Make peace with your conscience and your gods

We can close our ports, deny them entry, refuse to give them food and medicine. That is our choice. But before taking these fateful steps, I suggest everyone takes a short break and make peace with their conscience and their God

Sitting down for a Cabinet meeting must be an exhilirating experience. And more so if you are not supposed to be there. A group of elected men and some women, who express their opinion most of the time based on the interests of their constituents, with some exceptions are taking decisions with far-reaching consequences. 

It has always been like this, and far from some uplifting reunion of wise men and women who come together to decide beyond the self-interest groups that control them. No one, it seems apart from three individuals, have for spoken out against the mistaken decision to extend the spring hunting season amid this COVID-19 crisis.  

Minister Clint Camilleri, who has ‘illegally’ signed the opening of the season, must have been a very happy man.  He is today Malta’s young Gozo minister, an architect by profession and a passionate bird trapper never missing a moment to stand up for his hunters and trappers. To him the interests of his constituents to be able to shoot in spring is far more important than the fight against COVID-19.  

Robert Abela has obviously entertained the age-old political standpoint that hunting and trapping is part of our cultural heritage and here to stay. If we are expecting him to eradicate an outdated cultural tradition of gunning down birds, then look away for things will not change for the time being. 

Even though today he enjoys a 60% trust rating as seen in our MaltaToday survey, the tragedy is that we have gone back in time. In the Cabinet ministers and junior ministers did not need much time to agree that the migrant crisis needed tough action. With Italy closing its ports to migrants and the European Union abandoning ship, Malta was left all alone. 

So I have taken my European Union flag to burn it. And I am not joking. I was once a prominent IVA campaigner, who stood next to the likes of David Casa and Simon Busuttil; now I have come to dislike the hypocrisy and falsity of the European Union. 

Here we are on the frontline of a migrant crisis, propelled by the chaos of Libya, and Europe looks on unperturbed that we are alone. We only count when it comes to small private banks and their Azeri clients, ‘rule of law’, and tax avoidance schemes... we are sent MEP delegations, and human rights ambassadors to be slapped on our wrists, but there is no real Europeanisation: there is no European political effort to share the burden. 

We have a very clear situation that we cannot be the only ones taking the burden. That is understandable. We have the added possibility that migrants at sea could be COVID-19 carriers and that presents challenges.  

But we also have an obligation to help people in distress, people in need, human beings who would otherwise die at sea. In the background of all this is a Europe unfazed by the crisis and our decision to block our ports. What happens next it appears is of no consequence to us or them. That decision has been applauded by the thousands of Maltese and Gozitan social media users who spout hatred and venom on migrants, and a motley group of fascists and right-wingers who find a safe haven in the two political parties and are tolerated and welcomed as ‘Labourites’ or ‘Nationalists’. 

We have this situation because we have weak political leaders. It seems to be okay to welcome the scuttling of boats that save migrants at sea. Even Malta’s very own social welfare agency boss Alfred Grixti said migrant rescue boats should be “sunk” and left to their own devices. “The NGO vessels are operating illegally in Maltese waters... first impound them, then scuttle them!” 

Grixti has photos of leaders present and past, with photos of him greeting Pope Francis, Archbishop emeritus Paul Cremona, and even lifting the St Dominic statue in Valletta. This is old Labour vintage. I do not need to be the one to say that Grixti’s shocking comments on migration make his position untenable. Will he be asked to leave? Probably not. Very unlikely.  

But the media should be on the side of what is right. We are not here to be popular or to be liked. We are not up for election or to suck up to constituents. We have to keep the flag of reason flying at all times. To remind Prime Minister Robert Abela to show reason and compassion, strength and determination, intolerance to racism and an iron fist with the Europe we no longer recognise. 

On a personal level, I am at peace with myself, content to be part of a media group that stands up for what is right even though I know we are in a minority. Even if most Maltese, citizens whose genetic roots span from North Africa, Sicily, Spain and the Sahel... want to see migrants returned to their ‘home’ at gunpoint if necessary. 

I am happy not to share a place of worship with those who make it their mission to launch hateful tirades towards people who are desperate and have nowhere to go. I am not a Catholic, I am not a believer, and I have no religion, but I embrace human life and the rights of all people to live as equals and to have an opportunity to live a decent life. I like to think that I am social democrat with some lofty, left-wing sentiment. 

The moral code of many in today’s society seems to be anything that suits the best for their lifestyle. COVID-19 has brought many of us closer to our immediate family, made us appreciate the short moments, our homes, our memories, our belief that things will get better. Those people on the boat out at sea, have nothing. They do not even have hope. 

We can close our ports, deny them entry, refuse to give them food and medicine. That is our choice. But before taking these fateful steps, I suggest everyone takes a short break and make peace with their conscience and their God. 

A happy Easter to all our readers.