The Malta Independent 17 October 2019, Thursday

Just three strands

Noel Grima Sunday, 22 September 2019, 10:30 Last update: about 25 days ago

I watched on Monday the Daphne Caruana Galizia commemoration from Valletta and wondered, amazed at this small but very determined group of activists who have been, quite literally, holding the candle for Daphne these past 23 months.

Even on Monday, just after the commemoration, the flowers and candles at the Great Siege monument were swept away but, sure enough, the next morning the activists were back with flowers and candles, running the usual gauntlet of insults and threats from those who have staked out the monument to repel any Daphne-connected memorial.

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Those at the commemoration, and those like me watching on Facebook, heard not just the addresses by the speakers, but were also told that, come next month, on the second anniversary of the assassination that shook Malta, a special commemoration will be held, beginning with Mass at St Francis church at 6pm followed by a commemoration at the usual place. Among those who already have confirmed their presence is the former president of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani.

I wondered not just at the tenacity of this small group, without any visible means of support, and with no political background, but could see (although the cameras were strictly on the speakers) the immediate rapport between the speakers and the crowd. I will not go into the controversies of crowd counting, but I can say the crowd, big or small as it may have been, was as tenacious as the speakers.

This is more than I can say for the rather listless crowd that gathered to hear Adrian Delia in Ħamrun on Friday. There were the usual faces, especially the rather glum faces on either side of the leader who, on his part, seemed to have nothing to say that had not already been said as he toured the party's clubs.

This is, we may call it, the second strand of political opponents to Joseph Muscat's government, composed mostly of party delegates, local councillors, and mainly those who have always been PN members.

It is a rather spent force, living on memories and which seems to have come to terms with the past two drubbings at the polls and the weak leadership it now has, resigned to future defeats at the polls. It has no idea how to break through this encircling pessimism.

What I call the third strand is the crowd that some days prior thronged the streets of Valletta in defence of Malta's fast-disappearing environment and countryside; against the construction mania that has taken over our island and in defence of the dwindling numbers of trees.

That was a crowd with passion that translated itself even to children and teenagers (a notoriously difficult task). It was by no means a Nationalist crowd, but it definitely was not a pro-Muscat crowd.

It stood helplessly around on Friday as the boasting prime minister opened the first part of the Addolorata overpass, most fittingly on Car-Free Day. Apart from the over-the-top ritual, this was yet another example of how this government has surrendered to the car lobby, just as it has surrendered to the construction sector, with dire consequences all around. I agree, however, that solving the intractable delays of our road network in that area has long been needed.

These three afore-mentioned strands or segments are not in any way connected. They are, nevertheless, three segments which have not been taken in by Muscat's spin machine.

My point today is that there may be other segments which could be farmed - the people who have long been worried by the number of migrants coming to Malta; the Maltese proletariat, which has seen living standards decline and rental accommodation costs increasing; pensioners who cannot cope with the increasing cost of living despite the empty words and promises that accompany every budget...

...And maybe also those who just cannot take it any more - those who perceive this country as mired in corruption and who have come to the conclusion that this government protects its own, regardless of wrongdoing; that Malta's name has become a byword for corruption all over Europe...

...Those seething with anger following the prime minister's announcement that, after years of dithering, he has finally appointed an 'independent' Commission of Inquiry composed of a lawyer who has multiple government contracts and represents FIAU, a government appointee with no independent means of support, and a judge who has already been involved in the investigation of Daphne Caruana Galizia's murder.

The international bodies who clamoured for the Commission of Inquiry must come round and tell the government these appointees will not do.

 

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