You’d be hard-pressed finding someone in Malta who doesn’t know what you’re talking about if you mention “that soldier making fun of that stupid gate”. But over two years after the notorious ‘GateGate’ episode went viral all over the island, “that soldier” still hasn’t managed to get his old life back.
Now, Godwin Schembri has opened up about the years leading up to that fateful moment – and the years since – in a new exclusive interview with Lovin Malta.
“I trusted a very small number of friends,” Schembri says. “But just like Jesus on the table, it only took one person to betray him, and they killed him. The same thing happened to me.”
It all started with Schembri mocking an AFM gate for its absolute uselessness. Using colourful language (and a swear word or two thrown in for good measure), a smiling Schembri had highlighted the irony of spending some €16,000 on an ineffective gate but not having enough money for basic army supplies like undervests and socks.
However, after the video – which was always meant to remain between a couple of friends – was leaked onto YouTube, tens of thousands of people ended up watching the short one-minute clip. To make matters worse, within less than 24 hours, Godwin Schembri was fired from his post after years of success and promotions.
“Everyone in the service who found themselves in deep shit was given a second chance,” Schembri recalls. “Even people who did way, way worse things. Scary things. And yet, for some reason, Godwin Schembri was instantly gone in a matter of hours.”
A lot has happened since 22nd November 2018… and whenever Schembri noted an injustice or a double standard, he’s always been first to point it out.
“I heard there’s someone in the AFM who’s just employed to look at what I upload on Facebook,” Schembri told Lovin Malta. “And it’s because I sometimes put up statuses and posts that get them in some deep shit.”
“But this isn’t out of hate,” he quickly clarifies. “I don’t have any grudges against the soldiers or the army. I just want to help people understand that in there, there aren’t any priests. In there, there are people who have allegedly killed, and not just said some joke.”
In fact, Godwin frequently brings up Lassana Cisse’s case, the Ivorian man who was murdered in a drive-by shooting of which two young former AFM soldiers are the main suspects.
“Scary, scary stories come out on such a regular basis,” Schembri says time and time again. “And yet, I’m the only one they saw.”
A loud and harsh critic of the establishment that he feels has failed him, Godwin has not shied away from showing his face at a number of protests, even taking his two-year-old daughter Jolene to Valletta and waiting outside court for former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat to show up.
“I had to be there. I had to take her,” he says. “If not me, if not us, then who?”
Jolene has an intimate and weird connection to this whole case; Godwin’s wife was seven months pregnant when he was fired, and Jolene was born right in the midst of the controversy.
And whether it’s the little girl being taken to protests in Valletta or her older brother Joseph dressing up as a soldier, the ghosts of the last two months follow Godwin everywhere.
From being afraid they would lose Jolene as his work stress crash-landed close to home to seeing murderers being let off with lesser sentences than his own, the former soldier said he wouldn’t be surprised if, had this happened to anyone else in the service, we would be seeing a very different and tragic story unfurl.
But he definitely doesn’t let it get under his skin; with an eccentric personality that he says only gets more composed under pressure, Godwin will switch from deriding the system that got him here to singing along to Pavarotti.
Watch the full 15-minute exclusive interview with Goodwin Schembri, the latest episode of Lovin Meets, below:
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