What a nest of venomous vipers Malta is. So much for St Paul ridding the island of snakes; he’d have done better to look to the human kind. As if it weren’t bad enough to be governed by a gang of thieves and murderers, many of those in opposition and ostensibly standing up for the side of right are fast becoming equally compromised, involved in their own personal battles, jostling for power, for ascendency, for advantage.
We should never forget that those who assassinated trail-blazing journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia were only able to do so because she’d been cut loose, abandoned by the very people she was risking her life to protect. Yet these very same people, many of them self-appointed “defenders of the truth” hitching a ride on Caruana Galizia’s coat-tails, don’t seem to have learned their lesson, no matter how loudly they shout for justice.
Disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat, named by the OCCRP as the most corrupt person in the world in 2019, is suing for libel one of his most vociferous detractors, lawyer Christian Grima, for writing a Facebook post echoing the European Parliament’s scathing resolution against Malta’s Labour government last month. That Muscat would choose to take this action, now and against this particular person, seems bizarre, to say the least.
The European Parliament on 28 April, issued a resolution stating that court testimony has made it clear that the Labour government under Muscat was involved in the slaying of Caruana Galizia in October 2017. The assembly said the brutal murder was made possible and carried out under the “patronage” and “protection” of the Labour Party in government.
The resolution demanded that every single person involved in Caruana Galizia’s murder be brought to justice. It was passed overwhelmingly, with 635 votes for and just 46 votes against, including PL’s four MEPs.
Grima’s post – commenting on a video of Muscat’s wife, Michelle, claiming that she was more upset than Caruana Galizia’s family when “what happened to her, happened” – spelt out what anyone with a shred of decency will have thought on seeing that video: what an outrageous, shameful statement from this woman who knows exactly “what happened” to Caruana Galizia.
“Your husband blew her up,” Grima wrote. And indeed, according to the European Parliament that’s exactly what happened. Muscat may not have pressed the button himself, but his government, they stated in their resolution, was involved in the killing.
The news that Keith Schembri, potentially the only person who could specifically incriminate Muscat personally, beyond reasonable doubt, has been hospitalised for a serious condition, may have something to do with the decision. Schembri, who has had treatment for cancer in the past, has been mentioned multiple times by the criminals in custody for the murder, and in turn, he made it very clear in his own testimony under oath that Muscat was aware of everything Schembri did.
But whatever the reason, Grima has long been in the crosshairs for his outspoken opinions. And not just as a target of the PL. He’s been branded a black sheep by many of the most strident of the government’s critics too, who, oblivious to the sublime hypocrisy, savage him, and anyone else, who questions their actions or disagrees with their conclusions.
Indeed, a new class of non-official opposition to Malta’s Labour government has appeared since Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered. A loose group of individuals, NGOs and pressure groups who have in the main, worked hard and determinedly in the cause of justice for Caruana Galizia and for her stories. But the national sickness of intolerance towards anyone who doesn’t toe the line means many of them turn savagely on the few mavericks who dare express a different view to theirs.
As tends to happen in this sad little island, the most visible of these individuals have been elevated to quasi-sainthood by their own little coterie of supporters, who not only rip into anyone who expresses a divergent view but also whip their fellow adulators into outraged fury against the dissenter.
Christian Grima is one of the few to have braved this new dictatorship of the mind, coming out boldly with his own, nonconformist, opinions on the investigation and court proceedings against the various characters accused of participating in Caruana Galizia’s murder. The sheer irony in, and ugliness of, the reactions to his opinions has been extraordinary, yet so depressingly predictable.
People claiming to be standing up for Caruana Galizia’s right to free speech are concurrently very publicly ripping into Grima, with near-hysterical attacks: for insisting the murder case should look beyond alleged murder middleman Yorgen Fenech, he’s been accused of being paid by Fenech to muddy the waters and thus damage the case against him. For criticising the angle of Fenech’s questioning in court, he’s been accused of wanting to help get the Caruana Galizia family’s lawyer, PN MP Jason Azzopardi, murdered.
Hypocrisy really is one of the most despicable character traits afflicting humankind. The cowardice behind it, the dishonesty, the duplicity and the falsity make it truly revolting. Yet, in Malta, it begins to seem like the most widespread type of behaviour. How on earth do such people square themselves with demanding free speech for one person, yet seeking to not only deny it but stamp on it in another?
It would be far better if these people stopped believing they’re entitled to dictate to others what to think or say, especially when they claim to be fighting for truth, justice and the right to free speech.
We may not all agree with what Grima says or writes, but, as the famous cliché goes, we most definitely should defend to the death his right to say it. If we’d all stood up to do the same for Daphne Caruana Galizia when she needed us to, we might not now be mourning her devastating loss.