In 1854 600 hundred men from the British Light cavalry charged into a valley surrounded on three sides by enemy cannon, the result was a massacre. The incident was not particularly significant in strategic terms, but is often remembered as one of Britain’s greatest military blunders, destroying careers and ruining reputations. What is often forgotten is that they actually won the battle and, allied with Turkey and France, won the war.
You may ask, what has this got to do with present day Malta. Well I will explain. A few weeks ago, the Auditor General in his annual report lambasted Minister Chris Cardona and a delegation he was heading on a short visit to Dubai for racking up a drinks and minibar bill of over 700 euro. Remember, this was in a Muslim country where it was not very likely they spent the money on entertaining their hosts.
When this became public knowledge the first reaction by the Minister involved was to come out with the pathetic and lame excuse that drinks in Dubai are very expensive….700 euro expensive?? When he realised that the heat from this revelation was not about to cool down it was announced that his Chief of Staff was responsible for the bill and would reimburse the money. The Prime Minister on being questioned about the incident lauded those involved for their ‘gentlemanly’ conduct in paying the money back.
Oddly enough, talking to people, this incident has aroused more anger and disdain than any of the other scandals facing the government. Not the Gas tanker moored near Marsaxlokk. Not the partially published contracts signed with Vitals to run our hospitals. Not the complete lack of rational planning by the Planning Authority. Not even the Panama leaks. No, a paltry 700 euro spend on a drinking binge in Dubai.
And here is the reason why.
- The initial response by Chris Cardona showed complete and utter disdain for how the public purse is spent and an absolute lack of respect for people’s intelligence. He failed to understand that we Maltese are no longer village bound country bumpkins, we travel, and Dubai is a popular destination. No one I know who has been there for a much longer period of time, ON HOLIDAY not work, spent a fraction of that amount on alcohol.
- By letting his Chief of Staff take the rap for spending so much on alcohol, he has shown a lack of leadership and personal responsibility, and an abundance of political cowardice. He was leading the delegation, he was responsible for their actions. Very few people believe the man who was eventually blamed consumed all the alcohol alone. 700 Euro worth of booze would lead to him becoming completely legless and well on the way to liver failure. Dividing that by three is still pretty impressive, but doable.
- The Prime Minister’s reaction beggars belief. To call the act of reimbursing money misused on an official government mission ONLY after the miscreants were caught out gentlemanly, just shows just how low the moral standards of our current government have become. If a thief is caught stealing money, and this was tantamount to stealing our tax Euros, and gives them back to try and avoid a conviction, is he a gentleman or just savvy and cynical? Does he respect the general public, or is he only interested in saving his political skin?
- People are now asking the question: this is just one incident which has been found out, who knows what else is going on behind our backs?
700 Euro, like the Charge of the Light brigade, is a very small thing in the grand scheme of things. It will not bankrupt the country, it will not affect our everyday lives. The reaction, however, of those responsible and those in charge of the country, has indeed made people angry, and they are not likely to forget. This blunder may be remembered as the one that stripped the Emperor of his clothes. You can run an economy effectively, you can reduce unemployment, but if you stop respecting the electorate, they will stop respecting you…