How does one be a representative of one’s country? Is it through intense nationalism, a patriotism as bright as our sun? Is it a flag on one’s back and the history of a nation on one’s tongue?

When I left Malta, almost a year ago, I was told I had to be Malta’s representative.

Chosen as Malta’s scholar to an international school, I had to be Malta’s voice and image. So, I bought a flag, I brushed up on our history. Half of my suitcase was filled with Twistees, sure I would be fine.

Then, the question of nationalism entered the picture. As my co-years wrapped themselves in their flags, embodying a total, easy pride for their homelands, I froze a little.

Daphne Caruana Galizia appeared in my mind, Lassana Cisse.

Our environment, burning away. Our women, unable to access legal or safe abortion. Financial greylisting, corruption scandals, inhumane treatment of refugees, the mentally ill, prisoners.

And between me and that blissful pride, a barrier appeared. My flag felt a lot heavier in my fingers.

How does one be a representative of one’s country? And, more pressingly to me and many other young Maltese, do I want to be a representative of my country?

Because I look around at this island we call home and I see two different places. The Malta we keep shiny for the tourists, the gem of the Mediterranean, pretty and charming and progressive. Then, the Malta that is lived in.

The Malta in which pregnant women at risk of death have to hope for the best. Where the life of a 16-week-old clump of cells is more important than the life of a woman.

But the myth that we are progressive, liberal, is nothing but a myth until our women are treated like people and not incubators.

I would be very proud to represent my country if my country really fought for life. However, the lives of three young refugee men are still at risk of ruin for unfair terrorism charges at our hands; the lives of our trees, our seas, of a growing list of vulnerable species are being trampled upon.

Who is fighting for them? If only the pro-life campaigners gave a shout to them for once, instead of cells often without even a heartbeat. It seems these lives are in far more danger.

Malta does not defend life; it defends the comfort of the men that run it. The men in our parliament, the men in our churches, the large majority of men in our pro-life foundations.

In a team of nine main members, Life Network Malta boasts of three women. Another patriarchal voice arguing women’s issues. When is enough enough? When will powerful men just listen?

I wish to be a representative of my country. I wish to smile and glow with pride when I bear our flag.

But the hypocrisy that our country is built upon, the culture of pretending everything is fine… for how much longer are we going to turn a blind eye?

I am scared because, once my generation is handed the baton, I do not think we will have that privilege anymore. No blind eye will turn us back from a desert. No blind eye will undo the human rights violations on our country’s hands.

My generation is inheriting a world that is terrifying to consider, in Malta and beyond.

I can do nothing but beg that those in power see that. I feel constant guilt that I should be doing more.

I wish I knew how to represent my country. I wish I could say that, at the very least, my country was looking out for all its citizens equally. It is not and the situation is still desperate.

If anything, it has gotten worse. And, as headline after headline appears, I don’t blame my friends when they say that they wish they could have been born some place else.

It is easy to call young people to act but which role models are you giving us? We all learned by heart the lives of our Maltese personaġġi to pass our O level but this group of men (all men), alive decades ago, provide no inspiration to get up and fight. In recent times, look at she who has. Daphne’s fate stays with all of us.

No blind eye will undo the human rights violations on our country’s hands- Ella Manduca

I wish I could be proud of Malta but how can I be proud of all the people, the lives, that we have failed?

Malta, please, listen to your youth. Angry, tired, scared. We want to represent our country. Let that mean something good.


There is a flag in my hands.

Its colours drip through my fingers,

Seeping through the gaps of my open hands

Like a crimson river.

My eyes recognise it but my heart does not respond

And it feels, it feels like,

It feels like an alien.


A face, a face, another friendly face

And an outstretched hand

And a marching band

And a sunny day

And a messy bay

And the inability to express what

I really want to say


For this tongue divides

More than the Red Sea’s tides

And English, Maltese only signifies

A history that I know but I have not lived

Centuries of oppression we now forgive


We, we, it rolls off my tongue like a wave

And it seems like my life is defined by them

This ebb and flow of wanting to save

My home, or equally, just condemn


And this flag feels both light and heavy

A responsibility pushed on me, ready,

For a country that angers me steady

But a country that’s home, it’s not any.


And the faces, faces, familiar faces

And the warmth and the joy and the love.

But the hypocrisy, corruption, assassination,

All hidden behind that signature dove


And this flag still lies

Limp in my hands

Like some cruel reminder

Of my unclear stand


My country, my country, my country

My home

One day I promise

To be proud of you.

Ella Manduca is a Scholar for Malta at United World College of the Atlantic, Wales.

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