If, as Shakespeare says, all the world is a stage, then the Maltese were regaled with endless episodes of the theatre of the absurd during this year that is slowly coming to an end. Let us just remember some scenes we watched with a mixture of interest, frustration and disgust.
In the beginning of the year it became evident that the government had lost its majority in parliament. Grumbling on the backbenches of the government side soon turned into open defiance with some Nationalist MPs voting against the government or abstaining. A vote of no confidence in the dysfunctional minister Austin Gatt failed to bring the overdue resignation of this minister by the casting vote of the speaker.
But the Prime Minister decided to soldier on. He told us that the country needed him and he would respect the mandate given to him by the electorate in 2008 and continue to serve the country until the very end of his mandate. In the meantime, a few of his rebel MPs continued to criticise him and his ineffective team. This criticism slipped on the Prime Minister’s back as water slips from a duck’s back. The loss of personal dignity was a price worth paying to remain in power, even if his own team was not fully behind him.
A vote of no confidence in one of his ministers found the backing of the majority of members in Parliament. The Prime Minister suffered another massive humiliation at the hands of some of his own MPs but out of a sense of duty to his country – at least this is what he told the nation – he stuck to his post.
Soon he suffered another setback when his chief strategist and Malta’s ambassador to the EU was forced to resign following a vote of no confidence in Parliament. To soothe the bleeding wound of this ambassador who has a very high opinion of his own abilities, the Prime Minister insisted that his strategist retains the title of ‘ambassador’. Yes, we now have an ambassador who does not represent us in any country, but who has an office in the nirvana of Castille.
So to avoid any further humiliation the main actor in this theatre of the absurd decided to continue to serve the nation by emasculating parliament by taking long breaks that meant fewer votes. Instead, he oiled the wheels of the patronage machine that started to dispense favours in the forms of promotions and employment in the public service, speedy issue of government controlled permits and other goodies that could affect the voting intentions of voters on the eve of an election.
In the meantime the country languishes in uncertainty. Enemalta continues to plod on from one crisis to another. The Arriva bus service keeps us amused and frustrated at the same time by failing to deliver a decent public transport service. BOV continues to treat with contempt its customers to whom it mis-sold investment products. Public parking places are offered to private operators without consulting with local councils and affected residents. A private hospital is hastily earmarked for hiring or purchase by the government without informing Parliament on the conditions of this major deal.
Yes we have learned so much on the theatre of the absurd in the last year. It’s time to look forward to the end of this tragic drama and start hoping in a new reality that makes more sense for all of us.