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The nightmare of flowers and candles - Kristina Chetcuti

It seems that the Prime Minister’s head of communications has been lately waking up screaming and sweating in the middle of the night.

“What is it dear? A nightmare? Was it bad?”

“Yes! Very! Flowers! Candles! Chasing me!”

Which is why he put on a fake pair of moustaches and a trench coat, tiptoed to Republic Street, and when he got to the Law Courts he slithered on the ground in front of the monument of the Great Siege Square and took out his macro lens.

“Aha! Elementary!” he said as he whipped out his smartphone. He snapped a photo of candle wax dropped on the base of the monument and grinned as he whatsapped the photo to his boss. A nano-second later he got the answer: a thumbs-up emoji.

Then he sent it to the Minister of Culture and Justice, who does not normally lose much sleep over either culture or justice, but gets excited when pinged from Castille, so he replied with an emoji of clapping hands. Next, the Prime Minister’s head of communications forwarded the picture to the Labour Party media, whose editor also does not normally lose much sleep over either culture or justice, but immediately splashed a front page: “Shock!” “Horror!” “Outrage!” “Activists protesting for justice drop candle wax on the granite base of our beloved monument!”

The head of communications, by now back at his office in Castille, took off his fake moustache, replaced it with A Very Serious, Solemn Face, looked in the mirror and said: “The government is taking action against this atrocity!”

And pronto, Antonio Sciortino’s beautiful bronze monument, which had been given a major restoration treatment only recently, was boarded up and wrapped up like a postal parcel, for urgent conservation treatment, we were told. In the process, all the flowers and candles that had been spontaneously laid at the foot of the Great Siege monument since October 16 of last year, were binned. 

The Prime Minister’s head of communications put on a fake pair of moustaches and a trench coat, tiptoed to Republic Street, and when he got to the Law Courts he slithered on the ground in front of the monument of the Great Siege Square and took out his macro lens

All this spectacle leaves us with several questions.

Why does a government want to deprive its people from marking the assassination of a journalist who was uncovering stories of corruption against people at the top ranks?

Why does a government want its people to forget that we still have no idea who commissioned the killing?

And why does a government want to hinder its people from the fundamental human right of protesting?

For almost a year now, people have chosen to grieve in front of Antonio Sciortino’s monument because: a) it lies in front of the very institution that is meant to uphold justice in our country, and b) it symbolises the tena­city and resolve of the Maltese people when their soul was being attacked during the battles of 1565 and World War II.

In fact, next time you’re in Valletta, please take the time to look at this artistic masterpiece made up of three bronze figures: the male figure in the centre, bare-chested, wearing a three-pointed crown and holding a sword, is the symbol of ‘courage’. The female figure on the left represents ‘faith’ while that on the right is ‘culture’ and is in fact holding a mask of Minerva, the Roman godless of wisdom.

This monument basically lists the qualities we need to win the battle for justice: faith, courage and the wisdom of culture. The question is – do we have to fight this battle at all? It’s psychological warfare, it’s tiring and it’s dark.

Lucretius Carus, a Roman philosopher once said: “Pleasant it is, when over a great sea the winds trouble the waters, to gaze from shore upon another’s tribulation” – it is more pleasant to watch a tempest from ashore, than being out at sea helping seaman to save a ship from wrecking.

But do we want to just look on or amuse ourselves with the pebbles on the beach while tragedy is unfolding before us? For when the voice of the people starts being muffled, that’s a country heading for shipwreck and it is our duty as citizens to ensure that democracy functions, and functions properly.

Apart from the fact, of course, that as citizens we deserve a government that has better things to do than plot scandals about candles and attempts to snuff out smouldering wicks.

That’s the real stuff of nightmares.

krischetcuti@gmail.com
Twitter: @krischetcuti

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