I remember a lecturer of mine once asked the class, “Does anyone see the irony in the fact that China is officially called, The People’s Democratic Republic of China?”. Everyone in the class chuckled at that question because we all could see the irony behind it. When we think about democracy, perhaps wrongly so, we tend to take it for granted that it is practised in a country. Therefore, when a nation feels the need to mention that it is a democracy, it is only natural for people to get suspicious.
Bringing the matter closer to home, I get a similar sensation whenever I hear the oh-so-popular term, “the institutions are working”. Indeed, I am not the only person who gets frustrated every time this phrase is thrown out in press conferences by our government members as a mechanism to defend themselves from questions from journalists.
In addition to frustration, I also get a feeling of suspicion. Why does the Prime Minister (or any other Government Member) feel the need to remind us that the institutions are working? The short answer is because they are not working. A longer answer, however, will necessitate dissecting the reasons why they are not working. My intentions here are not to reach conclusions myself but to merely encourage you to think and reach conclusions yourself.
How can a nation be convinced that the institutions are working when alleged killers, seasoned criminals, roamed our streets for so long? I am not referring to Vincent Muscat ‘Il-Koħħu’ only, but also to the alleged suppliers of the explosives, amongst other gang members. While commending the police force’s efforts and all those involved, let us not forget that this man turned himself in, in an attempt to get a reduced sentence. Had he not pleaded guilty, we will not be having this discussion. There would not have been (yet another) pompous press conference by the Prime Minister to tell us that the institutions are working. Moreover, let us not forget; it has almost been four years now since Daphne was murdered.
This brings me to another point; the words of the Police Commissioner on Wednesday night. Upon listening to what Commissioner Gafa said on Wednesday evening, I was getting the sensation that he wanted to project the idea that the case is over or about to be. How can it be believed that “every person, from mastermind to executioner, in Caruana Galizia murder is apprehended” when those accused mentioned otherwise? Suppose it is true that nobody else is involved or no politician (current or past) involved. Why were there so many resignations in November 2019? We need to ask ourselves and keep asking until the whole truth is known.
If anything, the institutions failed Daphne. They failed the victims of the crimes committed by these criminals. They failed their families, and God knows how many other people.
If it were not for the independent media and civil society’s pressure, where would be right now?
Ironically enough, during Minister Byron Camilleri’s speech in Parliament on Tuesday, where he stated how the institutions are working, Rosianne Cutajar was sitting precisely behind him. This is the same Parliament member who has collected thousands of Euros in cash in a shady transaction with the prime suspect of Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder. How can I be convinced that the institutions are working when this Parliament member is still occupying her role? This is the same person (along with other MPs) who took selfies mocking protestors back in November 2019- and we all know the outcome of those protests.
How can I be convinced that the institutions are working when the most basic principles of good governance, ethics and political standards are nothing but buzzwords thrown out during political rallies? In any other democracy, Rosianne Cutajar’s actions would have warranted either one of two possible actions: a resignation or a dismissal. How can we not realise this?
Why should we wait for the Commissioner of Standards in Public Life to give his verdict on such an issue? Is it possible that our country’s leadership has no spine to decide on its own? This is not a matter of blue vs red; it is merely right vs wrong. There is no need to make it partisan.
The ‘enabling environment’ created over the years is an answer to many of these questions.
By an ‘enabling environment’, I mean that the answer to why certain politicians say and do such things is straightforward; they know they have the following to get away with it.
Therefore, when a group of people came together and conspired to kill a mother, a wife and a journalist in a bomb on top of a hill, it is because they believed they could get away with it. They did not murder Daphne in a low-key mission. They wanted to send a clear message to anyone who dared get close to them. When politicians constantly massacre journalists in their replies or posts on Facebook just because they investigate their wrongdoing, they know their followers will believe them.
But what enabled this environment?
Could it be because of the political culture of the country? Could it be because of the media system – that allows our politicians to play with our emotions, telling us what we want to hear when we want to hear it? I’ll leave that one to you.
Neil Smart Costantino is a politically active youth and former president of SDM
Lovin Malta is open to external contributions that are well written and thought-provoking. If you would like your commentary to be featured as a guest post, please write to [email protected], add Guest Post in the subject line and attach a profile photo for us to use near your byline. Contributions are subject to editing and do not necessarily represent Lovin Malta’s views.