Malta is still reeling from the cold-blooded murder of 42-year-old Lassana Cisse – and few groups are doing more soul-searching than Maltese soldiers.
After police arrested two young soldiers in connection with the murder, many began to wonder: what had happened to the AFM? Had standards fallen that low? Has racism taken ahold of parts of the force paid to serve and protect us?
Lovin Malta spoke to three soldiers of different age to see how the force was reacting to the news that two of their own may be behind the racially-motivated killing.
Matthew*, has served in the force for 10 years
The fact that articles revealed that it was two soldiers and that there were phrases like “the army killed a black guy” ended up including everyone, and even though we had so many problems in previous years with migrants that weren’t just black, we always helped them, giving them clothes, undertaking maintenance, sorting out their TV, beds, toilets, etc. Some soldiers would even travel abroad to help them, and give them lessons and knowledge, and some soldiers would even go on a six month “mission”, where the soldier would be away from his family the entire time.
After all of this, people are shocked that it was two soldiers who are supposed to be there to serve the country.
And personally I am already feeling that everyone’s watching me whenever I leave the house in my uniform, and whereas I used to go to places alone in my uniform, now I think twice about it, especially anywhere near the Ħal Far area.
We are feeling like what those two did was crazy, that a person who you don’t think would go there does something like this. We don’t believe in any type of racism towards people of a different colour, and I’ve never heard any talk that denigrates them for being black. Actually I’ve seen soldiers with my own eyes who would befriend migrants, after all they are people like us!
Obviously, any soldier you speak to still cannot believe what happened, because we never thought anything like this would ever happen. I believe in one thing: before someone is chosen to become a soldier, we need to see that who we are inducting by doing some proper research on each individual. Being tough or physically strong shouldn’t be enough to become a soldier – you need to be strong morally, ready for discipline, not everything “u ija” or “imbagħad nagħmilha”, as is the mentality with many.
Those two haven’t even been in the force for a year and I can’t understand how one of them had a dirty conduct and they still let him into the force, as one article pointed out.
A terrible shadow has been thrown on those who really do their work as they are supposed to, and then for our friend Godwin Schembri who was a good soldier, there’s no other way to describe him, who did good work and then they kicked him out over a silly video that someone posted specifically to harm him.
My message to the people is not to let the bad overcome the good; if you look at the work the army is doing till today, we are always ready to give our service to the country, both for the Maltese as well as foreigners – we’ve always given our help.”
Mark*, has served in the force for three years and is stationed in Ħal Far
“We have been discussing the murder around here because you can’t not discuss it.
I personally don’t know what happened before the shooting, but the worst thing is that the AFM is already a bit unappreciated before this happened, and things like this are what make it worse.
People didn’t talk about who the killers were, but most talked about the AFM and what kind of people they are recruiting. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it was right or anything at all – all I’m saying is that people really need to get their facts right.
No – the AFM is not racist, and if it was, they wouldn’t be saving all those migrants so no, the AFM isn’t racist, and most probably neither was this act.”
Mark was an acquaintance of Francesco, one of the two alleged killers
“I knew Francesco quite a lot, and I never thought something like this would go through his mind, honestly. I don’t know what he was thinking, but I guess now he is regretting it.
Honestly, Francesco was a very nice and outgoing guy. And no, I never heard him make racist jokes or talk about guns and killing, we never got on that subject.”
Though both he and Francesco worked at Ħal Far, Mark explained that it was very rare for soldiers and migrants to mingle and interact, with Mark unable to say when he had last chatted to a migrant.
Randolph*, retired from the force after serving for decades
“I could only speak on my behalf. As far as I know, it is shocking for every soldier and it’s a shame if someone blames the entire army. The army is there to serve and protect and results throughout the year show it. Saving people is a priority and they risk their lives to do so. It is a shame what happened to this poor lad and his friends and I hope justice will prevail – and shame on the killers.”
*Names have been changed