Quite apart from Dr Borg Olivier’s fate as a consequence of his fumbling at the keyboard, his infamous e-mail offers us all a splendid opportunity we are very likely to miss altogether, a stimulus to fundamental reforms that would allow us to make several democratic and economic leaps forward.
Only the irremediably naïve can express surprise at the content of the e-mail: an institutional and unconstitutional melding of party and government. We all had good reason to suspect it. Many of us had the proof in pre-electoral missives specifically addressed to us on the basis of our professions and occupations, data legitimately available only to the government. Only the self-inflicted blindness of the true partisan can prevent anyone from seeing the constitutional depravity of this system within a system.
Once we have been blessed with Dr Borg Olivier’s blunder, a veritable X-ray of the unavowed, we are challenged to decide where we stand. Before the proof stood before us in all its awful ugliness, we could have avoided the issue, now we cannot. The party and the government have melded into one. The e-mail reveals a complete fusion in the minds of the author and of the intended recipients.
A meeting of key employees of various ministries with the Secretary General of the Nationalist Party at the PN headquarters to discuss the systematic, joint, PN-Government processing of complaints and requests to government by private citizens, speaks volumes about the background political culture. None of the participants appears to have objected or raised the issue of propriety. It did not seem to have occurred to anyone.
The idea of an impermeable barrier between government and party, the government being at great pains not to appear to give its own party any unfair advantage, seems never to have crossed anybody’s mind. The contrary does not register as a venial sin in Maltese political culture. Dr Borg Olivier will not resign because of his misdirection of an e-mail, nor for orchestrating an unconstitutional complaints processing setup explicitly intended as part of a five year PN re-election campaign. This is the apotheosis of the client/patron system combined with totalized government. It is the medieval Siculo-Arab heritage we share with the mafia. It is definitely ours, it is us.
The question is: do we like it this way? Are we merely resigned to it or do we actively promote it? Do we take it for granted and assume its immortality calmly settling down to our learned helplessness, or do we sneer at idealists for even thinking of opposing it, our talents lying in its dexterous exploitation?
Power to the party, necessarily to the party in government whichever it happens to be, means that the one recognized virtue in our society is loyalty to the party. Nothing else really matters. All the talk of meritocracy, of productivity and competitiveness being achieved through education and personal development is not all nonsense, just most of it. If you strongly believe otherwise, strongly oppose the government, show a chink in your unquestioning loyalty at a crucial moment and then tell me about your equal opportunities. If your philosophy is invisibility, living below the political horizon and seeing to No 1, you are not innocent. You have acclimatized to feudal subservience and powerfully sustain the status quo. You have denied yourself the freedom to speak out while you harbour contempt for those who fight for theirs. You are the unmovable mass, most of the problem.
If you are politically labeled, and it may have happened to you for the best of reasons at the worst of times, then your freedom to choose your government is all but lost. All the political arguments you get into are just a smokescreen for the fact that you cannot afford to lose. Once labeled, you have every reason to expect to be discriminated against for at least a decade if your party loses. It does little to allow you a clear mind on your way to the polls. Further government/party melding will only add to your hysteria.
Do we want to live like this forever? Or do we want to say out loud that the content of the Borg Olivier e-mail is profoundly shocking to EU citizens with high aspirations for their future?
I want to believe that there are serious politicians in every political party. Can they admit together that this sort of constitutional confusion has gone far enough? Can they make of Dr Borg Olivier’s fiasco a monumental watershed in our democratic development? Can they make of this most fortunate accident a catalyst for profound, lasting and critical reform?