Occam’s Laser is a long-time J’Accuse reader who works in the financial services sector. In this article Occam argues that Labour is willfully muddying the waters over Panamagate, exploiting the concerns of conscientious liberals to further its own agenda.
The Labour Party is desperate. For three months it has tried to brazen out Panamagate, but despite its survival of various protests, no confidence motions and other crises, the issue simply won’t go away. Now it is hoping that by tarring the whole Maltese professional class with the same brush, it will cause enough of a distraction for people to start talking about something, anything, but Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri’s egregious misdemeanors.
This is clear from the recent PL attacks on Tonio Fenech and the private sector companies he works for, the attacks on the law firm EMD and its consultant Richard Cachia Caruana, and its general bewildering aggression towards any PN leaning individual somehow involved in financial services. What PL is trying to do is obvious; they want to conflate public concern about the disparate issues of global tax avoidance and its own internal governance disasters in order to dissipate public outrage. This is yet another of the PL’s dirty tricks, and the public shouldn’t allow the PL to wave this red herring in its face with impunity.
To start off with, Malta’s strategic decision to become a financial services centre is one which enjoyed (and below the surface, still enjoys) broad cross-party consensus. So PL is being maliciously disingenuous when it feigns getting its knickers in a twist over this week’s various pseudo-revelations. Secondly, while there is no denying the inherent link between a world order that allows international corporate secrecy, and the exploitation of that secrecy by persons such as Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri, the two problems require radically different solutions.
Regarding the problem of international tax avoidance, this is one which requires, at the international level, a global co-operation and a deep philosophical rethinking of the way the world works; and at the local level, a careful repositioning of Malta as a jurisdiction which adds value beyond its low tax base (this is already the case to some extent, but a truly well intentioned government could do much more to improve things). This is going to be a big, slow job.
The Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri situation, on the other hand, is a pressing governance catastrophe that requires urgent and immediate action. Every day they hold on to their position, they cause irreparable harm to our reputation, and indeed deprive us of the valuable time that we need to reposition and further diversify our economy.
Perhaps the most galling thing about this PL manouvre is the way it exploits the feelings and concerns of the country’s most conscientious individuals, those who genuinely worry about things like global inequality and corporate ethics, turning these noble concerns into tools to further its own ends. Worryingly, we’ve already seen PL try to exploit the concerns of the conscientious before, as with that other red herring about Joseph Muscat supporting gay marriage a few weeks ago. This is shockingly unscrupulous behaviour; the Maltese public deserves better, and PL shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it.
Zolabytes is a rubrique on J’accuse – the name is a nod to the original J’accuser (Emile Zola) and a building block of the digital age (byte). Zolabytes is intended to be a collection of guest contributions in the spirit of discussion that has been promoted by J’accuse on the online Maltese political scene for 10 years.
Opinions expressed in zolabyte contributions are those of the author in question. Opinions appearing on zolabytes do not necessarily reflect the editorial line of J’accuse the blog.