When I was four years old, I would regularly fight with my beloved younger brother and would sometimes even hit him. He would start crying and my mum would report to the scene, but I would always claim that I had nothing to do with it. Occasionally, I would be short-sighted enough to perpetrate the crime in front of her; nonetheless, I would plead innocence.
It’s barely surprising that a toddler would act like this. It would almost be funny were an adult to do so, was it not our very own Minister for Finance. Edward Scicluna, who has been at the helm of the Maltese economy for years, hasn’t made progress on some matters since his toddler days it seems.
Scicluna was thrashed by the Standards Commissioner for spending almost two-thousand euros of public funds on his personal Facebook page. (We know this thanks to LovinMalta’s Chris Peregin.) But would you believe it; just as four-year-old me, he set out to explain that the Commissioner’s claims were completely bogus.
Some other ministers were condemned for the same thing, albeit on a grander scale. The environmentalist’s darling, Ian Borg, spent over fifty-thousand euros on Facebook boosts over five years. But being the more arrogant toddler, he resorted to the tactic of refusing to answer mummy’s questions. Both him and his chum Silvio Schembri refused to collaborate with the Commissioner. Our glistening body-builder of a Prime Minister has, in his usual fashion, gone a step further; he claims that since there was no talk of such practices by the code of ethics, using public funds on private pages was “acceptable”.
Why is all this appalling? So what if some bighead spends our money on his own Facebook page? Is it acceptable?
First of all, it good to remind ourselves that these people are meant to be serving us, the people of Malta. Opting to use state funds (our money) to boost personal clout flips this desired democratic order upside-down. It’s the behaviour we have seen time and time again; syphoning off public funds into one’s pocket, or onto one’s social media. They’re only following in the steps of Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri, who rob us of €10,000 a day.
More worrying is the smugness, deceit and cowardice of our Ministers’ reactions. Their willingness to shy away from answering questions from the independent media, their arrogance which makes them believe they don’t even owe us, the public, an apology, but in fact, that the practice was “acceptable”; this is most alarming, and more so, it is a mockery. Our humble ministers seem to believe that they rule by divine right. To hell with checks and balances, to hell with accountability; long live Robert Abela, long live our sponsored Facebook posts!
As a nation, we are faced with a decision. We can turn a blind eye to this blatant abuse, either out of disinterest or frustration; in doing so, we bow our heads to Supreme Leader Bob and his totalitarian team of toddlers. Or else, we can make it clear that stealing our taxes is not “acceptable”, that hiding the truth is not “acceptable”, that arrogance and abuse of power are not “acceptable”.
“Sometimes we hear of the word ‘ethics’” remarked Edward Scicluna in his take of Plato’s Apology. It seems like this toddler has learnt a new word; he hasn’t quite mustered its meaning yet. And that, we should not accept.
Written by: Xandru Cassar