Valletta: the city that won European cultural capital status. The city that was made increasingly accessible through pedestrianisation and other projects. And the same city where people gather to voice their concerns on so many issues.

Judging by the public messages of V18 chairman Jason Micallef, one is led to think that he considers the city to be his personal fiefdom. Indeed, even though Micallef is meant to represent the general public, he is acting in a very divisive and sectarian way, lashing out at all those who he considers to be traitors to his cause.

Needless to say, a chorus of government-sponsored media and keyboard warriors repeat his rants. How many of them have been given positions of trust in the public service?

A recent example of this relates to the proposal of two Labour local councillors to remove the shrine for Daphne Caruana Galizia at Great Siege Square.

In response, the Civil Society Network announced that it will be applying for a permanent memorial to Caruana Galizia. The Labour propaganda machine tried to imply that the proposed memorial would replace the monument where the current shrine is in place, but nothing can be further from the truth.

Such tricks are so cheap: Glenn Bedingfield did something similar a day later when he posted fake news on the doctors’ strike against the Vitals scandal.

Let’s go back to Micallef. When the Daphne memorial proposal was announced, he immediately said that he would oppose this with every means possible, “as V18 chairman and on a personal basis”. He was immediately taken to task by Caruana Galizia’s sister Corinne Vella, who accused him of wasting taxpayers’ money on “vanity projects cluttering up a public square”, but objects to flowers laid in memory of a woman who “held him and his corrupt patrons to account”.

Indeed, when a city is declared a cultural capital of Europe, one expects an outburst of creativity, critique and expression, not State-orchestrated propaganda and attacks on freethinkers

One of these projects must be the Hekk Jgħid il-Malti display. Its creator Joel Saliba said he hoped to provoke the public through the installations. Well, I for one, do not like the installations, but yes, some of them did set me thinking.

The pig, for example, reminded me of Napoleon in George Orwell’s Animal Farm. The three cows reminded me of the Panama Gang where everything is for sale. And the crass depiction of a figure bent over with his head caught in an onion reminded me of Jean Baudrillard’s concept of simulacra, where we are sucked into a black hole of endless simulations. One of them could be V18 and Labour’s soulless politics of spectacle and seduction through corruption.

Unfortunately, a number of these installations were vandalised, and Micallef immediately related this to “sick minds who could not stand the progress currently being made in Valletta, from which the whole country would benefit”.

I do not recall Micallef being so angry when Daphne’s shrine was vandalised and when Auberge de Castille was vandalised through holes courtesy of light works.

Let us all hope that the persons behind the Hekk Jgħid il-Malti vandalism are caught by the police. Incidentally, this is one of the best policed areas on the island.

A few days earlier, Micallef also ranted against the Kenniesa projections on Castille, with the words ‘House of impunity’ and ‘Who killed Daphne?’. He said that the group abused democracy and that their protest was a vile, systematic and illegal assault on public monuments by a few dozen people.

How the V18 man can relate freedom of expression to an abuse of democracy baffles me. Indeed, when a city is declared a cultural capital of Europe, one expects an outburst of creativity, critique and expression, and not State-orchestrated propaganda and attacks on freethinkers.

It is very worrying that V18 funds are being used in typical Labour style to seduce participants into silence. This is so similar to Labour’s governing style with regards to non-meritocratic jobs in the public service, quick-fix permits for construction, and all sorts of corruption and favours courtesy of taxpayers’ money.

Respect to those who refuse to be part of the circus.

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