I am asking myself why am writing this. I was not born here and I cannot afford to become a Maltese citizen. Technically, this is not my country. Yet, despite being a foreigner, I am no stranger here and I would like to join the collective defence in a battle which, sadly, is doomed to be lost.
Besides, attracting foreigners to Malta has long been one of the government’s priorities, which assumes their active participation in the country’s social, cultural, economic and political aspects of life.
I left Russia seven years ago because I felt helpless. Chances of making a difference in a country whose political elite is entirely detached from the people, a country ruled by oligarchy, were too slim to bear.
Malta, on other hand, looked a completely different world where anyone was just a handshake away from the Prime Minister. It astonished, amazed, and excited me. Most importantly, it revived hopes in a true, people-run, democracy. With the proximity of political elites to the electorate, Malta looked almost utopian. Imagine if you learn Santa was real! That’s how it felt. Well, when you never witnessed democracy in practice, you can easily be deceived.
The euphoria on the election day was unlike anything I had witnessed before. People were celebrating the Labour Party’s return to power as if it were a great family event, their personal victory. In return, the government seemed to favour minorities and gave them a helping hand.
When, on September 21, 2014, hunters declared that their support for Joseph Muscat “died yesterday”, the party backed them at the spring hunting referendum. Would a group of people defending their hobby be allowed a voice in a country like Russia? Certainly not.
Painful to admit, floating voters in Malta are valued just as little as in Russia
A petition signed by 500 fireworks enthusiasts was tabled in Parliament a few days ago. Doesn’t it look like democracy when a group as small as 500 members reaches Parliament?
On the surface, it does but only on the surface. The question is this: if the hunters and the fireworks enthusiasts succeeded in knocking on the government’s door, why are those protesting against the Mrieħel and Townsquare developments being neglected?
Most of you will say “because big money is involved” and will be partially right. Partially because everyone and their dog in Malta knows that the priciest currency in this country is votes. Both major parties are ready to compromise and bargain not to let that precious currency collapse, meaning that a solid group of core voters can make a considerable impact on national decision-making. Great!
Why then have a group of protesters against the high-rise monstrosities and ODZ developments never managed to get their concerns through?
No, it is not their diplomatic skills or ineloquence that failed them but their independent mind. They share no political serfdom with the core electorate and so they are helpless.
If a couple of thousand core Labour supporters raised and demanded a referendum on the high-rise policy, most likely they would have succeeded. Yet, they are happy with their toys – hunting and fireworks – and will not bother to notice anything beyond their village before it’s too late.
They do not seem to realise that Mrieħel and Sliema are close and that, soon enough, the towers will come to siege other towns. Painful to admit, floating voters in Malta are valued just as little as in Russia.
The most despairing outcome of the Mrieħel and Townsquare projects go-ahead goes beyond the alarming environmental and cultural impacts. It is the humiliating slap in the face to all the members of Malta’s civil society, native and expat alike, that makes the case so frustrating.
Is this what you call democracy? I’m afraid, I know the answer.
Sorry guys, no Santa. Not in Malta 2016.
Raisa Tarasova is a Russian expat whose main interests include environment, marine science and sociocultural evolution.