What a difference a stay makes

What a difference a Stay Makes
Photo by Miguela Xuereb

If you are a member of parliament and a significant courtesy or gesture of hospitality is offered to you by a business person you ought to refuse it if you believe in a strict code of political independence.

In Jason Azzopardi’s case then, this doubly applies since it is what he often declares that he expects of his peers.

And yet last Sunday, Illum newspaper revealed that Dr.Azzopardi accepted a stay at the Hilton Tel Aviv which was paid for by Ray Fenech of the Tumas group who are the operators of the Hilton hotel in Malta.

Jason Azzopardi admitted. Stated it was he who called Tumas group for help with the booking. Did not ask for them to pay his stay and, when he realised it had been paid, sent a silver gift to Ray Fenech, in gratitude.

Attempt to knock Yorgen’s tormentor

The purpose of this post is to urge you to make some important distinctions before proceeding to vilify Jason Azzopardi entirely and concluding that he is on the payroll of Yorgen Fenech, who was the CEO of the Tumas Group before being accused of planning the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Jason Azzopardi is the lawyer representing the journalist’s family in court.

But illlum’s newspaper story is not about an expose’ of the political class and the gifts and freebies they receive.

Their story is not about ensuring that all politicians refuse all manner of compromising or expensive gifts, courtesies and hospitality …. which they should.

It is, instead, the usual damning conclusion reached by association rather than by analysis.

Had this been about stringing up politicians who accepted gifts, Jason’s name would need to form part of a much longer list of names. Here, the attempt is to knock Yorgen’s tormentor off his perch: thereby serving Yorgen’s interests.

The newspaper tries to manufacture a mathematical formula in which the name of Ray Fenech, whose guilt in anything has never been suggested by anybody, is added to that of Jason Azzopardi to produce the sum of all hypocrisies.

Sorry, that will not wash.

There is much to condemn but I wish to make the right – in my view – distinctions:

Jason was woefully incapable of consequential thinking when he failed to tell the cashier at the Tel Aviv Hilton that he absolutely wants to refuse the compliment even at the cost of appearing churlish.

For that lack of judgement he will be rightly condemned especially in view of his insistence on a clear separation between politicians and wealthy business persons.

So, let’s rebuke him.

But our newspapers cannot focus on him alone in this. Nor can they credibly draw the conclusion that he too therefore was on Yorgen’s payroll and is ineligible to do his job in court as his effective prosecutor.

Doing a difficult job without fear or favour

The facts of this incident do not support that conclusion and anyway he has shown he is doing his difficult job in court without fear or favour.

Has Jason’s standing as a different, better, kind of politician been damaged by the Hilton Tel Aviv incident?

Certainly.

Has Illum exposed him as part of its quest to call out all politicians on the take across the spectrum, in the public interest?

Certainly not.

A week after we learned that Yorgen’s lawyers tried to pay cash to Times journalists covering this case, Illum launches an attack on Jason Azzopardi alone, stirring the fear that the newspaper has an interest in weakening the case to find out who killed Daphne…..and why.

(The heading of this blog is borrowed from the slogan of the Embassy Suites chain of hotels.)