This week another mini scandal broke out when it was announced that the National Commission for People with disabilities (KNPD) asked the police to seize the Blue Badge awarded to the wife of a PL member of parliament due to its abuse. I will not go into the merits of why that blue badge was awarded to the MP’s wife 4 years ago, and renewed again after two following an accident. It does however seem very odd that by her own admission on social media, her disability means she cannot wear flat shoes but must wear high heels, very high heels on occasion.
What galls me as a citizen of this country is that people who are meant to be serving the public abuse of the system to serve themselves.
Let me explain where I am coming from. On the 16th October 1982 I was involved in a serious traffic accident. This accident left me in crutches for three and a half year with a permanent injury to my right leg. The end result of which is one leg over 2cm shorter than the other, a permanently broken bone in that leg, and over the years since increasing arthritis in the joints of that same limb. As a doctor in an emergency room I spend 12 hours on my feet and often end the day in considerable pain. Despite the fact that I often park several hundred metres from my home due to the parking situation in the part of Rabat I live in, I have never considered applying for a Blue Parking Badge or reserved parking slot for the disabled.
I will tell you why. It may be uncomfortable, but I can still walk distances. I partially adjust the shortening in my leg by wearing insoles in the relevant shoe (just like the MPs wife wears heels…..). There is only one Disabled parking slot in the vicinity of my house and more than one old or infirm person living in that neighbourhood. I could easily make use of it but would then deny them the same. I get by, and until I can get by will park like everyone else.
Before people think that this is a PL bashing session. I would like to mention another example of petty abuse by a self-serving politician form the other side of the house. In Rabat, opposite Howard gardens stand the notarial offices of Tony Abela. They are clearly marked as offices with name plates of the people working there. The entrance however looks like a garage and has the usual ‘No Parking, garage in use 24hrs’ sticker on it. In front of this ‘garage’ there is the obligatory yellow box painted to stop people parking there, with one exception, the car of the above-mentioned notary. How do I know it is his? Well in a fit of overwhelming modesty he chose as the number plate of his vehicle IN-NUTAR. Every day, during office hours, you will find it there. Outside office hours a very scarce parking space goes to waste.
The two examples of abuse mentioned here do not affect me personally, the notary’s office is nowhere near where I live, and I doubt if Luciano Busuttil ever parks in my street. They do, however, irritate me immensely, and if they irritate me I am pretty sure that they irritate many others just as much.
Public servants are there to do exactly what their job description says, serve the public. And Members of Parliament, whether they think so or not, are public servants. Just like being a doctor, nurse, teacher, policeman, fire fighter and many other jobs, it is not easy and should be considered as a vocation. And just like doctors, nurses, teachers etc. who may not have their heart in the job and who are doing it for the wrong reasons, a public servant of the same ilk will generally prove to be very poor at it.
Examples like these two do no favour to their parties or to the image of politicians in general, yet they are a symptom of the malaise running through the corridors of power. It is precisely why the public is disillusioned with the current state of party politics and many well-meaning people of talent will have nothing to do with the two major political parties. If PL and PN do not realise soon that it is the minor insults like these that get to all of us; the Blue Badges, the inappropriately allocated parking slots, the 700 Euro minibar bills; just as much as major scandals, they will find out soon enough at the ballot box. Malta and its electorate is changing fast, PL and PN must change faster or be left behind.
Dr. Anthony Buttigieg MD