Valletta was once again packed with thousands of people waving Maltese flags and carrying photos of assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in the biggest protest organised so far with civil society organisations coming together and Malta’s independent newsrooms, including The Shift, endorsing the protest.
The demand was Joseph Muscat’s immediate resignation from office as developments over the past two weeks have linked top government officials, those closes to Muscat, to the journalist’s assassination.
Holding up placards saying “killers in Castille”, “mafia”, “get out”, “traitors of the Maltese people”, the crowd met in front of the Parliament building, walking down Republic Street and turning towards Merchants Street until they reached Castille Square where the Prime Minister’s Office is located. The square was once again heavily barricaded.
Citizens called for justice and accountability – a point also made by members of the European Parliament who visited Malta last week. The MEPs expressed concern that Muscat’s refusal to leave office amid concerns about political interference in the investigation was “very worrying”.
Chris Pace was one of the speakers who addressed the crowd, saying he had voted for the Labour Party in 2013 because of the civil rights that the government had promised to the LGBT community. As a transexual man, he expressed his anger and disgust at the way Muscat had waved the LGBT card in the middle of this crisis.
“Last Sunday, I got angry, because, in the middle of one of the biggest crises that our country has ever faced, the Prime Minister tried to cover up his wrongdoings by tapping himself on the back about LGBT rights,” Pace said.
“I feel disgusted when every time that Castille is shrouded in dark clouds of scandals, the first trick in the book is to pull out the civil rights card,” Pace said. The LGBT community was not a “catchphrase” and granting them civil rights was not a favour but a duty.
Muscat had failed to fulfil his democratic role and could not be trusted, Pace added. He had to leave. “You and your friends were trusted with Malta’s highest institution to protect Maltese citizens. Once you committed this macabre act against one of us, you committed it against all of us.”
He called on the Prime Minister to stop using the LGBT community as a slogan to collect votes in the ongoing constitutional crisis. “You didn’t just conspire against Daphne, but against each and every one of us who is here, and against every genuine Labourite. You gave us civil liberties, but you took away our right to life.”
Riding on the same emotion, Louiselle Vassallo pointed out that the government had been calling for “serenity” and discretion for the past two years ever since Caruana Galizia’s murder and, lately, even more so. “It’s as though the people don’t have a right to be angry or that civil society needs to listen to the pseudo-gods warming up Parliament seats to obey and feel only the emotions they want us to,” she said.
“What do they expect us to do? Sit at home and decorate the Christmas tree in the hope that one of them kicks Muscat out?” Vassallo added.
Organised by civil society groups Repubblika and Occupy Justice together with Manuel Delia, the protest was supported by The Shift News, Times of Malta, The Malta Independent, Malta Today, Lovin Malta and a number of other NGOs.
Andre Callus, of Moviment Graffiti, also addressed the crowd, pointing out that Muscat’s refusal to leave was fueling the suspicions of a plot to hide the rest of the truth. He appealed to Labour supporters to not be afraid and speak out, and he called on Nationalist Party supporters to put aside partisan politics.
“Do not let them use you or take advantage of your loyalty to put forward the interest of a few people,” he said.
Norman Vella said the protests would go on until Muscat and his friends left Castille. “And to those to will come after him, a word of warning. We want all the truth and we demand justice, and we will continue fighting for it”.
His successor was expected allow the truth to emerge and to give a sincere apology to the Maltese people for all that Muscat did and the people he protected. Caruana Galizia, he said, was brutally murdered because she uncovered the huge web of corruption in Castille.