The Malta Independent 20 June 2019, Thursday

It’s all in the eyes

Victor Calleja Sunday, 19 May 2019, 09:42 Last update: about 30 days ago

There was a time when a speech about democracy inflamed some listeners, who stormed out of a graduation ceremony. They included the then President of Malta and the Minister of Education. The person who delivered the speech was arraigned in court and accused of libel and looking menacingly at the President.

History, or some historical facts, teaches us a number of things – or it should. But we humans forget, or whitewash, facts by giving them a good glossing-over. When the above incident took place, Labour – under Dom Mintoff – was in power.

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But who cares about the indomitable Dom now that we have Joseph Muscat? Why rake up the past? Yet this story of long ago should interest us all for its ‘I-can’t-believe-it’s-true’ silliness.

The speech was delivered by a new graduate, Michael Frendo. It was a stirring speech about democratic principles – all proper stuff to be said out loud and applauded. Instead, a complete fracas followed and Frendo was prosecuted for libel: he had said bad things in the presence of the President.

To prove the point, the prosecution added that the way in which Frendo looked at the Head of State constituted defamation. Could Kafka ever dream up anything more Kafkaesque?

Now, let’s skip all this silly historical anecdoting and forward to today. We are now living way beyond the horrors of what Mintoff and his cronies inflicted on this island. We are now enjoying the golden age of Joseph Muscat: where people are treated like humans, where the right to express ourselves is sacrosanct, where the rule of law is second to none.

Eyes come into this again. But this time it is eyes of shame, eyes which betray not confidence but bloody guilt.

Back in April, Owen Bonnici, our Justice Minister, did not once look at Daphne Caruana Galizia’s sons while replying to questions during the Council of Europe hearing regarding the investigation into her assassination.

Obviously, no one is going to investigate or prosecute the Minister. We like to think that we have progressed from the sad old days, but the surreal overtones of what is happening in this country are frightening.

Owen Bonnici could not look the sons of Daphne in the eyes. Michael Frendo knew he had truth and the proper tenets of democracy on his side, so he felt at ease looking anyone in the eyes.

Bonnici knows he has a lot to answer for and will not allow a proper inquiry into Daphne’s assassination to be kick-started. He also knows that the government of which he forms a part has never really tried to solve the murder and find out who masterminded it.

Everything has been done to convert the perception of Daphne’s execution into just a little incident about which we feel sorry. Even the new President is trying hard to belittle the problems we are facing with regard to our democratic credentials.

The more the propagandists try to cover up, the worse it all becomes. The more the locals gloss over everything that has really happened with regard to Daphne, the more the outside world shows them up.

After Daphne was murdered her voice, and her pen, were silenced. But guilt cannot be washed away so easily. The word ‘Justice’ written on a memorial with flowers can be erased, but not the memory.

The eyes of the world – except for those of most of Malta – are on this government and what it does or fails to do. €50,000 has been pledged by a foreign organisation to assist the Caruana Galizias in their legal battle to see that justice is done.

If Daphne was wrong, if all is well here in this country, why would a foreign entity even care? 

The more the Minister’s eyes dart away, the more it is obvious that, deep down, not all is good in the state of Malta.

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