Malta u l-politika

Ittri ċċensurati u punti ta' riflessjoni politika.

 

Din li gejja hija l-verzjoni Maltija

tas-sensiela

 Kif in-Nazzjonalisti jitrattaw lil xulxin

(ahseb u ara x'jaghmlu lill-Laburisti!)

 

Avviz ghas-sahha

Dawk in-Nazzjonalisti li jbaghtu bil-pressjoni ahjar ipoggu bilqeghda qabel jaqraw dan li gej.

 

 

Il-protagonisti principali Nazzjonalisti ta' din il-grajja glorjuza.

 

Anthony Manduca

(editur ta' The Times u ex editur ta' The Malta Independent)

 

Daphne Caruana Galizia

(korrispondenta)

 

 

Prof. Guido DeMarco

(ex President tar-Repubblika u ex vici kap tal-P.N.)

 

 

Dr. Giannella Caruana Curran

(avukatessa u t-tifla ta' Guido de Marco)

 

 

Dr. George Hyzler

(avukat u ex membru parlamentari Nazzjonalista)

 

Protagonisti ohrajn …

Dr. Joe Zammit Maempel (avukat)

Missier Daphne Caruana Galizia

Nota: missier Daphne dahal intortament f'din l-istorja

 

Il-grajja li qlibtha ghall-Malti ghal-konvenjenza taghkom.

 

Il-Hadd 2 ta' Mejju 2004 Anthony Manduca (ex editur ta' The Malta Independent) cempel lil Daphne Caruana Galizia biex jiskuza ruhu ghall-ittra li kien kiteb u li giet ippubblikata dakinhar istess. Qalilha biex tinjora l-ittra imma Guido de Marco kien offiz b'artiklu li Daphne kienet kitbet erba gimghat qabel fejn ikkritikat lil de Marco. Qalilha li hu u Daphne imma ghadhom hbieb!! L-ittra li ppublika Manduca tghid li l-artiklu ta' Daphne kien gie ppublikat f'The Malta Independent on Sunday meta hu (Manduca) kien ghadu l-editur taghha. Qal li jiddispjacih li ppublika dak l-artiklu. Qal li l-artiklu ma kienx accettabli, kienet kritika ingusta kontra Guido de Marco, imbaghad ghamel elogju lill-istess de Marco. Manduca qal li ma ried ikollu xejn x'jaqsam mal-artiklu ta' Daphne u talab skuza minghajr riserva lil de Marco.

 

Daphne ma qablitx. Qaltlu li l-hbieb ma jghajrux lil xulxin fil-pubbliku imbaghad fil-privat jghidu li ghamlu hekk mhux ghax riedu imma ghax ma kellhomx ghazla ohra. Habib ma kienx jikteb dik l-ittra li kienet ittra opportunista u nieqsa mis-sincerita'.

 

Daphne ikkonfermat li Guido de Marco ghandu influwenza kbira fl-Allied Newspapers (li johorgu The Times). Tistaqsi jekk lil Manduca iddettawlux x'ghandu jikteb jew tawhx l-ittra lesta kemm jiffirmaha. Jidher li dak li ghamel Manduca kien biex ipaxxi lil ta' fuqu u Manduca jafu dan. Qalilha, "Ma jimpurtax, jien ser nidher ikrah mhux int, ikteb li trid. Imma tghidx li cempiltlek biex nghidlek li dak li ktibt jien mhux ghax ridt."

 

Daphne irrabjat. Tghid li l-ewwel Manduca qalilha biex tikteb li trid imbaghad qalilha biex ma tghidx li cemplilha u dan meta l-anqas biss hu l-editur taghha (ghax issa ma' The Times). Qaltlu li ma jistax joghgob lil de Marco fil-pubbliku imbaghad jiprova joghgob lilha fil-privat u jittama li hadd ma jkun jaf. Manduca induna bir-rabja ta' Daphne u qalilha li kieku hu kien jaqta barra dak li kienet kitbet dwar it-tfal ta' de Marco. Daphne irragunat li dawk mhux xi tfal zghar, ghandhom il-hajja taghhom u huma personalitajiet pubblici. Fakkritu li l-artiklu taghha kienet bghatitulu kmieni bizzejjed jekk ried ibiddel xi haga minnu u kellu zmien bizzejjed. Ma setax f'daqqa wahda jinduna li ried jirranga xi haga fl-artiklu ta' Daphne u jitlob skuza erba gimghat wara li ppublika dak l-artiklu b'kumbinazzjoni hekk kif mar jahdem ma' The Times. Qaltlu li issa hu (Manduca) jaf min jista jghaddi minghajru jekk hux lil de Marco jew lilha u malajr iddecieda li jista jghaddi minghajrha. Daphne qalet li Manduca ikkalkula hazin ghax il-kredibilita tieghu tnaqset. Politiku habib ta' Manduca kien qalilha dakinhar stess li Manduca kien gdid f'The Times u diga kisruh. L-affari hzienet minhabba l-fatt li l-ewwel stejjer taht Manduca f'The Times kienu dawk ta' tifhir lit-tifel ta' de Marco.

 

Mela ghalfejn Manduca ghamel dak li ghamel? Staqsiet Daphne. M'hemmx ghalfejn wiehed ikun car izzejjed. de Marco u bintu ma setghux jehduha kontra Daphne fil-pubbliku. Billi m'hemmx kritika kontrihom fil-gazzetti hlief ghal dak li kienet kitbet Daphne ma jfissirx li kritika ma tezistix. Raguni ghaliex kritika bhal dik ma tigix ippublikata hija minhabba l-biza ta' tpattija. Din ix-xewqa ta' tpattija tista ma tkun xejn u forsi de Marco u t-tifla tieghu dahku wara li qraw l-artiklu ta' Daphne. Imma jekk hemm il-fehma li tpattija tista tezisti, il-gurnalisti jahsbuha darbtejn qabel jiktbu dak li n-nies ikunu qeghdin jghidu. Daphne kitbet artikli aktar iebsin fuq hafna nies imma Manduca qatt ma talab apologija minhabba li halla l-artikli kif kienu. Imma din id-darba Manduca hass li wara erba gimghat kellu jbiddel artiklu li ma kienx libelluz.

 

Daphne qalet li spiccat minn korrispondenta ma' The Times fl-1996 wara li artiklu li kienet kitbet fuq de Marco u t-tifla tieghu intlaqa' b'ghageb kbir u ma riedux jippublikawh. Minflok, dak l-artiklu gie ppublikat minn The Malta Independent, l-istess kif gralu Alfred Sant ftit zmien ilu (meta The Times iccensuratlu artiklu imbaghad deher fil-Malta Independent). Meta n-nies jirrabjaw jibdew jizbaljaw.  Indunaw li bhala korrispondenta f'The Malta Independent, Daphne kellha aktar liberta u setghet tiddiehak bihom, xi haga li ma setghetx taghmel f'The Sunday Times. Wara li keccewha, Daphne qalet li ghamlu konferenza stampa fejn Guido de Marco kkundanna bil-qawwa kollha dak li qalet Daphne fuqu. Wara din il-konferenza stampa, kienu hafna dawk li hasbu f'dak li seta jigrilha. Qaltilhom li zgur m'huma ser jaghmlulha xejn.

 

Daphne imbaghad tghaddi biex tghidilna l-istorja tat-tifla ta' DeMarco (Dr. Giannella Caruana Curran) u tal-ex membru parlamentari Nazzjonalista George Hyzler u kif ppruvaw jissekwestraw il-karozza taghha l-ghada li Manduca ppubblika dik l-apologija f'The Times. Forsi imbaghad in-nies jindunaw ghaliex ma jkunx hemm min jikritikhom fil-gazzetti jekk imbaghad wara jigrilhom hekk.

 

Daphne qalet li ma setghux ifittxuha fuq libell ghax mhux kontra l-ligi li tiddiehak b'persuni pubblici. It-tifla ta' de Marco kienet fittxet lil Daphne u lill-Malta Independent ghall-libell fuq l-artiklu tal-1996 u kienet rebhet il-kawza. Daphne qalet li kellhom kaz tajjeb biex jappellaw mis-sentenza imma l-appell taghhom waqa minhabba teknikalita'. Imn'Alla ghax ma kellhomx jistennewha (lil Daphne) taghmel xi apologija, ghalhekk riedu jithalsu b'mod iehor. Ghalhekk fid-29 t'April marixxall tal-qorti mar id-dar ta' Daphne b'ittra ufficjali ffirmata minn Dr. George Hyzler fejn talabha biex thallas lill-klijenta tieghu (Dr. Giannella Caruana Curran) l-ammont ta' Lm600 danni u Lm700 spejjez u dan fi zmien 24 siegha. L-ghada t-30 t'April kien jum ta' celebrazzjoni u l-gurnata ta' wara kienet festa pubblika u l-gurnata ta' wara kien il-Hadd, granet fejn xejn ma seta jsir. Poggiet l-ittra fil-genb waqt li lil Dr. George Hyzler taghtu hasla, l-istess Dr. George Hyzler li kien beda l-karriera tieghu ta' avukat fin-negozju ta' omm Daphne stess (Galdes & Mamo Insurance). Daphne tahseb li wara li nannuha u zijuha mietu u allura ma setghux jaghtuh xoghol, Dr. George Hyzler haseb li seta' jibghatilha ittri ufficjali mill-klijenta tieghu. Bhal ma qaltlu fuq it-telefon, il-gest tieghu (ta' Hyzler) ma kienx xieraq wara l-ghajnuna kbira li tawh meta beda l-karriera ta' avukat u meta ma kellux klijenti. Mela, fil-jum tat-Tnejn filghodu hekk kif fethu l-banek, il-bank informa lil Daphne li Dr. George Hyzler u Dr. Giannella Caruana Curran kienu effettivament ffrizawlha l-kont taghha. Daphne jidrilha li kienet mossa drastika meta semplici telefonata kienet tkun bizzejjed imma temmen li dan kien il-qofol ta' kollox u r-raguni ghaliex sar li sar. Meta l-kont ikun iffrizat ma tistax tigbed flus minnu jew tohrog cekkijiet fuq l-istess kont. Ir-ragel ta' Daphne kien imsiefer ghalhekk cemplet lil missierha. Kien seta jobsor x'kien gej. Issuggerilha li jaghmliha bank draft minflok cekk f'isem il-klijenta ta' George Hyzler. Daphne ma riedetx ghax bank draft ma jurix min ikun ghamlu, ghalhekk missierha ghamel cekk ghal Lm1,300 u taghtu lill-avukat taghha Dr. Joe Zammit Maempel li huwa wkoll sieheb fil-kumpanija ta' Dr. Hyzler.

 

Meta Dr. Maempel ta c-cekk lil Dr. Hyzler kellu jaccettah minnufih u johrog ircevuta, wara kollox hu kien l-avukat ta' missierha f'kawza wara habta li kienet ghoddha qatlitha. Dr. Hyzler kien ukoll il-mistieden ta' missierha fit-tieg taghha u suppost habib tar-ragel taghha ghal 40 sena shah. Minflok, Dr. Hyzler qabad it-telefon u cempel lil klijenta tieghu u staqsiha jekk rieditx taccetta c-cekk minghand missier Daphne. Imbaghad qal lil Dr. Maempel li l-klijenta tieghu ma tridx ic-cekk imma flus kontanti. Meta Dr. Maempel cempel lil Daphne biex jghidilha b'dan (thasritu ghax rat li kien qieghed jiprova jghaddilha l-messagg minghajr ma jsemmi din il-mossa li kienet ghada kemm saret), Daphne indunat li Dr. Hyzler kien hdejh dak il-hin ghalhekk talbitu jghaddilu t-telefon biex tkun tista tkellmu hi stess. Qaltlu biex ma jkunx redikolu billi jindirizza lil dik il-mara bhala 'il-klijenta' tieghu, u jekk trid flus kontanti kellu jghidilha tmur il-bank u ssarraf ic-cekk u jaghtuha 130 tenners. Daphne tghid li Dr. Hyzler kellu jhossu stupidu jirrifjuta cekk ghan-nom tal-'klijenta' tieghu, liema cekk kien gej minghand bniedem li missieru mexxa u kellu sehem mill-istess bank minn fejn hareg ic-cekk.  Dr. Zammit Maempel cempel lil Daphne ftit tal-hin wara fejn qalilha li kien ghadu kemm sab li minbarra li kienu ffrizawlha l-kont tal-bank, Dr. Hyzler u Dr. Caruana Curran ghamlu talba ghal sekwestru fuq il-karozza ta' Daphne – dan kollu ghal Lm1,300. Li kieku l-bank ma nformax lil Daphne b'dak li sar, kieku Dr. Hyzler u Dr. Caruana Curran kienu jehdulha l-karozza immedjatament, imma peress li tghathom cekk mill-ewwel, kellhom juzaw tattici ohra bhal perezempju jitolbu flus kontanti minflok cekk. Il-messagg ta' Dr. Hyzler kien biex missier Daphne jaghtiha Lm1,300 flus kontanti inkella l-'klijenta' tieghu tehodilha l-karozza.

 

Sa dak il-hin Daphne riedet li l-avukat taghha kellu jkun l-intermedjarju f'dan kollu biex jiehu hsieb it-transazzjonijiet. Imma meta l-affarijiet hzienu tant li spiccaw f'dan il-livell ta' vulgarita, Daphne ddecidiet li tmur hi u tpoggi l-flus fuq l-iskrivanija ta' Dr. Hyzler u tistennieh jghodd il-flus ta' Dr. Giannella Caruana Curran. Missier Daphne taha envelope b'130 tenner, marret il-belt u poggiethom fuq l-iskrivanija ta' Dr. Hyzler. Meta kien qieghed jghodd il-flus, haditlu ritratt bil-camera li hadet maghha, liema ritratt issa qieghed imdendel fl-ufficju taghha b'tabella li tghid, "George counting Giannella's payment in cash". Daphne tghid li r-ritratt ifakkarha f'liema livell bniedem jista jasal ghalih. In-nies bilkemm jemmnu dak li sar.

 

Daphne tghid li Guido de Marco kien il-vici kap tal-Partit Nazzjonalista, vici Prim Ministru, Ministru tal-Affarijiet Barranin u President. Matul dan iz-zmien kollu reporters u fotografi grew warajh u l-izball li hu u l-familja tieghu ghamlu kien li hasbu li n-nies kienu qeghdin jigru warajhom ghax hu kien Guido de Marco u mhux ghax kien vici kap tal-PN, vici Prim Ministru, Ministru tal-Affarijiet Barranin u President. Issa li l-fotografi m'ghadhomx aktar, wasal zmien ta' aggustament.

 

 

Kumment

 

X'johrog minn din l-istorja klassika fejn il-protagonisti ewlenin huma kollha Nazzjonalisti maghrufin? Fil-fatt johorgu diversi fatti interessanti whud konna nafuhom u whud godda.

 

L-ewwel haga ovvja li tohrog huwa l-glied bejn in-Nazzjonalisti li suppost maghqudin bhal "ahwa Maltin" (tiftakruh lil Dr. Fenech Adami jghidilna li bil-PN fil-gvern insiru lkoll ahwa Maltin?). Jien qieghed niehu dak li kitbet Daphne bhala l-verita minhabba l-mod kif kitbet u d-dettalji li svelat. Johrog car li hawn Nazzjonalisti f'certi karigi li huma minghajr fibra. L-editur ta' The Times Anthony Manduca jidher bla sinsla f'din l-istorja, laghqi kbir jixxejjer mar-rih skond kif jiddettawlu ta' fuqu. Nithassru miskin. Ikkonfermata l-influwenza qawwija li Guido de Marco ghad ghandu fuq The Times li mhux b'kumbinazzjoni tezisti biex tattakka lill-MLP. Kienu, ghadhom u jibqghu l-akkuzi li The Times hija l-lehen mhux ufficjali tal-Partit Nazzjonalista. Johrog car kemm hawn min jibza jikritika lin-Nazzjonalisti fil-miftuh minhabba li jpattuhilu. Dan nista nikkonfermah jien stess minhabba t-theddid li nircievi. Nista nikkonferma wkoll kemm hu difficli ssib nies li wara li jaghtuk informazzjoni fattwali tahraq ma jkunux iridu jidhru. Din hi l-liberta fil-pajjiz. Il-biza tat-tpattija hija reali mmens u qeghdin nghixuha kuljum. Jien naf b'aktar abbuzi Nazzjonalisti imma ma rrid ingib lil hadd fl-inkwiet ghax kulhadd jiprova jiprotegi l-familja tieghu u hawn nies li jaslu ghal kollox. Meta jkun hemm min jghidli biex ma nikxfux, jien nirrispetta ix-xewqa tal-persuna. Dan l-ahhar persuna bghatitli informazzjoni li lili hasditni. Indunajt li ghalkemm urietni min hi, dehret li mhux komda turi isimha. Minkejja li taghtni l-permess biex nizvela din l-informazzjoni, jien iddecidejt li biex niprotegi l-identita taghha ikun ahjar jekk ghalissa din l-istorja ma tohrogx. Tant hi kbira l-biza ta' hafna Maltin minn Nazzjonalisti.

 

Johrog car ukoll minn din il-grajja, n-nuqqas ta' rispett ta' Dr. Hyzler lejn Dr. Zammit Maempel - avukati fl-istess kumpanija. Dr. Hyzler deher qisu pupazz f'idejn Dr. Giannella Caruana Curran li ghas-somma zghira ta' Lm1,300 riedet tghaddi lil Daphne minn kalvarju shih. Lm1,300 x'hinuma ghal Giannella? Niggarantilkom li huma karawett! Imma l-aqwa t-tpattija. Johrog car li n-Nazzjonalisti ma jinsewx. Illum jew ghada jsibuk. Ma taghmilx differenza minn int, tista tkun tal-qalba ghax xorta jsibuk u jwahluhulek!! Bil-flus kollha li ghandhom dawn in-Nazzjonalisti arroganti, xorta jidher li huma mdejqin ghax min jasal biex jaghmel dawn il-hnizrijiet zgur mhux kuntent fil-hajja. Jien gallarija nara lin-Nazzjonalisti jitqabdu f'xulxin. Ir-raggiera li jilbsu skond l-okkazjoni hija biss ghal-konvenjenza imma ma tahbix il-karattru arroganti taghhom. Illum jew ghada jinkixfu. Min jafhom sew jaf x'qieghed nghid u min jincenshom ikun hati daqshom fit-tbazwir li qieghed isir fil-pajjiz. Jekk anke ma' ta' gewwa stess jimxu b'dan il-mod, kif qatt xi hadd Laburist jista jehlisha hafif minn taht idejhom? L-istorja vera ta' xi jsarfu n-Nazzjonalisti ghad trid tinkiteb. Ir-rwol ta' maltapolitics.com huwa biss ta' ghajnuna lil dawk li jridu jkunu jafu il-fatti. L-istorja pero' jrid jiktibha haddiehor.

 

U issa l-grajja fid-dettal kif kitbitha Daphne stess bl-Ingliz.

 

Last Sunday morning, my former editor Anthony Manduca, who has left to take up a post as news editor with The Times, called me at home to apologise for the letter he had had published in this newspaper that day. “Ignore it,” he said, “I had to write it because Guido was really, really offended at that article you wrote. We’re still friends.” “Well, hardly,” I said. “Friends don’t slag each other off in public, and then call in private to say that they didn’t really mean it, that they had no choice but to do it. A friend wouldn’t have written that letter at all, particularly since it was an act of opportunism rather than sincerity.” Guido de Marco, you see, is widely regarded as very, very influential at Allied Newspapers, which owns The Times. Anyhow, this was the letter, in case you missed it. I refer to the article by Daphne Caruana Galizia entitled ‘They just can’t let go’ (The Malta Independent on Sunday, 4 April). As the editor responsible for that issue of The Malta Independent on Sunday I would like to express my regret for not having properly edited that article which was a major omission on my part. The article in question was unacceptably and unfairly critical of President Guido de Marco who always carried out his duties with great dignity and who has contributed greatly to the consolidation of Malta’s democracy and towards our country joining the European Union, two major achievements. I would like to disassociate myself completely with the overall thrust of the article and apologise unreservedly to Professor de Marco for any offence caused. Anthony Manduca, Sliema

 

I wonder whether it was dictated to him, or given to him ready-written for his signature. I have no way of knowing whether Anthony wrote that letter of his own free will, so as to curry favour with his new employers, or whether it was ‘suggested’ to him that he write it. Whatever the case, it looks like nothing but a craven act of abject groveling, and even Anthony knows this. “Don’t worry,” he said. “”It reflects badly on me, not on you. Write what you want to about this ñ I’ll understand. But don’t say that I called you to explain that I don’t mean it.” My reaction to that last remark just doesn’t bear repeating. He gives me permission to write what I please, asks me not to say that he called me, and he isn’t even my editor anymore.

 

I pointed out that he couldn’t have it both ways: sucking up to Guido de Marco in public, then sucking up to me in private and hoping that Guido de Marco won’t find out. It’s too indecent. In the face of my annoyance at his lack of backbone in this matter, Anthony did a little bit of backtracking. “Well, I think I would have edited out the bits about his children,” he said. I wished to know what children these might be, as a woman pushing 50 who is a public figure in her own right hardly qualifies as such, especially if she sets herself up as a target by going on prime time television to discuss her father. I also reminded him that the article in question was delivered well within deadline, and had he wished to edit it, he had plenty of time to do so. He couldn’t suddenly have discovered a wish to edit and a need to repent a full four weeks after it was published, coincidentally as soon as he steps over the threshold of The Times. As I told him over the telephone, he had worked out the sums as to who is now the most dispensable to him ñ Guido de Marco or a columnist with the competition ñ and he made the calculation that it was me.

 

Of course, he did not quite work out that sum correctly, because he has paid a terrible price in terms of dented credibility. As one political contact of Anthony’s pointed out to me that same day: “He’s only been there for five minutes, and they’ve already crippled him”. The matter wasn’t helped by the fact that the first stories to be carried under Anthony Manduca’s by-line in The Times were laudatory pieces about what Guido de Marco’s son said in Brussels. How very tiresome this is going to be.

 

So why did he do it? I don’t think that the answer to that question needs to be spelled out. Of course, by adopting the ‘how dare they ñ off with their heads’ approach of Le Roi Soleil and the Sun Princess, Guido de Marco and his daughter would be only compounding their problems in this respect. The fact that criticism of their behaviour is not published, except in rare instances like that particular column, does not mean that there is no criticism. One reason criticism like that never makes the newspaper pages is because of the fear of retribution. This desire for retribution may just be a fiction, a myth that has been put about. For all we know, Guido de Marco and his daughter may have read that piece and laughed along with the rest of us, then put it aside with a brief comment about how wonderful it is to live in country where there is freedom of expression. But if there is the perception of retribution, however imaginary, it is enough to make journalists think twice before putting into print what plenty of people are saying anyway.

 

Let’s put it this way. I have written tougher pieces about many politicians and public figures, including the present and former prime minister, the leader of the opposition, many cabinet ministers and senior figures in the Labour Party. But has Anthony Manduca ever felt the need to apologise publicly for not editing them? No, he has not. And yet he apparently felt the need (four weeks after the event) to edit a piece that certainly was not libellous in any way because it is not against the law to laugh at public persons, as it was in France in the 18th century.

 

I finished as a columnist with The Sunday Times in 1996 (talk about cutting your nose to spite your face) after an article I had written about Guido de Marco and his daughter was greeted with unmitigated horror and a refusal to publish. It was carried in this newspaper instead - an experience Alfred Sant also went through recently, for the same reason, only he wasn’t sacked as a columnist with The Times because he’s too important. I have been here as a columnist ever since. Efforts were made to ensure that this would not come to pass, biex ma’ jkollhiex fejn tikteb. When people are angry, they make tactical errors. It was realized, too late, that as a columnist with this newspaper I would actually have more freedom, and that I might, oh horrors, make fun of them in print, something that would not have been possible with The Sunday Times.

 

The sacking was followed by a long press conference (Guido de Marco was then acting prime minister) in which he condemned me roundly for all manner of transgressions. That tactic, too, backfired badly. A number of people, the sort whose admiration and respect is sought by the de Marcos, called me after watching the news, terrified that I was about to be thrown into prison. The press conference had clearly evoked memories of much worse times. I put their minds at rest, saying it wasn’t possible, that of course he wouldn’t do anything like that.

 

And now I’ll tell you the story of how his daughter and the politician and former parliamentarian George Hyzler (also a public figure, I have to remind you), tried to seize my car last Monday, the day after Anthony Manduca’s abject apology was published. Then perhaps you will no longer wonder why nobody ever criticizes them in the newspapers, given what happens to those who do.

 

They realized that they couldn’t sue me for libel because it is not against the law in this country to poke fun at public figures in the newspapers. The daughter had sued me and this newspaper for libel about that long-ago 1996 column, and she had won damages. We had excellent grounds for appeal, and so the appeal was filed. The appeal fell through on a technicality. This was heaven-sent, because any attempt at extracting a groveling apology from me would be worse than useless (I would write about it), and so other means of pay-back had to be sought.

 

So the Thursday before last, a marshal of the courts turned up on my doorstep at 7am with a judicial letter, signed by George Hyzler, demanding that I pay his ‘client’, Giannella Caruana Curran the sum of Lm600 in damages and another Lm700 in expenses, within 24 hours. The next day, April 30, was celebration day, followed by a public holiday and then Sunday, days on which nothing could be done. So I chucked the letter aside with a couple of derogatory remarks about George Hyzler, who had started his career as the lawyer for my mother’s family’s business, Galdes & Mamo Insurance, and who has clearly made the sort of sums that Anthony Manduca has, as to which side his bread is more heavily buttered on now. I suppose that, with my grandfather and my uncle both dead and no longer able to give him work, he feels free to send me official letters from his ‘client’. As I told him on the telephone later on, that was a fine way to acknowledge the huge helping hand they gave him when he was starting out and had no clients.

 

On Monday morning, as soon as the banks opened, my account handler called to say that George Hyzler and his client, Giannella Caruana Curran, had placed a garnishee order on my bank account, freezing it and rendering it inoperative - drastic measures, when a simple telephone call would have sufficed, but then I suppose that this was the whole point of the exercise. When your account is frozen, you can’t write a cheque against it, nor withdraw cash. My husband was away, so I called my father. With 25 years more experience of life than I have, he could predict what was about to happen, and suggested that he give me a bank draft, instead of a cheque in the name of George Hyzler’s ‘client’. “No way am I going to give them a bank draft,” I said, “because it’s untraceable.” So my father wrote out a personal cheque for Lm1,300 in the daughter’s name, and I gave it to my lawyer Joe Zammit Maempel, who also happens to be a partner in Dr Hyzler’s law firm.

 

When Dr Zammit Maempel handed the cheque to Dr Hyzler, he should have accepted it immediately and written out a receipt there and then. He was, after all, my father’s lawyer in the court case following a crash that almost killed me, my father’s guest at my wedding, and a supposed friend of my husband for 40 years.

 

Instead, he picked up the telephone and called his ‘client’ to tell her: “There’s a cheque here from Daphne’s father. Do you want to accept it?” Then he told my lawyer (his law partner): “My client does not want to accept this cheque from Daphne’s father. She wants cash.” When Dr Zammit Maempel called to tell me this (I felt sorry for him, as he struggled to convey the news without commenting about this bad behaviour), I knew that the former parliamentarian was standing next to him, so I requested that the telephone be passed to him so that I could put my feelings into words. “Please don’t make yourself ridiculous by referring to the woman as your ‘client’,” I told him. “And if she wants cash, tell her to present my father’s cheque at the bank counter, and the teller will give her 130 tenners.”

 

My father, on the other hand, knows a fair bit about hers, but the only remark he passed (I don’t take after him at all) was: “How strange – her grandfather was such a nice, kind man. I liked him so much.” He was the janitor at the Lyceum, with whom my father would spend hours after being ejected from the classroom for misbehaviour.

 

George Hyzler must have felt particularly foolish refusing to accept, on his ‘client’s’ behalf, a cheque from a man whose father ran and part-owned the bank on which it was drawn, before that bank was seized.

 

Dr Zammit Maempel called me up again some minutes later. He had just found out that, besides freezing my bank account, Dr Hyzler and Dr Caruana Curran had also placed a warrant of seizure on my car – all this for Lm1,300. Had my bank not called me first thing on Monday morning to make me aware of the garnishee order, Dr Hyzler and Dr Caruana Curran would have seized my car immediately. But because I gave them a cheque immediately, other delaying tactics had to be used, like refusing it. The message from Dr Hyzler, who was busy burning 10 different bridges at once so as to prop up a single one (a short-sighted exercise and a foolish one) was: tell her father to give her Lm1300 in cash, or my client will seize her car.

 

There are some things that money just can’t buy. Happiness is only one of them. There are many others.

 

Until then I had resolved that my lawyer would be my intermediary, handling the transactions. But when matters descended to this sordid and vulgar level, I determined that I would be the one to place the money on Dr Hyzler’s desk, and to stand there while he counted Dr Caruana Curran’s cash. My father gave me a Bank of Valletta envelope with 130 tenners in it, and I drove them into Valletta and placed them on the former parliamentarian’s desk. Then, as he was carefully counting the tenners lest one slip away, I took a photograph of him with my trusty digital camera. The photograph is now on my office wall, with the caption “George counting Giannella’s payment in cash” beneath, and a cartoon bubble coming out of his mouth. That photograph will remind me, possibly for the rest of my life, of the level to which an individual will come to, given the right circumstances.

 

I have been dining out on the story for the past few days. People have been in fits of laughter and disbelief at the crassness of it all.

 

This is where reality bites hard. Guido de Marco has been deputy leader of the Nationalist Party, deputy prime minister, foreign minister and president. During all that time, reporters and cameras have followed him around, and the mistake he and his family have made is to imagine that they were following him around because he was Guido de Marco, and not because he was deputy leader, deputy prime minister, foreign minister and president. Now the cameras have gone, and a period of readjustment must follow.

 

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