Scoring an own goal

Having failed to convince their own constituency of the wisdom of their ways, some of our fellow citizens have taken to trying to sell their view of the world to outsiders

The fact is that our tiny archipelago has  one of the lowest homicide rates around
The fact is that our tiny archipelago has one of the lowest homicide rates around

A few days ago a foreign friend sent me a link to a recent BBC Radio 4 programme entitled ‘Crossing Continents, Daphne and the Two Maltas’, copying to a number of mainly foreign acquaintances and friends we have in common.

This is what I wrote back copying to all:

“Dear all, just back from the winter wonderland of Strasbourg and Baden Baden where I had the opportunity to spend some time with my children and one of my grandchildren but feel compelled to interrupt my work and seasonal merrymaking to comment on the gruesome picture of Malta which has been emerging in some quarters over the last couple of months, stoked by the wave of mass hysteria that erupted immediately after the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia (henceforth DCG).

“In the weeks since her death, DCG has metamorphosed from her previous status as a blogger associated by some with penetrating insights into corruption and by others with vitriolic diatribes against all and sundry, to the much more prestigious role of martyr for the cause of the freedom of the press.

“Media rooms have since been named after her at the European Parliament and she has been the recipient of assorted European awards, but I do not propose to linger on the merits of the case itself as investigations are still in progress and I consider that it is more appropriate at this stage to just condemn the murder and await the outcome of the investigations before making any comments concerning the possible motive/s behind the crime, as I had cause to explain to fellow academics who immediately after the event sought my signature for a press statement which I felt pre-judged the issue.

“Having said that I am quite intrigued by some of the facts emerging from the investigations, for example, that nine of the ten arrested in connection with the case reportedly lean towards the Opposition party (Nationalist Party) while two of the three accused at one time canvassed for a now deceased Nationalist Party deputy leader, but that is just an aside.

“What I would like for all who read this missive to keep firmly in mind, as they reflect on the possibility of visiting Malta during Valletta’s stint as European Capital of Culture in 2018, is the fact that despite the impression that recent media coverage may have given, our tiny archipelago has still some way to go before overtaking El Salvador in the murder charts and actually has one of the lowest homicide rates around.

“According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime the homicide rate for Malta in 2015 was 0.96 per 100,000. This is more than some countries of Europe, for example Germany (0.85) and the UK (0.92), both equipped with traditionally redoubtable policing, but still less than the rate for paragons of ‘democracy and the rule of law’ such as Denmark (0.99), Sweden (1.15), France (1.58) and Belgium (1.95), let alone fellow EU members Estonia (3.20), Latvia (4.11) and Lithuania (5.98).

“A quick look at the homicides committed in Malta in the last full year, namely 2016, also reflects one of the undesirable side-effects of Malta’s ‘opening up’ to the international community, namely an abnormally high number of foreigners among the perpetrators and victims of violent crimes. In 2016 a total of six people were murdered and these included a Colombian language student who defended a woman that was being harassed by two Libyans enjoying humanitarian protection in Malta who proceeded to beat him to death, and a Maltese woman who had her throat cut by a man from Togo, whom she had previously bailed out from jail.

“On the other hand, for those who are concerned about what they consider to be somewhat ‘opaque’, albeit perfectly legal, financial and legal structures put in place in Malta by the political party currently in opposition and retained by the party presently in government, it would also be important to keep in mind that last week’s attempt by the S&D group in the European Parliament to enlarge the blacklist of 17 countries ranked as tax havens to also include EU members concerned not just Malta, a country which at least has the excuse of having a well-documented pirate tradition, but the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Ireland as well.

“May I take this opportunity to wish you all the very best over the holidays and an even better year to follow. Carmel.”

PS: For a local journalist’s opinion of the BBC programme check out Josanne Cassar’s column in MaltaToday ‘When Media Bias Takes Over’ 

Having failed to convince their own constituency of the wisdom of their ways, some of our fellow citizens have taken to trying to sell their view of the world to outsiders seemingly oblivious of the fact that their own goal will have consequences for all those sharing these crowded islands, even themselves.


Prof. Carmel Vassallo is an academic at the University of Malta

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