We can get through this
Confused, shocked, incredulous, sad, skeptical, angry, dumbfounded. These are just a few of the whirlwind of emotions so many of us have experienced in these past few weeks. While the political rollercoaster ride continues, I am sure many of us are not even sure what they feel anymore. It may even be tempting to push aside these emotions. Now is not the time for complacency. Nor is it a time for partisan bickering. Now is a time for us to stand up and defend our country because I believe we can get through this.
Our country is facing some of the most troubling times it has seen for decades. This is accounting to damage, which in some cases may not even be repairable. The last few weeks have finally seen the light in the unravelling of a dark and twisted scheme that resulted in the assassination of journalist and anti-corruption activist Daphne Caruana Galizia. There is still much, much more to be done. There are still so many questions left unanswered.
Many have taken to the streets, demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat. The recently born civil society movement Repubblika has led, tirelessly, one vital protest after another, their message currently also calling for the resignation of the Prime Minister. This is being echoed internationally too. So many of the international newspapers, including The Guardian and The Times of London are calling for the resignation of our Prime Minister, saying it “cannot come soon enough”. Council of Europe Special RapporteurPieter Omtzigt described the current government as “a shameless regime”, saying Muscat must resign immediately in the national interest. Manfred Weber, a German MEP and chair of the European parliament’s centre-right group said the “assassination of a journalist with clear political links” should have “clear political consequences”. The list goes on.
It would be utterly foolish of us to think these events will not leave permanent scars or long term consequences. What has become of Malta’s reputation as a country? We have been described as an “island of corruption” by The Times of London, to quote just one source. But while times are bleak, we cannot be complacent, nor must we give up.
I believe we can get through this. To do so, we need to implement a number of changes within our country to ensure we are never in this situation again. These are rooted in values, values the right leaders will have, instill in us all and which will be the pillars for the new direction Malta needs to take. Importantly, this is not a matter of red or blue. So for those who have not yet made up their mind, we need to cast aside the traditional partisan way of thinking. Let us put aside our traditional way of thinking and put our country first.
Fundamentally, I see three core values upon which we need to build: conscience, accountability and integrity.
One of the reasons Malta finds itself in the situation it is now is due to those in power having done things for personal gain. This is not acceptable. These people must go. No longer can politics allow for self-gain and injustice. Rather, justice and doing things in good conscience, for the better good, must prevail.
The corollary to this is that we need to be firm in our understanding of what is right, and wrong. This is integrity, the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles. For this reason, I believe we need to abolish libels completely, these having been used to financially cripple one of the best investigative journalists our country has seen.
How justice is served is another pressing issue. We need to review and overhaul our legal system in its entirety, so as to make it far more efficient and expedite justice, rather than the pace and processes we have become accustomed to. This ties in well with the value of accountability. Be it right or wrong, we owe it to our people to ensure we are accountable at all times. There is no success without failure. We shall always ensure that no matter what, we will always take responsibility for our triumphs and our failures, learn from those failures and change, so as to make room for our continued success.
One cannot talk about justice without mentioning the Caruana Galizia case. For this is important for press freedom and rule of law not just in Malta, but in all the EU. First and foremost, we need to introduce the Free Press Bill. This will ensure our investigative journalists are protected and shielded. In this way they can continue their efforts in supporting the course of justice.
We also need to introduce a bill and a commission ensuring that key roles within our institutions are to be shortlisted in part by the public and the majority by parliament. The impartial commission would hold interviews, screening and vetting in order to select a fair, equal and impartial candidate for each role. In this way this responsibility will be removed from the Prime Minister. Of course, recommendations can still be given by the Prime Minister. We should also form an investigative team outside the police force. It would independently carry out investigative work as well as ensure that in these times, we ourselves are equipped to handle and carry out the swift hand of justice.
The three values of conscience, accountability and integrity are values that I hold true to my heart, but I believe they are values that provide solid foundations upon which to build the new future ahead. Values are principles that need to be lived through action. They are morals not just those in power must set as an example, but ones which we all must use as our guiding principles. A journalist was assassinated because she was trying to fight the corruption that had spread through Malta’s veins. Let us continue and end the battle she was fighting by doing what should have been done a long time ago and what is right. Let us lead by example, let us be better, let us show our children that this is the way forward. Let’s roll up our sleeves and get started now.