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‘Governments should be afraid of their people’

Citizens stand their ground before parliament in Valletta as the space for civil protest diminishes.

As concerned citizens gathered in Valletta for the seventh time in less than two weeks, the determination of the crowd grew stronger, and pressure built on what they hoped would be the final hours of Joseph Muscat’s corruption-blackened regime.

There was a heavy police presence in Valletta on Wednesday, with barriers erected both in front of parliament and in Castille Square in anticipation of another night of protests. The barriers placed restricted the space for citizen protest after thousands of people gathered in the square the previous night to make their voice heard.

Wednesday’s protest took on greater significance, as the young came out in large numbers to make their voices heard.

The government has attempted to portray the growing wave of protests as just another partisan power grab, but citizens continued to find non-partisan spaces to take a stand against corruption and lack of accountability as they demand the Prime Minister’s resignation.

Thousands of people gathered before the Prime Minister’s Office in Valletta demanding his resignation on Tuesday. Photo: Repubblika

One of today’s protests took place at Triton Fountain at 5.30pm. It was organised by a group of young people who are unaffiliated with organised civil society groups, and who had a very clear message to share.

“It is meant to signal the beginning of a people-led, decentralised movement in which citizens come out and represent themselves,” they said in a statement. “We are the people, and we are here to remind any and all in government or around it that people shouldn’t be afraid of their government. Governments should be afraid of their people.”

They stressed that the current crisis is deeper than Malta simply having an issue with ‘doing things right’. The island’s big business groups have “an endless supply of wealth, influence and cronies”, and politicians have “sold off our future to the highest bidding devil”.

“We have decided to represent ourselves,” they said, “because no one else has done that.” Their statement ended with the words “Daphne was right”.

When their gathering at Triton Fountain came to an end, they moved on to the parliament building, where Occupy Justice and Repubblika had rallied people to meet once again after yesterday’s successful protest united thousands of citizens on short notice (watch video below).

In a joint statement posted earlier that afternoon, they said, “Right now we need national unity, not partisan polarisation. We must all stand together: Labour Party supporters, Nationalist Party supporters, people from other parties and people with no Party to build a just future for our country.”

Protestors then moved on to the war memorial in Floriana, forming a human chain.

Tensions rose again on Wednesday as Opposition MPs walked out of parliament after the Prime Minister once again refused to carry political responsibility for the actions of his former Minister and Chief of Staff by tendering his own resignation.

“Joseph Muscat refuses to understand that for the institutions to work, he must go. That’s why we walked out of Parliament”, PN Leader Adrian Delia said in a tweet.

In a statement issued just hours before the latest public protests, press freedom NGO Reporters Without Borders said that political resignations were not enough, and demanded prosecution of the masterminds and all others involved in the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

The Maltese people found cause for hope in the developments of the past week, and they are standing up to be counted. Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi finally resigned from Cabinet on Tuesday following a meeting at the Office of the Prime Minister. Moments later, it was announced that Economy Minister Chris Cardona had also ‘suspended himself’.

People gathered again on Wednesday to sustain the demand for the Prime Minister’s resignation in front of the parliament building in Valletta. Photo: Cami Appelgren.

Keith Schembri, the man many believe to be the architect behind Muscat’s success, resigned his position and was arrested after Yorgen Fenech, arrested for being the mastermind of Caruana Galizia’s assassination, referred to Schembri’s involvement under interrogation. Fenech’s doctor, Adrian Vella, is also under arrest on suspicion of acting as a go-between for the two.

Protest organisers stressed that the struggle to cleanse the country of the stains of corruption and murder would not end until all of those who played a part in it were removed from power. Only then can a proper investigation take place, and those who broke the law be held accountable.

Occupy Justice and Repubblika have called for another national protest on Sunday 1 December to keep up the pressure for the Prime Minister to resign and remove obstructions to justice. The Labour Party in government has called on its supporters to take to the streets on the same day in a show of support for the Prime Minister, despite a stream of resignations of those closest to him on Tuesday.

PN Leader Adrian Delia cancelled a protest announced by the Party’s Secretary General for Sunday. “Joseph Muscat wants to hold a protest to rally the troops against the people of this country demanding accountability. We will instead support these efforts and listen to the public call,” he said.

PN MEP David Casa wrote to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen requesting the European Commission take immediate action to restore the rule of law in Malta.

“That the Maltese Prime Minister should hold on to power under these circumstances is insane,” he said. “It prejudices the investigation into his closest associates and gives rise to the suspicion that he could use the State apparatus to protect himself and his colleagues.”

He urged the Commission to use “every possible tool” provided in the Treaties to ensure that Malta complied with values listed in Article 2 of the Treaty. “Steps must be taken immediately to restore the rule of law.”

‘Political resignations are not enough’ – Reporters Without Borders

Joseph Muscat’s fight for survival