On Tuesday January 16, at 3pm, it is exactly three months to the day and hour since the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia. What has changed since then? A great deal.
Daphne was very well known in Malta, where she was the single most influential commentator on the political scene. Since her murder, “DCG” has become well known outside Malta as well, deservedly hailed as a heroic journalist who investigated and exposed corruption, and paid the highest price for it. She is now an icon for all of us who believe in freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
The last three months have not just put Daphne in the spotlight, they have also put the island of Malta under the microscope. Before now the smallest EU nation was but infrequently in the news; now it is regarded as a “sunny place for shady people”, a centre of international money laundering, a place involved in smuggling, a country that sells passports to rich foreigners and which enjoys a close relationship with questionable regimes outside the EU, who see it as a side door entry into the Union.
All this is disputed by many in Malta – well, they would, wouldn’t they? – but one thing cannot be disputed: Malta is a country where journalists (and others) get blown up. Daphne’s death proves what she was saying all along: Malta is not a normal country.
All this should be deeply embarrassing to the EU, and there are signs that it is. But there is little to show for now that they are doing anything about it. So, once more, the EU is faced with an awkward question: what do you do when one of your members fails to play by the rules? Let us remember that the passports that Malta sells are EU passports, and no one would be buying them if they were not.
After a time, and after three months, you begin to join the dots, and you begin to see a pattern emerging. The rule of law in Malta is no more. Anything goes. Look at the way the tiny island has been covered with hideous buildings, and its few remaining green spaces imperilled by crazy “development”, despite the planning laws. And it has been like this, sadly, for a long time. Daphne’s blog, its past postings still read by many, represents a litany of woes, the result of the disappearance of the rule of law.
So how did this happen? How did we get to this lamentable state of affairs? For Malta was not ever thus, indeed the island of Malta was civilised when people in Britain were wearing nothing but blue paint. This is, in the end, a moral crisis, one in which traditional values have been eroded and overthrown by the hunger for money. We are constantly told the Maltese economy is booming. Yes, but what is the hidden price being paid for this? And how long will the boom last?
Finally, three months on, let us pray for the repose of Daphne’s soul (as I am sure she would have wanted) and the comfort of her family (ditto). But above all, let us not forget, for the culture she exposed is still there. It is imperative that this is not forgotten, that we do not move on, much as some would like us to, and that we do not stop talking about DCG. That, above all, is what she would have wanted: for her sacrifice not to have been in vain.