The oppression of silence

We have learnt nothing. We are still the same, weak, pliable, submissive unthinking nation – the same population that after Labour’s long years of oppression, intimidation, violence and crime almost voted for more of the same.

In 1987, Malta was a dark place – literally and metaphorically. The senseless murder of a young man at PN’s Gudja club and Labour’s criminal attempt to pin the blame on an innocent man to gain political advantage was still a bleeding sore in the heart of the nation.

The country was still smarting from the violent suppression of a PN mass meeting at tal-Barrani by Labour thugs coordinated by Minister Lorry Sant. Prime Minister Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici was recorded giving directions.

When the Task Force commander reported that three trucks were on fire, the prime minister asked, “do the trucks belong to them?”, referring to PN supporters.  “Yes,” the commander replied.  “Well done, carry on,” was Mifsud Bonnici’s answer. When a request was made for assistance for a severely injured man, Lorry Sant asked, “is he red or blue?”

On 5 April 1987, police officers from the notorious SMU shot at PN supporters attending a mass meeting in Rabat. None of the officers were identified. They all wore helmets with lowered visors. Several PN supporters were injured with two, Mario Pavia and Joe Vella, sustaining life-threatening injuries.

Joseph Cassar was hit with 50 lead pellets. The PN Rabat club burnt down after SMU officers shot tear gas canisters into the club. When Magistrate Valencia finally gained access to the PN club, there were 60 separate gunshot marks.

The police shamelessly lied that they had not fired live ammunition. Police officers had been ordered to pick up all shotgun cartridges before the on-site inquiry was allowed. But forensic investigations confirmed that the shooting came from the SMU’s side.

When Vella, bleeding profusely, tried to escape after being shot by police, the police gave chase.  He was given shelter in a private home but the same helmeted officers carrying shields and truncheons attempted to break into the house.

Malta’s economy had been crippled.  Basic utilities were rationed with frequent power and water supply cuts. Job prospects were desperate. National infrastructure was collapsing. Basic freedoms, of expression and association, were severely restricted.

Yet only 4,785 votes, a meagre 2%, separated the two parties on 9 May 1987. Labour deserved to be annihilated at the polls. Instead, it almost won another term. Had the Constitution not been changed at the last minute, Labour would have regained power. That election was Malta’s closest shave.

A traumatised and impoverished generation was saved by the skin of its teeth, threatened by the nation’s indifference. This was the late 20th century, not the Middle Ages. Yet Labour enslaved the population into an oppressive silence.  It was that silence, that fear, that allowed Labour to cow the nation into submission and quiet acquiescence.

I remember the anguish and the sense of hopelessness of our squandered youth.

We must keep the memory alive. We must fight those who would forget.  If we forget we are guilty, and accomplices in the repetition of those injustices and atrocities.

We must never be silent. We must take sides, for neutrality helps only the abuser, never the victim.  When human dignity is in jeopardy we must interfere. Something must be done.

The indifference we witness in the face of atrocious abuse is terrifying. We know where indifference leads. Yet nothing seems to waken the population from that strange unnatural state in which lines blur between light and darkness, crime and punishment, cruelty and compassion, good and evil.

So many engaged in vile hate even in the face of another horrific assassination of one of its citizens. Labour’s Glenn Bedingfield still harasses the family of the deceased journalist, still accusing them of destroying evidence and still demanding action against them. But he fails to demand action against the police commissioner who allegedly passed inside information to the middleman.  Or against his deputy who shielded the alleged mastermind. He still protects Konrad Mizzi.

There is so much that is obscenely wrong.  A prime minister who consorts with an alleged money launderer and murder mastermind, who is part of a private WhatsApp group, who travels with him to Pilatus Bank’s owner Ali Sadr Hasheminejad’s wedding.

His chief of staff contacts the alleged mastermind on the eve of his arrest at the prime minister’s behest and then passes a treacherous letter to him, via his doctor, instructing him on how to blame another Labour minister and deputy leader of the Party, before losing his phone.

Another member of Cabinet accepted thousands of euro from the same alleged murder mastermind and then proceeded to robustly oppose, at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, an independent inquiry into the murder.

When Muscat was forced to resign, the leadership race was distorted by the intervention of Muscat’s wife to ensure that Muscat’s consultant gained power. Muscat rewarded his corrupt Minister Konrad Mizzi with a lucrative Malta Tourism Authority consultancy on the eve of his resignation.

His successor, Robert Abela, rewarded Muscat’s police commissioner with another consultancy post on the same day he left his role. He rewarded Silvio Valletta’s wife with a new ministry. Abela conceals his own income and tax returns. He conceals the hundreds of positions of trust from the public.  He continues to funnel millions of euro into Muscat’s corrupt hospitals’ contract.

Despite the overwhelming evidence of massive corruption, Konrad Mizzi is still protected and continues to evade justice.  Keith Schembri continues with his life as normal.  Brian Tonna, Karl Cini, Joseph Cuschieri, Johann Buttigieg, Ram Tumuluri, Ali Sadr Hasheminejad, Lawrence Cutajar, Silvio Valletta defy justice. And the serene Joseph Muscat is interviewed by Ben Camille and now making “noise”.

Too many shut their eyes and ears. They are paving the way to more horrors. How is it possible that this is still happening? The silence of disbelief, the silence of denial, the silence of indifference is oppressive. We have learnt nothing.


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Simon Oosterman
Simon Oosterman
2 years ago

First votes to ADPD and the rest to the least bad of the other two!

Evelyn Grech
Evelyn Grech
2 years ago

You will be aiding the PL if you vote like this.

2 years ago

Excellent article! Nearly thirty five years have passed since 9th May, 1987 and the majority of
Maltese voters(as you aptly said in your last sentence) has learnt nothing. Tad-daqqiet ta’harta!

Gerald Lapira
Gerald Lapira
2 years ago

Profs. I was born in 1972, attended a church school and recall very well those ugly years, even through first hand experience. And yet there are those of us who wittingly or unknowingly ignore all this or the younger generation who don’t give a damn. History is a teacher and friend only for the few.

joe tedesco
joe tedesco
2 years ago


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