This guest post was sent from a regular reader in Brunei:

Dear Manuel,

I have been wanting to drop you a note for a long time and one of your recent posts has finally spurred me to do so. It was the It’s been a year post that has finally done it, partly because you reminded me of that insightful article you wrote after the last election, and partly because when you mentioned some of the faraway places from where people log into your blog you omitted to mention Brunei, on the island of Borneo, from where I log onto your blog at least once a day. So I thought I would get in touch and tell you off for it. I am only joking of course.

This does, however, bring me to the sad reality that even though I have been out of Malta for more than 30 years, I still log onto Maltese news and used to log onto Daphne’s blog (until her horrendous murder) and now yours, in the hope that one of these days something is going to happen and the people who are ruining my country of birth are not going get away with it anymore. To put it bluntly, I am always waiting for something to emerge that will finally ‘nail the bastards’. 

I am a little older than you, so my personal memory/experience goes back a little further than yours. As a 16-year-old boy I remember the announcement on Maltese TV – “Hemm indikazzjonijiet ċari li għall-ħames snin li ġejjin Malta ser jerġa jkollha Gvern Laburista”.

Thirty years have passed and I recall that moment as if it was last year because what followed were 6 horrendous years of violence and everything else that went on. By the time the next election was approaching, a school friend informed me that emigration to Australia had opened up slightly and we both applied. Even though the government changed a few months later, I had decided that I never wanted to live through anything like that ever again and off I went to Australia, six months after ‘Eddie’ became Prime Minister.

I also remember what probably was the first televised political analysis after the ’87 elections. I distinctly remember Ugo Mifsud Bonnici saying…. ‘Għax il-poplu Malti ma jinxtarax’ and me thinking – ‘yeah right mate’ – after 16 years of this and the PN just got over the line, and with a swing to Labour in Gozo. Wow!

One more recollection I would like to share – I successfully interviewed for a government-funded job a couple of years before the ’87 elections. The appointment was not forthcoming for many months so I went to the relevant ministry to see what was happening. I remember being told by an official that since the minister was running for election in my district “il-Ministru huwa human being u allura jixtieq il-vot tiegħek, speċjalment meta jkun tan-naħa l-oħra.”

He then suggested a time and place that I should visit the minister at the local Labour Party club. I was therefore obliged to go through the humiliation of begging for a job that I had earned and deserved. That minister was Alex Sciberras Trigona. I remember taking great pleasure in May 1987 putting ‘Number 1’ next to the name of Ċensu Tabone, a real gentleman who thoroughly deserved my vote, the one and only time I voted in Malta. I also recall spending the rest of the day helping elderly people get to the voting booth. The following day is still one of the happiest days of my life – up there with the birth of my children amongst others.

Fast-forward 30 years and sadly very little has changed. People in Malta live in one of two very different realities. For example, national television is once again an unashamed government propaganda machine, and violence has changed from physical to online abuse. 

A few weeks ago I was on one of my frequent jungle walks, which is what one does when one lives on the island of Borneo, when I came across another human being who, after exchanging pleasantries, asked me where I was from. On telling him I was originally from Malta he said, “Our two countries are far away geographically but always neighbours in international fora,” by which he meant Malta and Malaysia always sit close to each other due to their alphabetical proximity.

A few weeks later, and after 61 years of the same government, where press freedom was very limited and journalists harassed, dirty money flowed freely and so on, Malaysians have said ‘enough is enough,’ and in spite of all the promises, manipulation and outright vote rigging and gerrymandering, the government could not hold on its deeply entrenched power.

Why is it that in Malta, with all our values, people seem happy to allow politicians to lie to them and buy their vote with impunity? Where is the collective pride of a nation that is Maltese first and looks out for its national interest first, instead of having its dignity and intelligence completely usurped by a gang that started to undermine its national interest within days of being elected? As I travel in this part of the world, I am amazed by the number of people that have heard of Malta now, both thanks to the murder of a journalist who was getting uncomfortably close to the heart of Malta’s corruption, and the world famous passport scheme.

Every single day I am angry with myself for checking Maltese news only to read about more abuse in so many aspects, and yet every single day I hope that something is going to happen that will set off something similar to the ‘Malaysian tsunami’ that liberated a nation from the clutches of a gang of thieves. As a young lad I said to myself “never again will I be at the mercy of such a regime’.

Little did I know at the time that it might take 25 years for it to happen but the clock has indeed gone back 25 years, and with what a vengeance.