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The degrading of Malta’s name - John Vassallo

Today all newspapers and TV stations worldwide name Malta in the same breath as Slovakia, Bulgaria and now Saudi Arabia because of the terrible fate suffered by journalists.

We are now placed in the same boat as two former Soviet Bloc countries coming out of 70 years of communism, dictatorships and utter poverty and, because of this, prone to be tempted to fall into the trap of corruption linked to the flows of EU funds. What a pity that, either because of influx of criminals from Italy, Serbia or Romania, or because of a stratum of Maltese society and politics that is fundamentally corrupt, we too get tarred with the same brush.

Now, even the worst monolithic society that is run undemocratically by a corrupt family of former nomads, who took over the country of Saudi Arabia, appears to have joined this group of countries by either brutally killing or arresting dissident or investigative journalists.

Malta does not normally belong into this group. Malta is better than that. Our history, level of education and culture should have kept us in the top league of democratic countries, but we have failed all the tests. We have been steamrolled into a new and dirty world by a well-oiled campaign of lies that was well funded by ruthless businessmen and by despotic governments run by a small group of undemocratic politicians.

Unfortunately, our population does not seem to mind corruption and lack of legal protection so long as they are able to earn a living. Money has taken over.

I do not mind a society that is ruled by the love of money so long as the money earned and distributed comes from normal and legally sound activities. I have just come back from Luxembourg. The government there has been known to flourish on financial schemes that are very borderline so far as EU law and European solidarity are concerned, and, like Malta, it thrives by siphoning away revenues from European neighbouring countries through businesses that locate there for tax planning purposes. Yet, the general level of rule of law, of fair salaries (minimum wage of €16.50 an hour) and taxation (maximum 33 per cent), of the peace and quiet found in neighbourhoods, and the fact it has good roads, fewer cars, no overload of tourists, reasonable rents in relation to salary levels and freedom of the press, makes it a place one can only admire.

It is farcical to read that our Prime Minister is aspiring to a position within the EU institutions

In other words, it is the type of country that Malta should have aspired to become instead of aiming to be the pariah of the EU and the touristic cesspit of the Mediterranean.

With this situation in mind, it is farcical to read, in some blogs, that our Prime Minister is aspiring to a position within the EU institutions. If it was not a joke then it is an insult to the intelligence of the Maltese and a sign of the blindness or stupidity of the political leadership of the European Socialist Group that they even consider such a possibility. I am sure they do not want the EU institutions to be tarred with this same brush. No chance of any new careers in the EU for our leading politicians.

The GDP per capita of Luxembourg is double that of Malta with the same population. It is environmentally clean and politically transparent.

  Why are we going in the opposite direction? Wake up my fellow citizens. Protest against the present situation and show your distaste for the cover-up around the brutal murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia. The Slovaks appear to have found the person or persons who ordered the murder of Jan Kuciak and his fiancée.

In order to put this behind us, it is not enough to have a monument to Daphne, nor to punish the actual perpetrators of the bombing. The planners, financiers and brains that wanted her out of the way and provoked the crime have to be found. An international investigation with neutral and efficient police and judges has to be set up.

That is why this week’s marches, in Malta, in Italy, Germany and other countries, to commemorate the 12 months from her death, from our loss, are so important. We should never forget nor forgive this murder.

Comparing it to the tragic death of Princess Diana, as had been suggested recently, is absurd. Diana died in an accident and was loved by the people even though hated by her former husband’s family. She was not killed in cold blood for political or criminally corrupt reasons. Her memory brought up feelings of sorrow.

Daphne’s murder brings up feeling of anger and disgust, and fear of further loss of rights. For this reason Daphne’s monument should be everywhere.

Those who wish to disallow the memorial or the protest can never remove the anger until justice is done. To suggest otherwise means one does not believe in justice or that one is testing the waters on behalf of the government to see if the time is ripe to put up a monument in some faraway place to stop the protests.

No chance!

We must show that we are better than the way the world sees us.

John Vassallo is a former senior counsel and director for EU Affairs at General Electric, a former vice president, EU Affairs, associate general counsel, Microsoft, and a former Ambassador of Malta to the EU.

This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece

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