Hundreds of people holding candles and photos stood in front of the protest memorial of slain journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, paying tribute to her memory and her writing on the 26th month anniversary of her murder.
“We are here to commemorate a courageous woman who died because of her bravery and who was demonized when alive instead of being given the merit she deserved,” Vicki Ann Cremona, spokesperson for civil society Repubblika told the crowd.
Repubblika, Occupy Justice and Manuel Delia, the organisers of the numerous civil protests held this month, were also demonised as lies were spreading that they were disrespectful to the Armed Force of Malta, the police and those taking part in the Paralympics. “These lies are leading to unacceptable levels of hate speech and, even more seriously, threats are being made to certain members,” Cremona said.
She asked Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and his ministers if they were using these lies to create more hatred in the country. “Or are these lies being used to divert attention to secondary matters?”
The immediate resignation of Muscat was the most important thing right now. He did not have the right to choose when to step down because he had lost the respect and trust of the Maltese, Cremona said.
Justice still had not been served for the death of Caruana Galizia. “The fact that the Attorney General did not want to give a copy of the Egrant report as he should have, clearly shows that corruption is still not yet being removed”.
Rosa Borg, an activist, pointed out that when news of the Panama Papers scandal broke out, Muscat kept “your corrupt” Minister Konrad Mizzi and former chief-of-staff Keith Schembri.
“If you had done your duty and cast them out, Caruana Galizia would still be alive. Even now you continue to hang on to power to protect them and yourself. Resign now, Joseph Muscat. We do not want a Prime Minister who protects criminals.”
The country also deserved a fair and impartial judiciary. “We have had five police commissioners in six years, until you found one who can be kept busy munching rabbit while crooks have a field day. We do not want a Prime Minister who meddles and obstructs justice, we refuse our consent”.
Muscat had reduced Parliament to a rubber stamp where positions of trust were handed out like pastizzi, contracts approved without knowledge of their content and ministers who were being investigated who remained in their positions.
“We do not even have the right to protest because your minister for injustice and censorship, Owen Bonnici sends his minions to clear the memorial every single night. This is not acceptable. We want MPs who work to represent us not their bank accounts,” Borg said.
Sandro Rossi, another activist, told the crowd that the wave of protests that took place in the past month, calling for the resignation of Muscat over the political links of his top government officials to Caruana Galizia’s murder, was a reflection of the clean conscience of those many Maltese who were finding the courage to make their voices heard.
“But today, it seems that those who rule the country have forgotten about dignity, decency, what is legal and, above all, a sense of humanity”.
The murder of Caruana Galizia was a textbook case of State capture where an organised group planned, committed and covered up criminal acts. This could only take place because they felt they were above the law or “untouchable”. “Even today, there are crowds of people applauding them and holding them above suspicion”.
Rossi pointed out that, in a true democracy, there was no absolute power. No one had the right to trample on those of others – even if these were in a minority. “No one can kill or steal without facing the consequences”.
“This is a time of resurrection, protest, fighting illegalities and corruption and it is essential that we always keep the flame of truth and justice alight,” he said.
The importance of fighting corruption was also highlighted by activist Orsetta Spinola, the local representative of anti-mafia organisation Libera, as she pointed out that all of society paid a price for it.
“With corruption and organized crime in society, our roads are repaired with low-quality tarmac that overheats in summer and cracks in winter, public transport is mismanaged and, being less reliable, forces more and more people to use private vehicles. This increases traffic and pollution, lowering the quality of our lives – social housing and welfare don’t really relieve the weakest layers of the population and the lack of opportunities leads to microcrime and school dropouts”.
Caruana Galizia was stalked, persecuted, isolated, deprived of her privacy and demonised. People would trust her writing but wouldn’t even dare signing statements of support, Spinola said.
“There are so many ways to make Malta great with so little commitment by each of us. Let’s establish a fund to support those who are blackmailed with fanciful lawsuits, Let’s set up civil society monitoring groups to keep an eye on the performance of administrations”.
Malta should look at civil society organisations in other countries handled the issue and the successful strategies put in place, Spinola said.