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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egrant michelle muscat
Adult Life, Funny

5 Ways to React to Daphne’s Egrant Bombshell

Ah, Malta. Sometimes I feel like our relationship is a lot like the Eurovision song On Again Off Again by legendary duo Julie and Ludwig. I love the tan you give me over the summer months, but hate the sticky humidity and general BO that washes over the island; I love your history and rich cultural past, but hate the unbridled construction and simmering racism I still see; I love the Maltese countryside, but hate how little we do to protect it.

But right now, most importantly, I hate the way we do politics in Malta, but I love the laughs (sometimes nervous ones, in desperation) we get out of our situation. The Panama Papers scandal was a huge deal, but our government pretty much failed to do anything about it. Enter journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who has been building up to what I call the PanaBomb all week, and finally dropped a big one on us today. How do we react? What do we do? Luckily, we have gifs for every occasion thanks to, well, the internet.

1 | “I knew it!” / “Għidtilkom jien!”

The ones who ‘had a feeling’ this was coming all along, and have been telling you for aaaaages (or since DCG dropped that massif hint the other day). Anyway, they’re pretty pleased they called it. Give ’em a bit of figolla.

panama papers michelle muscat egrant

When you know they’re lying because you’re about to serve up some screenshots.

2 | The Stoics

These guys won’t be phased. They’ve become hardened to the harsh reality of the political world, and can’t be shaken by this latest revelation. Well, either that, or they’re sick of hearing about it and just want to enjoy the rest of Skjetti in peace.

panama papers michelle muscat egrant

3 | Tistgħu tgħiduli x’inhu jiġri hawnekk?

Translation: Can you tell me what’s going on here? 

These are the ones who either aren’t bothered, aren’t interested, or are just plain oblivious to the world around them. Let them carry on enjoying life without the oily shadow of corruption hanging over their lives (che drama!), or give them a brief summary.

panama papers egrant

4 | MADONNA MADONNA, NO!

These people are panicking, and probably pretty devastated by the news. That being said, they also probably had secret accounts and were recently exposed on a certain journalist’s blog. This is a minority group. Nothing to see here.

madonna madonna no

5 | The Ones in Denial

So what if there’s evidence? It’s all lies. All of it. Everything. Nope. Mich and JoJo wouldn’t do this to us, would they? Our PM and his wife wouldn’t screw the country over like that, right? Not the people who voted for them, at least? SAY IT AIN’T SO!

panama papers michelle muscat egrant

BONUS: The Ones Who Were in Transit 

egrant michelle muscat


Well, ladies and gentlemen, what can I say? Grab a cup of tea and what’s left of your Easter goodies and watch the Maltese drama unfold.

-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:

16473361_10154301435563316_7713514317804544091_n

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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