How Malta failed Daphne

There was a lot of talk about how he will not leave a “stone unturned” and all that. However, his actions and those of his Government spoke a different story. 

It’s been three weeks since the execution of Daphne Caruana Galizia. The emptiness that I have felt in my stomach since that day, the sheer horror, the alienation from my country, hasn’t gone away. For all the positive talk of a booming economy, the country has been mired in scandal for a few years now.

The standards in public office, never the highest, have fallen drastically and nepotism and cronyism have reached dizzying levels. All that was already difficult to live with for persons of goodwill who want to live in a fair and equitable society. Yet that bomb that killed Daphne Caruana Galizia blew the lid off and exposed the rot of this country bringing home the truth of Daphne’s last words.

Whoever committed this horrendous cowardly act, and whoever commissioned it, murdered a journalist for doing her job. She was not just any journalist but one who worked tirelessly to dig up the rot. Hers were the stories that are not communicated through press releases. She joined the dots, gave us context and stories somehow were given a wider meaning through her laptop. I have this dreaded feeling that blowing her up so violently was a message to the rest of us.

The fact that the murder took place on Black Monday drove that message home- to all of us but most of all to journalists. Could it really be a coincidence that she was killed on Black Monday of all days, the day commemorating the time when there was that other attack on the press when The Times was burnt down? This assassination has shown up our new reality. Back then, you could see the thugs coming. Now you don’t. Now it is by stealth.

I have been bewildered at the behaviour of the Prime Minister and certain members of his Cabinet. When the news was confirmed, the Prime Minister promptly delivered a speech. Over all it was a very good speech. There was a lot of talk about how he will not leave a “stone unturned” and all that. However, his actions and those of his Government spoke a different story.

Immediately things were put in motion to treat this as just another murder, another car-bomb. There was no minute of silence in Parliament. It was business as usual for the Prime Minister who didn’t even consider calling off a sales trip to Dubai to sell more Maltese passports. The President too was unmoved to return home whilst many here were in shock and mourning.

The Minister for Home Affairs seemed to trivialise the assassination – saying that Daphne was not the first journalist who had been targeted, but that she was just “unlucky”. Certain parts of the mainstream media immediately went into spin that it was the oil smugglers that must have killed her.

The national broadcaster seems to wish to kill the story outright by not reporting on actions by civil society or giving them little prominence. Every attempt was and is still being made by the Government and its myriad of spokespersons to taint actions being taken by civil society as partisan in an attempt to delegitimise them.

In a normal democracy it would be the Opposition taking a stand now. However, this is no democracy and it certainly isn’t normal. The Opposition is in tatters and cannot organise the proverbial piss-up let alone a movement.

So it has fallen to ordinary people to take a stand.  The overwhelming show of respect from thousands of persons through these actions only contrasted even further the inaction of our Government over the past two weeks.

In Brussels the President of the European Parliament showed our Government how it is done. Honouring Daphne Caruana Galizia immediately with an elegant and firm speech applauding her courage and strength, holding a minutes’ silence and even renaming the press room after her. Sixteen days after the brutal assassination, the Government has finally announced a national day of mourning on the day of the funeral. Was Government’s hand forced by the action of the Courts suspending sittings on that day? A case of too little too late.

There are many other aspects of these last two weeks that have totally thrown me. I will stop here for now. Make no mistake, as much as I would like to move on and just live in peace, as much as I would like to just read a book and pretend that all is well, it is not. Daphne was right “the situation is desperate.”


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