As the Executive Chairman of the National Book Council, I persistently sought to reach new records such as all-time highs in book sales at the Book Festival, a record number of prizes to authors, a record number of guests at events, a record number of books exported etc… My successor who bears my name and who is working in the book industry for the first time ever is in the habit of continuing my legacy of records, only that his records are regressive.
Yesterday, it was the first time in the National Book Council’s recorded history since 2001 that the National Book Prize was held without any political representative representing the government. Not even the President of Malta was present.
Traditionally, in the recent twenty years, the National Book Prize was held at the Auberge de Castile under the patronage of the Prime Minister. In 2019, upon the news that the OPM was allegedly covering-up the murder investigation of Daphne Caruana Galizia, I moved the ceremony to San Anton Palace and was held under the patronage of the President of Malta. Last year, the ceremony was held at the Mediterranean Conference Centre under the patronage of the Minister of Education.
This time round, the new chairman of the Book Council dragged the authors and publishers to the Auberge de Castile only to have them sit at a ceremony presided by the Permanent Secretary of the Minister of Education. The Prime Minister did not attend the ceremony and neither did the Minister of Education, Justyne Caruana who is currently facing calls of resignation for giving her boyfriend a consultancy contract of €15,000 for the duration of three months.
So, not only is the book industry explicitly being abused as a partisan political tool, but the government doesn’t even want to return the favour by simply coming to town and say thank you. The new chairman decorated the ceremony with a dull speech void of any vision or practical meaning as he said that he wants to work closely with other public agencies and help anyone who wants to publish a book in Malta. Compare and contrast this ingratiating and daft speech with the previous speeches which used to have some relevance to what actually was happening in real life.
On top of it all, there is the irregularity of having a supposedly civil servant taking a political role in a public ceremony. Since Robert Abela’s administration entered office, Frank Fabri has consciously abused his civil service job to politicize his position and push himself into the public eye when top-ranking civil servants are supposed to do the exact opposite of that, but more on this on a separate blog post in the future.