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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malta, thoughts

The situation is desperate.

There are crooks everywhere you look now. The situation is desperate.

Daphne Caruana Galizia

I’ve been trying to write and re-write this blog post for a while now. Part of me still can’t quite believe that Daphne Caruana Galizia is dead – murdered. Assassinated, to be precise. Every time I sat down to write this words just failed me. So I guess I’ll try to keep things simple and attempt to articulate what’s been happening in my head.

First, there came the shock and disbelief. I wandered around the city pretending to look for the right place to sit down and do my work, but really I was in a strange daze, only half-listening and half-seeing. Everything seemed a little muffled. There was the shock at the fact that there was yet another car bombing in Malta, then there was the dread that came when reports came in that it was Daphne. She seemed indestructible to me. Fearless. Relentless. Hungry for justice. I didn’t always agree with what she did or how she did things, but that doesn’t matter – who the hell agrees with a person on every single detail? She was a role model for someone like me – an outspoken Maltese girl who fancied herself a bit of a writer, even when her writing was average at best. Who else did I have? How many strong, intelligent, precise, eloquent female writers did we have on our rock? How many of them have the courage to stand against corrupt politician after corrupt politician, with libel suits and threats coming hard and fast? I couldn’t do it. Hell, sometimes I hover over the ‘publish’ button on this blog wondering if what I’m saying is ‘ok’ – what would I do if I was about to expose another dirty politician? I’d be too scared to click. I’ll probably hover over ‘publish’ and tweak and edit this for an hour before I upload this.

Next, the grief. The morning after the news broke things sunk in properly. I was in bed scrolling through Facebook and pausing at the Maltese headlines that were flooding in. I stopped and read Matthew Caruana Galizia’s heartbreaking status about the moment he heard the blast and rushed to his mother. I read about the moment he was in that field, surrounded by pieces of his mother. Policemen standing, unable to do anything – of course, the police force should have done something when she reported the threat on her life two weeks prior. Now it was too late. Then I just cried. For him and for her and for what it all meant or could mean. For what my home country has become – a mafia state. Words seemed to fail.

The anger and frustration came hot on the heels of that sadness. Outrage. Disgust. They all melted together and the words came back to me in a flurry. Here’s what I shared on my personal Facebook, because I still feel the same:

“They” (Who are they? The powers that be, regardless of political allegiance) might not have ordered the hit but they’ve created the exact conditions that facilitate this kind of brutality. Every politician and law enforcer is accountable. We’re accountable. We’ve allowed for it through overwhelming complacency as a nation.

Oh, and if the police didn’t protect Daphne, how can you be confident that they’ll protect YOU? Your family? That they’ll ‘protect and serve’ because you’re a human being and not because you’re on the same ridiculous “football team” of a political party? That they won’t leave you high and dry because you speak out against corruption (again, forget party colours), or be one of the idiots car-cading to the sound of your death bells? When police rejoice in the murder of a journalist (with no consequences, of course) something is very, very wrong. If you feel safe, you’re not listening hard enough. If you’re not angry, you’re not paying enough attention. If you’re not disgusted, you should be. Keeping quiet is how bullies and scumbags win, or feel they’ve won. We need now, more than ever, to speak up and speak out when we see wrong being done by the people in charge. Forget your party. Fuck the party. This is about your rights and your country. A country that is getting more fucked up by the day.

There have been protests. Vigils. Sit-ins. Some people are standing up and doing things to try and get some sort of justice in the rotten EU state of oh-so-sunny Malta. My only hope is that they don’t stop – that we don’t return to the same lackadaisical attitude that brought us to this point.

There have been statements made by ‘politicians’ trying to ride on the back of this tragedy. The same politicians who just weeks earlier were slagging Daphne off and trying to escape from her pen. Some dared to suggest that heqq, you have to be careful what you say hux (that’s a summarised form of it, anyway). As though pointing out corruption and expecting the culprits to be held accountable opens you up as fair game. I’ve even seen a worrying number of keyboard warriors banging on with their ‘shame on you’s directed at the grieving family for not wanting key figures from our corrupt government to attend the funeral. People are ridiculous.

We still have some strong writers in Malta, but it’s not every day that we get a DCG. That brings me to another thing that’s been on my mind recently – the abysmal state of journalism and news in Malta. Where do our journalists come from? What are we doing to foster good investigative journalism? Are serious journalists even safe anymore? It doesn’t feel like it. Our news outlets are questionable at best, filling their pages or websites with the usual partisan bullshit and barely ever scratching the surface of what’s really happening in Malta. I’ve felt uneasy about this façade we’ve been presenting to the world for a while now. Oh, look, we’ve got the EU presidency! Oh, and look at this, Valletta is the city of culture 2018! Oh, and we did this, and that, and the other! EUROVISION! A news article about toilet hygiene while people are still demanding justice for Daphne’s assassination!

DISTRACTIONS.

The costly aversion of the eyes from the bubbling, open sewers just beneath our pothole-ridden, traffic-choked, garbage-littered streets. Crime. Corruption at the highest levels of government, creating the perfect climate for those looking to do wrong. And yet people persist in keeping their blue-or-red blinkers on, worshipping their leaders instead of holding them accountable for their actions. Make no mistake, voter. You’ll be held accountable for the smallest of crimes – they’ll hold you accountable. But the same rules don’t apply to the ones who supposedly make or safeguard them. Spineless hypocrites (just another term for ‘politicians’).

And I’m sure someone reading this might try to make it look like my views are coloured by one of the major parties on our island. That’s part of the problem, of course. Go ahead – I don’t care. I have no party. To hell with them all. They’ve all failed us. Failed Daphne and her family. We need to start from scratch. Call in pest control because the country is being run by rats. Clean slate. I might be asking for too much, I know.

I won’t be silent. I won’t be afraid. But I don’t think I can bring myself to call that place ‘home’ for now. It doesn’t feel like it.

 

-Kelly

 

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