We appreciate the fact that the President of Malta took the initiative to host a conference on national unity. He felt the need for it because he is fully aware that the vision of national unity in our country leaves much to be desired.

Our mission as a civil society organisation is to campaign for democracy, justice, freedom of speech and for the real meaning of solidarity and common good. These values have been put aside by the people who represent us in politics and in state institutions.

The people who should lead by example have empowered people with a mentality of impunity, individualism and egocentrism. How can we expect our community to cherish the value of altruism? How can we expect ordinary people to feel concern for the well-being of others, when they are led by politicians who do very little to protect and promote the common good?

Former prime minister Joseph Muscat defined his relationship with Yorgen Fenech – the man charged with masterminding the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia – as “normal” because according to Joseph Muscat, politicians need to have a friendly and close relationship with big businessmen.  

It doesn’t seem to worry the former prime minister that his decisions served the interests of these close friends who enjoy a disproportionate say in decision making, especially if these relationships are built on moneyed interests.

Politicians can never break these relationships because that would mean the end of the funds they receive from these business leaders.

These “normal” relationships have impacted each and every one of us, taking away from us our entitlement to a fair share of the common good. Clean air, trees, the countryside, the sea, open spaces and public land should rightly belong to all of us but greed is devastating the skyline. A hill or a row of townhouses in a small village have been replaced by towers and tall buildings.

In many of our main cities, people cannot walk on pavements, let alone wheelchairs or buggies because long stretches of pavements have been taken up by tables and chairs of restaurants or bars. Commercial encroachment has discouraged many people, especially people with mobility problems, from going out for a stroll.

We were duty-bound to safeguard our natural, historical and architectural heritage for future generations but public property has been defaced and spoilt to a point of no return. The value of our great heritage has been cheapened for quick monetisation, having rich people make more and more profits, at the expense of our common good. 

We have heard developers use the proverb “Make hay while the sun shines”. The ‘normal’ relationship Joseph Muscat spoke of is just that shining sun that is burning up townscapes and landscapes, and sheltering looters that are making the best out of it while it lasts. We are tired of hearing of a booming economy when we know that so many people are finding it very hard to make ends meet.  More people are asking for support from food banks as financial problems are being faced by an increasing number of people. 

For Repubblika and civil society in general, if national unity requires us to accept this state of things, without trying to reverse it, without showing a sense of indignation, without protesting and disapproving, then it is our duty to reject it outright.   

National unity is brought about when the state promotes the values that should be at the heart of our democracy. The common good is where we must start again.

Marion Pace Asciak is a member and former president of NGO Repubblika. 

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