This article was first published on The Times of Malta in two parts under the heading Ashamed to be Maltese on 22 and 29 October 2017. It was written the day after Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed.
I never thought that I would feel so ashamed, disgusted, afraid and angered about my own country and my own countrymen after the barbaric murder of dear Daphne last Monday.
The last vestiges of hope and belief in the moral fibre and belief in doing what is right amongst my fellow countrymen has been dashed this week.
I am suffering with Daphne’s children and with her husband, sisters and all her family and offer them my deepest condolences. I support her son’s approach to the future and hope, together with him, that his mother’s tragic and unforgivable murder leads to a total re- thinking or re-set of our society , our economy, our political set up, our institutions – so that her death would not have been in vain.
At the same time I am quite despondent and not so hopeful about whether, we, as a Maltese people, as a Maltese Nation, can find our way again to The Rule of Law, the protection of free speech and the investigative rights of journalists, protected by independent Institutions.
I have previously written about a future EU with a lesser number of member states than the 28 of today. The inner core EU is inspired not only by Brexit but also by the relaunch of an integrated Europe of likeminded nations, that is being led by Emanuel Macron and Angela Merkel with the support of core members who believe in fair and controlled taxation, immigration, movement of people, provision of services and social equality, defence of the Environment, open trade and above all respect for The Rule of Law.
I had ended my last essay in March with a question of whether Malta would form part of this new EU of around 19 countries or not and I had promised to answer in my next essay.
I did not do so nor did I write an essay since March, because of the upcoming June elections and because I had lost all hope that Malta would find its way after that election. A number of events and statements have now led me to reconsider whether to remain silent in my disbelief and loss of faith in my own country or to once more use my time and experience to put my thoughts to paper.
The murder of Daphne and the silencing of free speech that was intended to be achieved by that cowardly and disgusting act was the final straw. I now wish to answer the question of whether Malta fits into the scenario of an EU based upon the Rule of Law.
The answer is a definite NO.
Malta today does not belong to the EU any longer and probably has not belonged to the family of likeminded nations for some time now.
How could a large majority of the population vote for a government that had dismantled all trust in the institutions like the police, army, courts and attorney general’s office, the MFSC (financial services watchdog) the FIAU (Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit), the MEPA, the Transport Malta. How could they show renewed trust after the government had absolutely and resolutely eliminated controls over all sectors like the Energy sector, the IGaming investors, the Maltese Passport and what it stood for, the building industry, trade unions, and so on and so on? How could they vote for ministers holding accounts in Panama?
How could the Finance Minister come home from an EU meeting which was discussing how to ensure that multinationals and large companies pay their fair share of taxes across the EU, at a relatively normal rate of between 25 to 30% of their profits where these are generated and proudly stand up against this basic principle of solidarity that binds enlightened modern countries. How can he speak against the need to collect taxes to manage the common services and the needs of the weakest members of society. He even threatened to use his veto should a vote be taken on a common taxation base and collection of taxes.
Similarly, earlier last year, the Maltese government vetoed a proposal by the EU to adopt a Council of Europe Convention that aimed to ensure that services provided from one member state to citizens resident in another member state should only be provided in accordance with the rules and regulations applicable in the country of residence of the buyer and user of these services and not only to abide by the rules of the country where the provider of these services was resident or moved its residence to.
Another shocking thing that happened and that influenced my decision that Malta does no longer belong to the EU is the decision not to adopt the application of the rights of an EU public prosecutor for transnational and national crimes of money laundering and corruption.
Another area that Malta is against, is the abolishing of secrecy of nominee and trustee companies. This is a clear indication that Malta is not interested in fighting money laundering and tax evasion.
There are too many other events of the last months culminating in the cruel and horrific murder of Daphne, our heroine and the entire world’s symbol of excellent journalism and fearless disclosure of villains, crooks and criminals that make me shudder and shake in anger.
Those who know me, know how dedicated and fervent I am in my belief in the need for a successful EU for many reasons. The main one being the end of intra-European wars, the end of dictatorships and juntas across Europe, the openness of the largest economy and internal market, the solidarity between richer and poorer EU members, the protection of the Environment, social justice, fair wages, rights of women and the weaker members of society, common defence of our borders, a stronger voice at the UN, soft power through our diplomacy and trade measures etc.
In fact, for those who know me, know that I was Ambassador of Malta to the EU during five years in the 1990’s, working incessantly to overcome the many critical voices of the then 12 members states, not believing that Malta had the ability to change and revert to the Rule of Law after the horrific years of the Mintoffian period. I have heard so much criticism of Malta from very serious and high ranking members of the main EU countries and also from the US when approaching NATO after the difficult years of Malta’s isolation in world politics.
Yes, then, I truly was not ashamed to call myself Maltese.
In fact, together with many others in Valletta and in other Maltese Diplomatic Missions across the world and our political leadership at home and their clear sighted plan to join the EU and NATO, we did manage to persuade these negative voices that Malta had turned a page in its turbulent modern history. Violence in the 1956 period when the breakaway from integration with the UK was on the table, violence later on in the 70’s and 80’s with the burning of the Times, the breakdown of law and order.
The hope was that we had learnt from these experiences and that the institutions were being recreated in the shape and form and with the powers and independence required for the Rule of Law to exist. For people not to fear, for the freedom of expression to be sanctified, membership of NATO’s Partnership for Peace and the promise that Malta would be guaranteed a place in the EU in the first enlargement, provided hope.
The EU promise was granted to us in a memorable European Council Summit . Malta could begin to hope for a decent and normal future like that of our prosperous and law-abiding neighbours within the then 15 member EU.
It was , for me personally, a day to remember and to be proud of. I did not feel ashamed to be Maltese then.
What happened? How could this happen and what are the consequences? Who is to blame for Malta’s decline to the lowest level of the application of justice? How did Malta attract so many criminals to congregate on our island and to expose the criminal energy of every Maltese person? Is this a latent defect in our nature , is this a result of our education system, is this a result of an inferiority complex due to our size or insularity?
Whatever it is, we have gone through a negative spiral or whirlpool of downward turns going from the dreams and hopes of having put the 70’s and 80’s behind us for good, to slowly setting up legal systems and programmes that enabled corporations, individuals, criminal organisations and dictators from around the world to bring their dirty blood money or even legally and properly earned capital and to hide it here through various schemes away from the eyes of their citizens, tax authorities , police forces and competitors.
The flow of money towards our shores then ignited the criminal energy of us all and we all flocked to make our own buck on these waves of capital flows to Malta.
The first guilty ones are the government authorities of the 90s and the early 2000’s who set up what was intrinsically well intentioned markets for financial services, mass tourism and internet services. I say they are guilty even without having had a bad intention, because the systems thus set up were not anchored in transparent and correctly controlled regulations.
The second guilty party comes from our liberal professions. Very soon our bright accountants and lawyers, real estate agents, architects, hoteliers and developers smelt the opportunities, often times after having received requests from foreign potential investors who had already carried out similar schemes in other jurisdictions but gladly found a new jurisdiction like ours still small in volume but hungry to take market share in this lucrative market. Thus by suggesting changes to the regime, introducing new areas open for money laundering.
The third guilty party in the present government which carried on the systems set up by their predecessors. However, the present government lacked the good intent of their predecessors, and so followed their constant breakdown of any institutional control over the systems of investment in Malta. They also instituted a much more prominent system of patronage whereby permits, controls, payments, baksheesh, were made easy and common practice. The selling of passports and of our energy sector and now the promise to bring the new money laundering tool of the century, BITCOIN and digital money to Malta will take the cake.
Money flowed and the influx of workers, pickpockets, burglars and smugglers from all around the unsavoury corners of Europe began.
We were all sucked into the whirlpool of the money flows hidden in the veils of nominee company names, letter box companies , here only to pass capital flows out of sight and out of control. Any vestige of control vanished when the members of the FIAU resigned one after the other. Daphne had been constantly telling us that this was happening but people did not care.
Her disclosure had uncovered the Maltese psyche : As long as I can make money I will not rock the boat.
How could this happen?
I have no answer , only despair.
Is there a way out?
We need a complete root and branch overhaul of our institutions, our economy, our system of justice, our education and our infrastructure. The Rule of Law must be brought back to bear. It must be exercised by fearless people of integrity who have no conflicts of interest with proper pay and guaranteed independence. People who caused or failed to stop the rot must be charged for their faults, pay fines or be put in prison.
Only if we do this we can be readmitted to the community of nations that is the future EU which is budding as we speak ,led by the impulse of Brexit and the rising of Macron.
I hope we can be in time to restore our Christian values and to bolster them with a robust legal system. This will mean a slowing down of our economy initially until we can attract open transparent real manufacturing, services and tourism which pays higher and higher salaries, with more and more social market reforms with longer holidays and lower working time which will re-attract Maltese youth to the work market and to replace the wage cutting imported labour. Maltese workers can be trained to increase productivity to earn higher wages that allow a wage earner to provide for his or her family without having to serve the pseudo rental market or the need to have a second job at sweatshop rates.
Good real and legal financial services can be attracted to Malta and controlled severely, as had been done in the early years of the start-up period of our financial services sector. New sectors like education, health care services carried out locally and can be controlled and taxed accordingly will slowly bring entrepreneurs, workers and financers back from the brink of illegality where we all find ourselves.
It is only then that I can stop being ashamed to call myself Maltese and then and only then will Daphne’s death be avenged. We have all been living off the earnings of crime, smuggling and tax evasion and we know it. We have blood on our hands and it is up to us to make the amends necessary to redeem ourselves in her eyes. As she watches us – let us not let her down.