The Malta Independent 21 September 2021, Tuesday

Understanding the protest

Noel Grima Sunday, 1 August 2021, 09:00 Last update: about 3 months ago

Saturday's protest in Valletta has deeply shocked the country so much so that most of the media were late in understanding what was going on and almost all avoided giving some sort of context.

The one that tried, MaltaToday, was the only one to try and quantify the crowd and came up with the figure of 250 protesters - whereas the actual figure must have been in thousands.

No one seems to have tried to analyse the composition of the crowd between Maltese and foreigners though I feel the latter were by far the majority.


Much of the outrage focused on the general lack of facemasks and lack of social distancing and the very sparse presence of police and consequently lack of law enforcement.

There were some instances of fake news thrown in, such as those who thought the protest was in favour of abortion. But those who are aware of what is going on in the world knew that the day of protest was organised internationally and there were huge crowds eg in many cities in Italy while in Paris both the crowds and the police have had sufficient experience from the Gilets Jaunes times.

From the social media that came before the protest there emerge various strands which somehow must have moved people to make the trip to Valletta on a very hot day.

Many said they were angry at the draconian way the pandemic is being fought, the restrictions on travel, the insistence on the Green Pass, (at least abroad), and also, I suspect, at the different regimes between what is done abroad and what is done here. In this respect, it was an act of challenge to the way we are trying to cope with the pandemic.

Other arguments were more serious. Some questioned the efficacy of the vaccines. At a lower level of popular interaction, some, or many, are claiming various consequences of the jab on their personal health. Others ask how is it possible that those who are catching the virus are all said to be unvaccinated.

Others pointed out that the vaccines are still at a trial stage and do not, it is said, have FDA approval. So for all the intense pressure on everybody to get the jab, this is still at an experimental stage.

There are many questions being asked regarding the future, not just the widespread use of the Green Pass before entering eg a supermarket or even a bar, but also the possible exclusion of the non-vaccinated from most activities up to and including work.

Still, most opinions concur the vaccines, however imperfect with maybe some consequences yet to be seen, are still the best proposition.

There is certainly a lot of anger around, as was evident once the shock of the huge crowd in Republic Street worked its way through general sensibility. At one point, people were getting anxious that crowd trouble lay ahead.

In this, Malta is different from other countries which do not seem to have passed through popular division on the scale of Malta.

At the end, the situation still demands that all, both the vaccinated and the unvaccinated continue to exercise maximum care. We are not out of the woods yet  and we will surely not be out if people continue to throw caution to the winds. What's the use of banning feasts when Paceville seems a Covid-free area?


Demanding an apology and making one

There was so much pressure and stress on the government to come up with a response to the damning 400-page conclusions by the three judges on the State's responsibility in the Daphne murder that Maltese, our language, got mangled in the process.

The word used in the government statement to reply to the judges' conclusions was 'Nitlob apologija' (I demand an apology) but, after the media went through hoops to understand that, it turned that Robert Abela was actually meaning I apologise.

Even then, both the statement and the prime minister's speech in parliament on Friday were long on rhetoric and self-praise and short, very short, on specifics.

Marginally better was the President who asked that all recommendations of the judges be implemented. Marginally better because the present President formed part of the Cabinet at the time mentioned by the judges and supported by his votes the Muscat administration but of course apologising did not even enter his mind.

Apart from boasting how his administration is far better than the time of his predecessor, Robert Abela seems to have dangled some enticing carrots, such as a financial damages compensation or a statue of the lady. I am certain the Caruana Galizia family have an adequate response to such overtures.

Jason Azzopardi listed the many times this Abela administration tried to trip up the investigation and the judges' work including a very different composition of the board. It is a pity we don't know who Abela was trying to propose.

Like our reaction to the grey-listing of Malta by FATF, it's not words that get the results but concrete action.

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