MALTA DIARY: This is the summer that was – menacing threats, festas and fireworks and a little how’s your father!
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The weather forecast said a cyclonic air spout is heading towards Malta and was clearly visible from Valletta, storm clouds are gathering and storms expected later in the day. This quite obviously heralds the beginning of the end of summer, which is a normal occurrence in late August.
It has been a good and a bad summer.
Good because the weather has been good and we have thankfully not suffered the oppressive heat waves that swept the rest of Europe. Good too because of record tourist incoming figures, record numbers of Maltese holiday makers travelling abroad and record numbers of people crossing over to Gozo for long and leisurely week-ends.
Everything was rounded off with an amusing episode last week when the Malta Court strongly reprimanded a middle-aged couple from The Ukraine for having a bit of how’s your father while being naked in their hotel balcony and in full public view!
Police quickly moved in and they were charged with being drunk and disorderly and offending public morals!
The presiding Magistrate strongly recommended that they partake of such intimate actions within the confines of their bedroom walls, with the curtains drawn closed and he handed them a severe caution that a criminal act during the forthcoming 12 months would result in a prison sentence.
July and August maintained their normal pace of town and village festas with boisterous brass band marches and a virtual continual fusillade of spectacular fireworks that epitomise the spirit of Malta and Gozo during these two summer months.
However, the real scene stealers were on the political and legal side, scenes that not only shook internal confines but reverberated internationally and have remained highly topical todate.
In mid-July the highly respected Magistrate Dr Aaron Bugeja handed the report of an Inquiry he had been conducting over the last 15 months to the country’s Attorney General, a 1,500 page report that had cost €1.3 million to compile.
An Independent Inquiry had been requested by the country’s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat after the late controversial Blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia had published a Blog alleging that the PM’s wife Michelle Muscat was the owner of a company called Egrant, registered in Panama and which was being used to money-launder and stash away ill-gotten gains.
This Blog, backed by signed ‘official’ documents and witness testimonies, caused The Mother of all Storms and was taken up by the Opposition in an attempt to bring down the Government.
The PM and wife immediately repudiated all, requested an Independent Inquiry while Joseph Muscat announced that even if a shred of evidence was found to verify this he would immediately resign. Promptly, he called a General Election and was returned with a record majority vote.
The Magistrate’s final report was a bombshell. Not a single shred of evidence had been found to verify the allegations, over and above which the documents and the signatures on them had been certified by British experts to be totally false and forged, while all the allegations made were libellous and slanderous and the forgers would face criminal actions.
Naturally enough, the fall-out was devastating with a volcanic barrage of accusations and counter-accusations, cries of “shame”, “disgraceful” and “disgusting”, calls for resignations, criminal actions to be taken by the Police and everything else conceivable.
Proverbially, miscreants are “thick as thieves”; however, in equal measure, when the bomb goes up it becomes each man and woman for themselves.
The whole story had purported to hinge on the testimony of a Russian woman Maria Efimova who was employed by Pilatus Bank and was said to have “seen” all the proof in documents which she copied and handed over.
When it all fell apart she denied all and said she was not the source. In the interim she had disappeared from Malta where she was wanted by Police for alleged criminal, financial fraud from the bank and later surfaced in Greece where she sought asylum. Curiously, the former Police Inspector who indicted her for fraud, Jonathan Ferris, had meanwhile aligned himself to the Opposition on the Egrant issue and an almighty spat followed with Efimova, each calling the other “a liar”!
The PM summed it all up when he said if the people had not trusted in him, today Malta could well have had a Government that had been elected on the strength of a grossly outrageous lie.
Much has yet to be heard about this bubbling hotpot!
Since the new populist right-wing Government took over the Italian Senate and the Italian Government, a war of words has broken out between the two close neighbours and for many years, friendly partners.
Maverick Italian Deputy PM and Minister for Internal Affairs Matteo Salvini has hit on the ploy that it is very convenient to blame all of Italy’s immigration and economic woes on Malta!
Salvini seems to have lost his atlas and his Mediterranean bearings because according to him every ship, launch, dinghy and boat that floats on the surface of the Mediterranean is automatically in Maltese waters. He seems to be unaware that Malta is the smallest country in the Med and has the most limited of all territorial waters!
Cleverly enough, Malta spiked his guns at the onset by declaring it would honour its international humanitarian and marine obligations within its zone – but no more.
Involved are the so-called NGO “rescue vessels” which are being seen by both countries to be aiding and abetting this human trafficking trade in collusion with the Libyan criminals running it by always being on stand-by, picking everybody up and dumping them in the nearest port – whether Malta or Italy.
After a barrage of insults, sleights and taunts levelled at Malta, Italy is now preparing to follow in Malta’s footsteps by brokering an agreement with the EU that immigrants landed would have quota allocations to other EU countries.
From recent arrivals it is becoming quite clear that most are NOT refugees and do NOT qualify for humanitarian support because they are simply seeking a better life in Europe.
Meanwhile, Italian Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli did not seem to be preoccupied by the 45 deaths of his compatriots in the Genoa Bridge disaster under the charge of his Transport and Infrastructure Ministry and took the opportunity to announce that ‘sanctions’ should be taken against Malta.
His colleague Salvini attended the state funeral for the victims and caused general disgust throughout Italy and beyond by finding time to stop and take a “selfie” with a female admirer during the solemn and sorrowful funeral!
Yep, this is the summer that was and much, much more has yet to be heard on these fronts.
“Look where you look – you find no shelter”
A hopeless situation with no remedies possible wherever you look and no matter how hard you look