OPINION. On Wednesday 28 August the appointment of the new High Commissioner for Malta to Australia was reported in the Maltese media. The appointee is Charles Muscat, a long-time resident of Canberra and the representative of Malta’s Labour Party in Australia.
The appointment of an Australian resident and presumably citizen, who has lived in this country for half a century, is in itself quite surprising, given the typical demands of the position of High Commissioner requiring the appointee to be well-versed in the prevailing social and political conditions and the workings of government in Malta. The office of High Commissioner is the highest diplomatic position representing the Malta Government and an appointee to that position needs to have sufficient relevant experience to be able to perform such a critical role confidently and competently.
To do one’s job effectively as Malta’s top diplomat in a country, an appointee must have the full confidence not only of the Government that he represents, but also that of the government of the host country to which he has been posted. While Mr Muscat clearly enjoys the full confidence of the former, he still has a long way to do so with respect to gaining the latter, especially given the reports about the processing of his nomination, such as, that published in The Times of Malta last Wednesday that “according to sources, the Australian government was reluctant to agree to Mr Muscat’s appointment.”
Moreover, to do this job properly from the Maltese community perspective, such a person must also enjoy the full confidence of the Maltese living in Australia. We expect our representation within the Malta Government to be untainted with partisan leanings. We, as representatives of Maltese living overseas, have always taken extreme care in ensuring that party politics does not muddy relationships between ourselves.
And this is precisely the area where one looks on with serious concerns about the suitability of this appointment. It is widely known that Mr Muscat has for decades exclusively represented the Labour Party’s interests in Australia. So it is not unreasonable to ask how he is going to interact with, and represent, non-Labour interests without political allegiance perceptions still lingering on in the minds of members of Maltese communities in Australia. This, of course, still remains to be seen.
While the MCCV is critical of the appointment, this is no reflection on the character or goodwill of Mr Muscat, who will no doubt be under considerable pressure to perform and meet the expectations of the Australian government and the Maltese community in Australia.
Despite the Maltese community’s concerns, the MCCV will continue to maintain its close relations with the High Commission in Canberra and will collaborate and work closely with the new High Commissioner in the best interests of the Maltese community residing in the State of Victoria whom the MCCV represents.