What will happen now? – Arnold Cassola

The vote in Parliament on Richard Cachia Caruana opens up a completely new chapter in Maltese parliamentary history because I believe that this is the first time that a motion has been moved against an individual who officially is not a political person.

Of course, there are many facets to the issue.

Whatever is said and done, it is clear that Mr Cachia Caruana is not a normal civil servant like everybody else. In my opinion, he did commit a cardinal mistake and the Prime Minister was an accomplice in perpetuating this blunder.

In 2004, Mr Cachia Caruana started enjoying diplomatic status since he had been appointed Malta’s High Representative to the European Commission. From this moment onwards, he was representing the Maltese state, and all Maltese citizens, and he should, therefore, have severed all links with the Nationalist Party.

Unfortunately for him, and now also for the country, he did not. He was one of Malta’s most powerful diplomats but, at the same time, he remained the PN delegate for the 12th district and one of the foremost strategists of the party.

In a truly democratic state it would be considered unacceptable that a party activist fulfils a diplomatic role and still keeps on wearing her/his political party hat. In a truly democratic state, the distinction between state and party has to be clearly spelled out. Alas, Mr Cachia Caruana’s dual role demonstrates that our country has not yet emancipated itself into a fully fledged democracy.

The usual PN apologists might argue that the Labour governments of the 1970s and 1980 were also always mixing party and state affairs. But that is exactly the point. The Maltese voted out the corrupt and violent Labour regime of the 1980s to get rid of a party that made no distinction between the two. In allowing Mr Cachia Caruana to continue having a role in both party and state affairs, Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi has dismally failed to emancipate this country into a truly modern democracy. Having said that, it is clear that Mr Cachia Caruana has shown great ability in his diplomatic assignment and, indeed, he is very much respected by his colleagues in Brussels.

It is also a known fact that, due to his abilities and to his important contacts, he wields a lot of power and influence within Maltese political circles. It has been rumoured that a good number of ministers “fear” his decisions or directives and that only a few of them – including John Dalli and Austin Gatt – ever really stood up to him. His influence over certain members of the journalistic category, whom he would provide with juicy issues to work upon, has also been widely touted.

But if a number of politicians “fear” him, some others have developed a strong antipathy towards him and this has led to his downfall.

Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando did not mince his words during his intervention in Parliament. He stated that he considered Mr Cachia Caruana “as a main candidate in an oligarchy”, that “he had a total disrespect for democracy”, “that it was a vile act after the election that Mr Cachia Caruana started campaigning for his (Dr Pullicino Orlando’s) removal from Parliament” and that “he used the media to call for his (Dr Pullicino Orlando’s) resignation and had even lied to the Prime Minister about him”.

To sweeten the pill, Dr Pulllicino Orlando concluded that “he enjoyed good relations with Mr Cachia Caruana and coordinated with him as chairman of the Malta Council for Science and Technology (and that) it was not true that he had personal difficulties with him”.
Such a declaration, within the context of Dr Pullicino Orlando’s parliamentary intervention, is absolutely unconvincing.

What are the consequences of the vote against Mr Cachia Caruana?

First of all, the PN executive has decided to condemn the three dissident Nationalist MPs. I find this action unbelievable because we are no longer living in the Middle Ages.

In any political party, as in any other grouping of people, there will always be (luckily!) different and differing opinions on various issues. If a political party leader has to repress opposing opinions through condemnations and anathemas, then this is a clear sign that the leader is not democratic at all and suffers from a strong inferiority complex.

If Dr Gonzi is firm in his beliefs and not fickle, he should accept internal criticism and not stifle it through repressive measures that go against the basic rules of democracy.

Getting back to Mr Cachia Caruana, his dismissal and resignation come about at the least propitious moment for our country. The EU is negotiating the budget for 2014-2020 and is clearly indicating that it would like to cut subsidies to farmers, on the one hand, while probably also delisting Malta from the privileged Objective 1 funding status.

Following the unacceptable mess deriving from the lack of distinction between party and state, who is going to be the person with the necessary experience and negotiating skills to get the best results for our country?

Prof. Cassola is the spokesman on EU and international affairs of Alternattiva Demokratika – the Green party.