The Malta Independent 3 December 2021, Friday

Libya’s attempted coup

Noel Grima Tuesday, 5 October 2021, 12:28 Last update: about 3 months ago

‘Attentat’. Author: Salv Sammut. Published: Horizons / 2021. Pages: 205pp

This book highlights, as I see it, the risks that novel writers face when they write about contemporary situations, which involve national and sensitive issues.

It is true that the author, like others, takes the precaution of warning right at the beginning that the facts as narrated are the fruit of the author's imagination and thus have no relation with real persons and situations.

However, there is internal evidence to take into consideration. The storyline speaks of a time when relations between Malta and Libya were tense. Now the revolution in Libya that overthrew Gaddafi took place in 2011 so the story told in this book must have predated 2011. And we know who was in government in Malta at that time - the Nationalist administration.

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Besides, the author's previous employment, before retirement, was at the top level of the foremost trade union of the country which has historically always been within the sphere of influence of the Labour Party, then in Opposition.

The storyline is easily told. Libya, the fictional country of the book, had decided to destabilise Malta and engineer a coup. The reasons for this are never made clear. Through a man-eater beautiful high ranking female officer in the Libyan embassy in Malta it collected a motley group of high-ranking Maltese who she persuaded to pass on to her sensitive information from inside the Government of Malta.

One of these pawns was Bernard, who worked in the Foreign Office, who was paid huge sums for his collaboration, apart from other gifts in kind. He already had a comfortable home but with the extras he was making he bought another house, which he intended to use as an investment.

His wife began smelling a rat, and also the perfume he brought with him when he got home very late day after day.

Switch over to Bugibba where a man was found dead in a yard - was it suicide or was he pushed? Enter the hero of the book, the very upright Inspector Pawlu Borg who at first thought the death was a suicide but then he found out the dead man was a high-ranking officer in the Libyan embassy. And hidden away in his apartment he finds very incriminating evidence.

The preparations for the coup continue. The aim is to break down the Maltese economy, create unemployment and popular unrest and then unleash a series of unrest and popular anger.

The government, forewarned, gets the US and the CIA involved. Meanwhile a boatload of migrants hovers on the horizon and other migrants stage a riot at the open centre. And the Opposition announces a general strike with a protest march in Valletta.

The situation looks dire. Malta's independence and sovereignty never looked so fragile.


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