Inspector Gadget and the Black Dust Mystery

Published: October 7, 2010 at 9:14am
They're going to deliver us from black dust

They're going to deliver us from black dust

I cannot believe that they are still banging on about black dust in Fgura and turning it into a political problem when the cause, the diagnosis and the solution lie in science and not in political rhetoric.

Joseph Muscat, who is still learning how to shave, borrowed a word from his mentor Alfred Sant’s lexicon of political rhetoric and told us that Labour will sit on parliament’s Black Dust Committee under protest and will not serve as a ‘paraventu’ (screen) for any delaying tactics by the government.

His confusion about the constitutional roles of the government, the Opposition and parliament is evident. A parliamentary committee is a parliamentary committee; it is not run by the government. The Opposition must play an active role in a parliamentary committee. It doesn’t do so as a favour to gOnZIpn.

It is the Opposition that is delaying the process of finding out the cause of the problem, which is the first step towards solving it. It is turning the Black Dust Mystery into a political battleground and speaks as though the prime minister knows where the dust is coming from, but has a vested interest in concealing this information and in using delaying tactics, so that mysterious others can continue spewing pollution over Fgura for as long as possible before they are found out.

The Opposition is irresponsible in turning this matter into a political point-scoring exercise as it will only derail the effort at solving it.

It is disingenuous in making it the government’s problem when it is as well placed as the government is to find out what the dust is and where it is coming from. The government deals with political problems. Science is something else.

The stage was set by Astrid Vella, who has been remarkably quiet of late, for this to become a political feuding-ground when she appeared on Super One television talk shows discussing this black dust as though it were some kind of Saddam-Hussein-type biological weapon used by the government against the Labour electorate of Fgura.

For a moment there, she sounded just like Inspector Gadget and I’m surprised, quite frankly, that Muscat hasn’t called him in to solve the mystery.

I happen to think that a parliamentary committee to solve a problem of black dust in the Fgura environment is nonsense, because this is not a matter for politicians but for scientists and forensic analysts – but once it has been set up, both parties should cooperate instead of trying to score points.

I would find Joseph Muscat’s commitment to the cause a great deal more credible if, instead of waving samples of black dust around in jars at press conferences in the street, as he did yesterday, he were to send those samples for analysis to three different laboratories in Malta and the United Kingdom.

That is a whole lot more effective than standing on a street corner whining at the cameras that the Malta Environment and Planning Authority has not done any proper analysis (because gOnZIpn has sabotaged the process).

If the Labour Party cannot afford to pay for sample analysis, then it might yet be able to come up with some creative fundraising tactics, like encouraging the people of Fgura to send a text message to a rip-off number.

Political rhetoric is all well and good, but it has to be rooted in intelligence and logic. True, unthinking and uneducated electors will, like the mittilkless, be with us always. But Muscat has to bear in mind that there are other people around who cannot bear to listen to half-baked arguments and inanities.

I am beginning to worry that Muscat, unlike Sant and Mintoff who lowered their game deliberately so as to speak their audience’s language, is not lowering his game and this really is the way he thinks. He is mittilkless, like his audience, and he isn’t capable of any greater thought or vision.

Mintoff and Sant had a plan. It was a disastrous plan, but at least they had one. Muscat, like the mittilkless who listen to him, has only a vague set of unfocussed irritations and gripes. He’s the sort of person who sits around with a glass of wine and complains that it’s time for change. But here’s the catch: he is the change.

What, exactly, does Joseph Muscat mean when he says that the prime minister’s stance on the Fgura black dust is “shocking” because the problem is felt “by parents and children”? Do parents and children now have privileged status as human-beings? Do they have better abilities to spot black dust than, say, those who are childless or pensioners?

This is the kind of rhetoric I just can’t stand. It is the sort used by American politicians to address white-trash audiences with emotive language, because where thinking skills are absent, burgeoning emotions fill the vacuum.

Muscat’s mittilkless electorate has a great deal in common with American redneck culture, but really, there are limits. These islands are tiny and he shouldn’t forget that his words are heard by the rest of us – yes, even by those who are not children and who don’t have any.

This article is published in The Malta Independent today.

29 Comments Comment

  1. Hot Mama says:

    Mhux ahjar jekk joqghod wara l-paraventu…b’hekk ma jimteliex bil-Black Dust! Iwa, kif kollox irridu nghidulu?

  2. c abela triganza says:

    Propaganda bil-familja.

    As if those who are not parents and children can inhale and live with the black dust without any problems.

  3. Another John says:

    Propaganda bil-familja ALL the time. The word ‘familja’ is the necessary inclusion in any policy, pseudo-policy and political speak. Even the ‘living wage’ should be necessary to raise a family. Of how many members a family should be made of, no one ever says.

  4. Cannot Resist Anymore says:

    Please be patient with me and explain the historical background of the innovative spelling of word “middleclass” to “mittlekless”.

    I understand, of course, that words have a history. I must have been abroad, looking at something else and not following the local conversation when this spelling was born.

    Would you please fill me in on the details, if it is not to tedious for you?

    I am expecting, of course, a humourous historical lesson.

    By the way, I laughed myself to tears, when the other day you revealed the name of the ass who is to carry the new messiah into the New Jerusalem! Thanks for the tears and the laughter!

  5. il-lejborist says:

    Science? Even the Chernobyl catastrophe was a science matter but that didn’t make the then Soviet government less accountable, did it? It is amusing to note how religiously often the nationalist pawns pull out the usual clichéd let’s-not- politicise-this-matter argumentation each time the government is caught in the line of fire with its pants down.

    [Daphne – You people are beyond belief, comparing a bit of pollution in Fgura to the Chernobyl catastrophe. The Soviet government was involved because it was DIRECTLY RESPONSIBLE and because it was a NATIONAL DISASTER.]

    • Simon says:

      I agree with you that comparing the pollution in Fgura, Tarxien and the surrounding areas to the Chernobyl disaster is plain daft. That would also apply to referring to the situation there as a ‘bit of pollution’. True, the situation is not as bad as it used to be; nevertheless it is still an issue that we really could live without.

      As for the political parties (the greens, the blues and the reds) that supposedly have our best interest at heart….well none of them give a rat’s arse do they. This is simply another publicity stunt.

  6. Joseph Micallef says:

    We seem to forget that his declared objective is that of being Prime Minister of Malta by the age of 39.

    In the absence of real issues that can be attributed to the incumbent administration, the only way to get there is to spin and apply emotional tones to anything. Sant manged that in 1996 but Joey’s problem is that he himself is not good at it, and the people he has in the vital communication channels are even less!

    The next election will not be a contest between political ideas but will determine the electorate’s level of critical thought skills.

  7. mc says:

    Great article as always.

    I remember Astrid making the categorical and irrefutable statement, in the programme you refer to, that the residents of Fgura have the highest rates of respiratory illnesses in the world. Yes you read right … in the world! I presume she examined medical records for every city, town and village in the world and came to the conclusion that Fgura has the highest of them all.

    They had even made a news feature on One News showing Astrid making these earth-shattering revelations.

    It sickens me to see these pseudo-environmentalists distort information into ridiculous statements and play on people’s emotions to score a few points.

  8. Mario Farrugia says:

    $1,165,pay up and shut up.

    [Daphne – Typical Labour attitude: trying to silence criticism by fair means or foul. No, I don’t have to pay up. There’s the appeal to be concluded first. And after that, the Constitutional Court, and still after that, the European Court. This thing is going to run and run. And each time, Anglu Farrugia is going to have his past dredged up.]

    • Giovanni says:

      What an idiot – he also missed out on the currency. Interesting to know if he got the figure and currency sign from Maltastar.

    • Galian says:

      Mr. Farrugia, just a small piece of advice so that next time you don’t show up for what you are.

      It is Ctrl-Alt-e to input the Euro sign (€) in your message. Ctrl and Alt are the first and third keys on the left of the last row on the keyboard and the letter e stands between the letters w and r; you have to press them all together.

      There you go!

    • Joseph Micallef says:

      Mario, how much is


      can you convert to Euros (not in the religious sense)

    • David Buttigieg says:

      Well done, Daphne, for appealing.

      I can’t understand the sentence. Is the magistrate suggesting that you were not arrested or detained and interrogated? Even during those terrible years some form of record was kept, surely.

      [Daphne – It is recorded in the original criminal case back in 1984 – but don’t forget that we are now experiencing the process of revisiting Labour’s history.]

      Same as with the chap who carried a gun around because “le gambe sono per i conigli”

      What exactly where you charged with? Hitting unpleasant (to some) nails well and truly on the head?

      [Daphne – I exposed him to public ridicule, as well I might. Now imagine if I had to start suing people for doing that to me – where would it end? But I don’t, because I practise what I preach.]

  9. ciccio2010 says:

    Daphne, let me borrow one more phrase that Alfred Sant used ad nauseam.
    Now that this Parliamentary Committee has been set up, it is the Opposition’s responsibility, together with the government’s, to ensure that the black dust problem is not “swept under the carpet.”

  10. interested bystander says:

    I was surprised to read you had been fined for criminal libel and took it upon myself to look up the relevant legislation (Laws of Malta Chap 248 ).

    Now I know why journalists are so polite in the Maltese press, They can’t afford not to be. Lucky for you it was printed libel because ordinary libel can get three months nick!

  11. anthony says:

    Only in Malta do parliamentary committees discuss black dust.

    In civilised countries the environment agency (or whatever it may be called) deals with such problems.

    A full scientific assessment is carried out and a report drawn up.

    The recommendations in the report are then taken up by the politicians who are expected to act accordingly.

    The entire process should not last more than a few weeks unless the dust is being sprayed from UFOs flying over Fgura under cover of darkness. If that is the case then I suggest the CIA is roped in.

    Under more likely circumstances a sample sent to Porton Down in Wiltshire would be analysed and reprted on in a few hours.

    Our British friends have helped in such cases in the past. I am sure they will oblige .

    To me the whole farce of this blessed black dust stinks to high heaven.

  12. TROY says:

    Black dust is truly a mystery, just like black matter which has baffled scientists for decades.

    Inspector Gadget like the mysterious black matter is lost in space.

  13. Anthony Farrugia says:

    Michael Falzon (ex-Minister ?) rehabilitates Sandro Chetcuti while court proceedings against latter have not yet been concluded. Newly set up Developers’ (Fat Cats) Association with no credibility from the start !

  14. Anthony Farrugia says:

    Re Sando Chetcuti : I was zapping through local channels some days ago and they were repeating for the upteenth time a soap (Simpatici ?) and one of the “actors” was, lo and behold, Sandro. Can any one else confirm or was it a hallucination?

    • Neil Dent says:

      The very same. He also featured in that awful ‘Big Brother’ type program that Xarabank did along the lines of ‘EU membership – Yes or No’ all those years ago.

      Not a hint of political bias at all there!

    • Dem-ON says:

      I think it was Becky, not Simpatici.

  15. red nose says:

    Is-sewwa jirbah zgur, jekk mhux hawn Malta anki go Strasbourg.

  16. mc says:

    From a report in The Times, quoting MEPA; “Initial tests showed a significant quantity of iron in one sample, indicating a high possibility that the source of this pollution was from a scrap yard.”

    Is this an indication that this ‘black dust’ sample was faked in that whoever made the complaint swept some dust from the nearest scrapyard and alleged it come from the air? Are the people at MEPA too polite to call this sample by its real name – a fake? I find it hard to believe that a significant quantity of iron dust got carried off by the wind from a scrapyard and deposited itself in the back yard of the unfortunate complainant.

    If is it such a problem for so many people why is it that the first complaint this year was made on July 14? Is it a coincidence that this FIRST complaint this year was made 7 days after Labour MP Brincat made a PQ in parliament on the subject?

    The report also refers to “multiple sources of this dust”. Is this not further indication of something fishy?

    Is this really a case of black dust or one of hot air?

  17. ciccio2010 says:

    Daphne, Kev has finally been vindicated. Here is a conservative libertarian who will be running for the presidency of the US with an agenda to reduce the public deficit, spending and taxes. Kev’s predictions about global politics are starting to come true.

  18. H Mizzi says:

    Could you ask Inspector Gadget how he intends to squander the 1165 euro you are expected to forward to him.

    [Daphne – It’s a criminal case. The money doesn’t go to him. It’s a fine, not damages.]

  19. H Mizzi says:

    What is your fuss all about? If Dr Anglu Farrugia, at long last you seem to recall his name, does not take any amount from the 1165 euro contributed as a fine, dear Daphne you will be helping the Minister of Finance in his endeavour to diminish the national deficit.

    [Daphne – You are an example of how democracy has to be foisted on those who don’t understand or deserve it, and who are happy to live without it.]

  20. Michael A. Vella says:

    What the likes of Anglu Farrugia fail to realise is that, by instituting libel cases such as that under review, they only turn the spotlight on their own sense of inferiority and insecurity, and on serious deficiencies that render the individual unsuited to leadership of the party in opposition to which he aspired, and much more so as potential prime minister.

    Anglu, I tell you this: one’s reputation and standing are earned, not built on winning libel cases. It is truth and the judgement of the people that counts in these matters. The outcome of this case has further sullied the already badly soiled structure of justice in these islands.

    • Patrick V. says:

      Sewwa qed tghid. Wieheb jista jsib wens fil-qorti kemm irid, imma jekk ma’ jgibx ruhu kif suppost, ebda qorti mi ha tannega l-fatt li dawk iz-zminijiet tant kienu zminijiet koroh ghall-bicca l-kbira tal-Maltin.

      Min ghex f’Malta dawk iz-zminijiet ma jistax jinnega li certu affarijiet kienu jsiru, anke fid-depot tal-puluzija. Zgur li hawn hafna nies li kienu gew arrestati dak iz-zmien u kienu gew ittrattati fl-istess mod li giet ittratata Daphne Caruana Galizia, imma jibzghu jitkellmu – izjed u izjed issa li ttiehdet dik id-decizjoni l-biereh fil-qorti.

Leave a Comment