Today’s Valletta Council meeting and the decision not to vote on a Councillor’s motion to destroy the Daphne Caruana Galizia memorial in front of the Court house is no cause for celebration.
The Mayor’s decision, perfectly correct, to rule the motion outside the Council’s competence, does not address the question the motion raised: not whether flowers and candles are an offense to any of our laws – of course they are not – but whether we live in a free country where people can protest without governments of whatever level seeking to crush their basic freedoms.
We have not today won the right to continue our protest. We were born with that right. We have gathered in small numbers to fight to protect it: for ourselves and even for those who shouted us down and threatened us today.
The government – the national government that is subservient to the personal interests of Joseph Muscat – pushed hard today. They know that if they go to destroy the memorial, the whole world will know of it. So they put up poor little Ray Azzopardi, Valletta Councillor, and a few sundry thugs whom they could blame if they are criticised once they got their way.
There were sheep bleating “erbgħin elf” and “Arriva” the distilled arguments that Labour has to justify suppressing our right to protest against impunity and in demand of justice. There were little Labour apparatchiks in full suit and red tie straight out of May Day celebrations on the Lenin Mausoleum spouting inanities about the illegality of protest. There were the salaried employees of the Labour Party throwing cameras in the face of relatives of Daphne Caruana Galizia in the state-organised and funded method of intimidation they used on Daphne throughout her life.
They all felt they should have it their way. That is because they belong to Joseph and to the erbgħin elf. They are used to having it their way. They are used to shutting people up just by blinking. It works most of the time, but some of us are not scared.
Because we defied them, they shouted us down. “Morru ‘l hemm għax dejjaqtuna”.
It’s an accident of history that the Mayor and the Valletta Local Council majority are not sympathetic to the Labour Party. It could have been the other way round and today our fundamental freedom of expression would have been trampled upon.
The reason why we had to be at the Valletta Local Council to object to this abusive motion is the same reason Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed: our fundamental freedoms, of expression, of assembly, of association, even of life, are subservient to the will of the screaming erbgħin elf.
We won no victories today. But at least we fought. I wish to thank people who came there today, whether to speak or to stand. Thank you to the people who did not leave Peter Caruana Galizia and Daphne’s sisters alone to be abused by a crowd of people who hate them and have no shame in telling them so.
Thank you to the people who did not leave Daphne’s sister alone to be intimidated by a salaried official of the Labour Party, bullying her and shoving a camera in her face like she was a criminal, rather than the mourning relative of a woman who fell in her line of duty serving this nation.
Thank you to the people who did not allow these thugs alone to intimidate the Mayor and the Councillors. We were proud to stand by them, grateful they let us speak and had they been in the minority, as we are used to being, we would have stood by them just the same.
We were few today and we’ll be few again on Friday laying flowers at the feet of the Great Siege memorial. We are not the erbgħin elf. But we are citizens, each one of us endowed with the rights we fought for when we secured Independence for our country, our membership of the Council of Europe and then the European Union.
To the last we will defy you. We owe it to our children.