Malta’s police force needed to be “convinced” by the US to take human trafficking seriously, according to Hillary Clinton emails leaked by Wikileaks.
The emails from 2011 paint an amusing picture of the US view of Malta, with then US ambassador Douglas Kmiec giving Hillary Clinton’s people advice on how to interact with the authorities. The advice includes “self-deprecating humour”, praising the President on L-Istrina and delivering a part of her speech in Maltese.
Ironically, this was also the visit that cemented the long-running #TextsFromHillary meme – while also precipitating the emails scandal that has dogged Clinton’s presidential campaign – as the iconic picture of Clinton reading emails on her BlackBerry was actually taken while she was en route back from her Malta trip.
But it’s the ambassador’s words on the police force that make for the most interesting reading, showing how the police are more focused on catching prostitutes than traffickers.
“Malta is making progress on trafficking, but it is largely because we convinced the police chief [John Rizzo] to take a personal interest,” Kmiec writes to Clinton, adding that previously, Rizzo’s “subordinates” only looked at the superficial aspect of prostitution – “the streetwalker” – without realizing that “there is often a corrupt trafficker in the shadow”.
“The Chief has now fully accepted the concern and with the help of the Catholic organization, Caritas, is treating these women as prima facie victims, so that the best sociology is being used to allow women to speak without intimidation,” Kmiec added.
The emails, leaked in March, were aimed to provide Clinton with some background info about Malta’s cultural and political climate ahead of her 2011 visit.
After dishing out words of praise for Lawrence Gonzi, Joseph Muscat and then President of the Republic George Abela, Kmiec spoke about how Malta’s learning to deal with the issue of human trafficking in a more sensitive manner.
Referring to Gonzi as an “excellent leader” who is however compromised by “only a one-vote margin” in parliament, Kmiec on the other hand described Muscat as a “much younger, but bright and capable” politician who models himself “in the mold of our president [Barack Obama]”. However out of the three, it’s clear that Kmiec had the most direct experience with former President George Abela, as he got into specifics of his character and working methods.
Describing Abela as a “genuine gem of a person” who has always championed the plight of refugees, Kmiec urged Clinton not to let his “kindly demeanor” fool her – “[Abela] is both a fighter, and he is much beloved”.
And in a ‘P.S.’ note to Clinton’s office, Kmiec suggests that the Secretary should consider delivering at least part of her speech in Maltese, adding that “wherever possible I have chosen words that with a little study can be pronounced easily and look somewhat like our own vocabulary” and that “some endearing self-depracating humor may fill the bill nicely”. He then supplied her with the following passage, also including a parallel English-language translation.
“Malta huwa habib i-istati uniti minhabba ilhuwa habib ta paci. Malta jaf il-prezz tal-gwerra u ;-prezz huwa dejje, gholi wisq.Influwenza Malta bhala repubblika demokratika hafna stabbli, bhala msiehba kummercjali infurmati u bhala rabata geografika ghall-fehim tramutan a-nofsinhar ur-religjonijie t ahjar ( ma habib tieghi Doug Kmiec taghmel din it- traduzzjoni ?). (I am) kuntent hafna li tara dan ambaxxata gdida eccellenti tlestew huja sinjal ta fiducja taghna Malta u gratitudni taghna ghall-ghajnuna ambaxxat ur Kmiec waslet ghall-ghajnuna tal-persunal Tripoli taghna maqbuda fil-crossfire fil-Libja ur-rwolo li kellha taghtighajnuna umanitarja.”