The latest facebook threat by someone who believes that Roberta Metsola deserves to be “burned alive” is not an isolated incident. It is an extreme representation of parochial nationalism unleashed by the Labour media and the network of internet trolls which depicted PN MEPs as traitors in the aftermath of the strong vote in the European parliament on the collapse of the rule of law in Malta.
Last June, Tony Zarb, a consultant for Minister Konrad Mizzi refused to apologise for saying Metsola and David Casa deserved a “traitor’s welcome.”
The fact that the latest abusive rant was made a month after the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia should send a shiver down Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s spine.
His call for national unity sounds hollow, especially when his Party’s media spent the last days lashing at the Maltese MEPs who voted for the resolution. They fuelled the perception that the MEPs have betrayed Malta.
Muscat, a former MEP himself, should know well that it is normal for MEPs to criticise their own governments in the European parliament.
Labour should be well aware of what happens when it plays the nationalistic card against its enemies.
Turn the clock back to August 2013 and you will see that similar vicious vulgar and abusive comments were made against then European Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom. They occurred after Muscat’s attempted push back of migrants and in the wake of his decision not to accept 120 immigrants stranded at sea. The rants against Malmstrom were also the result of a climate of extreme nationalism which had been unleashed.
The discourse becomes even more dangerous when combined with an aggressive majoritarianism. Declarations made by MEP Alfred Sant and Minister Ian Borg that suggest that the rule of the majority trumps the rule of law only serve to fuel the perception among a segment of the population that Labour’s electoral victory somehow gives them a license to vilify and insult others with impunity.
It is exactly the same discourse used in various authoritarian pseudo democracies like Russia, Turkey, Hungary and Poland.
The warning made by Monica Mocovei, a Romanian MEP, anti corruption activist and former Justice Minister of her country, in an activity organised by the Civil Society Network assumes a greater urgency in this climate.
“If Daphne hadn’t been alone, maybe she wouldn’t have died. So don’t leave these people alone. Some might be afraid to speak and to come demonstrations because there are no investigations. But if you are afraid, you will lose your country. Get out of your comfort zone and do something for your country,”
We are already losing our country.
In the current climate the greatest responsibility falls squarely on those who have so far stood on the fence while seeing their country going to the dogs, immobilised by tribal loyalties, patronage obligations or grudges. It is only when this segment of the population also starts speaking up, that the tide can be reversed.
This is no longer a question of Nationalists vs Labourites, but the fact that the political system is serving those in power, not the people. Corruption ensures that not everyone is equal before the eyes of the law. Corruption leads to the abuse of basic rights. And when it hits you, you may turn to find nobody is behind you.
We cannot remain silent when people are attacked.