international women's day
malta, thoughts

The Sound of (the Prime Minister’s) Silence

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.

 

Daphne Caruana Galizia Memorial

Photo credit: The Shift News

 

Hush now

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?

-Kelly

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thoughts

It’s starting to get to me.

Ominous title, I know. But you know me – I like to be as blunt and to-the-point as possible. Today’s topic is something that many living on tiny Malta will be familiar with – construction. More specifically, the unbridled spread of construction, cranes, and concrete across the island like some sort of cold, grey plague, and the general ugliness you’ll be smacked in the face with in most of our towns – particularly in central Malta. This is a taste of what you see during an incredible, fiery sunset in my hometown:

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Great view, isn’t it? How about no. It’s depressing, and messy, and it looks like nobody gives a damn. I’m embarrassed to say that this is my hometown. Half-finished apartments, cables and wires reaching across from block to block, and pavements and roads so riddled with holes and craters they’d give Sonny Corleone a run for his money. Of course, we always make sure that the roads used by foreign dignitaries are lovely and smooth, just in time for their visits – to hell with everyone else (i.e. the people who actually live here).

And the cranes. The cranes. 

During my 5-minute walk from my car to work, I counted no fewer than 8 gigantic cranes in St. Julian’s – and that’s without turning my head to look around. There used to be a bit of greenery just before heading down the hill to St. George’s bay, but that’s been ripped down and replaced with – wait for it – more parking spaces for a local taxi company. It bothered me, this assumption that we have the right to eat up every bit of nature or beauty in favour of more money and more parking spaces and more concrete.

If it’s not the cranes, it’s the so-called “Malta Planning Authority.”

I say ‘so-called’ because it’s less about the planning, and more about selling any piece of land or tearing down any building, regardless of historical and aesthetic value, to the highest bidder. There are some stunning town houses and villas dotted around central Malta, Sliema in particular, and it seems the ‘Planning Authority’ is perfectly fine with adding eyesore after eyesore, paying no mind to what the impact will be on the town or community as a whole. They’ve got a whopping 1.7 star review rating on their Facebook page, and if you ask me, that’s pretty generous. Check out what locals have to say about their ‘planning’ and you’ll see what I mean.

Where do ‘they’ draw the line? Why do we seem so powerless to do anything about it? How is it that we can have Valletta 2018 and the EU presidency on the one hand, and this, on top of the rampant corruption and general failure to govern on the other? You do know that Joseph Muscat hasn’t properly dealt with Konrad Mizzi’s Panama scandal, right? Why is Konrad Mizzi even working with the government at all? The list or questions goes on and on, so I’ll hit pause there. We just don’t deserve the EU presidency if our PM can’t clean up his own house. 

That’s what I’d love to know. Right now, I just feel like running away from this hot mess.

-Kelly

Check out a 2013 article about this issue here, and feel free to share your own thoughts and links below! 

 

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