The country is broken. Badly broken. The keyword here is unsustainable. Malta seems to be betting on a structure that is bound to break soon if it is not already broken.
We read reports that to satisfy the hotel capacity of the island, we would require an even larger influx of seasonal tourists than is already possible. The pressure of such an influx on the country’s already faulty infrastructure would be evident for all to see. Statistics show that your average tourist produces more waste than your local resident. Do the math.
Yet we see applications for more hotels, more development. The idea of progress is “more”. More roads, more hotels, more marinas. That was the latest call from Infrastructure Minister Aaron Farrugia: “The country needs more marinas”.
Farrugia is only the latest in a long line of bumbling buffoons living in denial who push the island beyond breaking point. We should have been reconsidering our policies on growth years ago, probably when disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat announced his grandiose plans of a Dubai in the Mediterranean.
Uncharacteristically, Minister Byron Farrugia and Prime Minister Robert Abela go against the flow by regularly implying that Malta is “Full Up” where migrants are concerned. The messages of a selective numerus clausus fit well with the xenophobic among us – those who are quick to blame the signs of a sick nation on the “other”. This is when the sick stories of police officers going AWOL and abusing their office to assault specific members of the migrant population stop being surprising news.
Police abusing their station is never good news. Back in 1984, a young woman who had attended a protest against the government of the day was picked up from her place of work and taken to a police station where she would be flung into a cell for 27 hours. She would describe the cell as “a pitch-black cell with a solid metal door and no air vents, with faeces on the walls and a bucket for a lavatory.”
During those 27 hours, the woman would be fetched out regularly for interrogation by a police officer trying desperately to get her to sign a confession of having assaulted another officer during the protest (a blatant lie). In the words of that woman, she would be pulled out of the cell to be “interrogated again by this man after 27 hours of incarceration with barely any sustenance, water or sleep, and finding him poised over a typewriter ready to type my statement and then, when I refused to say – yet again – what he wanted me to say, seeing him type it anyway then hand it to me for my signature”.
The magistrate before whom the woman would be arraigned in court would throw out the case and reprimand the interrogating inspector for his methods (that were commonplace in the 80s). That inspector would become a lawyer, then a Labour MP, then a candidate for the party leadership, then deputy leader of the Labour Party, and finally Speaker of the House of Representatives.
On the 16 October, we will be commemorating the 5th anniversary of the assassination of that young lady who would go on to become Malta’s foremost investigative journalist. Daphne Caruana Galizia was assassinated in a Malta where the climate of impunity reigns.
A public inquiry into her assassination found the State responsible for the murder of the journalist. It found that the State failed to recognise the real risks to the journalist’s life, and failed to take reasonable steps to avoid these risks.
Not only did the State fail to protect journalists and the right to freedom of expression, but certain officials actively and directly acted in a way that prejudiced her rights as a journalist and contributed to the risk she faced.
The inquiry also found that it was clear that there were people in government and in business who had an interest in seeing Daphne’s writing neutralised. While the inquiry found no evidence that the State played a role in her assassination, it created an atmosphere where anyone who wanted to eliminate her could do so with the least possible consequences.
Today’s government refuses to openly consult the public on media reform. It is imposing its own shoddily drafted Bills that are meant to introduce legislation protecting journalists and the right to information. These laws drafted secretly without consultation of the main stakeholders only show that no lessons have been learnt, as the Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner pointed out.
The Shift is currently battling 42 cases in the Appeals Tribunal and 11 cases at the Appeals Court. All the appeals were launched by government entities in defiance of FOI requests on different topics. The Labour government is showing anything but a will to change the state of affairs that led to the assassination of a journalist and mother in Malta.
Five years after the untimely death of Daphne Caruana Galizia, Malta and its government remain Broken Bad.