Why on earth did the Maltese government ask Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to put on hold his war duties in order to address our parliament on Tuesday?
It must have been because, when in Brussels, our prime minister needed to tell his counterparts that the brave, iconic Zelensky graced our screens too as, otherwise, it was totally bizarre. All we had to tell him was that dreaded Maltese word: “Kuraġġ!”
In sum, the message we passed on to Ukraine was: “We sympathise imma, sorry, we have a neutrality clause in our constitution so we have to be bystanders.” That was mightily perplexing. Why invite to your house someone who is in need of desperate help just to tell him: “Nope, can’t help, but kuraġġ”?
Even Switzerland itself, the land of neutrality par excellence, has refuted to play the non-aligned card and is taking into consideration the “international context of the moment” when implementing its policy of neutrality.
But we are Switzerland in the Mediterranean and we make no distinction of context. Our white flag is a white flag no matter what. So much so that, in welcoming Zelensky, our speaker, Anġlu Farrugia, made no reference to the fact that Ukraine is a victim of war crimes instigated by Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. No, ever careful to be impartial, our Speaker of the House described the war as a ‘conflict’, a mere disagreement of sorts. ‘Neutral’ means not to offend the Russian ambassador in Malta. We don’t want to upset Andrei Lopukhov from his busy schedule of spreading misinformation, fake news and covering up for Putin’s war crimes, do we?
In case it was still not clear enough that Malta’s aim was to stay middle of the road, our speaker went one step further and gave Zelensky some unsolicited advice. In manner of Henry Kissinger, Farrugia told him that all it took to solve “the conflict” was a bit of “dialogue”. That’s what parliaments are for, he told him, in between the lines heavily hinting that he, Farrugia from Mosta, forever speaker and forever a government stooge, could be the mediator they needed.
Images of Bill Clinton as the peace saviour with arms outstretched as Israel’s Yitzhak Rabin and Palestine’s Yasser Arafat shook hands, flashed in our speaker’s mind. Our Anġlu was already imagining himself sitting in the middle of that kilometre-long marble table at the Kremlin, with Putin at one end and Zelensky at the other. “I’ll start the very important dialogue okay? Mister Puw-tin your palace is very nice eh, your gold is ubi-koxxox. You and I, the same – you ride horses, I ride elephants. You here for 22 years, I, speaker for 12, soon I catch you har-har. Now for serious part. You two make peace, okay? Mister Zelen-sik okay?”
Unfortunately for our speaker, his dreamy bubble was burst the minute Zelensky took the floor and ripped Farrugia’s intervention apart.
The sad thing is that I doubt Farrugia realised that he was given a dress down by his guest. I have a niggling feeling that, soon after the session ended, he was escorted at top speed, with blue lights flashing like a disco ball, to Mosta. All cars had to make way for him as he had urgent matters to relay. “Carm,” he called out as soon as he stepped home. “Morna tajjeb ma’ Zelen-sik ta! Lest l-ikel?”
Neutrality never came natural to us throughout history. In fact, it’s utter poppycock- Kristina Chetcuti
The prime minister, who spoke next, did not make matters any better. Robert Abela spoke of medicines we’re sending to Ukraine, invoking the Nurse of the Mediterranean that we were in WWI (when we were not neutral). But he ignored the elephant in the room (not Anġlu’s). He said nothing of our penchant for giving Putin’s Russian oligarchs golden passports. He said nothing of the fact that we don’t want the EU to sanction the transport of Russian oil on EU-flagged ships because we want Russian oil to still be carried on Malta-flagged ships. He said nothing of “Malta l-ewwel u qabel kollox” and of how the cruel deaths of innocent Ukrainian children and civilians don’t feature in our priority list.
Once again, Zelensky took Abela head on and it was cringey. It was like he was holding a mirror up to us and the Dorian Gray country in the mirror was rotting and ugly.
Of course, none of this was reported by TVM. What mattered for TVM, student of Putin’s mode of propaganda, was to say how much the Ukrainian president praised the Maltese for their bravery in World War II (when we were not neutral). Watching the report on our national broadcaster, we’d be forgiven for thinking that Zelensky wanted to give us another George Cross to stick to our flag.
Our ancestors never shied of taking up arms to fight war criminals. Neutrality never came natural to us throughout history. In fact, it’s utter poppycock and the sooner we have a discussion about it, the sooner this country will grow up.
Addressing the court this week, the financial crimes police inspector expressed his bafflement as to why, in eight years, the police never took action against alleged money launderer Ryan Schembri, veritable cousin of Keith Schembri.
Assistant Police Commissioner Ian Abdilla, a pawn of Keith Schembri, the then prime minister’s chief of staff, was in charge of economic crimes investigations.
Shall the Malta police join the dots this time round? Will they investigate the criminal roads that always, always, lead to cousin Keith? Will they investigate his boss, Joseph Muscat, who specialised in turning a blind eye to corruption while in office – a crime in itself? Or does the neutrality clause prevent the police from doing so, as well?
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