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Tuesday was by far the most surreal day I’ve ever witnessed in Malta’s contemporary political history.

I will say why this is the case, but first I would like to start with why it isn’t. And just to be clear, this piece isn’t meant to be read as a purely factual recollection of the events which happened on Tuesday, but more as a personal reflection. If you seek straight facts, we did provide our own live feed from outside court. You can also find three other really good live blogs here, here, and here if you wish to read about every single detail from inside court.

It wasn’t the hundreds of Labour Party supporters who defied their current prime minister to pledge allegiance to his corrupt predecessor and hurl constant verbal (and later, online) abuse at journalists that made it surreal. As messed up as that sentence is, the fact is that this is par for the course in a mafia state.

Two screenshots of some of the abusive comments which were posted on our live videos.

It wasn’t the fact that practically every journalist in Malta either spent a whole day baking in the sun outside of court or resisting dying of boredom so they can live blog the proceedings in Hall 22. It wasn’t the fact that the sun cast two shadows that day: my own, and another belonging to my personal security officer. Like every other journalist in Valletta, I was escorted by a member of the police corps, a constable who, together with his colleagues, ensured we were kept safe in a tense atmosphere. Yet again, in a mafia state, this is par for the course.

Everything I’ve mentioned so far is symptomatic of what a mafia state looks like. The tribe of irate pensioners who showed up to support disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat, the long hours spent waiting on an incredibly long court hearing, and the heavy police presence that is required to dissuade an angry mob from getting violent with people who are constantly depicted as their enemy – par. for. the. course.

So, why was it surreal?

For me, it was spending a whole day in the line of fire while a veritable army of armchair wankers complained about the state of the country from the comfort of their homes, expressing shock and horror at the notion that the Labour government, an entity that is in constant siege mode and treats critics like enemy combatants, would set the stage for its more rabid supporters to display open contempt for justice and the institutions which are tasked with dispensing it.

There I was, tuned in to three separate live feeds from outside a court that was supposed to provide a separate hall in which the case was to be streamed for the general public (but then just simply didn’t), hearing the nth rendition of “viva l-Labour” being yelled out loud by a flock of voters whose ignorance of ongoing matters is only matched by the hate they reserve for any and all perceived enemies, trying to cut through throngs of them to dare to ask questions to their supreme leaders.

Those long hours were interspersed with small snippets of social media activity on my dying phone. Every time I looked at my Facebook feed, all I could see was this shock and horror that everyone seems to have just tuned out up until now. Frankly, it wasn’t worth the precious battery life I wasted.

Excuse me for bursting your delicate bubbles, but please do shed some light on which rock you’ve been living under if you are shocked by Tuesday’s events. Perhaps I might consider said rock for my next holiday destination, as it sounds like a truly mesmerising place where nothing bad happens.

Our police commissioner is as bent as a raver’s jaw midway through the set. Our attorney general has proven to be a steadfast ally to the crooks which have run our country aground. Our Parliament is filled to the brim with compromised individuals whose moral code deserted them years ago, a couple dozen of which are also ministers who defer to the wishes of a spoiled brat with a yacht, the very same one who ran off to Gozo during one of the biggest crisis moments in the history of our country.

Some of the buildings which form part of the three hospitals this concession was supposed to breathe life into look like a film set for a story set in the ruins of an apocalypse. Our power supply is owned by a coterie of individuals who conspired together to corner a tender that was tailor-made for them by another coterie of individuals who set up complex offshore structures to receive kickbacks. Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered because she exposed Malta’s homegrown version of Tangentopoli.

When considering everything that happened over the past decade, are you really surprised by Tuesday’s events?

Are you truly shocked by the fact that Muscat, someone whose signature as a prime minister was to buy loyalties with state handouts to party supporters, still has brainwashed followers who will defend him to the hilt?

What is depressing about this situation isn’t the fact that we witnessed the chaotic scenes we witnessed on Tuesday. What’s really depressing is the fact that, through a collective shrug of ‘what could we even do about this?’ we’ve somehow managed to delude ourselves into thinking that any of us afford to waste time complaining bitterly about how Maltese people just don’t understand the importance of the rule of law. I will repeat this point until the last day I ever touch a keyboard: it is up to those who understand to get across to those who don’t. Those who don’t want to understand must, by necessity, be overruled by those who do.

I’ve had it up to here with comments along the lines of “this country will never learn”, “people aren’t angry enough”, “they just don’t get it”.

What we are currently living through is probably the single greatest chance we’ll ever have to determine our own fate as a nation. In Italy, the fallout from Tangentopoli was so destructive that it led to the creation of a Second Republic, reborn from the ashes of the political parties whose representatives were named in the scandal.

The Italians had their moment and they squandered it by electing Silvio Berlusconi as their prime minister, a man who was already corrupt to begin with and then went into politics to shield himself from scrutiny. While Italy’s anti-mafia laws and its policing regime are a sight to behold when compared to our own, the fact is that the mafia in Italy thrives and prospers nonetheless, because the political system which enables it remains rotten. At this point, our neighbours lost the plot so badly they’ve gone full circle to fascism again.

Corruption is a malignant tumour that must be completely excised. Leave as much as a sliver of it untreated and it will return with its full might shortly after. Unlike the real version, the malignant tumour of corruption spreads from person to person, from one institution to another, from one conversation to the next. This is where the Italians failed – they failed to demand real accountability from all politicians at all times, and instead chose to walk down the well-trodden path of casting aside a few older faces which were simply replaced by new ones. Sound familiar?

In our very own Tangentopoli moment, what is it that you actually want to do about it? Complaining from the sidelines isn’t going to cut it. This is not to say that people should have showed up to ‘counter’ the Labour Party’s efforts to support its fallen leader. What I mean is that there is a severe gap between where we need to be positioned to usher in a better future for ourselves and where we are right now. Are you actively contributing to bridging this gap or are you languishing in your own iniquity because you find comfort in it?

Bear in mind that war has been declared on the Maltese people, and it is our own government that declared it. They may not be doing anything as obvious as lining up dissidents in front of firing squads, but they most certainly are using every resource that is available to them to gag the independent press, harass civil society activists, and defang every single state institution they cannot control.

If you take nothing to heart from this article, at least bother asking yourself this question with the intent of answering it as honestly and thoroughly as you can: do you wish to seize the reins of our collective fate by doing whatever it takes to clean this country up once and for all, or do you wish to spend the rest of your days on this island wasting away while it all falls apart?


  • Excellent synopsis of todays Malta.
    Unfortunately my age prevents me from doing much or anything to turn the tide of corruption but I totally support and applaud your contributions

  • Tina says:

    Thank you, Julian. You understand it. So do I. But it would take a lot more of us, even with no holds barred. If such a multitude shows up, I’m in. Unfortunately, I don’t think that will happen.

    • Julian Delia says:

      Hey Tina – thanks for reading. As you know all too well, yes, it takes a critical mass for something big to shift. I dropped all expectations of anything happening years ago, because it is simply unhealthy to cling to blind belief when objective reality suggests that it will take far longer than desired for something to happen. It’s a joyful kind of nihilism which acknowledges that it may well be the case that nothing I want to happen may actually happen, and that’s okay too. It doesn’t make any of the things we do to make it happen any less meaningful. It just strips all unnecessary expectations to make space for action.

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