Saying sorry is not easy

As everybody knows, it is always far easier to ask for an apology than to make one yourself!

Robert Abela has refused to apologise after he was found to have breached ethics by posting a Facebook ‘advert’
Robert Abela has refused to apologise after he was found to have breached ethics by posting a Facebook ‘advert’

According to a report of the Standards Commissioner, the Prime Minister has refused to apologise after he was found to have breached ethics by posting a Facebook ‘advert’. The Commissioner considered the issue to be a minor one and was willing to close the case if the PM were to apologise; but he had to pass on his report to parliament after the PM’s refusal to apologise. Subsequently, the Standards in Public Life Committee made up of four MPs – two from each side – agreed to publish the report.

The grievance had been submitted by Arnold Cassola who had filed the complaint claiming that a video released by the Office of the Prime Minister was not informing the public of anything and was just a ‘propaganda video’. Incidentally, the video just showed the Prime Minister meeting people in Gozo.

Apparently, the Prime Minister found himself tongue-tied and could not utter the word ‘sorry’!

Admitting when we’ve done something wrong is difficult for everybody. However, when this reluctance to make amends turns into outright refusal, it can become a problem. In fact, there are some people who are simply psychologically incapable of apologising – way beyond the ambit of the Standards Commissioner!

According to psychologists there are five reasons why some people struggle with apologising:

  • They want to protect their ego.
  • They have trouble reading social cues.
  • They lack emotional intelligence.
  • They are insecure or ashamed about something.
  • They are afraid of retaliation.

Anyone can take their pick to explain the Prime Minsiter’s refusal to apologise.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister is insisting that Rosianne Cutajar must apologise before she can be reintegrated in the Labour Party. Abela did not say whether the condition of an apology was decided upon by the parliamentary group or whether it originated from him.  What is sure is that in the case of Rosianne Cutajar, an apology is not only in order, but a ‘sine qua non’.

Cutajar’s defence of Yorgen Fenech, with whom she had a relationship, and her fake consultancy job, were not trivial issues and her misconduct was therefore very much more serious than Abela’s pecadillo. But the principle is the same: say sorry and you will be absolved.

What is interesting is Abela’s attitude to apologies – the difference between when they are to be made by others rather than by him.

As everybody knows, it is always far easier to ask for an apology than to make one yourself!

Sleeping on the streets

The editorial of The Times on Saturday week (16 March) raised the issue of homelessness in Malta – an issue which rarely gets into the glare of publicity, but a very serious one, nevertheless.

The editorial referred to the warning of the CEO of YMCA Malta about a worrying increase in homelessness, which impacts not only Maltese citizens but also individuals from various countries, including central and northern Africa, India, Morocco, Bulgaria, Serbia and Italy. As the editorial points out: ‘This diversity in demographics underpins a broader narrative; homelessness is not confined by nationality or borders but is a global humanitarian issue that Malta is not immune to’.

The editorial ended with an exhortation: ‘Let us work towards a Malta where homelessness is not just an issue to be managed but a challenge to overcome, ensuring everyone has a place they can call home.’

Unfortunately, this issue is only tackled by a small number of NGOs, with YMCA Malta being the most active.

In fact, YMCA Malta was reported as having recently registered a record number of homeless persons approaching the association for assistance. In the last nine months, its social workers met 58 homeless persons asking for help.

Homelessness is becoming a growing problem in Malta. Many factors contribute to this situation, including rising housing costs, loss of employment, mental health issues, substance abuse, and broken relationships including domestic violence and family breakdowns.

Anyone without permanent housing who may live on the streets, stay in a shelter, mission, single room occupancy facilities, abandoned building or vehicle, or in any other unstable or non-permanent situation is considered to be a homeless person.

Homelessness is an extreme form of poverty characterised by the instability of housing and the inadequacy of income, and lack of health care and social support. It has suddenly become a big problem in Malta.

As a society, we seem to have reduced our commitment to ensuring there is necessarily an adequate supply of affordable housing, income and support services to ensure that people who experience a range of crises avoid losing their homes.

According to YMCA figures, between 2018 and 2022, in Malta there were 1,456 cases of homeless people due to financial challenges, 706 cases due to family problems and 470 people who had problems with renting a place where to live.

Since then, the situation seems to have taken a turn for the worse.

YMCA Malta last year launched a 17-year-long study shedding light on the reality of homelessness in Malta. This latest project - Homeless Human Evolution (HHE) - sought to collect and promulgate a statistical analysis regarding the evolution of homelessness in Malta, based on the experiences of YMCA Malta throughout the years. The study explores a multitude of definitions that homelessness can adopt, such as rooflessness, hidden homelessness, and transitional or institutionalised homelessness.

In the past, when I was abroad and saw people preparing to sleep in the street, I used to think that such scenes are never seen in Malta. Sadly, this is no longer true.

People become homeless for many different reasons – normally a breakdown happens when individual and family problems become insurmountable. The personal circumstances that may lead people to become homeless are many, and can afflict people from virtually every community.

Understanding the factors that lead to homelessness is not easy considering how diverse the population is, and the fact that there are many pathways to homelessness. In Malta, homelessness is also a particular problem for migrants, who may face additional barriers to accessing housing and support services.

This issue is mostly ignored by the political parties, probably because it is no vote catcher. This is wrong because behind every story of an individual that ends up homeless there is a failure of Maltese society.