No one knows anything

The survey confirmed that Delia became PN leader as a reaction to the ‘forma mentis’ of those in the know-it-all bubble – for want of describing it more accurately

The old joke about omertá  – the policy of silence strictly observed by the Sicilians with regards to the activities of the Mafia – revolves around a man dying in a deserted Sicilian street after he was shot by an assassin. For once, the police arrive in time, before the victim is dead. But he soon dies, just after looking at the police and uttering his famous last words: “I have seen nothing. I know nothing.”

There are times when people face an unpleasant choice: either have the courage to say the truth, whatever the consequences; or otherwise stay comfortably mum. This dilemma is faced by many everywhere and that is why a few years ago protecting whistleblowers was all the rage.

Whistleblowers became heroes. Three of them become the 2002 ‘Persons of the Year’ of Time Magazine. Others got feted in movies, such as Daniel Elsberg’s leaking of the Pentagon Papers, becoming the subject of the Steven Spielberg film The Post.

Several years and several movies later, whistleblowers seem to have lost their attraction. Their protection seems to have been an idea that was surpassed by events and therefore failed the test of time. Apparently, we are now back to square one.

In truth, it seems this idea was short-lived. In 2013, Edward Snowden, who disclosed information regarding the blanket surveillance of US and other citizens through a secretive data-mining programme that collects phone records and e-mail exchanges, had to escape from the US and seek refuge in Russia. Whistleblowing was no longer the honourable thing to do.

The current US President, Donald Trump, has made repeated indefensible, harassing and unlawful attacks against numerous whistleblowers. The officials who came forward with the information about Trump’s proposing a ‘quid pro quo’ with the Ukrainian government are now being persecuted by the Trump administration. These are simply acts of retaliation.

In China, whistleblowers who sounded the alarm in early January about the coronavirus epidemic were hounded by the government. They were reportedly arrested for ‘spreading rumours’ and were asked to sign a confession stating that they will not spread false news.

In Malta there is a relentless search for the whistleblower who uncovered the Traffic Police overtime scam – and the search is not intended to honour him for his courage, of course.

Those who refuse to be whistleblowers – for whatever reason – invariably say they know nothing. Just look at the evidence being given in the public inquiry into the Daphne Caruana Galizia assassination.

Theoretically it is possible for one working in an office to be unaware of certain actions being carried out by the occupier of the next desk. But, it is very difficult to believe that this was happening in Castille. Here we are talking of the Office of the Prime Minister where people were certainly not chosen on the basis of meritocracy – but simply because they were ‘loyal’ to the cause: Joseph Muscat’s so-called movement.

So keeping mum is the order of the day with everyone saying they do not know anything. Last week we had a list of people who actually adopted this stance when giving evidence in front of the inquiry. Frankly, I did not expect any different from the likes of Neville Gafà and Glenn Bedingfield.

This is not helping the search for truth, of course.

The truth cannot be established if people are afraid of saying it – or if they feel disloyal when uncovering it. There is such a thing as ‘honour among thieves’, of course.

Undoubtedly, the three respectable persons tasked with holding the independent public inquiry into the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia will have a very difficult task to sift the evidence – and lack thereof – before them and reach a wise and valid conclusion.

Surveys and surveys

Compare the brouhaha in the PN as a result of the survey on Adrian Delia’s popularity published in this newspaper two weeks ago, with the deafening silence regarding the other survey about Delia’s support among the PN card-carrying members (tesserati) published last week.

One can hardly say one survey is reliable and the other is not.

But the survey among the PN’s members shows that the anti-Delia sentiment is concentrated in a small area of Malta, notably in Sliema and contiguous localities.

The survey proves that there are people who live in a bubble – people who believe that what they think is shared by other citizens all over Malta and build up a picture of a picture that does not really exist by projecting the thoughts in their bubble as if they reflect what everybody else is thinking.

In other words, the people who read The Times of Malta are not a reliable balanced cross-section of Malta’s population. This does not mean that The Times is not a very valid contribution to Malta’s independent press and the freedom of the media. It simply means that the majority does not follow its line blindly – a majority that includes also the majority of the PN’s card-carrying members.

The Nationalist Party is a wide church. The readership of The Times is not. The PN used to be quite aware of this conundrum and always sought a balance between the different factions that were all considered as supporting it.

Somewhere, somehow the PN lost its bearings.

Its contact with its grassroots became weaker and led to the establishment of the fallacious idea that the perceptions of a restricted number of citizens with a particular lifestyle represent the perceptions of all PN voters.

That this is not the case was obvious to me much before the publication of last week’s survey in this newspaper.

The survey confirmed that Delia became PN leader as a reaction to the ‘forma mentis’ of those in the know-it-all bubble – for want of describing it more accurately.

At the risk of boring everyone by tedious repetition, Delia is not the problem. His appointment was an attempt at solving the problem. Without going into the merits of why this attempt failed, it is obvious that removing him does not solve the problem.