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michaelfalzon
Michael Falzon

Crime and punishment

Maltese historians who have started delving into the records to see how Malta was handled by Westminster are all astonished at the arrogant and dismissive way British civil servants looked upon the Maltese people

michaelfalzon
Michael Falzon
31 January 2017, 7:30am
David Jones
David Jones
The irony of the UK switching on Article 50 to quit the EU during Malta’s Presidency of the EU is quite evident, considering that Malta is a former British colony. That notwithstanding, I was struck with the photo of British Brexit Minister David Jones in ‘The Times’ last Tuesday with the heading: ‘Don’t punish UK’.

Mr Jones was in Malta to attend the informal Ministerial meeting of EU affairs ministers. He did not actually say the words quoted but he said he would be ‘astonished’ if Malta applied pressure for an EU deal that would punish the UK. The Times translated his words into ‘Don’t punish the UK’ in the same way that British tabloids ‘translate’ whatever politicians say!

Jones also said: ‘We don’t punish friends, and I don’t expect friends to punish us.’

The following day a report on the meeting – that Mr Jones attended – quoted Malta’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for EU affairs, Louis Grech, saying that the Brexit process needed to be ‘fair and pragmatic’.

So the idea of punishment must have been a Freudian slip, that one can easily understand considering the hubris evident in the way Theresa May and Boris Johnson are going on about the hyped up glowing after-effects that the UK will enjoy as a result of Brexit! Their short-sighted ‘superiority complex’ ignores the fact that the days of British imperialism have been over for quite some time. They keep ignoring this evident historical development and prefer to think the UK can live in a time warp.

Slowly, the UK government is realising that it cannot have the cake and eat it and therefore not eating the cake is being portrayed as avoiding the possibility of indigestion – a very positive effect, indeed. Time will tell whether this will be really the case. Personally, I still think that Brexit is a big mistake. 

As for punishment, if one were to consider how the British treated the rights of the Maltese when they were our colonial masters, many would probably say that some punishment is overdue. Colonial Office archives of documents relating to the fifties and sixties are today available to the public. Maltese historians who have started delving into these records to see how Malta was handled by Westminster are all astonished at the arrogant and dismissive way British civil servants looked upon the Maltese people. We always knew that Maltese politicians pushing for the rights of the Maltese people were not in the good books of the Colonial Office but they found too many nasty surprises in the comments and notes in the records.

Indeed, considering what the British establishment thought about Malta and its people, the success of Malta as a small resource-less independent island state is the biggest astonishment ever. In spite of what the British thought and their doomsday predictions, Malta has surprised everybody – and even surprised itself – thanks to the Maltese political class of all shades and hues, warts and all.

As for punishment, many in Malta might believe we would be justified to think that it is payback time.

But we don’t have to do this. We are more magnanimous than the British establishment.

And, in any case, the UK is punishing itself enough on its own!

Crime and punishment (2) 

The reaction to the news on the way that Miriam Sciberras, chairperson of the pro-life NGO Life Network delivered a ‘tutorial’ about ‘the gift of life’ to a group of Form 5 students in the national sport school is understandable.

I do not approve of abortion and I do not believe it should be available as a matter of course. It is, in fact, a crime in Malta.

But I understand the reaction as I agree that extremist organisations, of all kinds, should not be involved in the education of students on the issues they campaign about.

The campaign against the Morning-After Pill (MAP) by Life Network reveals a lot of the fundamentalist and extremist mentality of this organisation. This NGO campaigns not only against abortion but also against embryo freezing and IVF for single mothers and lesbians. 

Graphic pictures and videos of abortion can be very aggravating and disgusting. Using such images to shock 15-year-old girls and provoke a negative reaction to abortion is not on. 

Our education system provides for teaching of personal development and sex education in a balanced way that should send the message that life is much more beautiful without unwanted pregnancies and drugs. The message that abortion is horribly ugly, rather than immoral, is the wrong message.

Young students should be given positive messages and not negative ones. 

Extremist organisations should not be allowed to lecture in schools, more so when there are other NGOs that have different and opposing opinions. Should not pro-choice NGOs, some would ask, be also given the opportunity to address students? 

Can you imagine some Catholic fundamentalist organisation telling teenage schoolgirls and boys not to use condoms, with graphic ‘pictures’ of people roasting in hell?

Or, for that matter, a vegetarian NGO trying to convince students not to eat meat, with graphic videos of what goes on in an abattoir and in meat processing plants?

Crime and punishment (3) 

Opposition MP and shadow minister Jason Azzopardi made a political blunder of gargantuan proportions when he reported journalists from the Labour Party’s media station, One News, to the police for doorstepping him outside his legal office. 

In a statement, Azzopardi claimed that the journalists’ behaviour amounted to “intimidation” as part of a “hate-filled” attack against him by the government, Justice Minister Owen Bonnici and the Labour Party media.

I fully agree with the Maltese Institute of Journalists (IGM) that condemned Azzopardi’s action that was, in fact, tantamount to intimidation against journalists, saying: “Journalists must be allowed to carry out their duties, amongst which is that of seeking answers from politicians, politically-exposed persons, and public officials, for their actions. Journalists have a right to ask the questions they feel are in the public interest.”

Did Jason Azzopardi seriously expect the Police to officially accuse the journalists in Court with the crime of ‘harassment and intimidation’? Subsequently Azzopardi withdrew his complaint and practically apologised for his short-sighted reaction.

If harassing politicians is a crime, then more than half of Malta’s population should be in prison!

michaelfalzon
Michael Falzon is a former government minister who served under several Nationalist admini...
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