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We are in the midst of a heated electoral campaign and as always, the government is resorting to disinformation campaigns to distract from the massive corruption scandals which it is responsible for.

Currently, prime minister Robert Abela and his inner circle are in crisis management mode due to the nuclear fallout from the Vitals inquiry (read this website’s extensive assessment of this developing story by clicking here). The government is engaged in a full-frontal assault on the judiciary, the opposition, civil society, and anyone who has ever fought against the statewide corruption that brought us to this point.

On Monday, following the publication of news reports confirming that at least 19 individuals and companies are now facing criminal charges in connection with the deal – including the disgraced trio Joseph Muscat, Konrad Mizzi, and Keith Schembri – the need to point out and counter the government’s disinformation campaign becomes all the more crucial since it is only set to intensify from this point onward.

Below is a list of the ten major issues which are characterising the extensive, government-sanctioned disinformation campaign about the Vitals inquiry. It is our duty as journalists to give the public the tools which are necessary to fight back against pervasive, well funded efforts to drive the last few nails into the coffin of our democracy, and fighting disinformation directly is one of the best ways we can do this.

Please consider sharing this article with your loved ones, especially younger audiences who may be exposed to waves of social media propaganda and would not be familiar enough with this government’s crimes to recognise them as such. If you want a quick refresher about the entire hospitals saga, Times of Malta’s Jacob Borg, who authored some of the most important articles on the concession over the years, published a summary of it on Sunday.

Overstepping all boundaries of power

Prime minister Robert Abela.

Prime minister Robert Abela repeatedly claimed that he will not rest with the inquiry’s conclusions when deciding whether to sack officials who are facing criminal charges. Former health minister and deputy leader of the Labour Party Chris Fearne, along with former finance minister and current Central Bank governor Edward Scicluna, are two high-ranking government officials who are reportedly set to face criminal charges.

In reality, not even Malta’s overpowered prime minister gets a say in whether officials like Fearne and Scicluna get to keep their positions of power or not, mainly because if the justice system does indeed find both guilty of having committed crimes in connection with the hospitals concession, both of them are subject to legal and procedural mechanisms which are independent of the prime minister’s considerations.

Fearne himself has explicitly stated that he would immediately resign if he is named as one of the individuals recommended for criminal prosecution in the inquiry and the Labour Party’s parliamentary group asks for his resignation. While Labour’s parliamentary group leaves little to hope for in terms of asking Fearne to do the right thing and resign, the fact is that Fearne himself has more power over that decision than Abela does.

Meanwhile, Edward Scicluna sits atop the Central Bank’s board of directors, which is likewise stuffed full of party loyalists who are unlikely to cause any trouble. However, it remains to be seen whether finance minister Clyde Caruana will accept the massive liability of having an individual facing criminal charges at the helm of the country’s central bank, a potential issue which had already been highlighted when Scicluna was appointed back in 2020 and has now come home to roost. Scicluna’s term as governor expires next year, which means any reappointment would have to be ratified through a parliamentary committee. In all this, Abela has no say.

Most importantly of all, if any of the individuals who were reportedly mentioned in the inquiry’s conclusions are successfully convicted in court, Abela has no legitimate say in what the outcome of those proceedings would be, making all government interference in the process outright tyrannical.

The switch to ‘siege mode’

Prime minister Robert Abela speaking at a recent press conference during the inauguration of the new concert area in Ta’ Qali.

The Labour Party always shifts to this kind of rhetoric whenever it feels like its grip on power is threatened by the response to its corrupt excesses. It blames external targets for the issues that crop up and rallies its core supporters by claiming it is being persecuted by its enemies, usually while citing lust for power and a spiteful hatred of the Labour Party as the main reasons its enemies are up in arms against it. The prime minister repeatedly casts himself as a protector of the country who is securing the Labour government against its perceived enemies.

The reverse is actually true: the more the Labour Party goes on the offensive, the less secure the country is, especially when we are speaking about democratic institutions like the judiciary.

Since he was appointed prime minister following disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat’s ignominious resignation in January 2020, Robert Abela abused the powers of his office by interfering directly in legal, judicial, or administrative processes, shielding individuals (including himself) from further scrutiny, and/or refusing to acknowledge corruption within his government at least 63 times, a comprehensive analysis of news reports conducted by this website has shown (click here for an enlarged version of the data chart below).

Abela’s strategy of attacking democratic institutions in times of crisis contrasts starkly with claims the prime minister has made in the past. While Abela has now made it clear he views the judiciary as public enemy number one following the conclusion of the Vitals inquiry, he had previously declared that the government will respect the outcome of this same magisterial inquiry and that the government will not attempt to interfere with the magistrate’s investigation.

The government’s refusal to cooperate with everyone

A photo of the Labour Party’s parliamentary group in 2019.

Throughout the course of the entire hospitals concession saga – from the very first minute Daphne Caruana Galizia began unearthing shady details about the original investors involved in Vitals Global Healthcare to the inevitable, court-mandated rescission of the deal last year – the government has repeatedly refused to answer questions from the press, failed to adequately respond to the National Audit Office’s extensive probes into the deal, and did all it could to funnel taxpayer money into the concessionaires’ coffers even when it was beyond obvious that the deal was cooked from the start.

After spending years defending the deal and claiming that negotiations with the concessionaires remained ongoing, the government was eventually forced to admit defeat when the courts decisively concluded that the concession was vitiated by its fraudulent nature. In fact, the government’s marked shift towards an aggressive anti-judiciary rhetoric can be traced back to that moment, in which it became clear that the deal was absolutely indefensible.

The Labour Party excels at knife fights – but cannot fight itself

A photo of disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat and some of his former Cabinet members shortly after the Labour Party secured a win in the general elections of 2017.

Predictably, the whisperers of the Labour Party have crawled out of the woodwork once more, emerging in yet another Sunday Times of Malta piece to speak about the government’s fears in relation to the inquiry. One of them pointed out that, while prime minister Robert Abela is ‘determined to put up a fight’, there is no real enemy to fight against, which explains why the Labour Party is claiming that there is an ‘establishment’ which is hell-bent on unseating the governing party.

The only real enemies in this equation are the fraudsters who were involved in the hospitals concession, none of whom can be considered as such by the Labour Party since all of them hail from its own ranks. The Labour Party is at its most terrifying when it uses its massive propaganda machine to crush opponents and bury all proponents of narratives which are considered bad for the state.

Who is it going to crush in this case? A disgraced former prime minister who is still loved by the party’s own brainwashed supporters?

Too many people involved in the concession are liable to cracking under pressure

Former health minister Konrad Mizzi.

We know that it is almost certain that Joseph Muscat, Keith Schembri, Konrad Mizzi, Chris Cardona, Edward Scicluna, and Chris Fearne are all lined up for their political execution. Then, there are all the businessmen who were involved in the deal, from the original investors who made up VGH and the others who swooped in through Steward Healthcare. Then, the enablers – lawyers, accountants – who facilitated the corruption and money laundering that went along with the deal.

Back when the corruption surrounding the deal was still in the process of being exposed, the Labour government managed to remain in control solely because Muscat’s Cabinet was willing and able to follow its leader off a cliff if necessary. Muscat was able to keep a lid on the scandal because key individuals both within his government and outside of it profited immensely from the deal.

Now that practically everyone who was involved in bringing the deal together no longer holds office, can all these individuals be trusted not to break when placed under the microscope of court proceedings? Do any of you think that someone like Konrad Mizzi wouldn’t begin squealing the minute he senses that he is headed for a nice, long stay behind bars? Think again.

If the magisterial inquiry was ‘maliciously’ timed, then what does that say about the scandal itself?

A photo of the court.

Hearing our prime minister talking about the Vitals inquiry would almost make you think that the magistrate in question suddenly decided to conjure it up out of thin air, concluding it at the right time to cause the maximum amount of damage possible.

However, it must be said that the magistrate’s intent is frankly irrelevant. Even if we had to assume that the magistrate deliberately timed the conclusion of her inquiry to coincide with the upcoming elections in June, the matter lies primarily with the content of the inquiry report rather than when it was published. The real problem is the fact that this inquiry was necessary in the first place and that it occurred solely thanks to the colossal efforts made by Repubblika and the inquiring magistrate instead of the efforts of law enforcement authorities.

The argument becomes all the more deranged when you take it to its logical extreme – if we assume that the timing of the publication of the inquiry was indeed malicious, then by extension, it can even be argued that Muscat’s refusal to be held accountable for this scandal when he was still in government was simply a malicious (and successful) attempt at passing the buck onto his unwitting predecessor. Had Muscat resigned when it was appropriate for him to do so, poor little Robert wouldn’t be faced with this situation, would he?

If this is a Labour Party witch hunt, then why are we not being told who is responsible for it?

Back in the heyday of the Labour Party’s literal approach to ‘witch-hunting’, the photo is a screengrab of a ONE programme which used to portray Daphne Caruana Galizia as a literal witch.

Like the boy who cried wolf, Robert Abela keeps claiming that this is all an orchestrated campaign designed to take down the Labour Party but fails to name names when journalists corner him to demand an answer. He was outright asked to state whether he is going to report magistrate Gabriella Vella to the Commission for the Administration of Justice since he is claiming that she is waging political terrorism against the Labour Party, and he said he isn’t going to do so.

So, if the prime minister is not going to report the magistrate who he describes as the effective lynchpin of this establishment that is carrying out this witch hunt against the Labour Party, who is actually doing the witch hunting and why haven’t they been reported accordingly?

And most of all, if this really is such a blatant miscarriage of justice that is being perpetrated by the establishment, then why is the Vitals report being kept under lock and key when it should be published for all to see, thereby dissuading all doubts about the serious charges that Muscat and his cronies face?

The inquiry’s price tag

Justice minister Jonathan Attard (left) and prime minister Robert Abela (right).

Justice minister Jonathan Attard, one of Abela’s key loyalists within the government, is an active participant in Abela’s campaign to discredit the judiciary. One of the novel ways in which the justice minister has participated in this assault on our democracy is by implying that the price tag of the inquiry, which he states is around the €10 million mark, shows that magistrates and judges have too much of a free hand when it comes to the budgets which are assigned for such inquiries and that this is proof that they are in fact given the resources required to conduct their work.

Of course, the justice minister avoids mentioning the fact that the scale of the fraud suffered by the taxpayer because of the hospitals concession itself – a deal which was conservatively valued at around €4 billion by the National Audit Office – completely dwarfs the €10 million which were allegedly spent on this inquiry and the investigations which were carried out under its direct command.

The minister also fails to mention that the judiciary has been repeatedly vocal about the systemic failures which plague the country’s slow, cumbersome justice system, all of which the government has failed to address in their entirety. Indeed, it can be said that the judiciary has, in the case of the hospitals concession, managed to begin the process of delivering justice in spite of the government’s best efforts to sabotage it.

The Labour government’s inadequacy is too striking to ignore

…and it presents itself in the most embarrassing ways possible.

Prime minister Robert Abela and energy minister Miriam Dalli posing for a photo op with Enemalta employees.

Let’s take one small example from Abela’s latest Sunday speech, addressed to the so-called ‘people in the south‘. One of the derogatory remarks which the prime minister made about former Nationalist governments is that, according to him, Nationalist governments viewed the southern region of Malta as one that was “only good for dump sites”, claiming that the ever-elusive “establishment” built a power station run by heavy fuel oil and a recycling plant that smelled so bad people couldn’t even open a window.

It is already a reach for the prime minister to upsell Labour’s offering by trashing the Nationalist governments of over a decade ago. It is outright embarrassing to do so when considering that Abela’s own administration recently signed off on spending €46 million on a diesel-fired power generator to backup Enemalta’s ailing energy grid in peak usage months, proving that it does not seem to have an issue with polluting areas in the south as long as it’s not a Nationalist government that’s doing so.

This one brief example serves to show how the Labour Party’s failure to actually dedicate time and energy to long-term policies which improve the country’s prospects for the future is inescapable, erasing all the credit it earned with the segments of the electorate who managed to improve their personal financial standing through the Labour Party’s neoliberal approach to the economy.

No exfiltration point in sight

A photo of prime minister Robert Abela and disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat on the campaign trail.

This is, perhaps, the biggest headache of them all: what now?

Let us play out the most likely scenario for a minute. Muscat and his cronies will obviously do whatever they can do to obstruct justice and try to finagle their way out of any charges headed their way. Abela and his government will likely do what the Labour government has always done when people from its own ranks are caught up in scandal – deny everything and refuse to cooperate with all investigating authorities.

In other words, the Labour government seems to be suggesting it is headed for an eternal war of attrition with all its perceived enemies. Again, if we had to assume that there really is an establishment that is causing all this chaos through its network within the courts, the opposition, and within civil society, what is Abela going to do about it?

So far, all he’s suggested as a response to the advances of this establishment is the idea that his voters should send them a message by mobilising on 8 June. According to Abela’s theory, this establishment is going to stop at nothing to take down the Labour Party – so why is he expecting to thwart them with the outcome of the MEP and local council elections?

Are we expected to believe that the party which has relentlessly hunted down every single critic it has ever had, including by exposing personal details about their workplaces and family members, is now suddenly afraid of a group of people it doesn’t even dare to name?

If the Labour Party does secure a win in these upcoming elections, will it suddenly go back to business as usual and pretend this establishment never existed, or will it actually set out to finally name names and hold its shadowy representatives responsible?

Unless Robert Abela’s government actually roots out and arraigns the members of this establishment in front of the courts of law, this whole pathetic narrative will be exposed for what it is: the demented ramblings of a paranoid, ignorant leader who could have dragged the country out of the abyss but instead chose to plunge it further into it.


  • Stop and think says:

    Great article.

    One has to ask what’s in it for the Prime Minister, right? Finding the answer to that is crucial now.

    • Julian Delia says:

      The prime minister is in it for his own political survival and the opportunity to hold onto power, nothing more, nothing less.

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