Owen Bonnici: king of Sicilian and southern Italian non-liberal, non-progressive personal patronage
I am receiving multiple complaints from people who have been telephoned in their homes or on their personal mobile telephones by people who say they are calling from “Owen Bonnici’s office”.
Owen Bonnici is the Minister for Justice and Identity Malta – which latter was described to me yesterday in conversation, very aptly, as “the Clapham Junction of this government’s corruption”.
The callers do not specify whether they are on the state payroll and ringing from the Minister’s private secretariat, or whether they are volunteers ringing from his constituency office. Whichever it is, the calls – besides being highly invasive – are also evidence of abuse, corruption and patronage, none of which are in any way liberal, progressive or compatible with society in the contemporary European world.
Owen Bonnici’s mindset belongs in Paterno, Sicily. Despite being a cabinet minister in the government of a European Union member state, he still thinks like a denizen of a backward southern Mediterranean village: that it’s perfectly OK, desirable even, for a member of the cabinet of government to have his people make personal calls to those who can vote for him, and ask them what they want in return for votes.
This corrupt and abusive behaviour has got to be seen for what it is, and it has got to stop. The role of a member of parliament – as distinct from a cabinet minister – is to represent his or her constituents and argue on their behalf as and when required. In no way is this the same thing as a cabinet minister asking people what they want or need and violating his privileged position of power to give it to them. That is patronage and it does not belong in a democracy.
A couple of days ago, a woman working for Owen Bonnici rang a couple in their home in Guardamangia, asking for their daughter who lives in Zurrieq, where Bonnici will stand for election. The woman was informed that she had rung the wrong address, and she responded in a fluster that this was the number she had (really, where from?) and that the couple were to tell their daughter that if she needs anything from “Minister Bonnici”, she had only to say so.
The Opposition has got to challenge the Prime Minister and the Justice Minister directly in parliament about this disgracefully retrograde behaviour, and not let it go as though it is normal. Because it is not. It may be normal in corrupt Malta, but there’s got to be an end to it.