For a country whose independence from various colonisers is only 55 years young, the culture of protest has been very successfully defused by the bipartisan system and the Stalinist use of the media by both administrations. Considering our forefathers’ dependence on wars and contraband for a living, it’s ironic how any form of ‘deviance’ has now been sanitised to make dissenters look like drug-addled zombies.
Take, for example, the action taken by residents and NGOs before, during and especially after the approval of the Central Link project. After the PA greenlit the development via its usual military trial, State and party media went into overdrive.
Shocked by the mammoth €20,000 crowdfunded in less than 24 hours, the propaganda machine started whirring. The State, led by whichever side of PLPN, demands absolute obedience from its subjects; more so when there’s a three-horse race to become PM, and one particular horse needs wider roads to Castille because it badly needs to catch up.
A few days ago, Moviment Graffitti announced Iż-Żejjed Kollu Żejjed (Enough is Enough) – a national protest backed up by a series of citizen-centred demands aimed at improving the quality of life of the Maltese through something more tangible than the regurgitation of statistics about economic growth. These demands are clear for all to see on 7settembru.org; resident associations and NGOs are invited to be signatories in this effort.
There’s a three-horse race to become PM, and one particular horse needs wider roads to Castille because it badly needs to catch up
Just like the recent protest against the Malta Developers’ Association and the ‘self-regulating’ construction lobby, the announcement was met with the usual ‘fejn kontu’ brigade – an army of keyboard Cossacks whose memory only stretches beyond 2013 when convenient.
There was the occasional request for my female colleagues to seek relief from some black phallus or other – the classic admission of inferiority. Sadly for both parties (the above and those in Parliament), many activists have thick skin.
I’m not here to moan about ‘haters’. Despite my regular grenades-for-breakfast routine, I still recognise it’s time to put divisions and petty egos on the backseat. We are way past the limit of decency when it comes to overdevelopment and its effects on all of us; the need to protest is clear.
Think, on your way to work, of how many hours you spend in your car per week – hours you’d rather spend as quality time with your family, friends, yourself even. Then, look for the reasons: you don’t live anywhere close to Rabat or St Luċija but even here in your locality the bus service is poor, with full buses at every hour of the day.
Construction vehicles take their sweet time up a hill, and they drive as they please, so overtaking in the outer lane isn’t an option. You may dribble past fleets of trucks and mixers, but then find tower cranes blocking a road. A local council even gridlocks its own town by issuing permits haphazardly.
Alternative public transport is blasphemy; just widen the roads and solve the issue for two years, tops.
Think of how, every morning at 7am, a Hymac breaks your peace with its invasive digging. Maybe you won’t be as unlucky as Tania, Anteya, Maggie, Raisa, Raymond, Caroline and all those whose houses collapsed under the weight of construction machinery; but surely, you’d rather start your morning in a nicer way. Remember who asked for all this? Google will cough up Sandro Chetcuti’s puffy coupon smiling at you (November 2018).
On September 7, I will protest – for my country, for what’s left of its beauty and for its independence from the new colonisers
Think of how you’re living in a permanent construction site, where building works are never ready. Think of how the PA and its boards have decided that nowhere, nobody is safe from the developers’ onslaught. Think of how they turn the illegal into law, how they always, without fail, rule against you.
Now, I’ll ask you, common Joe/Josette like me: when was the last time you took to the streets? Is your protest limited to a couple of Facebook posts, daily or weekly? Who forbids you from speaking out?
Is loyalty to your party higher than that to your own health and that of your own family? In their glossy leaflets they never told you they were merely using your vote to promote a developer’s, a hotelier’s, a businessman’s agenda.
The system is rigged against you; you may, at most, have control over what happens inside your own home, but outside, on your own doorstep, it’s the jungle – and you don’t have a say. If you don’t like the monstrous tower that will bury you in darkness, you need a hefty sum of money to appeal. You can’t do it alone.
Which is why Iż-Żejjed Kollu Żejjed is a non-partisan space: NGOs and residents must recognise the value of working together. PLPN have sadly failed at representing you; they want your input on a piece of paper every five years, but the in-between is a loud “I DON’T CARE!”
Iż-Żejjed Kollu Żejjed is your chance to counter the developers’ greed and their stranglehold over PLPN.
I might have left my grenade-biting aside for a while, but I crave a good lob.
Many are sceptical about the term ‘non-partisan space’. Others have been instructed to accuse Graffitti and other NGOs of pro-PN bias. Indeed, after our protest on Sandro’s doorstep, there were a few sweaty, grimy pats on the back from people for whom I have zero respect: people who formed part of an equally arrogant government establishment, who think being leftist or socialist (or ‘Marxist’) is a disease, who have abetted Smart City and whose political staff was salaried by Silvio Debono.
Individuals cannot be forbidden from attending an open protest; policing is not our task. We will, however, defend independent activist space from such hijackers out of respect for the work of many NGOs and independent-minded citizens. The presence of a few unwelcome individuals at a protest shouldn’t drown the angry sentiments of thousands who are sincerely fed up.
On September 7, I will protest – for my country, for what’s left of its beauty and for its independence from the new colonisers.
Wayne Flask is a member of Moviment Graffitti.