5 years have passed since Daphne Caruana Galizia was assassinated a few hundred metres outside her home. A woman, a journalist, murdered in broad daylight in a democratic country. Where do we go from here?
Where do we want to be and how do we get there?
How do we change the attitude of so many Maltese people, who are satisfied with the mediocrity of this country? How do you change the mentality of patronage – komdu jien, komdu kullhadd? In a country where favours are called in on a daily basis, where we are afraid to step on the toes of those who we may come to need, how do you change a culture so deeply ingrained? Is it worth doing so and are we still in time to?
5 years later I confess that at times I am hit with waves of disillusionment and bitterness. It is tempting to give in to the feeling and quit this country. It is tiring to listen to new scandals breaking on the daily, to watch the laissez affair attitude of everyone capable of doing something, either justifying the wrongdoing or sitting idly by.
I recently got asked if it was worth it, spending the last five years fighting for justice for Daphne. “We’re not much closer” I was told. Little did he know that just a few weeks later, two more men would be sentenced to 40 years in prison. But at the time the question caught me off guard and moments later filled me with anger. Was this seemingly normal person serious? (He was.) He had spent the last 5 years watching the machinations of government doing its utmost to obstruct justice. It was enough to make him question if it was worth protesting the murder of a woman. But what’s the alternative, I ask. To ignore it?
It’s tempting to live your life with your head beneath the parapet. To say ‘Bonġu, Ministru’ to men who violate human rights, support the corrupt and cover up scandal. The government has a stranglehold on many businesses and individuals alike, bestowing tenders, permits, government jobs and favours. It is risky business to mark yourself as an indesirable, it’s exhausting to always be fighting.
But still, you’d think there would be more of us. Malta, a nation that almost 500 years later still celebrates the country’s triumph over the Turks. The Great Seige. Where is the courage shown by our forefathers? Where is the steely determination that Ruzar Briffa wrote about? “Miskin min ikasbarni, miskin min jidhaq bija?” They must be rolling in their graves.
We’ve watched those who have turned our country upside down run free, laughing all the way to the bank (in some undisclosed jurisdiction of course). Sometimes I despair. What else must happen to wake this country from its stupor?
5 years on and the country seems to be sinking further into a sinkhole of complacency and resignation. ‘It’s normal’, we tell ourselves as another enormous building is built on ODZ land. It’s normal that the people in government are embroiled in one scandle after another. Mhux kollha l-istess?
It’s normal that public land is taken over by tables and chairs and chalk boards, beaches by sunbeds, ‘Halli minn jaqla lira’. And when NGOs step up to fill in the gaps left by the government and opposition parties, they get battered back with an angry ‘Erfa salibek!’ – we know what happened to the last woman who dug too deep.
5 years on and despite the latest development, the wheels of justice are turning too slowly, enforcing this narrative. Keep your head down, don’t protest, nothing good comes of it. And all the while, our country slips deeper into a land of no return.
And yet our leaders remain unconcerned. It is this lackluster attitude that has 60% of young people wanting to pack their bags. The finance minister recently said he’s not worried about these statistics as not every one of those 60% leave. Does he not recognise that the fact that young people are contemplating leaving Malta is indicative of the fact that they are fed up, bothered enough to want to leave their friends and family to live in a country where they have no one, just to get away from this cesspit of corruption and overdevelopment?
How pathetic is this administration if 5 years later, it cannot put on its big boy pants and identify what went so horrifically wrong that it allowed a journalist to be blown up outside her home? There’s been a new prime minister for the last two years now, what’s his excuse?
And worse still, even when it’s been spelt out to us by a public inquiry, we refuse to address it. Almost 5 years ago I spoke at a vigil and I said that I expected a radical change in our educational syllabus to address this murder. How hasn’t this happened yet? Are we teaching young people about democracy and the importance of the free press? Is critical thinking being taught from a young age? Is our political history being taught? Where are the programmes that tackle current affairs as they happen on the public broadcasting station? Why are nearly all freedom of information requests systematically refused?
Is the ‘best government in the world’ afraid of an educated populace? And if so, are we happy to stew in this government imposed ignorance?
Change happens slowly but it starts with the truth. With speaking about it, writing it down and recording it correctly. With recognising the wrong doing, learning from it, with changing our ways.
5 years on the memorial outside the law courts stands proud because it is a physical and constant reminder that we are waiting for full justice to be served for Daphne Caruana Galizia’s state sanctioned murder and that we will not let this murder be swept under the carpet.
Because five years later we’ve learnt that if they could wipe the nation’s memory, they would. The culture that killed Daphne is alive and kicking. The people who contributed to her dehumanisation remain in positions of power or adored and it boils down to the fact that these people were never made to shoulder responsibility for their role in the murder.
And this lawlessness has festered. Criminals are assured of their impunity, emboldened by a general lack of enforcement. The country’s name has been rubbished internationally, its status as a serious jurisdiction roundly compromised.
Because only in a parallel universe should disgraced Joseph Muscat continue to occupy public space.
Only in a parallel universe should news portals continue to interview Michelle Muscat and her dodgy foundation.
Only in the same parallel universe should we go on patronising the business of persons we know commissioned the assassination of a woman as if they hadn’t, and the business of persons who support and facilitate corruption, as if they don’t.
Only in a parallel universe should a Minister for Justice who has been found guilty of breaching human rights be still be appointed as the Minister for Education, then the Minister for Research and innovation and later the Minister for National Heritage, arts and local government.
Only in a parallel universe would the government, caught again and again, squandering hundreds of millions in public funds through direct orders and mass delegations abroad of everyone and their nanna, call for milk rationing in public departments and get away with it.
Only in a parallel universe can almost every single government official embroiled in scandal remain untouched, frolicking free.
And yet, we seem to be occupying this parallel universe, resigned to our fate. Silent. Meek. Accepting.
Malta as we knew it will not stand the test of time while we grumble among ourselves about how hopeless the situation is, kif ma baqax nies tas-stoffa. The time to look the other way has passed. We can go down in history as the generation of Maltese who watched their country go up in smoke or we can demand that our leaders start behaving as such.
5 years is already too long. Remember that a woman was killed for telling the truth, for standing alone against deep seated criminality. And when that memory pricks your conscience and you try to bury it deep, ask yourself: Am I happy living here? Is this still my home? Is this an environment I want to raise my children in? And if it’s not, fight for it. Fight for your home and your freedom. Fight for a government that respects you and treats you as a thinking adult. Fight for a land with open green spaces, where discussion is encouraged, accountability normalised. Where people who reveal the ugly truth are protected and wrongdoers prosecuted.
The alternative is this.