A country’s reputation is built very much like that of an individual. It starts to take shape early in life when essential traits of a character slowly emerge and gradually develop and is strengthened over the years with life choices and attitudes with which we face challenges and handle opportunities.
Reputation is not bought or bartered for. Reputation is developed, strengthened and earned. It requires consistency, reliability and loyalty.
Our national reputation was moulded out of years of hard work, resilience and true character and it has become the cornerstone of everything we have achieved.
Equally, reputation can also be lost quickly and with astounding immediacy and a reputation of a country, once lost or badly shaken, can take generations to rebuild.
This brings us to where we are at today. The monumental political crisis that reached its breaking point in November and December 2019 has not been put behind us and, sadly, the rot that occasioned it has been allowed to fester.
The warning signs were there, of course. When Labour came into power, many expected exactly what they were convincingly promised, that is a seamless transition and a fresh, hand-on-heart honest and clean approach to what many may well have considered tired governance after successive Nationalist administrations.
What we all actually got was Joseph Muscat and the much-heralded cream of the crop team within his administration immediately setting into motion a pre-planned road map leading to scandal after scandal, lie after lie, mess after mess.
The seemingly unending revelations of numerous hitherto unimaginable scandals should have been the clarion call for our collective awareness that the intolerable simply cannot be tolerated, even less so excused.
After the first warning signs from the international community, instead of correcting this rotting system, governing officials chose to emphatically confirm full trust, confidence and support to the crassly corrupt and to the system which they installed and which allowed them to plunder more and more at our collective expense.
Then, following on October 16, 2017, when what we assumed would never happen in Malta happened in the most criminally violent of manners, the political crisis that culminated two years later was the point where we stood up and stared straight in the face of our national reputation in freefall.
The change at the helm of the Labour administration regrettably turned out to be barely any change at all, as those who plundered were succeeded by those who supported and applauded their plundering even when it was laid bare for all to see. We have thus continued down the same dangerous path.
Reputation is developed, strengthened and earned. It requires consistency, reliability and loyalty
This issue is not a partisan one. This determining moment in our country’s history is even less so. This is neither a ‘red or blue matter’ nor an ‘us versus them’ situation.
The alarm bells' ringing has been exhausted. Successive warnings have not been heeded. Even after the 2019 upheaval, we have not only witnessed the shameful confirmation of what was shamelessly denied for years but we have also had new cases of abuse of power and no clear and unequivocal political will to quash them, at a time when the absence of such a will itself delivers a further blow to any effort to restore a heavily-tarnished national reputation.
Corruption and almost-daily scandals do have a price, whether some choose to believe it or not. They bring about a consequence that we all have to face, whether we like it or not. Our financial services sector described in the 2003 Moneyval report as “…a particularly well-regulated financial sector” has been dragged through the mud. The cost of averting a Moneyval disaster this time round has come at a huge, unfair and disproportionate burden on all operators.
Public entities have seen their top brass resign or be reassigned in disgrace or scandal while our police force, having seen an unhealthy and destabilising quick succession of commissioners, has had its own fair share.
The festering sense of impunity that has stamped high public office and service since 2013 has inexorably weakened the proper and timely workings of our institutions.
This is not the Malta we have worked for. This is not the Malta known for punching way above its weight. This is not the Malta we deserve. There is a lot that needs to be done but there is equally a lot for this country to gain if we all set about doing it.
The years ahead are yet full of promise and enormous potential there for the taking with a fresh vision forged out of the valid contribution of many; a well-balanced, serious and sharp approach and a mark of integrity. We must not step aside.
I, for one, will not do so. The Nationalist Party will not do so. Bernard Grech is fully committed towards this important change and I am equally committed to giving my contribution towards this same necessary change – in quality, in outlook, in mentality and in determination to set and achieve those standards in public life which our country today craves forever so intensely.
We cannot do this alone. I urge you all to take up this challenge together with us and so that, together, we will, as we can, make change happen. This country cannot, at this determining juncture, afford anything less.
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