A shot in the dark

Inivting a black Maltese girl of African origin to address a political rally was a blatant example of tokenism and not a genuine effort in favour of integration

Thea Mizzi, of Zebbug, addressed a Labour rally during which Joseph Muscat gave an important speech on racism in Malta
Thea Mizzi, of Zebbug, addressed a Labour rally during which Joseph Muscat gave an important speech on racism in Malta

The police took over a month to solve the capricious murder of an African immigrant – Lassana Cisse Souleymane from the Ivory Coast – in an incident in which another two African migrant workers were injured following a shooting spree in Birzebbuga one Saturday night.

There was no connection between the three persons walking along an unlit lane in Birzebbuga. They just happened to have been in the same place at the same time. It would also seem that the area has had more than its fair share of stones being thrown and accidents involving cars – although many such incidents may not have been reported to the police.

Although the original ‘official’ version averred that the motive for the killing was unclear, I always believed that this was probably the first racist-related murder in Malta. How can one otherwise explain shooting at random from a passing car?

This crime is the culmination of the racial prejudice against African immigrants that has inundated Malta. The social media have been full of anti-immigant sentiment and nobody seems to have cared, even when some comments bordered on incitement.

While two persons are being accused in Court for the shooting spree that was their physical responsibility, those who stoked this kind of fire are morally guilty for the rascist shooting spree as well. Incitement of racial hatred is a crime but nobody seems to bother to follow the social media with this in mind. This is a job for the Police, of course. Posting of ‘news’ – fake more often than not – from websites purposely launched to propagate racism has become a hobby for many. This situation is set to endure.

Saying that, as a result of this crime, Malta has come to its senses and racial prejudice is on the decrease, or that Malta is prepared to mutate into an integrated society is just an exercise in fooling ourselves.

There is no way we can deny it. The never-ending ‘illegal immigrants’ crisis has unleashed a racist streak in Maltese society. This must have been present in an unnoticed undercurrent, but it certainly was there. This prejudice has taken years to build up and it cannot disappear overnight.

Joseph Muscat even polticised the issue in he 2013 election when he promised pushbacks – a ploy that failed at his first attempt.
In spite of Muscat subsequently managing to ‘persuade’ some other EU countries to share the burden on a case-by-case basis, as soon as a boatload of African persons lands in Malta, the scaremongering resumes. Many resent those who did not want to come to Malta but ended up here accidentally but do not mind those who purposely came to Malta to work here and did so by buying an airline ticket or paying the catamaran fare for the trip from Sicily.

Why is there all this prejudice against the African boat people while other illegal immigrants are practically given a wink and a nod?

Why do people expect our Armed Forces to ignore the plight of these people when they are in danger of losing their life and expect the authorities to abandon them to the forces of nature, as if they were not human beings?

The answer must be in the colour of their skin. The Africans are black, while the others come in all sorts of acceptable shades! Regretfully, this is the only conclusion one can reach after hearing and seeing so many comments and opinions on this issue.

In short the Maltese anti-immigration stance is mainly a racist stance. We have stupidly ignored this fact and now we are all shocked by the Birzebbuga incident. Now we have people who think that shooting at Africans because of their black skin is just a sport.

Maltese society is in desperate need of a long healing process to recover from this bad bout of racism.

Our Prime Minister inviting a black Maltese girl of African origin to address a political rally was a blatant example of tokenism and not a genuine effort in favour of integration. Incidentally, this person is a legally adopted daughter of a Maltese couple and not a ‘boat’ migrant saved by the Armed Forces.

This political charade was a caricature of integration and not the real thing.

Shooting practice

A very important issue that is very relevant to the Birzebbuga shooting spree is the fact that the two persons accused of the shooting are members of the Armed Forces of Malta. They had only recently joined the AFM – just on the eve of the 2017 election and one can hardly theorise that their blatant racial prejudice was nurtured since then. It must have existed before they joined the AFM.

As many have already pointed out, the Armed Forces have been on the forefront in the immigrant saving business; and theorising that the action of the two accused reflects some way of thinking that is prelevant in the members of our Armed Forces, is unsubstantiated and capricious and would be grossly unfair on all other members of the Armed Forces.

But this does not mean – as the official government stance seems to indicate – that there is no need for a deep look into the way people are recruited by the AFM and what AFM members are taught about racial issues in Malta and the need for integration.

The Leader of the Opposition has rightly suggested the appointment of an Independent Commission to look into the recruitment porocesses used in the AFM as well as into the ethos of the force as far as racial prejudice and race relations are concerned.

Is there the possibilty of racists with violent intentions choosing a career in the Armed Forces in order to have more opportunities to vent their feelings?

Racists should be weeded out of the AFM from the start – in the recruitment process. Otherwise shooting practice in the AFM becomes an unwitting conduit for evil.

This is needed not only because it is the AFM members that ‘welcome’ African boat immigrants to Malta but also because their ethos demands thay they are clearly above racial prejudice and hatred.

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