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La piovra - Manuel Delia

The government is cultivating a false sense of patriotism, and branding criticism of the Prime Minister as tantamount to treason. Photo: Jonathan Borg

The government is cultivating a false sense of patriotism, and branding criticism of the Prime Minister as tantamount to treason. Photo: Jonathan Borg

It has never been more necessary to mark the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia with public protest. Three weeks ago the Prime Minister went on stage and wept. It was a starting gun for fire at will. This has been a scorching summer. And I don’t mean the weather.

The government’s mission has shifted from hiding what we do not know to erasing the memory of what we do know. On the back of lies and manipulation, insults and intimidation, the government seeks to achieve the rehabilitation of criminals caught red-handed.

We are meant to forget they have been harbouring an alleged money laundry for the world’s tinpot dictators. Or that they are shielding a minister who set up a financial structure to hide ill-gotten gains. Or that they are closing ranks to protect an advisor to the Prime Minister who has failed to explain the source of money he moved around like pawns on a chess board.

We are expected to quash suspicions a hundred times over about our Prime Minister: each one justified and deduced from facts. The inquiring magistrate was right to warn that “a hundred suspicions do not amount to evidence” because evidence is worthless if it is travelling on a plane to Baku, or stashed in a secretive bank in Dubai, or disguised within a software manipulated by money-laundering veterans.

But a prime minister is not only subject to the investigation of a court. He must sit in political judgement, based on reason and facts. These are the facts the government wants buried with Daphne Caruana Galizia. And with those facts they want buried all those who persist in remembering them.

How are they doing this?

Firstly by cultivating a false sense of patriotism, and branding criticism of the Prime Minister as tantamount to treason. And we all know the penalty reserved for treason.

It is not enough to project lies on others. It is not enough to threaten arbitrary arrest and prison for those who will just not be silenced. They connect the witnesses by imaginary ties: claiming it is all a conspiracy and accusing them of sedition, of seeking to destabilise the country and its government.

That does not stop them from spreading falsehoods at their targets. Would anyone consider arresting the Prime Minister for accusing Maria Efimova of spying for Vladimir Putin, now that the police have said they have found no evidence to support the claim? Is everyone going to forgive the spectre of Russian intervention in the middle of an election campaign when he knew there was nothing of the sort? What greater conspiracy can a democracy suffer than a prime minister claiming the government of another country is seeking to supplant him?

A prime minister is not only subject to the investigation of a court. He must sit in political judgement, based on reason and facts

These are the fascist methods of people unsatisfied with the backing of a majority, concerned that one day the fickle populace may change its mind. They want to eliminate any resistance. Everyone must choose between obedience and silence.

Consider the mantra that confronts us daily: Joseph is king; if you don’t like it, there’s the door.

Someone should remind these people: Malta is ours too.

Fascist methods are not unlike the methods of organised crime: the two inspire each other. We are witnessing a piovra – an octopus that stretches its tentacles and at its tips suffocates anyone who takes a dim view of the great leader at Castille.

We are reminded of a senior leader of the Labour Party who secured his objective by selecting a sympathetic policeman. The police now seek a sympathetic magistrate to issue arbitrary arrest warrants. Politicians seek a sympathetic judge to overrule a court order to the police to investigate them. For sympathetic read Labour supporter.

When the last walls of protection crumble; when investigating journalists are killed; when a large majority tells us to leave our home country or else; it should surprise no one that many seek refuge in their own silence. It is all they have left.

But if the judiciary does its job, if the press remains vigilant, if the civil service remembers its mission, if the Opposition understands the basic premise that its job is to oppose – then no octopus will prove strong enough to crush a people that know their rights.

All of us who have no greater share in this republic than the desire to live in it, have the duty to stop expecting one party to save us from the abusive rule of the other. Civil society must recognise itself. It must think beyond the rights that are habitually crushed and articulate its duty not to remain silent.

Many more people than the hundreds who gather for monthly vigils in Valletta think this way. We are inspired to seek the truth by Daphne Caruana Galizia. And we find in each other the courage and hope that the few will become many, and the lies will give way to truth.

We remind Joseph Muscat not to count the few hundred that light candles and sing the national anthem with trembling pride: he should count instead on the country’s desire for justice and that today, or tomorrow, those who hunger and thirst for probity and decency will be sated.

We will not be silenced.

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