A message posted on Facebook by a woman last week immediately caught the eye of one of our reporters: “This African guy I know was spat upon and then beaten up by four or five men on returning home on the bus. He has a broken nose and stitches.”
We called the woman in question to probe the incident but she came out with the reply we have become too accustomed to. The victim said he did not want to speak because he feared he would antagonise one of his aggressors, apparently a notorious neighbour who casually carried a knife. He did go to the police who told him to merely file a report to start a court case.
The victim said he knew the aggressor would be let loose pending the court case, he feared the public would turn against the victim (sounds familiar?), he dreaded the thought of walking into a dark, dangerous legal labyrinth with no end in sight. Who would protect him? Who would send money to his family if something happened to him?
So he thought he might as well just steer away from his neighbour’s violent whims. It’s sadly another incident, with potential racist undertones, which has gone under the media radar.
It’s fuelled by self-imposed omertá brought about by suspicions of cronyism, discrimination, and a failed system.
Many of us probably personally know a victim who chose to put up and shut up. It’s symptomatic of a society where the bully often gets away with it. It’s fuelled by self-imposed omertá brought about by suspicions of cronyism, discrimination, and a failed system.
Several studies show that up to half of all crime victims will not file a police report. They choose to do so because of the threat of further victimisation, including from authorities meant to protect you in the first place. The feeling of helplessness is compounded by the perceived powerlessness of a stretched police force, which often shows little sympathy... or is not properly trained to deal with such incidents. Reporting a case will almost always result in a long costly court process, which might, after all, not deliver justice.
So what are we left with? As I watched a white taxi driver racing through red lights at Msida almost running over a woman with a child the other day I couldn’t help stop thinking it’s almost tempting to adopt the old mantra ‘if you can’t beat them join them’. We witness indiscipline before our very eyes every day because the law breakers know they can get away with it.
In the last few days alone I witnessed a tower crane transporting tons of cement as cars were allowed to drive underneath. I saw fireworks let off the roof of a building during the St Joseph feast (very late at night) as hundreds of revellers below in the presence of police watched the band play on. Despite the laws, deafening petards continue being let off incessantly during the most absurd hours. These are mere daily ‘inconveniences’, some would say. But we also hear rumours that the authorities are turning a blind eye to the far bigger crimes orchestrated by the bigger fish at the odd Paceville club.
Society cannot have faith in justice when the police keep making the headlines for all the wrong reasons, when the police let off the notorious troublemakers with a friendly ‘u ejja siehbi’, when a Maltese defendant in a drug case is handed a fraction of the sentence a Welshman got for a similar crime, when simple and glaring cases of injustices take years to be decided… when the big fish keep getting away with it.
On the other hand, I’ve heard of this absurd incident when police swooped down on a bar (owned by a foreigner, of course) at 9.30pm to complain about the sound levels… as the festa fireworks caused a racket outside! It would be funny were it not so ridiculously unjust.
So should we blame the black African man who weighed his options and chose to remain silent? At face value, no! But society would be fast-tracking the dangerous descent into anarchy if it doesn’t speak up in the face of such lethargy and injustice. This wall of silence has to be broken down, the sooner the better.
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