Art historian Martina Caruana yesterday gave a memorable speech placing the context of the monthly Daphne Caruana Galizia vigils on the 16th of every month with the Great Siege Memorial that dominates the location. Here’s an English translation of the speech:

We have gathered here again to mark the 8th month since Daphne Caruana Galizia’s cowardly and brutal assassination.

This square is referred to as Great Siege Square. It commemorates the siege of 1565 but is also associated with the siege of WWII.

Both sieges were battles. The first lasted a few months. The other some two and a half years, in the case of Malta. Both were strategic. Both were caused by external forces and were the result of decisions we had no control over.  

We are currently experiencing a different kind of siege, one that also appears to be linked to external forces, but more significantly, one that is coming from within and one that has been ongoing for a long time, far longer than the previous two.

This siege is reliant on egoism, on indifference, on deception.

Like other sieges it is cutting us off from civilization.  

Though we may be enjoying material good, it is removing from us essential supplies. 

We are surrounded by persistent attacks aimed to make us surrender.

We are witnessing attacks on:

Our democracy
Our rights
Our responsibilities
Our freedoms – our freedom of expression – the online fora where we can share our ideas
These are attacks on things most dear to us
Our environment
Our identity
Our principles
Our values
The truth
Rule of law

This siege, however, is one that we can overcome through decisions that we take. And it is from this space that we can find further inspiration. 

This space is also meaningful because of Antonio Sciortino’s monument. Though crafted over 90 years ago, to commemorate the first siege, it is still relevant today.

The monument consists of 3 figures, together as one.  They are allegories – symbols.

Here we find the symbols of faith, fortitude (valour) and civilization. 

Like our forefathers, we can face adversity through decisions based on faith, fortitude and civilization.

Sciortino represents the figures as decisive, strong, forward-looking. That is what Daphne Caruana Galizia stood for and we should draw inspiration from her.

We are our country’s shield.

Our example, our word, our pens are the swords we fight with. 

Minerva’s mask of wisdom dictates that ours must be a carefully thought out war, while the tiara gives us faith in an honourable future.

And our torches show us the light, the way, give us hope, signify life and truth, and represent the regenerative power of the flame.

Like Sciortino’s figures we look forward with hope for a country in which truth, justice and the rule of law prevail. We look forward to a truly free country no longer under siege. 

Thank you.

The following photographs of the memorial were taken by Martina Caruana herself when she was preparing her speech. I find they are useful accompaniment to her remarks: