A breath of fresh air

In the midst of the political crisis on our island, there’s a refreshing and unprecedented rise in civil society speaking out and taking a visible and tangible stand against the corruption, crime and treason of the highest order that has overrun the country.

People who never cared started caring. People who never spoke up started speaking up. People who never took a stand started taking a stand. NGOs came together to speak up and take action. New ones have been formed.

It’s time we realised that politics is not just about political parties, or exclusively their remit and domain, though political parties are of course essential, and their role can never be ignored, sidelined, bypassed or eliminated.

It’s also time we realised that being indifferent to politics is being indifferent to the society we live in and our quality of life, indifferent to the deterioration of human rights, democracy, rule of law and freedom of expression, indifferent to impunity, corruption and crime, indifferent to the principles of justice, fairness and social justice, indifferent to the quality of the air we breathe, to the environment and to the education of our children.

One NGO , a fledgling NGO which vociferously fights corruption is Repubblika. It has become conspicuous thanks to its admirable and unrelenting efforts, and thanks to its success in mobilising thousands to join in the fight against the impunity, the sleaze and the lawlessness that has taken over this country. It has become conspicuous because it is making a tangible difference.

During the meeting the NGO identified and approved the following areas which it will be directing its attention to:

  1. Public Life based on and guided by ethical principles
  2. Structural and Constitutional Developments
  3. Training for a participative and responsible citizenship
  4. A New, Honest and Sustainable Economy
  5. An Environment that is enjoyed by All
  6. . An inclusive, just and humane society.
  7. Equal Justice, Guaranteed Liberties

Their full policy document can be accessed in Maltese or in English.

It concluded that as citizens we need to understand that:

Democracy means much more than the five minutes we spend every five years to cast our vote.
Democracy is not the tyranny of the majority.
Democracy is far greater than a parliament that works on a part-time basis.
Democracy is a fragile treasure that is constantly under threat but which can flourish if we protect it and sustain it.”

They’re right about that. Democracy doesn’t go out with a bang, with an apocalyptic event. Democracies are dismantled in hard to perceive steps: take over the executive, take over the judiciary, take over the police, take over the institutions, take over the media. Bribe a media house. Democracies are dismantled when people don’t mobilise because their attention is diverted to smokescreens, to manufactured lies, conspiracies and enemies.

Wake up. All this has already happened.

Journalism in the Kingdom of Saudi Malta

Sarah Clarke, Head of Europe and Central Asia for international human rights organisation Article 19, compared Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s interference with the criminal investigation and public inquiry into the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia to that of the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia in the assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi The Shift News reported.

This extraordinary situation in Malta bears comparison to the role of Prince Mohammed Bin Salman in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi

Sarah Clarke speaking to the shift news

Jamal Khashoggi, Saudi Arabia’s best-known journalist, wrote columns critical of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) in the Washington Post.

He walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on the 2 October 2018 where he had an appointment to collect documents he needed for his forthcoming marriage. He never walked out.

He was brutally slain a few minutes after he walked into the consulate by a 15-man Saudi hit squad who had been flown in two hours prior. He was drugged and asphyxiated, then dismembered and stuffed into bags. His body was never recovered.

Saudi authorities offered a number of very different narratives of what happened to Khashoggi.

First they said Khashoggi had left the consulate by the back door.

Then they said that a fist fight had broken out in the consulate and that Khashoggi died in the punch-up.

The third Saudi lie about the assassination was that it was a rogue operation.

But recorded excerpts of conversation between the key hit men show clearly that the assassination was premeditated and also that there was state involvement in the assassination as well as the subsequent botched cover-up.

Agnes Callamard, the United Nation’s extrajudicial investigator into the murder said in her report that she “determined that there is credible evidence, warranting further investigation of high-level Saudi officials’ individual liability, including the crown prince’s”.

The same words can be said of Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination and the investigation into it. All one needs to do is replace “Saudi” with “Malta” and “crown prince” with “prime minister”.

Agnes Callamard’s damning report on the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi bears several striking points of resemblance to the report on the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia drawn up by Mr Pieter Omtzigt and adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). Omtzigt is the Council of Europe rapporteur on the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia and the rule of law in Malta. 

There are an astounding number of similarities in the way the states in both cases operated to cover up several aspects of the assassination including the possible involvement of officials in the highest echelons of government and to hinder the course of justice.

The Caruana Galizia case was assigned to a police official who clearly should never have been involved in the case, as both he and his wife were the subject of Caruana Galizia’s investigations and writings; the police investigation was found to be in breach of human rights by the courts.

The Maltese government consistently refused to hold an independent and impartial inquiry into Caruana Galizia’s assassination, even after this was mandated by the Council of Europe and in spite of pressure from several international organisations.

There is a marked and highly suspicious reluctance by the police commissioner and the attorney general to do their job and duty without fear and favour where people in the higher echelons of the government and/or the Labour party are concerned. As Sarah Clarke put it:

“It’s impossible to overstate the concerns we have that Joseph Muscat remains as Prime Minister, with his involvement and executive power over the Police Commissioner and Attorney General. The revelations of the past few weeks demonstrate that the Prime Minister is totally compromised and cannot remain in charge,” 

Sarah Clarke speaking to the shift news

The testimony given by the mastermind/one of the masterminds of Caruana Galizia’s assassination Yorgen Fenech, that given by middleman Melvin Theuma and the opening statement given by the Caruana Galizia family in the public inquiry clearly indicate a possible involvement of the then prime minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri in some, if not all, of the aspects of Caruana Galizia’s assassination, and of his trading in influence to help those involved in the assassination evade justice.

Joseph Muscat by his own admission meddled in the investigation. He has protected Keith Schembri for several years. Schembri is being implicated in the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, in its cover-up, and has been implicated in corruption and bribery for a long time.

The calls for Muscat to resign or be removed must become louder and louder. The calls for Muscat to be hauled in by the police and investigated must become louder and louder.

They must not stop till justice is done and corruption eradicated from Castille.

I encourage people to attend tomorrow’s national protest.

Make your voice heard.

Edging towards Orwell

In our new normal, identity outranks and eclipses solid arguments, proven or provable facts are eviscerated and invalidated, alternative facts (lies) are manufactured, offered and consumed without question, and we have become perfectly happy to believe lies and base our lives on them.

Besides, we humans were never particularly good at reasoning for a good many reasons, one of which being that our reasoning is riddled with cognitive biases such as for example confirmation bias and logical fallacies such as ad hominem and tu quoque.

There are psychological and emotional factors too which influence the formulation of our decisions and views, whose sum total results in us being more likely to believe that which supports or reinforces our already established views, even when little or no evidence is given to support these views. Yet we are unlikely to accept whatever runs counter to our established views, even when the arguments are supported by indisputable evidence.

To compound matters, we have come to believe that we have the right to believe and act on whatever we want to, even if those beliefs are immediately provably untrue. This has been peddled as freedom, but freedom has nothing to do with licence to assume facts that tickle our ears and jettison those that are disagreeable to us.

Lies, seduction and hypocrisy are no newcomers to politics and the advent of the internet, particularly social media has transformed communication, giving disinformation and deception in politics added potency. A number of politicians have no problem in capitalising on this, being happy to manipulate people’s minds and hearts to their ends. Some take it to an extreme employing companies such as Cambridge Analytica who use illicitly acquired data (on us), modern science and technology to manipulate people’s minds and hearts.

These are some of the fundamental ingredients (of course there are many others) of the mess the world finds itself today, especially in situations where tribalism is present as a adds a further dynamic. In the USA, pro-Trump and anti-Trump. In the United Kingdom pro-Brexit and anti-Brexit (Remain or Leave).

Malta is no exception. People are either PN supporters or PL supporters, and if they utter a word against PN they must be PL supporters and if they utter a word against PL they must be PN supporters. Who is not for us is against us.

This is consuming our nation and consuming the world. And unless we understand this, and become vigilant on our thoughts and thought processes to ensure that our views and decisions are not based on disinformation, cognitive biases, logical fallacies and tribalism, we will continue moving in the direction of the modern version of an Orwellian world.