I’m sorry if I’m starting to sound like a stuck record but faced with repeated behaviour, the reaction will inevitably be repeated.
I can hardly doubt President George Vella would really like for this country to start the healing process after the trauma of the killing of Daphne Caruana Galizia. But he’s really limiting the pressure he’s applying to the small subset of the population he knows are listening to him and are susceptible to that pressure. He knows that that small subset wants nothing more than to go on with their lives. He knows it’s a small subset that is not fanatical about anything and is therefore open to persuasion.
That’s us. He’s pressuring us to bury the hatchet and move on. He’s focused on us because he perceives us, however stubborn we may seem, as pushovers compared with the crowd he’s worked with the rest of his life.
He’s not going to ask his party support base to bury the hatchet, to accept Daphne Caruana Galizia’s rightful place in the history books, to digest watching him and the government pay tribute to her, to admit their party was wrong about her being a lying witch and all the rest of it.
When under the President’s orders, the Daphne protest site at the feet of the Great Siege Memorial was swept away for yesterday’s ceremony, George Vella and Robert Abela will have known that they were passing on an opportunity to reach out and start the healing. They could have made way for all their wreaths and still allowed the protest to be uninterrupted. They could have placed her sacrifice in the context of the event. They could have done what the Daphne inquiry asked them to do as the most senior functionaries of the Maltese state, to do their job of healing wounds. Especially considering that the inquiry blames them for inflicting the wounds in the first place.
George Vella and Robert Abela may have not done that because of what they privately still feel about Daphne Caruana Galizia and her work.
But I think it’s subtler than that.
Our anger and disappointment, the anger of protesters demanding justice for Daphne Caruana Galizia, will be expressed in a way that George Vella and Robert Abela can predict. The redoubtable women of Occupy Justice went back on the memorial and quicker than it would take you to shout Viva l-Vitorja, restored the tributes to Daphne, and renewed the protest demanding justice for her.
George Vella and Robert Abela know that if they chose instead to use the occasion to reach out and rightly acknowledge Daphne’s place in the pantheon of fallen heroes, the anger and disappointment of their core support would be entirely different.
I’m not necessarily talking about violence or the sort of barbarism we experienced for the several months that Owen Bonnici and his fellow travelers sought to censor the protest altogether, although you cannot rule that out.
I am talking about an impact on votes from people who voted for the Labour Party galvanised by what they were told where Daphne’s “lies”. I’m talking about core supporters of the Labour Party or at least a few of them, now coming to a point where they become unable to escape the truth that their party had played them for fools.
As elections draw near the imperative of political calculus becomes ever more rigid.
Consider the question yesterday of why the authorities continue to skirt around the inevitable and avoid touching the casino license held by the Fenech group. Why, even as the licensee openly admits manipulating games and as evidence mounts that the owners used the casinos as a vehicle for payments, don’t the authorities move to shut the operations down?
I was discussing this question with my wife and she threw a bright light on the answer just this morning. Think of all the employees of those casinos recruited by the Fenechs as a favour to ministers and political candidates. Think of the poor sods losing their jobs by the hand of government action. Think of the people who have transacted the job arranged for them by the candidate in exchange for the promise of their vote at the election, and how they would vote at the election if the job is lost because the government shuts their employer down.
And when you think about that you realise with horror that like a picture from a B horror movie from the 1950s our politicians are not what they seem. They look normal enough. They speak. They walk. They gesticulate. But their bodies are snatched. The invisible tentacle of an octopus has gone right through them, up their arse, right through to their heads, controlling them and using them as a ventriloquist uses a wooden dummy.
Even if they wanted to fix things, they can’t. And I’m not promising they want to.