.

I signed the petition as requested by cynically told Joe Fenech that nothing would be done about it. This is Malta. MPs have given themselves a better pension than the norm but remain addicted to a preference to try to dirty each other. The Onorevoli appellation is rarely used in House of Representative debates. Calling names is less infrequent.

Mr Spiteri wrote that the petition was ignored, but that other members of parliament have continued to raise the issue with ‘subsequent prime ministers’, by which he means Eddie Fenech Adami and Lawrence Gonzi, given that the original recipient of the petition, in 1998, would have been Alfred Sant, who must have had far more pressing matters on his mind at the time.

I have an excellent idea as to how Prime Minister Sant would have received the proposal. He was almost certainly even more scornful of the notion and impatient with such parochial, petty silliness than I am.

It is not just the Sicilian mountain-village pomp and posturing that gets to me. It is the sheer brass neck, and the lack of comprehension as to what a member of parliament actually is, what he or she is supposed to do.

Here in Lilliput, when you become a member of parliament, one of the major attractions is having the forelock-tuggers address you as ‘onorevoli’ – just as, to a certain kind of person, one of the attractions of becoming a lawyer is being called ‘Dott’ or ‘Sur Avukat’ (imagine the British, going around calling people ‘Mister Advocate’ or ‘Architect’ or saying things like ‘Look, Honourable, this is what we must do’ ).

The flipside to this embarrassing behaviour is the equally cringe-making insistence on addressing cabinet ministers and even the prime minister by their Christian names on television talk-shows. We never get it right.

It is as though it is quite beyond us to be polite and strike just the right note of formality or informality without adopting the stance of a feudal serf or, at the other extreme, talking to the prime minister on television as though we are sharing a beer over a backyard barbecue (make that rooftop barbecue – it’s Malta).

From the little I know of Lino Spiteri, I quite like him. He’s an interesting and sensible chap and, divorced from the awful bandwagon of the shoddy Labour Party and all the baggage he carried as finance minister to a couple of Labour governments, he seems to have his priorities right. That happens quite a lot: remove the people you dislike from the context which made you dislike them, and you find that they’re not bad, really, that you have quite a lot in common. But sometimes, you find yourself thinking, “What on earth?” And this is one such occasion.

Mr Spiteri slips up when he justifies the title-for-life request of MPs by saying that judges, magistrates, ambassadors and army officers are known by their rank and title even after they retire, so MPs should be as well.

The posts could not be more different, and so the comparison could not possibly be more inept. Judges, magistrates, ambassadors and army officers are appointed. With the exception of politically-appointed ambassadors (who are not known as ‘ambassador’ after they stop doing the job) they fill that role until they reach retirement age.

They are removed only for very serious transgressions, and that removal is a dramatic statement which includes the loss of the right to use the rank or title.

Members of parliament are voted in by the electorate for a fixed term. They represent the electorate. They are also removed by the electorate, and when the electorate removes them, it makes a statement.

If Lino Spiteri really wished to compare MPs with judges and army officers, then this is what he should have said: that there is the world of difference between removal by those who put you there (MPs) and retirement (judges and army officers). When judges and army officers are removed by those who appointed them, they are stripped of their rank or lose the right to use of the title.

Does Mr Spiteri seriously believe that Noel Arrigo and Patrick Vella are still known as Judge Arrigo and Judge Vella? Those who address them that way are completely incorrect, and if that is what they call themselves, then they are even more brazen-faced than the nation was led to believe.

And no, this does not mean that MPs who don’t stand for re-election, rather than standing and not being re-elected, should have the right to be called ‘onorevoli’ until they pop their clogs. They come from the people and when their time is up, they return to the people and disappear among them. That’s the way it works.

What next, for heaven’s sake – should we start calling former prime ministers ‘prim ministru’ for the rest of their lives, or devise a title like ‘prim ministru emeritus’ as we did – on the insistence of one pompous former president – with ‘president emeritus’?

In a way, I wish the MPs would get their heart’s desire. It would satisfy greatly my sense of the ridiculous to find myself living in a tiny island over-run by a disproportionate number of people calling themselves and being called ‘onorevoli’, president emeritus, prim ministru emeritus and the rest.

It would be just so….. cuckoo, so very little-island-at-the-periphery-of-democratic-Europe.

This article was published in The Malta Independent yesterday.

59 Comments Comment

  1. Denis Tal-Bazuti Catania says:

    We the people of Malta were looking for you today Daphne, you missed your court date. Fugitive? Make sure you show up in September.

    [Daphne – You were looking on the wrong date, Denis,. Besides, I was away from Malta and have only just returned. ]

  2. PM says:

    Simply GREAT (as beyond the ordinary).

  3. Albert says:

    “MPs have given themselves a better pension than the norm…” Really interesting! Can anyone give more details re. this priviliged pension scheme? How is it that no MP ever touched on this point? P.S. I am not expecting a reply from one of them.

  4. vonmises says:

    Zzzz Zzzz Zzzz

  5. JP Bonello says:

    “That happens quite a lot: remove the people you dislike from the context which made you dislike them, and you find that they’re not bad, really, that you have quite a lot in common.”

    Could you write a piece to expand on this?

    This comment is very insightful and elaboration of the argument would help a lot in this country of pettiness and personal hatred.

  6. Anthony Farrugia says:

    “or devise a title like ‘prim ministru emeritus’ as we did – on the insistence of one pompous former president – with ‘president emeritus’?”
    Re president emeritus, my money is on Guido though Ugo is a close second.

  7. Libertas says:

    I have this theory. Small fish in a small pond can easily reach either side of that small pond. When they do, they may start deluding themselves that they are whales who can reach either side of an ocean.

    With all his pompous, pretentious talk, Joseph Muscat seems to be a typical product of Malta. I’m certain he agrees with Lino Spiteri on this one.

    What next, a title for local councillors? Onorevolinu?

    What irks me most is this ’emeritus’ thing. It just just goes to show that we do not even know that ’emeritus’ is used to denote the authority with which a retired professor is commenting on a subject.

    Otherwise, it is used in the Catholic Church for bishops who always remain bishops but have retired from their duties in a particular diocese.

    In our Lilliput, a former president is addressed as ’emeritus’. In the USA, a former leader of the free world is addressed as just that, former president.

    [Daphne – The correct term in the English language is former president. President Emeritus was coined for, and almost certainly by, one particular president – the very same one who thought he should be known as il-president tad-dinja when he held a UN post that passed from one UN member to another in rotation.]

    • Paul Bonnici says:

      He was a pompous stubborn little man, though he served his purpose in keeping despotic Mintoff in check.

      The UN is one of the most corrupt institutions in the world. I feel sick seeing UN officials in African countries living in luxury with miserable starving locals wondering round for non-existing food.

      Has he made a difference in the world as a UN president? Probably very little or nothing! So he should hang his head in shame.

  8. TROY says:

    Her Majesty’s tiara would make the President Emeritus a lovely queen.

  9. GiovDeMartino says:

    Some of the MPs do deserve such a title, but there are others who do not deserve it not even when they are still MPs, let alone when they are retired.

  10. Harry Purdie says:

    Small minds, big titles. Appears to be in consort with the arrested development of our ‘elected’ parliamentarians.

  11. kev says:

    What’s wrong with Onorevoli e Meritus Sanctimonius Lilliputii? Once an onorevoli, always an onorevoli – just like ravioli, and US presidents…

  12. ta' sapienza says:

    You correctly wrote that Lino Spiteri comes across as a likeable and sensible chap.

    However during his time in office as minister in charge of Sea Malta he is said to have sorted out employment on the company’s vessels for men from his constituency.

    Nobody dared to complain about what came next.

    Such things were more expected from the likes of Wistin and Lorry.

    Probably such things happen with both sets of ‘onorevolis’

  13. Joseph A Borg says:

    reminds me of this ‘event’

    ‘Film producer Lord Puttnam has called actor Sir Ben Kingsley “barmy” for insisting on being called Sir’

    ‘I think Ben’s barmy, it’s a silly thing to do. Within the film industry I’m just David Puttnam,” he said in an interview with BBC Radio Five Live.’

  14. Anthony Farrugia says:

    Why not abolish these “emeritus” titles once and for all! I know a man who insists on being called captain in the year 2010 just because he was in the RMA Territorials in the 1960s. These were weekend part-time soldiers whose main thrill in life seems to have been the annual two-week camp in summer playing at soldiers.

    This genus was mainly prevalent in the banks with many captains and majors strutting around the banking halls; by the way, in the 1960s and 1970s, it seems that one of the prerequisites for joining Barclays Bank in Malta was skill in playing waterpolo.

    • H.P. Baxxter says:

      And in 2010, the prerequisite is to be a total and utter gasbag.

      Dr Ing. Perit Baxxter (Lt. Col. 40,000th Rajputana Rifles – Higgs’ Light Fartillery)

  15. Matt II says:

    Daphne, last week we read in The Times that the MLP received 206 emblems from their artists as the leader decided to change it after all these years.

    Did the leader tell the nation why he is changing the party’s emblem? Also, to this day I don’t why he changed the name of the party. Did the leader ever give his reason to the faithful?

    I wonder what triggered the change of the emblem and of the party’s name. How come no one with influence from the MLP inner circle resisted these cosmetic changes?

    Could it be possible that the leader is unhappy with the past of MLP party?

    Am I to understand that he is not proud of il-korpi which the MLP created, the rampant corruption or perhaps the violence perpetrated by the MLP on innocent Maltese brothers and sisters that are recorded on film?

    Just curious.

  16. Rover says:

    Surely if this suggestion had to be adopted then it would open the floodgates. How about local council members – Aw, hi, Sur Kunsillier. Or members of the local band club – Aw,hi, Sur Kaxxier tal-Kumitat tal-Banda. The possibilities are endless. Don’t we all love a title, however petty.

  17. Min Weber says:

    Technically speaking, even the title ‘doctor’ is abused of. The only doctor who should really be called a doctor all the time is the physician. All the other doctors – whether doctor of laws, philosophy, science, theology or what have you – should be called doctor only in academic contexts – e.g., Gordon Brown holds a Ph.D. in history – he was always referred to as Mr Brown, even though, in reality, he is Dr Brown.

    Yet, this is only an English trait.

    In the US, Condoleeza Rice was referred to as Dr Rice. In Italy – particularly in Italy – people are Dottore, Commendatore, Cavaliere, and what not. Titles are also important in Germany – they were not important only in Nazi times (Dr Goebbels, Dr Rosenberg), but are still important today, when the title is almost part of the name.

    Do we have to copy the English in everything?

    “Hanging on in quiet desperation
    Is the English way” …

    [Daphne – The British way is by far the best because it grows out of the British attitude towards true democracy, and the healthy British contempt for pompous asses who get above themselves. This is crucially different from the socialist yen for bringing everybody down to the same level – honorifics are used, but only in the appropriate context. In precisely the same way, the German and Italian obsession with titles (academic, not inherited) and honorifics also grows out of the German and Italian attitude towards true democracy. Surely you must have realised, even as you were typing, the significance of the countries you mentioned? The fixation with honorifics appears to be greatest where there is a tendency towards fascism and the far right – hence the present-day US, which has most of the hallmarks of fascism and the far right cohabiting as strange bedfellows with some of the most fundamental principles laid down in the American Constitution. The same goes for Malta: those most obsessed with titles and honorifics have a tendency towards far right politics and fascist thought, even if they stand on the electoral tickets of the Labour and Nationalist parties or vote for them.]

    • Min Weber says:

      Nevertheless, what you say applies to the commons. You did mention inherited titles, but you did not elaborate your argument in that direction.

      Would you oblige?

      [Daphne – No, because it’s not relevant. Inherited titles are inherently different. There are also matters of form to considered. The point is that Britain, despite being a monarchy and having a complex class system, is democratic at the most fundamental level, while Germany, Italy and Malta, despite not being monarchies and having a ‘flatter’ class system, are not – the culture militates against it.]

  18. Little Britain says:

    “The fixation with honorifics appears to be greatest where there is a tendency towards fascism and the far right”.

    Could you please further elaborate this link that you see? You sometimes shoot out these bizarre assertions that no one except you can make heads or tails of.

    [Daphne – There’s nothing bizarre about it. It’s a simple observation: the more fascistic and right-wing the tendencies of a people, the greater their fixation with honorifics. Look at the way Labour candidates and supporters are fixated with achieving doctorates purely to be called ‘doctor’, for example. Liberals and centrists don’t bother about that sort of thing. They’ll get the doctorate but won’t call themselves doctor unless it is contextually relevant.]

    And really, the US is fascist and far-right? Just because there are fringe group like the Tea-Partyers and the recent enactment of the Arizona Migrant Law doesn’t make the US Fascist. The Tea-Partyers are known by the slang of wing-nuts, and there was a significant counter movement to actually BOYCOTT products made in Arizona as a protest to the Migration Law.

    [Daphne – US political culture is essentially fascist. You are probably unable to see this because when you think fascist you think Hitler and Mussolini and the persecution of minorities and oppression. But fascism manifests itself in far more benign ways – like swearing allegiance to the flag, making it an offence to violate the flag, saluting the flag, repeated emphasis on being American, what it means to be American, the American way, etc etc. That is essentially fascistic.]

    • Min Weber says:

      Daphne is right on this comment on America.

      Noam Chomsky has argued like this.

      There is also a school of thought which argues that, while in Italy there was masculine fascism, in the US there is feminine fascism…

      Still, those who propose these analyses are usually Republicans – who are, then, against gay marriage. And Daphne seems to be pro-gay marriage.

      I cannot understand this contradiction.

    • K Farrugia says:

      Quoting Daphne: “the more fascistic and right-wing the tendencies of a people, the greater their fixation with honorifics”,

      Two Maltese (wannabe) politicians which are, indeed, very proud of their degrees are Dr. John Zammit Ph.D and Dr. Emmy Bezzina LL.D (my apologies to these two gentlemen for not writing their full list of post-nominal letters). Most of you will recall some of their comments on, especially those of Emmy Bezzina in which he wrote all of his degrees next to his signature.

      John Zammit is the leader of the so-called Malta Liberal Party, while Emmy Bezzina has liberal views with regards to divorce and abortion. To my knowledge, liberal parties lie on the other side of the political ideology spectrum.with regards to fascists or right wing parties.

      [Daphne – John Zammit does not have a doctorate. I very much doubt that he even has a bachelor’s degree. If he is claiming that he does, do please let me know which university conferred it. John Zammit andr Emy Bezzina are not liberal politicians: they are merely pro-divorce hysterics of dubious psychological stability, whose hobby-horse is the result of their own marital difficulties. If Emy Bezzina were liberal, he would not be such an ardent defender of Norman Lowell – and his personal lawyer.]

      • K Farrugia says:

        Quoting you, again:

        “John Zammit does not have a doctorate. I very much doubt that he even has a bachelor’s degree. If he is claiming that he does, do please let me know which university conferred it.”

        Please take some time in reading a couple of sentences at the following pages:

        He claims he holds a Ph.D. in Mass Communication and Journalism from a London University, England. There’s no mentioning of Bachelor’s or Masters degrees, he should have been such a star (well, academically, at least) that he pursued for his doctoral studies right after obtaining his diploma.

        Whatever the case, he doesn’t give up one single opportunity in showing off his “doctor” honorific.

        “John Zammit andr Emy Bezzina are not liberal politicians.”

        You might possibly be right with regards to Emy Bezzina. However, if John Zammit were not a liberal politician, could you explain the rationale behind him leading a liberal (one-man?) party which advocates, amongst others, the introduction of nudist beaches and decriminalization of marijuana in Malta? Personally, I’d bet that a person proposing such legislation should inherently be of liberal views.

        [Daphne – Liberalism has nothing to do with sex, divorce and marriage. The idea that it does is a common mistake. Nudism, nudist bathing and the like were a conspicuous facet of Germanic fascism. The Germans today remain the world’s most dedicated naturists.]

    • kev says:

      …and fascism does not even come from what we call ‘the right’. It is derived from a collectivist philosophy, hence Mussolini’s brand of socialism, which led to the actual coining of the term ‘fascism’, while German ‘national socialism’ went very much along Bolshevik lines as admitted by Goebbels himself. In such cases the ‘free market’ is not free at all but managed by big government in cahoots with big corporations, collectivising the general citizenry into perpetual serfdom.

      That is why Wall Street-backed Obama is often likened with Mussolini. Just like his recent predecessors, he continues to shred the US Constitution while pursuing the fascist road map, which includes erosion of civil liberties in the name of security, and perpetual wars in the name of freedom and democracy. Meanwhile global corporations secure their dinosaur existence by pushing through legislation that kills off competition from the smaller fry.

      One thing fascist/communist governments always need: enemies, both internal and external. And if there aren’t any – create them.

      • kev says:

        NOTE: The ‘fascist right’ which I am talking about should not be confused with the populist ‘right wing’ ideologies. The former comes top-down, the latter is a misnomer that lumps together a variety of sorts ranging from true free market and civil libertarianism to conservatism to down right racialist and anti-libertarian fascist(-socialist)… go figure it out. The right-left labelling has become a charade in itself.

      • Joseph A Borg says:

        One can be a liberal with regards to the economy (usually the rich) but still be very conservative with everything else. In Australia there is such a party.

        The distinction I care about is that some people only identify in symbols whilst others only care about value. I personally see the value of things and the idea of nationhood for example, only has value if it brings with it prosperity, equality and representation to all the subjects. Otherwise it’s just an empty promise that only serves those who are in control.

  19. Pat II says:

    @denis tal bazuti catania
    Tghid mhux ghax bezghet ma deheritx! You surely don’t know her well, my dear. Kieku int midhla ta’ hawn, tinduna mill-ewwel li kienet imsiefra, ghax tabbandunana din kultant.

    U noqghodu hawn, xi wahda bhali, li jkollhi mitt sena fuq xiex se tikteb next, nistennewha tigi. Jew, biex nibqa mas-suggett tal-lum, nistenna il-wasla ta’ Her Royal Highness (no offence meant and she knows). U jekk ma telghetx il-qorti u halliet lil kulhadd jistenna, sewwa ghamlet ukoll ghax lilha min jaf kemm il-darba hallewha tistenna.

    Apparti li ghal xejn qed titla. Ghax gurnalist suppost jghid u jikteb li jrid, min jrid jaqbel, u min ma jridtx, ghandu kull dritt ukoll. Forsi kaz ta “La verita` offende”?

  20. dudu says:

    ‘The same goes for Malta: those most obsessed with titles and honorifics have a tendency towards far right politics and fascist thought’

    I think that this obsession with titles and honorifics betrays a more fundamental socio-cultural trait, that is, a feudal mentality that still lingers on in contemporary Malta.

    If you go through our history, the Maltese were until very recently still peasants with practically no say in public affairs. This historical unfamiliarity with a proper democratic process may explain why our democracy is not yet fully developed.

  21. Brian says:

    Titulus Honorificus…. my left foot. Personally, I would rather see three quarters of our parliamentary delegates in the stocks and pelted with rotten fruit and eggs.

  22. jose' manuel herrera (based in Buenos Aires) says:

    Who was the pompous ex-President? Was it Guido Umilissimus DeMarco?

    [Daphne – Yes. And if you want a really good laugh, check out the marble plaques just within the entrance to the palace in Valletta. They all declare ‘this is to mark the visit of Pope X/Whatever Y’, except one, which states ‘This is to mark the day when President Guido de Marco welcomed Pope John Paul II…..’. Hysterical: I’d never noticed them myself until I spotted some people laughing beneath them at a party some weeks ago. I mean, honestly…]

  23. vassallo vanessa says:

    The “onorevolijiet” should learn how to speak before they decide to speak in public.

    I’m fed up of hearing “il-kinder” instead of kindergarten and “Il-junior” instead of Junior Lyceum.

  24. joseph p says:

    I am not a politician but I have dealt with politicians over the years. There is a skill referred to by politicians as ‘xamma politika’. This is a politician’s ability to know what to say, when to say it and how to say it. It makes the difference between a politician able to swim in shark-infested political waters and one who can hardly keep afloat.

    With yesterday’s press conference, the President of the Republic has shown that his ‘xamma poltika’ is non-existent. The last thing a President should do is get involved in controversy of whatever nature, political or otherwise, even if he is convinced that he is right.

    He believes his problems will go away with an inquiry and a press conference. He is wrong, very wrong. His problems will get much worse to his detriment and to the detriment of the Office that he holds.

    • Banana Republic says:

      How could the head of state open fire publicly on one of its citizens?

      Could he not have dealt with this case through the appropriate channels, away from the public eye, say in the same way that the Commission for the Administration of Justice, which he chairs, is “taking note” with another famous case?

      Or is it a case that the best defence is to go on the attack?

    • Joseph A Borg says:

      That xamma politika only exists in the good will of those around the politician/hero of the day.

      They will manufacture your persona until it suits them then trash you as soon as your incumbency is threatened. To be fair the rag rats smell a sinking ship before anyone else.

  25. Simon G.A.R. Funkill says:

    The President of Malta has given an interview to The Times in which he performed a hatchet job on his former PS, even punning on the man’s name. He used his institutional role to nuke a man.

    What can the former PS do to defend himself? Very, very little, if anything at all. There will be no institution ready to defend him. The PN will obviously not take up his cause; similarly the PL. Actually, exponents of the PL are already taking the President’s side.

    The former PS has been publicly discredited in an unprecedented move by the head of state and, given the inequality of arms, he hardly has any chance of fighting back.

    His career has been wiped out – (“Jien stess tlift il-fiducja tieghi fih” said the president) – only because he chose to blow the whistle.

    George Abela has finally shown his true colours. While nuking his former PS, he kept a smile on his face, he kept his cool, his hand was sure, it all seemed like just business – nothing personal.

    The is the man who put forward Consuelo Scerri Herrera’s name for the post of magistrate during the Labour government of 1996 to 1998, whose son Robert and daughter-in-law Lydia were shown in those infamous photos taken at the magistrate’s birthday party, embracing her. And he is the man who, in his role as president, heads the Commission for the Administration of Justice and must help decide on those cases in which she is involved.

    George Abela was also Noel Arrigo’s lawyer when he was arrested and charged with bribery, and he was legal adviser to Magistrate Mizzi and to Judge Farrugia Sacco (another man shown in CSH’s party photographs) when they were upbraided on breach of ethics and taken before the Commission for the Administration of Justice. He had to give up the brief when he became president, but their cases remain pending and he now presides over the CAJ.

    Many pieces of the jigsaw puzzle are finally falling into place.

    • Sound of Silence says:

      This is a comment by Emanuel Cilia Debono on

      “In my opinion the President has the right to choose his own staff. He has a right to hold a Press Conference to defend the integrity of his office in the light of the unauthorized circulation of documents which could be misused for shedding a bad light on his administration. The setting up of a Board of investigation (headed by no less than the Chairman of the Public Service Commission) is a wise step in the right direction. His Excellency has given a new role to the Presidency and the least one would expect is to see him unduly hampered by unfounded rumours or excessive bureaucracy.”

      Now, what do Cilia Debono and Magistrate Mizzi have in common?

    • Banana Republic says:

      Simon Gunfunken, you quote how the President stated he had lost trust in his right hand man. From the comments in the media, the point coming out now is whether the public’s trust in the President has been dented following his press conference.

      As far as I can recall, the President never had a public governmental role. This must be a serious weakness for the Presidency.

    • Peter Vella says:

      I hope all those who were falling over themselves in praise of our Labourite President will now pause and ponder for a while. They all had conveniently forgotten that this was the man who was side-by-side with Alfred Sant in 1996, who fervently believed that Malta should stay out of the EU and who in 1998 wanted Sant to carry on as PM. (Insert your own cliche here – the chickens come home to roost, iz-zejt jitla f’wicc l-ilma etc…).

  26. red nose says:

    Brian, why do “three quarters of the parliamentarians ” deserve pelting? I think they all try to do their best for the running of the country. You are just going with the unfair trend of belittling our parliamentarians. They all have their jobs and they sacrifice their time to try and bring us a better living. I mean ALL parliamentarians.

    • Joethemaltaman says:

      Do you really think that “ALL parliamentarians sacrifice their time to try and bring us a better living”? Some do and others don’t but surely not “ALL”.

      Most politicians think that they should be revered because they are sacrificing their time for the rest of us, and that we should all be eternally grateful to them. These people are just volunteers, they are in politics because that is where they want to be and that is what they want to do of their own free will. After all most of their electoral votes come from constituents they have helped, probably ones they have favored over others, “li ma humiex mid-distrett”.

      I can think of other members of our society who carry out admirable duties for the good of society, and they include firemen and medical staff and the multitudes of NGOs, foundations and societies volunteering their time and helping Joe Public, not to mention the rest of us who work hard to support our families and pay our dues to the public coffers.

      And all this without being called “Onorevoli”, being invited to state banquets, meeting the Pope, traveling free-of-charge on Airmalta and Gozo Channel, telephones, mobiles, getting free tickets and premium placings in all national events, the list is endless, even if they are back-bench politicians who hardly ever attend a parliamentary session.

      They like to suffer in silence as long as everybody knows that they are doing so.

    • H.P. Baxxter says:

      I do so agree. Our members of parliament are honest, upstanding, incorruptible pillars of society. Many of them are leading Rotarians, and most were Boy Scouts.

      They have written thousands of books and article between them, all Pulitzer material, and their sharpness and intelligence is second to none.

      They are courteous, urbane and have impeccable manners. Their parliamentary speeches are articulate, short and to the point, for they know the value of time.

      They shun publicity and walk the earth humble as the dust, always ready to give up their seat on the Brussels Gravy Express. Some of them have had to sacrifice their marriage for their parliamentary career, such is the workload.

      And when MP’s salaries are up for review, why, they immediately shoot down any idea of a pay rise, for they would rather wear sackcloth and eat twigs, and give their money to the poor, of which they tell us there are many, although my mate Spud, who is well-connected and had his post at the Ministry tailor-made ex nihilo, has just tricked out his Series 5 in gold-plated chrome.

      • red nose says:


      • H.P. Baxxter says:

        Red nose, go back to school and learn the difference between sarcasm and irony. Then come back with another Oscar Wilde quote.

  27. Spiru says:

    Red nose, are you sure it isn’t brown?

  28. jose' manuel herrera (based in Buenos Aires) says:

    I have just read Simon GarFunkill’s comments above regarding the President’s attack on Mr Terribile. I also noticed that the President during his meeting with the press was accompanied by Mr Martin Bugelli, the Director of Information.

    What on earth was the Director of Information doing? Was he holding the President’s briefcase?

    The picture in The Sunday Times shows the President accompanied by someone who looks like an off-duty bouncer on a bad day. In this day and age of supposed transparency the job of Director of Information is anachronistic and redundant.

  29. Gian says:

    Excellent piece.

  30. In Absentia says:

    The Czech Republic is far more obsessed with honorifics than both Italy and Germany. God forbid if anyone forgets a person’s title in any kind of correspondence (even simple degree titles).

    Seeing that there is no more tendency to fascism/Nazism in the CZ than any other country in the area, I can safely say that you can throw your totally made up theory out the window. You don’t need to have an answer for everything you know.

    [Daphne – Fascism comes from the left as well as the right. Shall I simplify it? When personal freedom, civil liberties, and respect for privacy and the individual lie at a society’s core, that society is less obsessed with honorifics. When a society is rooted in collective thought, the sacrifice of the individual to the common good, and thoughts of nationhood, that society is more obsessed with honorifics. I wouldn’t call the Czech Republic the fount of personal liberty. It’s a process of evolution that takes place over hundreds of years, not 20.]

  31. Gian says:

    Well, one cannot have given a better explanation to anyone else, especially to any aspiring ‘onorevoli’, that the service to the country is best remembered by his/her own actions and not by any given right to a perpetual title.

    After all, when someone is elected to be an ‘onorevoli’ it is with the votes of people and with the promise and commitment to serve.

    Insisting on being addressed as ‘onorevoli’, even when you are no longer an MP, is ridiculous, especially if your performance was not really inspiring in the first place.

  32. K.P.Smith says:

    I know this is off subject but I just had to comment.

    While I totally agree with your views on America’s fascist leanings, I can’t say the same on your assertions of Britain’s democratic credentials. If Britain is a democracy, it is heavily weighted in favour of the ruling and peer class.

    Two examples experienced by close acquaintances:

    1. A farmer friend had 200 acres of land straddling an airport which needed to expand. He is ‘offered’ 50% of market value or get destroyed in court.

    [Daphne – Slow down, slow down. Let’s take this step by step. Your friend has 200 acres of land – presumably part of a much larger estate – and he is an underdog because he doesn’t have a title to go with it? I don’t think so. You’re speaking about requisition for public purpose. That has little or nothing to do with democracy when it is correctly used rather than abused as it was in Malta for years. The rules on compensation for requisition are in the legislation. Instead of going on what your friend told you, you should check the legislation. It is highly unlikely that compensation is set at 50% of market value. What you probably have there is a disagreement on market value. Your friend was offered a price against survey by a competent authority and saw it as half of what he could get on the open market. Did he actually have an offer for twice that sum, or is it just what somebody told him it’s worth? Land and buildings are worth what people are prepared to pay for them, and not what we expect to get for them.]

    2. Another friend organised demos against a prominent peer who was forcibly evicting tenants from an apartment block he owned in London. After receiving numerous death threats she was beaten to within an inch of her life in her own flat and ‘advised’ by the local police not to pursue with charges (sound familiar?).

    [Daphne – If they were squatters, then I would have been demonstrating in favour of the ‘prominent peer’. I cannot bear people who abuse of the property of others. Malta is full of them. If they had tenancy rights, then they couldn’t have been evicted. They were obviously evicted because they had no such rights. And they were forcibly evicted because they tried to stay on despite not having the right to do so. That’s why the police would have been brought in. And that is the perfect illustration of how things work in a real democracy: according to the rule of law, and with full respect to the rights of the individual, whether that individual is a peer or a pauper. What you appear to be suggesting here is that the ‘prominent peer’ should have no rights to the enjoyment of his property simply because he is a peer – and we don’t like peers, do we? – while people without tenancy rights should be allowed to stay on in a prominent peer’s property because he can afford it and they don’t want to move out. That’s fascist thinking. As for the story about being beaten to within an inch of her life in her own flat – I reserve judgement. Did she let them in or what? Were they wearing name-tags which allowed her to press charges? Come on. I can’t stand these stories. All those crocheted muesli-eaters banging on about ‘fascist dictators’ when nobody is more fascistic than they are.]

    Maybe this is why they prefer to dispense with pomp.

    On a less personal note:

    Remember, A government which is big enough to give you everything is also big enough to take away everything you have.
    Barry Goldwater.

    • K.P.Smith says:

      Relax, relax. I was trying to keep the post short and sweet so as not to bog you down with what I thought was an off-subject post.
      As to the first point, I was only 14 and living in the England at the time -1977. It may well have been a disagreement on market value, but the biggest bone of contention was that the requisitioned land also included the resident farmhouse (a beautiful house built before the turn of the century).

      This left the farmer with about 300 acres of adjoining land and the headache of either traveling to the land through public roads (do you have any idea of the expense and effort it entails to move a combine on public roads?) or having to sell the remaining land (a forced sale would somehow negate your argument of property being worth what someone is willing to pay for it-which I would agree with under normal circumstances) and buying something of equivalent size, again a forced purchase, farmland of the right size, quality and price doesn’t just appear from nowhere. I’d hate to call you of all people naive.

      [Daphne – Relax? I like arguing these matters. It beats talking about the price of fish any day. I’m not naive, and that’s why I see the matter differently to somebody who was 14 at the time. Airports are built on land. In small countries like England (and even smaller ones like Malta), that is always going to be somebody’s land. Airports cannot be sited according to where land is cheapest or requisition is most convenient for the owner. They have to be in specific places, with a particular orientation for the runway. And if you own the land, well, it’s just one of those ‘life’s a bitch’ things. If you think that the democratic solution is for the country to go without an airport so that no land is requisitioned, you’re wrong. Also, land which has been earmarked for an airport has no market value other than what the requisiitoning authority thinks is a fair price to pay for compensation. Nobody else is going to buy it with that prospect hanging over it.]

      Also, a ‘competent authority’, I thought you could at least recognise a euphemism and misnomer if there ever was one, I mean, was the local rent regulation board a competent authority in your view? After all the rent laws served a public purpose.

      [Daphne – No, they did not. There you have an example of the abuse of a system designed for public purpose. That system was designed to ensure that people could be housed in the aftermath of World War II, when so many had lost their homes. It was never intended to be permanent, but because paying a couple of peanuts every year for your home and with sitting tenant rights became so comfortable, cheap and convenient, no one had any incentive to move out and get a home of their own. And then the rent regulation board would not allow increases in rent because of lack of popular support – and owners effectively lost their property for what sees to be all time, except for the privilege of paying inheritance tax on it. Social housing should not be provided by ripping off private landlords. The situation is not analogous to an airport.]

      As for the second point, a possible touche on that one because I honestly don’t know if the ‘tenants’ were tenants or squatters.

      [Daphne – They obviously had no rights if the landlord was able to obtain an eviction order. You can’t just go round throwing people out of flats. You must have the legal right to do it (they haven’t paid their rent, their contract is up, etc).]

      But still,a police investigation would have been ‘nice’ considering England isn’t a fascist state, and one doesn’t have to open the door to a bunch of thugs for them to gain entry, Fenech Adami can attest to that one.

      [Daphne – I think you are naive to believe the woman who, after protesting against the fascist pigs for evicting squatters, went on to claim that she had been beaten to within an inch of her life and that the fascist pigs had told her not to press charges. I would chuck a bucket of salt on that one, if I were you.]

      As for the assumption that I believe a peer shouldn’t have property rights, nothing could be further from the truth; while my sisters and I have bought our own properties, my mother still has a number of houses still controlled by the ‘competent authorities’,
      which I believe still constitutes abuse.

      [Daphne – There you have it. And yet you think that the peer who got an eviction order against his ‘tenants’ did so because he was privileged, as though there is one law for peers and another law for ordinary people. Come on.]

      Why no comment to link I posted? There are many more examples of Britain’s social services interfering in the most mundane of everyday activities – schools photographing the contents of children’s lunch boxes, couple’s barred from marriage because of learning difficulties and the list goes on and on.

      [Daphne – Because I happen to think that there is no solution to this one. They are right in principle and wrong in manner aspects of its interpretation. Our solution in Malta may seem to be the more democratic and respectful of parental rights, but it fails children equally badly: they are left to rot in institutions without the experience of a family, simply because the parents who have abandoned them – many times from birth – will not sign them away for adoption, as ‘majtezwel’ not do so. What’s in it for the parents to sign them away? A parent who has dumped a child is not going to see the situation in terms of that child’s best interests, by definition. Don’t be too horrified about people not being allowed to marry because of ‘learning difficulties’. That’s a politically correct term which describes a host of mental setbacks. Do you not realise that marriage is above all a contract, and that to enter into a contract one must be judged to be mentally competent? ]

      As Tacitus said – The more corrupt the state, the more it legislates.

      [Daphne – As if. Think before you quote, for heaven’s sake. Where is corruption most rampant and entrenched, in states with more or less legislation?]

  33. Anthony Farrugia says:

    Another sub-group of our citizens springs to mind: those who spend thousands of euros to have a genealogist search with a fine-tooth comb through their ancestors and family tree in the hope of a connection with a baron or count in order to have something like ” Baron of Comino and Biagio Steps” on their letterheads or visiting cards (not business cards, but personal visiting cards printed on heavy stock which cost an arm and a leg); or those who actually buy for hard cash a pseudo title.

    Then there are the various knightly orders which on payment admit you to their order so that you can add “Knight Hospitaller of the Order of Zebbug Malta & Ghawdex”.

    To each his own.

  34. K.P.Smith says:

    My recollection of the initial events of the farm episode may have been when I was 14 but my father has filled me in since on the situation (he was often contracted to work for that farmer).

    Of course it was taken as a ‘shit happens’ event but the problem always was that market value was never going to be a fair price when it took him years to put together a holding that was as easy to manage as the place he had built up and managed over 40 years.

    Some of the fields he had initially purchased were only a few miles away yet took over three hours to get to them with certain implements over public roads.

    What do you do when a harvest is a race against time?

    This wasn’t simply a matter of requisitioning someone’s house,this was half a lifetime’s work and sole source of income. Just because legislation exists in these cases it doesn’t mean it is always fair and let’s face it, do you believe that it would ever favour Joe Public? It never does,it’s always a case of take it or leave it.

    As for the case of the children, two different countries, two different interpretations – neither of them can claim to be perfect yet interfere and control we must.

    Marriage, a social contract? No shit! But who’s going to be the judge on that one? Some quango of pseudo intellectuals with some make-believe qualifications from some second-rate polytechnic? Do you remember Malta’s flirtation with marriage counsellors? Yikes.

    Where does one draw the line as to who or what constitutes mentally competent? There may be some obvious cases but…aaagh, bring on the 10-foot bargepole; can of worms ahead.

    And what is wrong with Tacitus? I did give it some thought.

    Here’s my interpretation. In most countries a bribe would be considered unethical where in others it is seen as business as usual and just another cost of doing business. Probably those countries you see it as entrenched. It only becomes a vice when you legislate against it (in order to control it but invariably fail).

    Do you honestly believe those countries which you perceive as less corrupt are truly so?

    [Daphne – They definitely are. Corruption is entrenched at all levels throughout southern Europe. It is virtually alien to northern Europe. This is not to say that there is no corruption there, but that it is not a way of life. Slip some money to a transport guard in Rome or Paris and you’re waved on your way. Do the same in Stockholm or Oslo and you might be arrested – and that’s if you have the poor judgement to do it in the first place.]

    I tend to believe they are more adept at hiding it, even legislating to cover it up – look at the mess Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan and even more so the Federal Reserve have got this world in to,and yet they get away with it.

    [Daphne – That is not corruption. That is fraud and malpractice, which are completely different.]

  35. K.P.Smith says:

    I’m not unduly worried about the garden variety of baksheesh around Europe and I’m well aware of the difference between fraud, malpractice, corruption and, while we’re at it, gross incompetence, as with Bernie Madoff, who was reported to the CFTC no less than five times before his Ponzi scheme fell apart.

    But this is just an argument over semantics.

    The fact that in the case of JPM, GS and the Fed no one has yet been brought to book smacks of corruption, especially in view of the huge bonuses they are still taking home.

    But this is America.

    Virtually no corruption in Europe,but when there is,it is of the most insidious kind.

    The only thing virtual about them is: unstoppable and untouchable.

  36. J, P. Zammit says:

    For those who are interested: Dr. John Zammit was the only journalist from Malta who attended a European Law Course at the Accademy of European Law in Trier Germany this year and also attended sittings at the Grand Chamber and was the guest of the Judges of the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg and even was guest for lunch at the judges chamber with judges and advocates general. (I assure you that they are no “snobs”.

    He also had the experience in the 1980s to work as journalist with the British Labour Party newspaper “Labour Weekly” (the only Maltese journalist).

    Regarding Daphne I respect her and I am not going to attack her, all I can say that way back when Daphne began working with Godfrey Grima at Development House, Floriana I remember her there while Godfrey nearly convinced me to leave Union Press to work with him. At that time even Remig Farrugia wanted me to work with him with “The Malta Economist” and “Luqa News”. I noticed that Daphne was becomming a first class journalist and had very good command of the English language. Daphne is one who was with me in the Diploma in Journalism Course at the University of Malta with John Demanuele, Peppi Azzopardi, Alfred Mousu’, Anna Bonanno, Dr. Carmen Sammut, Dr. Natalino Fenech Dr. Silvio Debono and the best of the cream of the journalists of today. Cheers to Daphne and all!!!

  37. J. P Zammit says:

    Reno Borg and Dr. Reno Borg, John Zammit and Dr. John Zammit – This is a fact that happened with L-Orizzont whilst I was Sub-Editor and Journalist.

    There was a libel against certain Reno Borg. The Editor of l-Orizzont was taken to the Court as witness to say who was Reno Borg. At that time there was a Reno Borg who was Director of Education and Dr. Reno Borg who was candidate with the Malta Labour Party and Director of the Bank of Valletta.

    The difference that at that time on the Orizzont there was an order not to put a photo of the author of the article and another order not to put qualifications of the author brought a misunderstanding both for the Courts and also to the readers. The Courts could not distinguish between both Reno Borg (who is who) and the readers did not know certain correspondents in which line they are specialised. For instance if a person writes on Law he must be a Lawyer, if he writes about medicine a Doctor etc. The same goes to John Zammit, when I write I find several John Zammits, This year already several persons phoned me if that John Zammit who died in February was me, Another died this week (7/7/2010) John Zammit of Haz-Zebbug and another John Zammit from Gozo who had been imprisoned and had the same age as me. John Zammit is found in every town and village in Malta and Gozo and even were I live there is another one.

    I remember way back when I had the interview for the vacancy of Editor, I suggested that on the Union Press newspapers all articles must be signed and also have a photo of the writer and if he is writing on certain professional subject include the qualifications. It was taken and today most and rarely any article is not signed, even reports and from then (from my suggestions) all the readers know who is writing and the qualifications. This I am saying so that all of you will know what part has been played by Dr. John Zammit in the journalism field and how he is over qualified not only with a Ph.D. and in Librarianship, journalism, advertising, marketing and managment that he also has learned printing, Macinmtosh computers and he is so over qualified that even abroad want to employ him as lecturer. But John Zammit who is over 60 years and is passing true several health problems does not want to employ himself any more as first of all money is nothing for him, although he is not rich and secondly he has worked over 45 years and that is enough to enjoy his last days before he dies.

    Regarding lecturing he has lectured free and individually, several students from Maastricht University, several German students, especially from Augsberg University, several Maltese students and helped alot of Maltese journalists in their BA, Masters degrees even pushed Dr. Joe Mifsud into journalism (the one at Super 1 who is now a Lawyer) He helped several persons who became Managers even with Air Malta) and this for not a single 1 Cent. So Dr. John Zammit is truely a Ph.D. and if you do not know the money for his studies was provided to him by his uncle from America. The thing that I can tell you is that when John Zammit asked other persons with Ph.D.s and Masters, nobody did want to help him and just show him how they got their qualifications and from then on Dr. John Zammit decided that he also should stop showing others how to get the qualifications and is not going to disclose any more information, especially when he is finding that several persons are full of hatred and try to destroy him instead of thanking him for what he has done for Malta and the Maltese….and he is the victim and finds himself in Court and fined a 1,000 Euros…

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