The Maltese far right is a danger for all to see

Lowell is a Nazi apologist who has called the Holocaust the ‘holy haux’, and expressed his admiration for Hitler. His beliefs are dangerous and anti-social. He has to be stopped

When two AFM soldiers are apprehended for allegedly shooting and murdering migrants in Malta, apart from a deliberate hit-and-run, we have to admit that we have a problem.

This is not an isolated incident. For years now some members of the Armed Forces have had links to the far-right. They have attended political events and gatherings, expressed their opinions and foul commentaries on social media, and in the past members of the disciplined corps were accused of the death of migrants in custody, and even speculated about their involvement in the arson attacks on journalists and social activists.

In 2006 when both my house and that of Daphne Caruana Galizia were attacked by arsonists, the mobile telephony companies – both Vodafone and Go – refused to divulge geolocation data of mobile users. But from leaks from one of the mobile telephone companies, it was clear that the perpetrators were probably individuals from the disciplined corps on active duty.

Since then the police and the MSS have gone a long way to oblige operators to cooperate. In those weeks of arson attacks, far-right activists led by Norman Lowell talked of hanging journalists from lamp-posts and regurgitated his hate speech.

Far-rightist and Imperium Europa leader Norman Lowell (Photo: Ray Attard)
Far-rightist and Imperium Europa leader Norman Lowell (Photo: Ray Attard)

At a point in time there was a lull due to the effects of the Mare Nostrum rescue mission. But then it returned with politicians raising the tempo by hitting out at the foreigners that were populating Malta. It did not help that we are surrounded by equally xenophobic leaders such as Matteo Salvini, Viktor Orban and Marine Le Pen. The growth of the ultra-nationalist and far-right has encouraged racists in Malta.

There is no issue of foreigners in Malta, because it has yet to be proven that foreigners pose a threat to Maltese. If anything, they have made it possible for businesses big and small to thrive by providing us with their labour and custom.

It was our intolerance to black migrants that brought us here. And it is no big secret that support for Nazi apologist Norman Lowell also originates from people who, more often than not, find themselves suffering the brunt of the sharp edges of economic growth, facing difficulty finding a job, finding it hard to make a living, who have no time to read or let alone learn to read about the ravages of Nazi-fascism, the wounds of the Holocaust, and the sin of slavery and how it was exported by the dominant powers to all corners of the world.

Addressing the racist question by simply calling out people who follow Lowell’s doctrine as troglodytes is not going to work. We need to address the fringes of society and address the shortcomings of an economic growth that does not always reach these people. If their working conditions suck, there is no chance in hell that they will come round to embracing foreign workers, or asylum seekers and refugees, who seek better lives like the Maltese did when they emigrated for good in droves to Australia and Canada.

No matter how hard it sounds, the fact that we have few barriers in our electoral process to bar individuals like Lowell and other far-rightists in standing as candidates is also a serious problem. In football, players who have been found guilty of fraud or kickbacks get banned from life. Why should it not also apply to people like Norman Lowell in politics? He has been convicted in court and proven to be a racist.

Lowell is a Nazi apologist who has called the Holocaust the ‘holy haux’, and expressed his admiration for Hitler. His beliefs are dangerous and anti-social. He has to be stopped.

I remember when he was still just a manager at the Bank of Valletta (where he was investigated over serious administrative issues) protesting at the arrival of black Zimbabwean students in Malta.

Since then he has been followed because of his comical presentation, treated like a likeable buffoon who happens to be a Nazi apologist. He is no joker, but a diabolical character who must be stopped – stopped with the power of our ideas, with our belief in a better future that is not built on hate.

To add insult to injury, the narrative followed by PN leader Adrian Delia and a few PN candidates has not helped. He has taken a leaf from the rhetoric of Salvini, dramatising the problems of over-population and the threat to Maltese cultural identity by foreigners – in a bid to attract the ultra-nationalist vote.

Muscat, on his part, has played his part to uphold the importance of tolerance, but he has had a few slips on the way of course – both in Opposition and upon taking power in government. Nonetheless, on a political level he has lived up to the social obligation of a social democratic party, at least to go by his speech on Saturday evening. He knows he can change people’s minds.

And finally we have the media. We need to understand that our arguments are not always well presented. We think, for example, that in Birzebbuga and Marsa, residents speaking aloud over the presence of migrants in their locality is not an issue. It is, and we have to understand why.

It is, in fact, perfectly understandable and what really needs to happen is for more intervention from the powers that be that allow for more integration and to address people’s concerns and insecurities on migration.

There are a number of considerations to be made here. Many foreigners do not look at Malta as their future home. Many want to work here and move on. A case in point are the care workers from the Philippines who are generally underpaid, overworked and go through great sacrifices to save money and send money back to their families.

So, it is crucial that Malta gives decent working conditions to those who come here for economic considerations but also to those who are persecuted at home and need Europe’s protection.

It is crucial that business that made a big buck off cheap foreign labour are controlled, to bring the State to raise minimum wage and guarantee good wages and affordable housing for everyone, Maltese and foreigners.

We cannot detach ourselves from the fact that as we become more diverse and affluent, tensions will increase. Those who look forward to settling in Malta must be made welcome and embraced without forcing them to lose their roots and identity, but by helping them buy in into Malteseness.

The arraignment of the two AFM soldiers also sends a signal that rule of law is up and running. If Muscat had control over the police, he would have asked the Commissioner of Police Lawrence Cutajar to postpone the arraignment until the election. Such incidents have the power to glorify the far-right and their sympathisers, not take them down.

To be fair to the police, under Cutajar they have registered some very surprising results and solved some major crimes.

Next Saturday is the European election, dominated by a presidential race. The numbers are clearly in favour of Joseph Muscat. I find myself uncomfortable with many unsavoury policies with the Muscat administration. First and foremost is the issue of environment, planning policies and the Gozo tunnel.

But when I look to the other side, I do not see either plan B or plan C. Just a desire to walk up the stairs of Castille and thump on the mahogany desk and say, “I am PM”.  And I find Delia’s discourse on foreigners, values and abortion both mediaeval and retrograde.
I also have a long memory and I cannot quite forgive the Nationalists of today for their malicious streak. Not just quite yet. Delia argues that he is a fresh face with no past to boast of.  

I only need to look at his main political adviser, the Egrant architect and former content editor of The Independent, Pierre Portelli, to appreciate where the wind blows for me.

If there was one image which drove the message home, it was that advert in a newspaper with MEP candidate David Casa, calling for everyone to vote for him, flanked by three PN leaders: Lawrence Gonzi, Eddie Fenech Adami and Simon Busuttil. There was no Adrian Delia to be seen. Pity Casa did not show us who was his political master before 1987 when he was somewhere on the other side of the political fence.  

The picture says it all, at least for me.

No way would I want to return to that period in my life. That is my choice, others may share a different viewpoint. Good for them.

So, if I vote, it will be for continuity with a big proviso that I am expecting some serious political calibration.  

We need to get back to our roots and stop looking at big business as our reference point. But not to vote now with the far-right looming and with Delia in denial and promising to stay on, irrespective of the result, is a good enough reason to ram the gates and cast a vote.

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