… Italy and Germany

Do you remember Alex Dalli, the former prison director who for four years allegedly ran the correctional facility like a concentration camp? He’s the one who had installed a ‘restraint chair’ where prisoners were apparently left tied for hours on end and the one on whose watch 14 prisoners died. When he was finally ousted last December, the deaths abruptly stopped.

Did Dalli face the music? Oh no, he was simply given another post and for the last five months he has served as the government’s “special representative in Libya, dealing with matters of national security including migration”.

These last five months, migrants were still being put on rickety, leaking boats from the Libyan seashore after forking out their life savings. But, coinciding with Dalli’s appointment, distress calls to the Maltese Rescue Centre from people on half sinking boats in the Maltese search and rescue zone are being left unanswered. Urgent e-mails sent by NGOs monitoring the plight of people who, sometimes, would have been out at sea for days and suffering from hypothermia are also left unanswered. It seems that Dalli is, once again, marching to the beat of his own sadist drum.

Exasperated by Malta’s disgraceful failure to take responsibility for people seeking SOS in its own area, German and Italian authorities have been stepping in to coordinate the rescue and the migrants are subsequently being taken to Italian shores.

While Malta looks the other way.

… Finland and Sweden

I wonder what would happen if that war criminal, Vladimir Putin, woke up one of these days and decided to annex Malta to Russia. I don’t know, maybe he’ll claim that there’s more Russians with a golden Maltese passport than there are Maltese citizens or that we need saving from some phantom Nazis, who knows.

Whatever his excuse, the outcome from our end would be very predictable: our President George Vella would promptly catch a plane to Moscow and genuflect his way on the gilded marble floors of the Kremlin until he’s grovelling in front of Putin, apologising for having irritated him.

I say this because when, this week, Finland and Sweden, feeling extremely threatened by Putin’s Russia, discarded their neutrality clauses and applied to join NATO, our president’s reaction was: “What can I say? Good luck to them… one wonders, of course, if their timing is right.” What he meant was: “Issa tara, this will make Putin angry and they’ll regret it” or, in other words: how dare they not be deferential?

It is very sad that our own president has no sense of standing up to the bully next door. No wonder when he was in his cabinet, he let the disgraced former prime minister, Joseph Muscat, run riot with corrupt practice. He’d rather be subservient than stand up for democratic principles.

Meanwhile, a reader this week kindly sent me a historical reminder of how neutrality has a shameful history. In World War II, ‘neutral’ Sweden sold iron to the Nazis; ‘neutral’ Switzerland banked with the Nazis. Closer to our time, during the Cold War up till 1985, ‘neutral’ Malta banned NATO warships but allowed then Russian-friendly Libyan warships in its dockyards.

Our lyrics are blank and puerile- Kristina Chetcuti

‘Neutral’ politics in situations of injustice is politics without morality. Perhaps President Vella’s communist mindset needs an injection of Dante Alighieri: “The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.”

Finland and Sweden did the right thing. Malta cannot keep looking the other way.

… Ukraine

I’ll start with the proviso that I love the Eurovision Song Contest. I consider it a yearly appointment of communal European merriment and a bit of mindless banter and fun. This year, added to that, there was a special layer of warmth which made the contest the best ever: all countries joined hands to promote peace and support for the country mercilessly attacked by Putin: Ukraine.

Before the final, Sam Ryder, the UK contestant, a Xandru-Grech-cum-Jesus-lookalike-in-a-boiler-suit, said that he would be delighted if Kalush Orchestra, the rappers representing Ukraine, won. Ryder ended up their runner-up but his delight was palpable, as was the other contestants’. In fact, quite a few of them displayed the Ukrainian flag on their instruments or on their lapels.

But it turns out that this was not the general spirit in Malta. Our humanitarian-tone-deaf jury gave the Ukrainian song nil points and with the Maltese public voting, Ukraine only managed to scrape eight points (about 40 calls for those votes came from our household). Only the other Putin-supporting countries, Serbia and North Macedonia, gave similar points. I very much fear that if Russia had not been banned from the Eurovision, Malta would have voted for their song. Can you imagine the national wrath if Malta had placed second to Ukraine? All this goes down to our navel-gazing psyche.

“You must understand that Eurovision has changed,” said Dean Vuletic, a Vienna University history lecturer and a Eurovision expert.

“Europeans voted for the artists who reflected the current social and political context – they voted for those who wrote about the suffering Europe is going through right now. Malta’s entry does not reflect that zeitgeist.”

Aha. Finally, someone said it. If we want to ever win the Eurovision, our composers and lyricists have to watch… Euronews. Ukraine’s dying civilians? Migrants drowning? Food banks growing? Environment threatened? Our music scene registers none of this. Our lyrics are blank and puerile and reflect a society completely disconnected from what is happening in the rest of the world.

The Eurovision trophy will evade us for as long as Malta keeps looking the other way.


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