Tista' taqra bil- Malti.
Whistleblower Ana Garrido Ramos had a message of hope for anti-corruption activists gathered at the Great Siege Square in Valletta on Sunday evening. She told those present, that by standing together and creating networks based on ethics, solidarity and justice, they are creating something for future generations. She reminded that the rights one has, is thanks to those who have fought for them in the past.
Pressure Group Occupy Justice and anti-corruption NGO Repubblika organised the 19th protest vigil demanding justice for slain investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. Caruana Galizia was assassinated in a car bomb on 16 October 2017 few minutes after she left her family home. Every month, activists gather at Great Siege Square demanding justice.
Speaking about whistleblowers and journalists, Garrido Ramos stated “the system hits us hard, punishing us for doing the right thing”, saying that while her case was that of a living death in which she lost everything except her dignity and principles, for Caruana Galizia it was a physical death, although her spirit is still present.
Garrido Ramos who was awarded the Anti-Corruption Award along with Daphne Caruana Galizia by Transparency International in 2018, was a government employee at Boadilla Town Hall, was pressured to sign illegal contracts which would benefit corrupt politicians. She refused to sign such contracts, and they attempted to bribe her. When bribes and pressure did not work, she suffered from work-related harassment until she fell into a depression.
It was then that she started researching and prepared a 300-page dossier that she passed on to the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office. The case then became known as “Gürtel”.
“The current situation requires active participants not silent listeners”
Mario Grech took the floor, and described himself as a “nobody” saying that despite the many excuses he could muster on why he would not address the vigil, there was no reason for him not to do so. He explained that like many of the activists gathered, he comes month after month demanding justice, however he warned that the current situation does not require “silent listeners” but “active participants”. He told the activists that there is no space for fear reminding how slain journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia recognised the responsibility she had towards the country and did her work without fear or favour. Speaking about truth, Grech stated that “truth has no agenda, no face but remains one and absolute”. He also reminded that “everyone is equal before the law, and that justice is not revenge, hatred, or vindictiveness”.
Addressing marking twenty months since the assassination of Caruana Galizia, Grech maintained that “loyalty is to Malta and its laws and not towards the politician or party”. He concluded his address by saying that he is a “nobody inspired by principles of truth, justice and solidarity”.
Activist Joanna Agius stated that “assassination” is the only word which precisely describes what happened twenty months ago, reminding that the government’s communication officer Kurt Farrugia has said that he is “uncomfortable with its use because it is politically loaded”.
Referencing the various reports issued about Malta, Agius spoke about the government’s reaction to the report prepared by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe special rapporteur’s report Pieter Omtzigt.
Quoting off from the official government statement, Agius remarked that “the best bit about this, is that they blame us activists”. She mockingly thanked Muscat for implying that they were so powerful that they were able to influence such a report before proceeding to point out what in her opinion led to Malta’s sinking reputation. Agius reminded that the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff Keith Schembri and Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi still hold office, Police Chief Lawrence Cutajar despite being ineffective still hold office and Pilatus Bank still operated until European institutions took action.
“Malta is a safe place”
Referring to Police Chief’s claim that “Malta is a safe place” following Lassana Cisse’s murder, the activist remarked that it is a safe place for “those who launder money, those who bribe, those who act with absolute impunity”.
In her speech Agius thanked re-elected Nationalist MEPs, David Casa and Roberta Metsola, who despite all odds secured their place in European Parliament. Agius said that both were under constant attack from every side, however, “the results clearly show that the fight for justice, the fight for justice for Daphne and her family, is having a positive effect and the message is being delivered”.
Sabatino Caso took the floor and explained how the community got to know about Daphne Caruana Galizia through the Daphne Project which includes Italian journalists working on stories which Caruana Galizia was working on. He recalled an event for which journalist Manuel Delia was present in Italy, and how after Delia had finished his talk, a long standing ovation followed in memory of Caruana Galizia.
Sabatino Caso was born in 1974 in Vipiteno, Alto Adige, Italy nowadays he lives in Livorno, Tuscany. He’s graduated in economy and is part of the Community of Sant’Egidio, a lay Catholic association dedicated to social service. His advocacy is on fundamental human rights with special interest in homelessness and minors.
Speaking about the work of the Community of Sant’Egido, Caso said there a search for justice which is born from one’s faith and love towards one another, especially one who lives in conditions of extreme poverty and marginalisation.
Caso referenced unsung heroes, Floribert Bwana Chiu, a woman from Congo who was assassinated because she did not give in to corruption and William Quijano who was killed at 21-years-old for his work with children in a neighbourhood in the periphery of San Salvador. He then moved on to remind the activists of the two Sicilian judges killed by the Italian mafia in a car bomb, Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, underlining that in every case, these people were martyrs.
‘On changing what we don’t like’
Citing Borsellino, Caso reminded that “The fight against mafia, which is the first problem to solve in our unfortunate and beautiful land, must be not only a cold repressive action, but a moral and cultural movement, involving everyone, especially younger generations, the most fit to feel the beauty of the fresh taste of freedom that sweeps away the foulness of moral compromise, of indifference, of contiguity and, hence, of complicity”.
Further, Caso quoted from Borsellino, “I didn’t like Palermo, so I learned to love it, because true love consists in loving what you don’t like, in order to be able to change it,” saying that this is what he and the community he comes from believes, as he augured the activists to find new energy to love and change that which they do not like and continue in their fight for truth and justice.
Sandro Ruotolo receives the Daphne Caruana Galizia award
Journalist and activist Manuel Delia told those gathered that journalist Sandro Ruotolo who is a veteran with Il Messaggiero, Rai and in Michele Santoro’s programme and nowadays working for fanpage.it, received the Daphne Caruana Galizia award during the Journalism Festival organised at Ronchi dei Legionari by civil society NGO Leali delle Notizie. Ruotolo is one of the journalists living under protection, due to the continuous threats from the Italian mafia.
Delia observed that unlike Malta, the Italian state protect its journalists and this is enshrined in Article 21 of its Constitution. Delivering Ruotolo’s message to the actvisits gathered, Delia explained that the Italian journalist appealed to his Local Council of Ronchi to adopt Article 21 of the Italian Constitution as a principle. During his appeal, Delia added, Ruotolo told the Local Council that based on this principle, the Local Council should give the keys of the city of Ronchi to Matthew Caruana Galizia, whom he described as a living symbol of the fight for freedom of expression. Delia remarked that he was touched by the appeal, and that maybe he should pitch the same appeal to Valletta and Mosta local councils, as they are duty bound to protect the freedom of expression and democracy.
However, Delia continued that Ruotolo’s appeal reminded him the meaning of “citizenship” saying that while the city of Ronchi is not giving Italian citizenship to Caruana Galizia, it is recognising in him the freedoms that emanate from the Italian Constitution. Delia reflected on the Maltese Constitution which protects media freedom, however he contrasted it to what the state does saying that it “controls journalists either through adverts or employs them or threatens them with libel suits in Malta or elsewhere, while the state left one of us die in a car bomb and now does not want to open a public inquiry to determine whether the state could have done more to protect the journalist”.