Every country needs good governance, not just in word-form but palpably so. This is especially true for a country like Malta which is not just an EU member but one which prides itself on being a robust financial centre.
Malta must not be seen, in any way, form or connection, to resemble Panama which, with all due respect to the country and its countrymen, has only dubious connotations. It is not much of a secret that people who open accounts, trusts or such like in Panama do it to hide ill-gotten gains.
So the last thing anyone expected to hear was that two high-ranking people in government had opened a secret account in Panama.
Scrutiny or otherwise by auditors of these accounts is just pie in the sky.
Whether anything was put into those accounts is neither here, there nor in the sky. It was wrong. Full stop. End of story—or would have been had the Prime Minister booted out both miscreants.
Out of the door should the naughty ones go. No two ways about it—for governance to take centre stage the Prime Minister needs to chuck out his Super Minister, Konrad Mizzi, and Muscat’s own right-hand man, Keith Schembri.
This should have been done immediately when the accounts in Panama were discovered. Now is too late, so late that there is no hiding the fact that by defending these associates the right honourable prime minister has landed himself in the same basket as them. He is damned not only by inaction but also by defending them blatantly, bluntly and blindly.
It’s difficult to grasp that it’s only just over three years since we heard Joseph Muscat promise not just good governance but also that Malta would be the best in the EU. Transparency and meritocracy were pledged as part of the deal Labour, under Joseph Muscat, promised in return for being trusted to rule the land. Out with the old and in with the new the then Prime Minister-in-waiting had promised.
But once in power these pledges turned out to be pure mantras, just words bandied about. The Prime Minister excused as tiny mistakes huge scandals and gross maladministration.
The Panamagate debacle is way beyond a mistake or a bit of idiocy. No finance minister, no man worth his salt, can accept this situation. This is not a political problem where one party is sparring with the other.
It concerns not just good governance in Malta but our own future. The longer this problem takes to be cleared, the more credibility the country, and its institutions, are losing.
Trust in a jurisdiction is won painstakingly, over a long time. Years, decades, of hard work by Malta’s leading financial gurus, were needed to make Malta known, accepted and eventually envied. But it only takes a few weeks to tarnish it and ruin that reputation forever. Crying out that we are the best with the best governance is not enough.
If politicians, especially the Prime Minister, who should know better, cannot see this, then we as a country are truly doomed.