Gonzi sups with the devil but he's lost his long spoon

Published: March 19, 2011 at 12:54am

Back from supper to find that the prime minister has apparently been caught out in a lie of omission where Gaddafi is concerned. That doesn’t really bode well, does it.

No wonder he looked so uncomfortable at his press conference this afternoon. He told us that the Libyan prime minister rang him shortly before the press conference and the purpose of the phone call was to tell him that there was a ceasefire. Nobody bought that.

The ceasefire was announced in a press conference by the Libyan foreign minister, and broadcast on all the international news networks, in the morning. Libya’s prime minister didn’t have to ring Lawrence Gonzi to tell him about it. And what was Lawrence Gonzi doing, taking his calls at a time like this? “Tell him I’m not in.”

So we’ve got to ask why the Libyan prime minister really rang our prime minister, and why exactly they talked about the ceasefire.

The prime minister gave us no joy except to paint himself as the hero of that conversation, the man who told the Libyan PM that the ceasefire is not credible, and that he and other leaders will not believe it until tanks and weaponry are taken off the streets.

But there was something missing in that description of the telephone conversation – the something that would have explained why the Libyan prime minister rang Lawrence Gonzi to discuss the ceasefire in the first place.

Barely had Gonzi finished his press conference before we discovered the missing bit of information, and of course, we had to find out through the international news agencies and not through our own prime minister. Reuters wired the story that Gaddafi had asked Malta and Turkey to oversee and help implement the ceasefire.

The news went viral immediately and was picked up by the main networks.

The Maltese government acted with the sort of alacrity it hadn’t shown in respect of other ‘honourable mentions’ in the international press. Within the hour there was an official denial: no, the Maltese government had not been requested by the Libyan government to supervise and implement the ceasefire.

Barely had we read and digested this denial before we found ourselves listening to a press conference by Libya’s deputy foreign minister, in which he called for observers from China, Malta, Turkey and Germany – ah, what glorious company we find ourselves in, thanks to our belly-crawling government – “to come to Libya as soon as possible…..to make sure that there is a real ceasefire on the ground.” He added that anyone else who might wish to do so could join in. Yes, sure and end up like the ‘invited journalists’, locked up in a hotel and arrested and ‘disappeared’ if found wandering unescorted outdoors.

I can only imagine the panic that ensued, but quite frankly, that’s what comes of sitting on a fence: you end up, sooner or later, with a fence-post painfully up your butt.

Close to midnight, the government was forced to issue another statement, this time saying that it would ‘examine’ Libya’s request ‘within the context of the full implementation of the United Nations resolutions’. They made it sound like they had just heard about the offer as we did, off the news.

Unfortunately for the success of this strategm, JANA news agency (ta’ Gaddafi) had got in ahead and wired the story that the Libyan government had held talks about this already with the Maltese government. Here’s a quote from the story reported on one of the networks:

According to JANA, Libyan Prime Minister Al-Baghdadi Ali al-Mahmoudi has already held talks with his counterparts in the Turkish and Maltese governments.

Oh, so there was a request, after all. Not only were we not told, but we were told that it wasn’t true. And that’s the context in which Bagdadi rang Lawrence Gonzi to talk about the ceasefire, and Lawrence Gonzi chose to mention the conversation but then not to tell us the truth about it.

Bad mistake.

“With reference to the press conference given tonight by Khalid Kaim, the deputy foreign minister of Libya, during which it was stated that the Libyan Government was requesting Malta, China, Turkey and Germany to monitor the ceasefire, the Maltese Government will examine this request within the context of the full implementation of the United Nations resolutions,” the government statement of denial said.

Might I make a suggestion here?

It’s time the Maltese government got off their arses and told the Libyan government to shove their requests up theirs. And not before time too. And while they’re at it, they can perhaps knock back a stiff whisky and find the Dutch courage to tell those godammed Gaddafi people that no, we are no longer their friends. We will not take their calls, and like our real friends in Europe, we do not regard them as the legitimate representatives of the Libyan people. Goodbye and good luck.

Look where the pusillanimous, yellow, fence-sitting, bottom-licking behaviour of our own government had landed us: in the same basket as human rights abusers China and Turkey and yellow ex-Nazi Germany. They are proud because they are respected by Gaddafi’s men. That’s right, proud. Proud to be respected by murders. Taking calls from people who are accessories to murder.

Thanks but no thanks. If Tonio Borg and Lawrence Gonzi are happy to keep that kind of company, they can resign and do as they please.

But not in our names.

Oh, and they can stuff their neutrality clause up alongside Bagdadi’s cosy phone-chats and friendly requests for ‘help’, because if we’re too neutral to help with military intervention then we’re too neutral to go there and be used as stooges in their mock ceasefire.

Tal-biki u tal-misthija.

25 Comments Comment

  1. Andy says:

    It’s actually China, Germany, Malta and India according to the Dep Foreign Minister interviewed by Sky News

  2. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/9429682.stm/Libya Live

    “2049 A Libyan government spokesman tells a press conference the ceasefire is “credible, real and valid”. He says the government is calling for observers from Malta, China, Turkey and Germany to come to Libya as soon as possible. “

    • Andy says:


      He says India in the video at the top of the page, but Skynews write Turkey, too. In any case, it’s not really relevant to the point you are making.

      I am not too sure a gung-ho approach as adopted by France is the best policy for Malta. I do understand the point you are making about our moral obligation to act, but I guess discretion is the better part of valour in this situation.

      Flying over Maltese airspace from Sicily or aircraft carriers rather than from Malta, from a logistical point of view, won’t make much of a difference. Keeping diplomatic channels open with Gaddafi, as wretched as he is, might serve the international community and the Libyan people better in the long-run. Cornering a rat is always more dangerous than leaving a diplomatic door open.

      [Daphne – Have you ever tried talking to a rat? Taking telephone calls from a rat? Negotiating with a rat? So.]

      • Andy says:

        No, but as a child I was told never to corner a rat as it will bite.

        Malta’s military role, or lack of it, can hardly be described as decisive. Our participation would be merely tokenistic.

        By offering airspace instead of a land/naval base we might be able to take a role few others could.

        Now, I fully understand that you can’t wait to see him go. I can safely assume the entire Western World shares your sentiment, undersigned included. However, I am convinced that we won’t get rid of him too easily.

        He has shrewdly complied with the UN Resolution to avoid military intervention, after effectively neutralising the rebels who now only occupy Benghazi and Tobruk. All he needs to do is starve them to submission without needing to shoot a single bullet. The French or Brits won’t be able to do anything unless they get a second resolution removing the “no occupation” clause. And that will never happen with China and Russia (and possibly Germany).

      • H.P. Baxxter says:

        So the United Nations is now a gung-ho organisation?

      • H.P. Baxxter says:

        You haven’t read the text of the resolution or the news reports, Andy. Let’s do a bit of cutting and pasting:

        1. Demands the immediate establishment of a ceasefire and a complete end to violence and all attacks against, and abuses of, civilians;

        Abuses, Andy, include starving a population.
        “4. Authorises member states that have notified the secretary-general, acting nationally or through regional organizations or arrangements, and acting in co-operation with the secretary-general, to take all necessary measures, notwithstanding paragraph 9 of resolution 1970 (2011), to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, including Benghazi”
        This includes protecting the civilians against death by starvation.

        Oh and it just occurred to me that we could have a scenario where Malta will have to come off that goddamn fence. The resolution authorises the coalition to stop and search any vessels suspected of breaking the embargo, including vessels on the high seas.

        A ship is steaming towards Libya, sees a coalition vessel and runs towards Maltese waters. The coalition requests the Maltese government’s authorisation to board the vessel in our territorial waters. What do we do?

      • Andy says:

        H.P., if you follow the news constantly, as I do, you would have heard the expression “gung-ho” being used about France. Nowhere did I describe the UN as such, nor have I implied it.

        I am strongly in favour of the resolution as approved. My only problem with it is that it came too late, in great part because Obama and Clinton were in disagreement about it, as reported by the Evening Standard a few hours ago.

        Your interpretation of the resolution is biased by your stance about what you feel should be done. Air strikes cannot prevent the cutting off of Eastern Libya by Gaddafi. It is not even agreed whether the presence of Libyan artillery, tanks and ships around Benghazi that do not actually fire on civilians is considered a “threat to civilians”. And we are certainly not going to have any influence on those taking the decisions in the NATO HQ or the Security Council about such interpretations.

        Incidentally, a couple of days ago there was a whole hullabaloo on Twitter, mainly in Denmark and the Netherlands, about a Libyan tanker berthed in Birzebbuga that was acquiring fuel from Enemalta. Haven’t heard any reports about it in the Maltese media. I’d love to know if it was true or just a rumour.

      • Corinne Vella says:

        42 years of keeping diplomatic channels open have led to what you’re seeing today.

      • Anthony Farrugia says:

        If I remember correctly, the last time Malta’s military was in the news was when coats were provided to the two guards on duty outside the Palace; this merited several column inches in the press and an item on TVM news with full details of the fabric used and patterns available on sending a stamped self-addressed envelope.

      • ciccio2011 says:

        HP, I have not read the resolution.

        It would be kind if you post a link in case you have it.

        That said, I would expect the resolution to start as follows:

        1. That there should be an immediate ceasefire etc as you quote.
        2. That Gaddafi and his family and government should resign at once and free general elections called for. That Gaddafi’s is no longer the legitimate government of Libya.

        Does the resolution make this second point immediately after the first?

        If not, by complying with the resolution, Gaddafi could in theory stay in power.

  3. El Topo says:

    If the Maltese government had recognised the Libyan rebel leadership (the National Libyan Council) as the country’s legitimate government – as France did more than a week ago – there wouldn’t have been any uncomfortable phone calls from Tripoli.

  4. Hubert Zammit says:

    Daphne, I quite agree with you with this regard. Neutrality is in my opinion a foolish thing imposed on us by Mintoff in return of democracy in the 1980s.

    I agree that we should do the right thing and fully support military action against Gaddafi’s regime. However, might I ask why are you making this emphasis ONLY on Libya’s situation? Why have you/the international community remained silent in other situations such as Iran for example?

    [Daphne – Because I am a NIMBY sort of person. I can barely work up interest in the Japan earthquake. But really, if you live in Malta you obviously have a strong interest in Gaddafi. And Gaddafi poses the sort of danger that Iran does not.]

  5. Harry Purdie says:

    So, the Government is going to ‘examine’ the Libyan request. Possibly they should ‘examine’ their own ‘conjones’, and, surprise, they have disappeared.

  6. Just In says:

    Latest update via satellite telephone from Benghazi.

    “Qaddafi troops have broken through Ajdabia and are now 23 km outside Benghazi equipped with heavy artillery and machinery.”

  7. Just In says:

    Gaddafi called a ceasefire. But still the bombs fell

    ‘We need the West to give us arms so we can fight for our country’


  8. Interested Bystander says:

    We have two of his fighter jets. He could have attacked us because of that.

    • X'tahwid ta' nies! says:

      Maybe Gaddafi was sitting on the fence about that one, in much the same way as our government comes across as doing.

  9. Min Weber says:

    OK. I understand.

    You are irritated, annoyed, howling-mad angry at the Jesuit holy equivocation displayed by Gonzi and Borg… is that it?

  10. caroline says:

    If anyone is watching Aljazerra, they will see Gaddafi’s jets bombing Benghazi. So much for the word of a rat.

  11. Anthony Farrugia says:

    The PM looked so uncomfortable during his press conference that he actually looked as if he was in physical pain.

  12. .Angus Black says:

    Two questions spring to mind in all this madness.

    1. Should the PM have given the go-ahead with giving the allies permission to use Malta as a military base using the narrow scope within the Constitution?

    2. If in the affirmative, then what’s the use of having the ‘Neutrality’ clause in the Constitution?

    [Daphne – Angus, for God’s sake and your own, please read the relevant bit in the Constitution. It makes SPECIFIC EXEMPTION for military action mandated by resolution of the UN Security Council. In other words, we are completely free right now to bring in any number of fighter jets, warships, soldiers, send our own army to participate, the works.]

    Doing things in the proper order should be the removal of the neutrality clause, freeing future politicians to make better(?) decisions quicker. But does this not put our country at the mercy of a future trigger happy prime minister?

    [Daphne – Oh, honestly, trigger-happy with what? A couple of patrol boats donated by the United States?]

    Getting into the matter of telephone calls between the Libyan PM and our Prime Minister, does one expect the PM to be on the phone with the press every time he gets a call from a foreign politician in the name of transparency?

    [Daphne – Yes, of course. That’s what happens in democracies. It’s called disclosure. It’s also sensible, because where the media functions properly, if you don’t tell the media, the media will find out and tell everyone that you didn’t tell them. And then it looks really bad. Last night’s stunt was the perfect illustration of this. The prime minister felt no need to tell us what Bagdadi called him about. Five minutes after he didn’t tell the press, Reuters had found out through somebody else and had wired the story round the world. The Maltese government issued a denial. A couple of hours after the denial, the Libyan regime held a press conference and announced that prime minister Bagdadi had discussed the ‘supervise the ceasefire’ matter with Malta. Again, we found out through the international press because our prime minister and his advisers forgot that they are now operating in the international context and this is no longer about what Labour and Joseph Muscat said and didn’t say.]

    Does anyone think that the PM would have been invited to send a ‘ceasefire’ monitoring team without first being informed that a ceasefire is in effect?

    [Daphne – Did he have to wait for a telephone call from Libya in the afternoon? It was all over the international news in the morning. Sorry, but that’s not a credible explanation of the reason for the telephone call.]

    Does anyone think that Gaddafi & Co. would have simultaneously decided to declare a ceasefire, and quick, ask Malta, China, Turkey and Germany to monitor it?

    [Daphne – Yes, that’s exactly what happened in fact.]

    I do understand that due to Malta’s proximity to Libya, it spurs the over active Maltese imagination or maybe proves that this predicament is slowly being turned into a sit-com.

  13. carlos says:

    Daphne kindly tell us what danger does Gadaffi pose that Iran or north Korea does not?

    I think the difference is economical interests.

    [Daphne – Terrorism.]

  14. X'tahwid ta' nies! says:

    It looks like some people have never heard of the expressions “Il-giddieb ghomru qasir” and “iz-zejt dejjem jitla’ f’wicc l-ilma”. Translation: Truth will out.

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