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UPDATED: Thousands gather for ‘justice and truth’ protest in Valletta

“There can be no truth without journalists and whistleblowers” – Maria Efimova

Photo: Andre Delicata

Thousands walked down Merchant Street and Republic Street in Valletta on Sunday chanting ‘gustizzja’ (justice) and ‘barra’ (out) in a protest organised by activists  to demand political responsibility and independent investigations into the revelations on corruption and money laundering.

The ‘justice and truth’ protest was organised by  #occupyjustice and Awturi six months after the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. Recent revelations by a consortium of international journalists continue to shed new light on investigations Caruana Galizia was working on.

Speakers at the protest were Nationalist Party MEP David Casa and Partit Demokratiku MP Godfrey Farrugia, lawyer Emma Portelli Bonnici as well as activists Alex Hili and Rachel Williams.

Nationalist Party leader Adrian Delia joined the crowd that gathered. In a radio interview earlier in the day, Delia said Malta must not be the cash register for the government and for chief of staff Keith Schembri.

Portelli Bonnici was the first to speak. She outlined recent corruption revelations and stressed that what civil society was demanding had nothing to do with partisanship because those demands were being made on all. They were demands that should unite people, not divide them, she said.

“The disease is spreading. That’s why we’re seeing government officials disrespect the office they hold by insulting and hurting individuals instead of seeking unity.

“It’s not our wish to see one party over another govern. What we want is a democracy that is clean and honest,” she said, but she also pointed a finger at those responsible.

“Keith Schembri must go. Konrad Mizzi must go. Joseph Muscat must go,” she added and the crowd cheered.

She also appealed to the government to allow journalists to work free of intimidation.

A message from Russian whistleblower Maria Efimova, who is currently in Greece, was then aired. She spoke of her love for Malta and the Maltese people “who are kind and warm”.

She told those gathered that she spoke up about Pilatus Bank because she found people to support her fight against powerful interests.

She paid homage to Caruana Galizia, who she described as “a brave woman seeking justice” which received a long applause from the crowd.

“There can be no truth without journalists and whistleblowers,” Efimova said.

Farrugia then took the stand saying the time for change had come. “There is the realisation that people have had enough of the politics of division and exclusion…  The time has come for us to muster courage to break the mould and allow a new dawn of unity,” he said.

“This is not about where we were in the past but where we can head together. As a movement, we can work together to give our children the country they deserve…your presence today fills me with courage,” he added.

Casa followed, starting his speech with the words: “I am not here speaking to you as a politician or as an MEP but as a citizen of Malta who loves his country”.

#enoughisenough

He said all the country had built was being dismantled, referring to honesty, truth and justice. “We have come to the point where we don’t know what is true or not anymore”.

The culture of death was strengthened by corruption, Casa added. “Six months ago we lost a friend called Daphne”. But he also delivered a message of hope saying it was in times of crisis that the people rise to the challenge.

He praised the work of activists and civil society organisation and said the true patriots were those fighting for their country.

Williams questioned what had happened to political responsibility and compared changes in Slovakia after the murder of Jan Kuciak to the status quo in Malta six months later. She also called for the resignation of the Prime Minister, his Chief of Staff and the Tourism Minister who have been the focus of a series of scandals over the last five years.

“Prime Minister, you and your pals keep calling us traitors. The traitors are those who sell their soul and their country,” Williams said.

Members of the Caruana Galizia family attended the protest.

Burn Baby Burn

Malta in the dock