Tista’ taqra bil-Malti.
‘Silence and indifference are corruption’s biggest allies,’ engineer Mark Anthony Sammut told anti-corruption activists who joined the protest on Saturday evening.
Despite the cold wind, over 6,000 people turned up on Saturday demanding the resignation of the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff Keith Schembri. Holding various placards and flags, the activists marched down Republic Street until Great Siege Square were, they held their monthly protest vigil demanding truth and justice for slain journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
The protest was announced on Tuesday by rule of law NGO Repubblika and pressure group Occupy Justice after Schembri avoided testifying under cross-examination by ceding his libel against former Opposition Leader and Partit Nazzjonalista leader Simon Busuttil. It was later endorsed by Partit Nazzjonalista which also tabled a motion in parliament later during the week.
The protest was addressed by journalist and blogger Manuel Delia, student and activist Petra Caruana, lawyer Jacques Rene Zammit, Repubblika’s president Vicki Ann Cremona, and Engineer Mark Anthony Sammut. The evening was closed off by Mezzo Soprano Claire Ghigo who sang a song which was sung during a concert held in memory of slain Slovak journalist Jan Kuciak and Daphne Caruana Galizia.
In his speech, Sammut stated that the fight against corruption, against mafia is not fought behind closed doors or in silence or with caution. Highlighting that silence and indifference are the allies of the corrupt. “This fight can only be fought in the open,” he told the activists. He added that the fight against corruption needs all those of good will, appealing to all those present, to remain united in their fight.
Things will change when more and more people endorse the cause, Sammut said, adding that it is impossible for everyone present to agree on absolutely everything, however, each one of them needs the other in this fight against corruption and organised crime. “From the purest individual to the worst sinner among us, we all need each other,” he reiterated.
‘We should overcome our differences, and become a united front, to bring about the necessary change,’ Mark Anthony told the citizens protesting corruption.
In his speech, Sammut also addressed the MPs who would be soon voting on a motion on Schembri’s fate. He reminded them of their oath, saying that they are duty bound to scrutinize the government. “You represent the citizens who elected you, you are not delegates of a party,” he stated.
“In your swearing in, you have pledged allegiance to the Republic of Malta and its citizens.”
Sammut who until a few months ago was Partit Nazzjonalista’s Executive Committee President, called on the MPs to do what is right, saying that he knows how difficult it is to fulfill one’s duty. The young engineer had resigned from his post, following the defeat the party sustained at the MEP and local council elections. “We have to take a stand, sometimes with your own colleagues,” he said. Adding, that a clean conscience however trumps salaries and posts.
‘The warning signs were there‘
Lawyer Jacques Rene Zammit told anti-corruption activists gathered in Valletta that the warning signs have been there for a long time. He remarked that the weakening of the institutions, lack of representation, lack of accountability, even though they could be explained with one phrase “the break down of the rule of law” they cannot stop the waves of populism and demagoguery.
Speaking about the Caruana Galizia’s work, Zammit said that it formed part of a greater scheme of work, involving a new wave of investigative journalists tirelessly working against corruption, in the world, in Europe as well as in Malta.
“Our institutions have been captured”
Zammit pointed out that there has been an institutional capture, however, the citizens are still in an acceptance phase and have not reacted to what is happening around them. The challenge, which they are facing, is to preserve the truth, that people like Caruana Galizia sought to uncover. Only then, the people will be outraged with what is happening around them.
Two years after the assassination, Zammit pointed it out, it has not been enough to materialise in a tangible action by the people. He remarked that despite institutional capture, the brutal assassination, this has not been enough to start a strong movement demanding change.
In his address, he noted that more people are protesting environmental degradation, adding that ‘finally the right buttons are being pushed’.
He concluded by saying that their protest serves to renew their aims, to confirm that they believe in a fairer and just society, and to renew their commitment to seeking the truth and fight four justice.
‘We all agree that we are fighting corruption’ – Delia
Journalist and blogger Manuel Delia told those present that this was the 24th time they are meeting in Great Siege Square demanding justice. He referred to all those who endorsed the call, saying that while they do not absolutely agree on everything, they agree on one thing, that they are protesting corruption.
‘Daphne was left alone in her fight,’ Delia said, however, she never gave up and paid the highest price. He added, that she was hopeful that one day, there will be justice. Referring to Palermo’s mayor Leoluca Orlando who addressed the protest vigil last month, Delia reiterated his message, that Daphne had won.
Speaking about 17 Black and Keith Schembri, Delia said that the latter went back into hiding. “He does not know how much we know about him,” he told anti-corruption activists. He would be scared to sit down for fifteen minutes with us, let alone taking to the witness stand under oath to testify under cross-examination, Delia added.
‘He would not testify under cross-examination so as to not incriminate himself,’ Delia said, going on to state ‘the criminal’.
Referring to Caruana Galizia’s revelations on Schembri, Delia laid out the time, saying that Busuttil had called him ‘corrupt’, Schembri felt offended took him to court and ceded the libel case. Therefore, Delia continued, Busuttil was right and won.
He then urged those present to participate in a chorus, ‘Keith Schembri is corrupt’, ‘File a libel case’, the crowd challenged.
In his address, Delia asked to whom does the companies Macbridge and Egrant belong to.
‘Certain media reported the story as though Schembri is the victim’ – Vicki Ann Cremona
Repubblika president Vicki Ann Cremona outlined the facts to date which are in the public domain. She then referred to this week’s events, noting that certain media peddled a ‘version of events’ in which Schembri suddenly became the ‘victim’. She underlined that in such situations one realises the importance of freedom of press which operates without being beholden to anyone.
‘It is disgusting to disinform people,’ Cremona stated.
She observed that what happened on Monday, continues to prove the abuse of power which has destroyed the foundations of this republic.
“We will do whatever it takes”
Student and activist Petra Caruana told those present that times like these are beyond infuriating and one can feel hopeless, however, the important thing is to remain active. Promising not to give up the anti-corruption fight, the young woman said that the activists will not stop fighting and would do whatever it takes.
Speaking about the best of times, Caruana said that ‘this is not the best of times [l-aqwa żmien], however one day they will attain justice.
‘We will have crooks behind bars, and we will be a normal country, where journalists do not have to fear for their lives,’ Caruana concluded.