Sociologist from Malta

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

After Egrant… a lesson to be learnt – Michael Briguglio

“During the (2017) elector l campaign, the Nationalist Party’s main message was against corruption, stating that in a normal European democracy the institutions would long have taken action against those involved in Panama Papers. The independent media also focused very much on governance, in what turned out to be one of the most controversial general elections in recent Maltese political history. There were high expectations that more information would be published on Egrant, but this did not materialize. Yet remarkably, Labour won comfortably.  The Egrant political liability was turned into an asset, with Labour’s narrative of ‘where’s the proof’ becoming stronger and stronger. Whereas Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi’s involvement in Panama Papers was crystal clear, the ownership of Egrant was subject to debate. An example of the post-truth society, if Malta ever needed one. 

“Surely, Egrant alone cannot explain Labour’s electoral victory. But it does show that governance and corruption, important as they are, are not necessarily the most important issues for certain electorates, such as that of Southern European Malta. An immediate question comes to mind: How can a political party that believes in transparency and good governance reconcile this with the main aspirations of the electorate? This is surely a question that Malta’s opposition will have to face in the immediate future.”  

The text above is from my article ‘Panama Papers and Malta’, published in the European Atlas of Democratic Deficit 2017. 

From day one, Egrant was based on allegation, whereas Hearnville and Tillgate were based on admission of ownership by Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi. Malta eagerly awaits the outcome of upcoming inquires on the matter. 

True, the Egrant allegations were too strong to dismiss, and one should also keep in mind that when the anti-corruption protests started the Egrant story had not yet erupted. The question is whether Egrant should have then been given equivalent importance to Hearnville and Tillgate. Clearly not, and the benefit of hindsight confirms this.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, some of the findings of Aaron Bugeja’s inquiry –such as the forged signatures and the CCTV footage on the Pilatus Bank chairman are very difficult to ignore.

Unlike Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri 's involvement in Panama papers, no one has admitted he/she owns Egrant. The inquiry proved that no proof of ownership has been found yet and that allegations to date have not been proven. So it raises various questions... like who falsified the signatures and why? What can Nexia BT tell us about the ownership of Egrant? 

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat still has a lot to answer for, particularly on the involvement of Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi in the Panama Papers scandal, and for his chief of staff owning a bank account in Pilatus Bank.

I feel that Muscat probably called the enquiry on Egrant as he knew legal proof would never come out – he consequently rode the political wave through the 2017 general election which his party won convincingly. On the other hand, Hearnville and Tillgate had proof but Labour 's strong majority and the power of Schembri and Mizzi in the triumvirate made them untouchable, as they are not being held to the same standards that Joseph Muscat held for himself.

As for future instances of corruption, I will keep being active for justice and truth with my colleagues. But I also believe that Egrant has taught a lesson to politicians, activists and journalists to double check before crusading on an issue.

I also subscribe to the view that the Nationalist opposition should articulate inclusive, non-patronising discourse that focuses on the myriad of everyday issues which people experience and which are in synch with party core beliefs such as solidarity, dignity and subsidiarity.

The latest MaltaToday survey also clearly confirms the need for democratic unity within the Nationalist Party: this highlights the need to respect the will of its members and the need to keep reaching out to the people by listening to their grieviances and aspirations.

No comments: