A few weeks ago, two British expatriates were charged in court with breaching the peace. The offence of Rachel Ginty and Ben Ford consisted “in insisting, loudly, that the police arrest a man who, they claimed, had assaulted them and their friend in Paceville five months ago. The two friends, who work in Malta, insisted they were attacked after Ms Ginty told a Maltese man to calm down when she saw him hit his girlfriend. When officers from the St Julians police station arrived on the scene they did not arrest the man, who insisted he had never laid a finger on his girlfriend. Frustrated with the inaction, Ms Ginty turned to The Times, which published her story, on May 28, after sending questions to the police which remain unanswered”.
Luckily, the court considered Ms Ginty’s actions to be completely justified… and justified indeed she was.
Why did it have to be a foreigner to report the violence while other onlookers simply shied away from doing so? Why was it that the police did not arrest the man who was acting violently with his girlfriend?
Unfortunately, this inaction on the part of a number of Maltese people, who are ready to endure even personal suffering and bullying rather than reporting misdeeds, is closely linked to the phenomenon known by the name of omertà (code of silence), which is normally associated with nearby Sicily but which, I can assure you, is part and parcel of Maltese culture, a living servile remnant of Malta’s feudal and colonial past.
“The fish stinks from the head” is a literal translation of a Maltese proverb. And, unfortunately, this maxim is very valid in the context of Maltese omertà. Because, in reality, it is the Maltese political leaders of today who do their best to keep quiet and cover up for certain misdemeanours when it suits the limited selfish interests of their political parties.
Neither Lawrence Gonzi nor Joseph Muscat, despite all their talk about clarity, transparency and progressive attitudes, are immune from this exercise in stealth. Indeed, they are the major culprits – acting in unison and harmony – when it comes to doctoring or hiding from the people certain scandalous behaviour.
First joint PNPL example of omert Do you remember the 2009 European Parliament election campaign? Well, there were candidates who breached the provisions of the law with regard to financial regulations and spent tens of thousands of euros in their efforts to get themselves elected. According to law, if any of these were elected they should have been stripped of their mandate. This, however, would have brought about a most embar-rassing situation since, barring a handful of candidates who acted correctly, others had blatantly broken the law when it came to the financing of their campaign.
What was the reaction of Dr Gonzi and Dr Muscat to all this? Rather than asking the police to investigate and to apply the law, they both ganged up together and, in the short space of a week, they wrote a joint letter to the Attorney General asking him to revise the present spending limits of election candidates, with the clear aim of covering up for all those in their two parties who had blatantly broken the law.
Second PNPL cover up. This concerns past Libyan-Maltese affairs. We all witnessed in the past weeks the images of Mutassim Gaddafi’s Bank of Valletta’s credit cards, which made the rounds of the whole world’s TV stations. Also, the Gaddafi family has €87 million worth of assets in Malta. Yet, the government is refusing to state who the Maltese partners of the Gaddafi family have been. Dr Muscat is not objecting.
Then we have CIA reports saying that “Sergeant Mario”, “Mr Briffa” and “Mr Mangion”, all working at Luqa Airport in January 1989, were spies in the pockets of the Libyan secret service. Malta’s security was at stake at that time and probably before. But both the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader would not set up a board of inquiry to investigate the CIA allegations.
They prefer to let bygones be bygones.
Why are the two political leaders so keen on burying this issue? Are they trying to protect somebody?
Third example of PNPL omertà. For the past two years I have known of a number of PN and PL local councillors who were being investigated by the EU for misappropriation of EU money. For two years this news was the talk of the town in the European institutions’ corridors in Brussels. And, yet, Il-Mument, In-Nazzjon and KullĦadd, Net and One TV stations, Radio 101 and Super One Radio kept mum about the scandal.
The bubble was finally burst a few days ago when an independent Sunday newspaper published the story on its front page. In the meantime, for a whole two years the facts were kept away from the Maltese population. And then they say that omertà is a typical Sicilian phenomenon!
Something is very, very rotten in the state of Denmark.
Prof. Cassola is spokesman on EU and international affairs of Alternattiva Demokratika – the Green party