The noise of silence

The fifth anniversary of the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia has come and gone. It remains evident that a pervasive sense of fear is alive and well in Maltese society. It remains, as ever, a great excuse not to speak up against injustices, not to show up in protests against corruption and an excuse to shirk our responsibilities as active citizens.

On October 17, Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield, a French Green MEP, spoke about Malta in the context of a resolution on the rule of law, with a special mention of Caruana Galizia. Her death continues to leave a dark stain on our country.

The French Green MEP challenged whether the European Union is entitled to commemorate her when, across the EU, in countries like Hungary, the pushback against the free media continues. Uncovering the truth has become a risk across the world. Environmentalists are similarly murdered in scores across Latin America.

The watchdogs of democracy have gone from being a threat to the powerful to the ones under threat. Yet, Malta is now on the United Nations Security Council, giving us a unique opportunity to be a force for good. How can we play this role when we keep so many skeletons in our closet at home?

Speaking up should not be some extraordinary act of resistance but the norm. It is a fundamental right. When you are one of the few standing up to be counted, however, you become an involuntary hero and an easy target.

Democracy is kept alive by discussing convergent ideas. This is the road which leads to growth in society. Banning certain topics from being discussed or trying to weaken the press through mediocre media reforms is not the way, especially when those reforms end up downsizing the power of the fourth pillar of democracy.

Shutting up, keeping mum, ignoring protests or dissident voices and not consulting with the public have become a trademark of the government here in Malta. Consultations tend to be relevant only to the extent their conclusions do not offend those who are actually in power, such as the developers paying the bills of both main parties.

Even though most people consider the environment one of the most pressing concerns, we still keep losing gardens in our towns and villages and overdevelopment continues. The point of a free media is to have a national dialogue. In Malta, it is only might which makes right.

What will you really lose if you speak up? Is it your quality of life? We already spend hours commuting in traffic just trying to go to work or running basic errands around the island. We are already facing an erosion of workers’ rights given the cruel exploitation of cheap imported labour.

Are we afraid for our children? Sorted, as they will literally leave as soon as they can and migrate to greener pastures. After all, they want greenery, and we only offer tarmac and concrete.

What is keeping us from speaking up and expressing our right to protest? Fear has been imposed on us, but it can only be effective if we remain silent. If enough of us stand up to be counted, then democracy works as intended. What happened to Caruana Galizia, and others over the years like Karin Grech and Raymond Caruana, is only possible if omertà reigns and if people are too scared to speak up.

All those murdered over the years have been used by the Nationalist and by the Labour Party for their own political convenience to deviate attention or to continue their never-ending game of ping-pong, deflecting responsibilities for these murders which have been conveniently left unsolved.

We have become disenchanted by sweet words and bombarded with the fake grief of the elites responsible for the mess the country is in. Yet, we have the technology and the networks with which to challenge power which we did not have in the past.

So, get up, stand up and speak up. You have very little left to lose.

Everything is already being taken away from us.

Sandra Gauci
ADPD Deputy Chairperson
Published in The Times of Malta – Sunday 20 October 2022