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Wash your dirty linen at home

owen bonnici
Justice Minister Owen Bonnici. Photo: Arno Mikkor

“Wash your dirty linen at home.”

It’s something we’ve all heard. What happens within the family stays in the family.

People keep family secrets for many reasons.

They might hide what’s going on because they’re ashamed. Or they might hide it because they think they’re protecting the family’s survival.

Individuals might suffer, but the family will go on with its illusions intact. That seems to be the idea behind this misguided piece of folk wisdom. Yet, often, the burden of the secret causes rifts that can tear a family apart.

When Owen Bonnici claims to be “defending Malta” at a grilling like the EP’s TAX 3 committee hearing on Financial Crimes, Tax Evasion and Tax Avoidance in Malta, he’s drawing on this very same analogy of washing one’s dirty linen at home.

He said that anyone who doesn’t “defend Malta” abroad — who instead escalates Maltese problems to the EU level — is “keen to harm our country for local partisan reasons.”

Bonnici’s answer is instead to hide the fact that institutions which should be protecting the people’s interest in Malta — the police, the FIAU, the courts — are refusing to do their jobs.

The Justice Minister is not “defending and safeguarding the country”. He’s treating a country as though it were a dysfunctional family desperately hiding some shameful secret from everyone else.

Protect Malta’s image at all costs.

What other people think is far more important than the reality we all live with. As long as everyone thinks I’m honest or successful, that’s good enough, right? I don’t actually have to be honest or successful.

It’s another version of the illusion of the happy family. But illusions never made anyone happy, and they never fooled anyone else, either.

There are two fundamental flaws in Minister Bonnici’s argument.

One, people don’t just act for “partisan” reasons. There’s more to life than red and blue.

And second, a country is not a family.

I can understand why traitor accusations provoke such a visceral response in Malta.

Maltese life always struck me as a world of nested hierarchies. There was the island versus the outside world, Malta versus the EU, my village versus your village, my band club versus your band club, my political party versus your party, and at the heart of it all, my family versus everyone else.

Telling one’s family secrets to outsiders would give them something to use against you. And backstabbing one’s family for personal gain would be the ultimate low.

But the Justice Minister is not mumbling excuses about what is now obvious evidence of crimes because he’s ashamed of Malta’s dirty domestic secrets. Far from it.

He’s hiding those “family secrets” to protect the corrupt.

Unfortunately, this evasiveness only helps the criminals who are stealing your future to sell even more of it while making themselves richer.

When MEPs go to the European Union for help with the spiralling corruption in Malta, they aren’t traitors to the country. They’re taking the case to a higher authority because no one at home will intervene.

The Maltese police and the courts hear the angry shouts and slaps coming through the walls. They know what’s going on, but instead of stepping in, they shrug, cough uncomfortably, and look away.

The problem has gone beyond petty red/blue games. The rot in Malta must be stopped before everything collapses.

And it will collapse, you know.

It’s a lot like gangrene invading a body. The further up your leg it creeps, the more of that leg you’re going to lose. Blaming the doctor and ignoring the illness never saved anyone.

Neither did lying to protect your abuser.

David-Casa + Pelin Unker

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