Equality minister Helena Dalli today decided to call on the Speaker to discipline education commissioner Charles Caruana Carabez over an opinion piece he had written in the Times of Malta, which women’s organisations have widely decried as sexist and misogynistic.
A positive move in favour of women’s rights, surely, but now that Dalli has taken action over an opinion piece, we’ve drawn up a list of other issues we believe merit her attention too…
1. Joe Debono Grech’s Gieh ir-Repubblika award
Former Labour MP Joe Debono Grech was recently awarded the Gieh ir-Repubblika award, the country’s highest honour. This was in spite of the fact that he had threatened then independent MP Marlene Farrugia with violence during a parliamentary session three years ago. Granted, it might sound a bit petty to resurrect this case, but surely it remains far more serious than Caruana Carabez’s opinion piece. Also, Helena Dalli had hardly condemned her colleague back then either…
Besides, Debono Grech’s outburst wasn’t a one-off; in fact, he will soon be charged in court with harassing police officers by threatening to report them directly to the Prime Minister.
2. Cabinet colleague’s justification of domestic violence
Home affairs minister Michael Farrugia came under a fair bit of flak when he stuck up for former assistant police commissioner Mario Tonna, who had resigned from the police force after his partner filed a domestic abuse complaint against him.
Farrugia pointed out that Tonna’s partner had retracted her report, but womens’ rights organisations later reminded him that police have a duty to investigate domestic violence reports even if they are withdrawn by the victim.
Dalli refused to criticise her colleague and, when asked to comment, referred the press to Farrugia’s apology.
3. Human trafficking victims in domestic violence shelters
Newspaper It-Torca recently ran a shocking front-page story, revealing that the Appogg emergency shelters for victims of domestic violence are packed to the brim with victims of human trafficking. These women were lured to Malta on promises of proper jobs in the catering industry but, upon arrival, had their passports taken away and were forced to work 70-hour weeks for €500. Some of these women ended up working in brothels loosely disguised as massage parlours.
Helena Dalli has not addressed this problem yet.
4. Ex-American University of Malta lecturer’s age discrimination warning
Bernard Gauci, a former finance lecturer at the American University of Malta, yesterday made a shocking statement: that he was unceremoniously fired only 11 days into the scholastic year because he had a pre-existing Parkinson’s disease condition.
“The conversation was entirely about my health and medical condition,” Gauci told InsideHigherEd. “I don’t think kicking an older person out the door for health reasons is acceptable whether in Malta or in the U.S.”
Gauci is right; what happened to him is nothing short of age discrimination. Nothing from Dalli yet.
5. Tony Zarb’s comparison of protestors to prostitutes
Former General Workers’ Union boss Tony Zarb caused outrage amongst womens’ rights groups when he implied that a group of women who had gathered at Castille to protest Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination were prostitutes. To be fair on Dalli, she did condemn Zarb’s comment when asked to react by the press. However, she didn’t call for him to be disciplined in his capacity as consultant to the tourism ministry as she did to Caruana Carabez. One wonders why…
6. Several asylum seekers still living in limbo
Over 1,000 failed asylum seekers who have been living in Malta for years are currently living in limbo, after the government announced last year that their temporary protection status (THPn) will no longer apply. Following an uproar, the government decided to give the migrants a year to procure documentation from their home countries – a practically impossible task if they are unable to verify themselves with their home countries’ authorities. The government is still discussing how to handle the problem, but it has hardly been prioritised so far.
7. Malta’s serious corruption problem
To quote Andre Schembri, “impunity is reigning, and it is high time we stop dwelling on this issue and accept the fact that corruption has trickled into our society at all levels.”
Three months after the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, the status quo has not changed; the Panama Papers is still not being investigated, Jonathan Ferris’ warnings are not being taken seriously, and the Vitals and AUM projects which Caruana Galizia had reported on are starting to look even murkier. The equality minister, however, has remained silent throughout.