You don’t know me, and I don’t know most of you, but together we are storytellers. And the story we are telling is that of Malta and the Maltese.
In ten, twenty or thirty years from now your children or grandchildren or great grandchildren will travel – be it for business or pleasure. And while they’re sat in a cafe with a croissant and a coffee, or stood on a stony bridge over a canal, or on a bus or train, they will end up having a conversation with one of the locals or a fellow traveller and they will be asked the question: “where are you from?”
And they will say “I’m from Malta”. But what does that mean when you can buy Maltese citizenship if you’ve got the money?
There used to be a time when the name Malta – to those who knew it – conjured up images of sun-soaked beaches and blue seas, rich history and legend. Of fishing boats bobbing in the water, and steeples piercing the sky.
Today, however, the first thing that will likely spring to anyone’s mind when you tell them you’re from this little rock in the Mediterranean is the image of the shell of a burnt out car in a barren field, where a woman died alone fighting for her freedom of speech.
But how did we get to this point?
There’s a period drama by playwright Robert Bolt called A Man For All Seasons. And in this drama the character Sir Thomas More speaks to a Witch Hunter. Of this witch hunter he asks curiously “so you’d cut a road through the laws would you, to get to the devil?”
And the witch hunter says “I’d cut down every law in England to do that”.
To which our protagonist replies “And when the devil turns around to face you, where will you look for shelter Mr Prosecutor – given that you’ve cut all the laws down?”
That has been this government’s greatest success. Convincing the Maltese to build their own prison in the pursuit of a devil that doesn’t exist. Both the government and the opposition in fact have fed the people this fictitious, fairytale of a witch, a “bicca blogger”, and in their hunt for her they have cannibalised their own community, felled their own rights, and hollowed out their own country.
In this government’s fantasy world they would have you believe that there is no more “Malta”. No more “us” no more “we” no more “you and I”. There is only “mine”, and “me”, and that every man and woman is out for (and must fend for) themselves.
This rampant, profligate monster has even spread to the land itself. The beaches are slime-soaked, the waters are putrid. The air is toxic. And we cut down trees as readily as we do our own rights.
But you who are gathered at the memorial every month do not deal in fiction or fantasy or fairytales. You deal in reality – and the cold hard reality is that you all meet here to demand justice for Daphne Caruana Galizia because you want to reconnect Malta to its conscience again. You want to reaffirm this island’s roots.
You congregate because you understand that history will judge the Maltese most harshly for their response to the brutal daylight murder of one of their own, and you know that the sentence handed down will be doled out for generations to come.
And so every month you light candles, proffer photos and deliver speeches at the memorial because you want to honour the story of Malta that was passed down to you by your ancestors so that you can pass it on to your children, and grandchildren and great grandchildren.
You do this so that when someone asks your descendents “where are you from?” they will be able to say with pride “I am from an island community that united to combat the march of fascism in the Second World War. Our forefathers and mothers were on the front line, they will say, in the most heavily bombed country on Earth, defending democracy”.
And you do this so they can say that when the world called on the Maltese again to defend democracy, human rights, freedom of speech and justice from those who would seek to destroy it, the brave men and women on a little rock in the Mediterranean stood up and said “NO! Daphne Caruana Galizia – mother, sister, daughter, and wife – died fighting for those immutable values, and we will not let her have died in vain”.