The Malta Independent 21 October 2019, Monday

TMIS Editorial: Today, we are all Lassana

Sunday, 19 May 2019, 11:30 Last update: about 5 months ago

It may be something of a cliché, but after yesterday’s news, today we are all Lassana Cisse Souleymane. 

That is because when members of our own armed forces – people who are duty-bound to protect all those on our soil and under our care in any way, shape or form – murder and attempt to murder those same people, we all bear a certain collective responsibility.

In fact, as we are entering the last week of an election campaign and when we have dual interviews with the prime minister and the leader of the Opposition, such grandiose matters of national importance are being left by the wayside in these columns of this leading article so as to make way for someone who mattered very little when alive; who was perhaps little more than a number to the public at large, but who, in death, will hopefully force the country to do some serious soul searching.

Many were the cynics who were of the opinion that the police had little motivation to investigate a dead migrant, two others who were shot and another who was the victim of what appears to have been an intentional hit-and-run.

Others were of the opinion that the heinous crimes were being covered up so as to not foment racial unrest. The truth of the matter is that the police cannot talk about ongoing investigations of this sort.

Neither possibility ended up holding water at the end of the day, but what we do have to ask ourselves, if we are to prevent any more such crimes, is what were the circumstances that led to anyone feeling empowered enough to carry out such a random act of racial violence, the likes of which this country has never seen before.

Is it that after the slaying of Daphne Caruana Galizia, who gave no quarter to racists and who regularly lashed out at such people and who herself was the victim of arson attacks by racists, that this kind of thing has now become acceptable? Have such people now become empowered? Has blood in the streets now become an acceptable norm for some people of a certain ilk?

What is of the utmost importance is that these race crimes — a murder and three attempted murders — are condemned by all of society at large; that such hatred is given absolutely no quarter, and that the perpetrators are given quick and meaningful justice and are put behind bars for a long time. The ones who did this, and anyone of any similar mindset, need to be told that they have no place in our society.

In the meantime, now that we know they were shot out of pure racial hatred, and by a public officer with an accomplice who is also a public officer, it is imperative that we do not let the two other targets, Mohamed and Ibrahim, who were also shot and who are still convalescing, to be left to depend on handouts from friends because they cannot work.

Let this be a wake-up call; let us reach out to Lassana’s fellow victims, since we cannot reach out to Lassana, and show them that we will not tolerate this kind of behaviour and that we will, somehow, attempt to set matters right with them.

That is because this is not who we are as a nation. We are much, much better than this.

Nor do these two people represent who and what the Armed Forces of Malta are — they, too, are much better than that. Just think of the many hundreds of migrant lives the AFM has saved at sea if you have any doubt.

We are certain that the AFM personnel who have risked their own lives to save the lives of migrants are aghast at the fact that their peers have killed one and sought to kill three others.

We welcome the fact that the anti-immigrant party has also unreservedly condemned yesterday’s news. 

We also welcome the Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s statement that words of hatred, division and violence have no place in our society, and that all those who spread hate will face serious consequences.

We join him in urging the authorities to prevent all forms of hate crime, because, if this case is anything to go by, we can now see with our own eyes how matters could escalate.

What is of concern is the prime minister’s statement that there is currently a parallel internal investigation, with the involvement of the security services, to determine whether the pair arrested at long last yesterday were ‘isolated rogue individuals, or part of something wider’.

This last statement is rather ominous and deserves follow-up if we are to feel truly safe in our country, whoever we are and whatever colour we may be, and if the bad apples among us are to be found before the whole applecart is upset.

The spectre of racism was yesterday confirmed as having taken on a whole new meaning — one that we, as a nation, would never have wished upon ourselves. 

We must now band together. If we are all Lassana Cisse Souleymane today, tomorrow we can perhaps be a better people as a whole.

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