Daphne and our ‘dark underbelly’

Daphne should – and will – however, be remembered for her steadfast search for the truth behind the corrupt wheeling and dealing that went into certain initiatives

(Credit: James Bianchi/mediatoday)
(Credit: James Bianchi/mediatoday)

It has been exactly five years since Daphne Caruana Galizia was blown up in what was clearly an attempt at shutting her up. What happened was quite the opposite. Whoever wanted to get rid of her – and we are still trying to piece the whole picture together – drew everyone’s attention to the massive elephant in our room. We had been ignoring the signs clearly indicating that |something was rotten in the state of Malta” for decades.

The Lino Cauchi murder, the assassination of Raymond Caruana and Karin Grech, police officials guilty of terrorising Nationalists under a Labour government being promoted by a Nationalist government, the assassination attempt on Richard Cachia Caruana and the subsequent cover up attempt, the obvious malign connections between particular big business interests and certain politicians and civil servants, culminating in the arrest of one of Malta’s most prominent businessmen as the prime suspect behind Daphne’s murder. And much, much more.

Why did we ignore all these signs, over all these years?

There is obviously the ‘panem et circenses’ element which goes a long way toward giving us an answer to this question. It has been barefacedly resorted to by some of our politicians over the years to draw our attention from the issues that really matter by literally ‘shutting us up with candy’ – treating us like spoiled kids. Regrettably, some Maltese are so resigned to the fact that corruption is an unavoidable reality that they will simply vote for candidates they believe will provide them with all they may require. Even if that candidate is manifestly unfit for public office. Many of us remember a time when even a telephone line, a television set or a hospital appointment were favours which could only be bestowed by a benevolent minister or MP. Nowadays, there are those who expect much more in exchange for their support. An element of ‘amoral familism’ also comes into play.

Thanks to the fact that there are – and have always been – many decent and resolute politicians we have stopped short of descending into total anarchy. It is also thanks to a number of upright civil servants who have refused to toe the line when asked to accommodate certain requests. These officials have – at times – done so despite knowing that there would be personal repercussions.

Another element which is evidently in the mix is the stifling tribalism that dominates our society.

Many will only point out deficiencies in their opponents. They are loathe to stand up to be counted when faced with obvious shortcomings from their ‘team’. This is either due to the fear of being labelled a ‘traitor’, or a misplaced sense of loyalty. This misplaced sense of loyalty also leads to attacks on opponents, even when your opponents are in the right.

This was Daphne’s Achilles’ heel. Her bias in favour of members of a particular clique which had hijacked the Nationalist Party was obvious. They could do no wrong. Notwithstanding, only her most hardened detractors will fail to admit that she graduated from being a gossip columnist/blogger into a notable investigative journalist towards the end of her career. Regrettably, persisting in attacks against those considered to be a threat to the status quo that had seen the country being ruled by the Nationalist Party for 25 years, diluted her work considerably. Her personal, and at times virulent, attacks were not only levelled at Labourites. Nationalist politicians who had the temerity to speak out about what was driving their party into the wall, or who were not part of the Castille coterie, were also targeted - in an attempt at shutting them up or subjecting them to public ridicule.

Guido de Marco, Robert Arrigo, Jean Pierre Farrugia, Jesmond Mugliett… and others, were all subjected to this treatment. Daphne was clearly being egged on by elements within what was by then a weak administration desperately trying to paper over the cracks. I was also one of her prime targets. I know that there were those who had wanted to attack me, from within the Nationalist Party, when I voiced my opposition to nonsensical projects such as the Imnadjra Landfill and the Siggiewi cement factory when Eddie Fenech Adami was Prime Minister. He had stopped them from doing so – knowing that my motives were genuine. When certain elements hijacked the party after 2008, things changed. I had spoken against the St John’s Co-Cathedral underground museum/quarry proposal and the BWSC project, in favour of gay marriage and IVF legislation… and pushed for divorce. Every effort was made to shut me up.

Towards the end of Daphne’s career, Nationalist leader Adrian Delia was subjected to the same treatment. He was manifestly not “one of the boys”. Self-styled ‘blue heroes’ within the Nationalist Party executive and parliamentary groups joined in the merciless flagellation of their own, democratically elected leader in what was an obviously concerted effort at having him replaced by a more palatable candidate.

Daphne should – and will – however, be remembered for her steadfast search for the truth behind the corrupt wheeling and dealing that went into certain initiatives. Many of us chose to ignore her, purely because of the bias she never made the slightest of efforts to avoid, or at least hide – which somewhat weakened her credibility.

Notwithstanding, I salute her for her bravery in facing up to the denizens who flourish in the dark underbelly of our society. This notable facet of her character should serve as an example to us all.