On the 5th of March the unofficial memorial set up by mourners following the assassination of investigative journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia, was swept away overnight. Maybe ‘they’ thought that people would forget; uwiva, let it go ħi. Granted – overwhelming apathy and failure to stand up to the abuse of power is essentially how we got here in the first place, but they were wrong about this one. I write ‘they’ because I assume it took a few cowards to move that many tributes so quickly in the dead of night. Within hours, fresh flowers, candles, photos and banners sprang up once more, with those seeking justice for Daphne and fighting for freedom of speech feeling more determined than ever. I guess that one backfired. The people will not forget and they certainly won’t be silenced.
That’s what I want to talk about today – silence. You see, silence can be very loud. When somebody (a dirty politician or sham bank, for example) works hard to keep you quiet, then there’s a 99.9% chance that you know something that’ll see them exposed as the frothing cesspits they truly are. That’s bad for business. They’ll probably try to bully their way out of it by flinging out libel suits like a manic chimpanzee might fling excrement, or threaten to sue you, your grandparents, your auntie and the next three generations of your family if you speak up. Too often, the bullies win and the ones blowing the whistle are left vulnerable. This silence is one of fear.
Then there’s optional silence, far more telling than the silence discussed above. By saying nothing, people speak volumes. Amid all the public outcry and disgust at this underhanded move to erase her memory (and with it hush-up the call to defend freedom of speech and demand justice for her murder), our most illustrious Prime Minister has been very quiet indeed. Wait, sorry – he/his PR team has been quiet about this particular issue, but very busy tweeting about other things. On the 5th, @JosephMuscat_JM was mainly retweeting news about his favourite football team (Milan FC, in case you were curious) and the VOT16 result (16 year-olds can now vote in Malta, and how convenient for the PM that this news item was around to distract the masses on this specific day). He’s also been very talkative about his other smokescreens – I mean accomplishments. His account, like his time as PM, thrives on sycophants praising the hell out of this government, telling the world how proud they are to support his party. They genuinely believe they’re living in l-aqwa zmien (the ‘best of times’, Labour’s slogan). They do it so fervently that you’d think they’ve never heard of car bombings, a slain journalist, the Panama Papers scandal and shady dealings with even shadier people. He has said nothing about the clearing – not on social media, and not on any news articles or in any interviews. Nothing. Whether he gave the go ahead for the clearing or not is completely irrelevant – his silence, his failure to condemn the act, is what makes those responsible feel justified. It’s a failure to do his duty as PM. This silence is one of complicity.
And then there are all the questions. Why so silent? Who has the most to gain from having Daphne’s memory and public outrage fade away? Who has the most to lose when we do get #JusticeForDaphne, and who has the most to lose from real freedom of speech taking root in Malta?
Failure upon failure
Muscat’s deafening silence and the government’s overwhelming lack of action in response to the assassination is made far more apparent by the Solvakian government’s reaction to the recent murder of 27-year-old journalist, Jan Kuciak. Kuciak was investigating tax fraud that had ties to the government; he and his partner were found shot dead in their home. Three government officials have resigned (Malta: zero) and the president (who has the same powers as ours) has called for action in the form of an election or reshuffle. So – which Slovakian officials resigned?
- Culture Minister, Marek Madarič
- Chief State Advisor, Maria Trošková
- Chair of the Security Council, Viliam Jasan
The Maltese equivalent of these officials would be something like Minister for Justice, Culture and Local Government, Owen Bonnici; Minister of National Security and Home Affairs, Michael Farrugia; and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carmelo Abela. Just putting it out there.
Our government’s response has been abysmally bad. The sheer arrogance of our PM and his gang of cronies is actually astounding at this point. It’s an arrogance that became even clearer when Muscat was asked about his thoughts regarding the government’s accountability in the case of Daphne’s murder following their Slovakian counterpart’s response:
Naħseb li l-accountability tagħna hija li nsibu min għamel il-qtil […] u nsibu min bagħat dawk il persuni. (I think that our accountability is that we find the ones who committed the murder […] and find who sent those people.)
This is not accountability. This is an arrogant cop-out. What he’s saying here is that in his eyes, it’s all done an dusted now. He can try to wash his hands of the matter with as many bogus answers and smokescreens as he likes – the blood won’t rinse out so easily. Too many questions and crooks remain. It’s the same arrogance that we’ve somehow let politicians get away with for years. Now we’re reaping the rewards, and with the current opposition leader in place, the outlook seems pretty bleak right now.
Why do so many of us not only tolerate this open sewer of a government, but embrace it? Support it? Glorify it? Why do so many people idolise and hero-worship party leaders, acting like they can do no wrong and ready to ignore every evil and attack anyone who dares to oppose the great leader’s views like some sort of twisted mercenaries?
Your elected officials are there to serve the country. To serve you. They’re not doing us any favours (unless they’ve bribed you with some fancy government job, then yes they are because this isn’t a meritocracy right now). They’re being (over)paid to do a job, and believe me – if you or I were doing as a bad a job as them at our 9-to-5, we’d be fired and out the door by the end of this sentence. But that’s the fate of mortals like us; the gods sitting in their lofty parliamentary seats have (unanimously) approved amendments to the Pension Bill, meaning that MPs are eligible for a massive pension after serving for just five years. That’s a potential pension of €40,000 on top of their social security pension. Us mere mortals have to make NI contributions for around 25-35 years for a fraction of that amount. Considering their recent job performance, that hardly seems fair, does it?