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Being a journalist is arguably one of the most dangerous, difficult jobs one can do in this country.

Access to independently verifiable information is very difficult to come by. Sources are often reluctant to come forward and almost always do so anonymously. The government relentlessly hunts down its critics, leaving no space for dissent and stifling public discourse with its overbearing, destructive presence.

In this environment, the priests of omerta’ reign undisturbed, all too happy to march in lockstep to the agonising sound of a dying democracy.

I’ve only been a journalist for three and a half years now, and it’s always a struggle to keep track of the dizzying amount of threads that are involved in this gigantic tapestry of corruption that suffocates us all. Reading the news feels like you’re being waterboarded with a bedsheet while a video of Michelle Muscat’s dreadful review of a necklace that could bankroll a small nation plays on loop in the background.

There was a long spell of silence in between that one, loud car bomb in Bidnija six years ago and the next great angry outcry at the never-ending stream of scandals that followed.

At first, we were all shell-shocked into action. Nobody really knew what they were doing for the first few weeks after 16 October, 2017. We knew we had to get out there and do something, but it all felt like we were just going through the motions of what we thought made most sense at the time. There was no blueprint for civil society in Malta.

As we all stood still and watched the headlines about Daphne’s murder in disbelief, it suddenly dawned on us all that the nightmare that was unfolding (and still is unfolding) around us wasn’t just a whole bunch of wild allegations on a blog on the internet. How can you deny a nightmare that claimed the life of a fearless journalist who stood up to bare-faced evil alone?

I’m aware that my tone may be coming across as fatalistic and hopeless, so I’m getting out ahead of it by declaring that that is actually not the case. I think I can safely say that, even though it is true that we have now reached depths previously thought unfathomable, there has never been a more fertile time for civil society to flourish in Malta.

When I joined Moviment Graffitti seven years ago, we were just a handful of activists with a lot of heart but not a lot of firepower. Thanks to the consistent dedication that was shown by everyone who was/is a member of Graffitti, the organisation is now a well-oiled engine that is the driving force behind Malta’s resistance to the onslaught of construction in the country, a catalyst for local resident groups seeking to unite against commercial interests that took over their spaces, and a standard-bearer in the struggle to secure human rights across various intersectional groups.

Up until six years ago, the organisations that are actively supporting this project – Repubblika, Occupy Justice Malta, and of course, the Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation – didn’t even exist. Today, Repubblika, often working in tandem with Occupy Justice Malta as a more direct action oriented collective, is now at the forefront of the fight against corruption in Malta. The Daphne Foundation is composed of a small but tightly-knit team of talented individuals who tirelessly fight for your right to know, continuing the work Daphne herself believed in so much.

In brief, what used to be relatively narrow circles of familiar faces beating the same drums has developed into a thriving ecosystem which attracts talented, conscientious individuals who are willing to play their part. As the intensity of the incestuous relationship between big business and politics escalated, as the heat from the glare of the press’ magnifying glass turned the political sphere into a blistering inferno, those narrow circles were busted wide open and flooded with new faces seeking to right all the wrongs.

The equal and opposite reaction to the action. The anger that inevitably engulfs the soul of a victim who’s been cheated.

No amount of propaganda could stop that. No amount of parochial clientelism, no amount of empty promises of grand projects that never materialise, no amount of mudslinging and trash talking can make you forget that anger.

The fact of the matter is that, after hitting the streets for months on end in 2019, we made one fatal mistake: we accepted disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat’s descent from the throne and figured we’d let the bumbling idiot we now have as prime minister take our country out for a spin. We accepted their lies and believed that nobody cares about these scandals, that the Maltese public couldn’t be any less bothered.

While I am aware that there is an inevitable bias in everyone’s bubble, I speak to dozens of people every week in various different contexts, some of whom I am completely detached from. It is simply not true that the Maltese public doesn’t care as long as money flows into their pockets.

What is certainly true is the fact that most of these people who speak to me about the issues they observe in their society have given up on attempting to change the situation because of how stagnant the political sphere is. There’s a huge difference between that and not caring. It’s up to us to remind people of their agency and the power of the individual when following a collective objective with other individuals. It’s up to us to provide alternative solutions.

After all that we went through up until Muscat’s resignation, we were foolish enough to believe that things could be better with the same people in charge. At their very weakest point, we let them regroup, and are now once more faced with a government that is even more deeply entrenched in the depths of its own greed.

It is inevitable that a government that is not built on a solid foundation – quality infrastructural projects, fair and open public procurement processes, and a healthy, adversarial, but mutually beneficial relationship with civil society groups to name but a few – will fold in on itself. Don’t just take my word for it. Look at the stream of scandals we’ve had this year alone and how the government has handled each one, and you’ll get exactly what I mean when I say so.

They voted against Jean-Paul Sofia’s public inquiry only to then do a cataclysmic U-turn at the eleventh hour, one that was quite possibly illegal since prime minister Robert Abela unilaterally overturned a Parliamentary vote without filing another motion in Parliament. They attempted to shrug off a massive driving license racket and pretend there’s nothing wrong with that, further fueling public irateness over the matter.

Now, they’re all wetting their boxer briefs because the Court of Appeal thrashed their fraudulent hospitals concession and they’re waiting for that eternally disgraced trio of larcenists – Muscat, Keith Schembri, and Konrad Mizzi – to finally face the music following the hotly anticipated conclusion of a magisterial inquiry into the hospitals deal.

This is not the perennially arrogant, seemingly invincible Labour Party that we first crossed swords with. It is a beaten up version of what it used to be, a version that is quickly evaporating its grassroots support and is now faced with the harrowing prospect of a former prime minister facing a full-blown criminal investigation.

This is the moment we’ve been building up towards. Now, more than ever, we must remain vigilant. We have the tools, the resources, and the people to end this once and for all this time. Forget the surveys, forget the charlatans, forget everything anyone from either political party has ever told you. The political mafia that rules our country is not indestructible.

When the Labour Party finally folds, we will finally realise that every campaign, every protest, every press conference was but a drop in a tempest that’s been brewing for a decade. If the Nationalist Party manages to defeat the incumbent at the polls, they will know that the eyes of the whole country will be watching their every move. After what we’ve managed to create, Maltese politics will never go back to the way it used to be.

When those tempest clouds break, let us ensure that those who are responsible for the fragmentation of a whole nation’s psyche are left to drown in the floods that follow.

One Comment

  • Marie Fenech says:

    It is so realistic. You think you are dreaming and no not in Malta. But yes that is what corruption did to our once called Jewel of the Mediterranean.

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