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Johnny’s sugar cubes - Alessia Psaila Zammit

In a nursery rhyme, a young boy named Johnny is caught red-handed by his father, eating sugar cubes. His father asks him whether he’s eating sugar, an accusation which Johnny, sugar trickling out of his mouth, flatly denies.

Father asks Johnny to open his mouth, to which Johnny retorts with “Ha ha ha.”

My one-year, ten-month-old daughter, loves watching it. She finds mischievous Johnny amusing. That’s not always the case with me – not when the request to play it is made in the small hours of the morning. But there’s another reason why I don’t find Johnny amusing.

He reminds me of a real-life Johnny, the Johnny beyond my daughter’s world of nursery rhymes, who lives and calls the shots in our adult world. The Johnny who is taking her country for a ride.

The State institutions are in meltdown, and the police force is led by a man who, unfailingly, refuses to investigate grave allegations of corruption at the highest level of government.

Thousands have taken to the streets asking for the Police Commissioner’s and the Attorney General’s resignations – and for new appointments through a two-thirds parliamentary majority.

But the government would have none of it. Our Johnny, the government, looks at us and, with a straight face, wants us to believe these are the most normal of times.

Unashamedly, the government retorts with ‘Ha ha ha’ when law-abiding citizens demand justice, the rule of law and institutions that do their jobs: protect the good and punish the bad.

This is not the Malta that my parents sacrificed the best years of their lives to achieve: democratic, peaceful, safe and prosperous

However, the government is not entirely to blame. For years now, many have opted to close an eye, and then both, to what they thought were ‘shortcomings’: our Mediterranean way of thinking and acting. These include the lack of planning within our towns and villages, a free-for-all on our roads and an anything-goes culture.

As long as the economy is doing well, we’re often told, people won’t give a hoot about the basic ingredients which make Malta a democracy. For who cares, I was told recently, about the rule of law, justice and freedom of expression, as long as people have enough money in their pockets for a comfortable living.

A few days ago, we buried Daphne Caruana Galizia. She was killed because she spoke the truth and worked tirelessly for justice. Today, we have people telling us that ‘we must move on’.

In other words, they are telling us to forget all about Daphne and her horrible murder. They want us to ignore the culture which allowed her killers to move ahead with their plans, and to continue with our daily lives.

For what matters are the extra few euros at the end of the month which enable us to hit the shopping malls on a Saturday morning and dine out in the evening.

This is the sorry state we’re in.

Unashamedly, many are oblivious to the dangerous situation. If they cared to take off their blinkers, they would realise that failed institutions and a lack of the rule of law shall, in the very near future, destroy us and our children. Today, the government is running roughshod over our rights.

Tomorrow, it will be much worse.

We cannot remain passive in front of this terrible situation.

We cannot pretend that the situation is normal when the European Parliament dedicates one of its sessions to discussing the rule of law in Malta. We cannot act oblivious when leading international media outlets describe Malta as a hub for ‘drug, fuel and human trafficking’.

Time is running out. So far, many are taking it lightly. A few thousand men and women are marching in the streets and all over social media, asking for justice.

The rest are duped by a few extra euros thrown at them by the government for good measure. This is not the Malta that my parents sacrificed the best years of their lives to achieve: democratic, peaceful, safe and prosperous.

This is not the Malta that I want my daughter to grow up in. For now, she lives in her small, magical world of the ‘Johnny, Johnny’ nursery rhyme. Beyond her world of fantasy and nursery rhymes lies a world in which an adult, a real-life Johnny, the government of her country, is taking her parents for a ride. Unfortunately, her generation is yet to suffer the repercussions of current decisions.

Inaction has all the makings of a collective suicide.

It’s not sugar that’s trickling out of the real-life Johnny’s mouth – but the ingredients that will, if unchecked, destroy us all.

Alessia Psaila Zammit is a lawyer and the mayor of Siġġiewi.

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