Fear and Loathing in tal-Qroqq

fearqroqq_akkuzaIn his speech as outgoing rector of the University, Professor Juanito Camilleri addressed the issue of migration, instructing students to make good use of the knowledge and skills they acquire at University. It could not and should not have been otherwise. The University should be churning out informed citizens who are better equipped to face the realities of this world. What struck me though was the distinct difference in emphasis that the editors of two English dailies made – at least in the online headlines – when reporting this speech (the third, MaltaToday, seems to have limited itself to reporting the number of students that have been added to the Uni count).

The Times of Malta ran with “Fight hatred and intolerance through knowledge, rector tells university students” – a direct reference to one of the problems that afflict the country. Only last week we were chronicling this on this blog and mentioning the importance of fighting misinformation with knowledge. Ignorance begets darkness and informed campaigns beget light. The Times editor/reporter made the right choice here, emphasizing the crux of what Professor Camilleri was on about in his last address to the students on opening day. The message was picked up and carried by the paper – not that it had to  of course, but it is arguably part of the mission of the press on this island where bigotry too often raises its voice to the detriment of sane discussion.

The Malta Independent on the other hand opted for a more sensational approach. In doing so it went rather in the opposite direction of what Professor Camilleri was advocating. The headline on the Independent read: University rector says migration in the Med so far ‘not even an appetizer of things to come’ . Did Prof Camilleri say that? Well of course he did. He spoke of the geopolitical realities of the African continent and that demographic and political pressures could eventually lead to more population movements and increases in population density in the Mediterreanan region. Why he said that seems to have been completely overlooked by the Indy reporter – in deference to the need to shock and pander to the gods of sensationalism and feed the gullible. Instead of focussing on the tools that Prof Camilleri was offering and highlighting, instead of stressing the need to be informed and fight hatred and intolerance through knowledge, the Indy headline (food for the lazy browsers) feeds the ugly part of the “threat of an invasion that is to come” by picking the armageddon-like statement out of context.

Is it fair journalism? Debatable. Is it right for J’accuse to make such a fuss out of this. Well, to be honest yes. This is just the kind of lazy labelling that feeds into the mouths of the “patrijotti maltin”. It is the kind of reporting that is based on terror-mongering rather than a quest for reasoned solution and discussion of the situation. It ends up with the leader of a nation taking up his time at the UN (between photo shoots with celebs along with the caravan of freeriders) closing ranks with rightist leaders like Viktor Orban calling for global quotas on migrants – taking his coffee smelling business into the halls of the world. In short, it all ends in a humanistic disaster.

“If he were allowed contact with foreigners he would discover that they are creatures similar to himself and that most of what he has been told about them is lies. The sealed world in which he lives would be broken, and the fear, hatred, and self-righteousness on which his morale depends might evaporate. It is therefore realized on all sides that however often Persia, or Egypt, or Java, or Ceylon may change hands, the main frontiers must never be crossed by anything except bombs.”- George Orwell, 1984

History Lessons


Imre et lui déposèrent un dossier pour demander le statut de réfugiés politiques. L’hypocrite Rousseau qui dirigeait le service s’ingéniait a mettre des bâtons dans les roues des Hongrois qui affluaient. Comment prouver que vous êtes un fugitif, que votre vie est menacée quand vous avez quitte votre pays dans l’affolement?

– Il me faut des preuves, vous comprenez? C’est facile de dire que vous êtes pourchasses par la police politique. Si les Soviétiques sont intervenus, c’est a la demande du gouvernement hongrois que je sache et pour sauver ce pays de la contre-révolution des petits propriétaires. L’écrasante majorité de vos compatriotes approuve. Si ça se trouve, vous avez fui la Hongrie parce-que vous êtes délinquants ou que vous n’avez pas payez vos impôts. C’est a vous de me fournir les preuves, pas a moi. Pour l’instant, votre dossier est vide. Quand il passera en commission, vous avez intérêt a ce qu’il y ait du sérieux a l’intérieur. Sinon, ce sera refus. La France n’est pas une terre d’accueil pour les voyous étrangers! On a assez avec les nôtres.

(From Le Club des Incorrigibles Optimistes, Jean-Michel Guenassia) see translation below.

The lessons of history. We seem to have failed them. One of the biggest lessons that history teaches us is that man is constantly on the move. Whether conquering fellow man or discovering new worlds, homo sapiens sapiens has proven to be quite the globetrotter. Historic displacements have also been the misfortune of whole peoples from the biblical chosen people to the mass exodus of the sons of africa enslaved in their millions and taken to the new world. Few nations can claim to never have been part of a force or intended migration.

Orban’s Hungary is currently sticking out as a major opposer to any form of influx while building walls of discord and distaste. Only 49 years ago the people of Hungary had themselves tried to rebel against an oppressive communist inspired regime. By November 1956, the Soviet tanks had entered Budapest, purportedly upon invitation of the government of the time in order to quell the revolution. The sons of the soviets are now in Syria, supposedly on invitation of the benign Assad with the added excuse of fighting off the forces of the hated ISIS. The civil war and strife in Syria has displaced millions in a story now known to all.

It is part of those millions that are finding it hard to navigate the frontiers of Europe – particularly in places like Hungary where people with a very short memory seem to ask many questions about the real status of these migrants.

A short memory can be the downfall of us all. Much worse than a foreign invasion.

Read more about the Hungarian Revolution here.

“In the immediate aftermath, many thousands of Hungarians were arrested. Eventually, 26,000 of these were brought before the Hungarian courts, 22,000 were sentenced, 13,000 imprisoned, and several hundred executed. Hundreds were also deported to the Soviet Union, many without evidence. Approximately 200,000 fled Hungary as refugees.



Imre and him submitted a dossier requesting political refugee status. The hypocrite Rousseau who ran the service specialised in putting spokes in the wheels of the flood of Hungarians who were arriving.

– I need proof, you understand? It is easy to say that you are chased by the political police. As far as I know, the Soviets intervened because your government invited them to do so, and this to save the country from the counter-revolution of the small owners. The crushing majority of your compatriots approuve. It could very well be that you escaped Hungary because you are delinquents or you have not paid your taxes. It’s up to you to prove this, not up to me. For the moment your dossier is empty. When it ends up before the commission you should very well hope that there is something more substantial inside. If not, it will be a refusal. France is not a welcome land for foreign hooligans! We have had enough of our own.

The European Troll Collective


It is a great mistake to suppose that the only writers who matter are those whom the educated in their saner moments can take seriously. There exists a subterranean world where pathological fantasies disguised as ideas are churned out by crooks and half-educated fanatics for the benefit of the ignorant and superstitious. There are times when this underworld emerges from the depths and suddenly fascinates, captures and dominates multitudes of usually sane and responsible people. – Warrant for Genocide, Norman Cohn.

The world can be one big lie. This has been a pet subject for many a philosopher. Maybe the world we see is just an illusion, maybe we are just parts of a dream, maybe we are an imperfect parallel universe. It all seems to hinge around the concept of perception – how we receive data and what we do it. What we see, what we sense and how we perceive it is crucial to defining the world we live in. The internet has had an immense impact not only in the immediate processing of information but also in redefining our understanding the realities (or fakeries) of the world that we inhabit.

In the nineties the term “global village” was very much the vogue. The information superhighway would cut distances drastically and you would know whenever a bomb exploded in Kandahar, whenever a weird tsumani struck the shores of Indonesia, whatever the latest military putsch was doing and you would know it instantly. Technology would be at the service of humanity giving us information at our fingertips. This urge for immediacy had existed for over a century by the 1990s. Just look at what Senator Depew had to say about the inauguration of the New York Pneumatic Postal Service in 1897:

This is the age of speed. Everything that makes for speed contributes to happiness and is a distinct gain to civilization. We are ahead of the old countries in almost every respect, but we have been behind in methods of communication within our cities. In New York this condition of communication has hitherto been barbarous. If the Greater New York is to be a success, quick communication is absolutely necessary. (see Wikipedia)

What humanity did not predict was that with the information superhighway came the empowerment of the masses. Nothing wrong with that per se but when the masses have no standard reference as to the type of information that should be disseminated we end up with a perversion of the truth. Multiple perversions actually. Information, we learnt, can be manipulated. It is not only the usual suspects popular among conspiracy theorists who are hard at work.

During the cold war the issue of propaganda was easily pinnable on the parties, the movements and the governments. In the post 9/11 world, navigating the information superhighway is not such an easy black and white matter. The sources of information are multiple and few are those who bother to verify the reliability. A whisper in a corner of the global village can gather enough momentum to be a tsunami of shrieks and yells within hours.

Which is where the trolls come in. J’accuse has often repeated the great Pratchett’s quote that “a lie can travel around the world before the truth has had time to put its boots on”. Internet trolls have found the medium perfect to spin their lies – just look at the frantic anti-immigrant spamming of the past few months. Trumped up figures, photoshopped images and reasoning that wouldn’t hold good in a kindergarten of moot courts.

The responsibility in this day and age lies among the citizens who deign themselves to be informed. The trolls can only be defeated by counter-trolling and by the positive action of more informed participants.

This blog has been committed to this kind of action for as long as it has existed and aims to continue to do so as long as it can. The truth, if we lie.


Those Colourful Racist Imbeciles


It’s just idiots. Venting their anger (or vehemently opposing this or that idea) on facebook. At least they should be dismissed as such. The problem though is that they often represent a more generally held sentiment – held even among those who do not regularly frequent Zuckerberg’s fake mirror of society. A picture has been doing the rounds that features a black young lady delivering some sort of speech in Malta’s spanking new parliament. Behind the lady is MP Claudette Pace, to her right is a hijab-wearing other young lady. The picture (as you can see) is supposed to stir some form of anger : “Look at our parliament” it is captioned. We are supposed to react with disdain: “How did THEY make it in there?”.

I recognised the young black lady in the picture because by some stroke of luck and coincidence she formed part of a delegation of Mini-European Assembly winners who visited the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg (presumably as a prize for their sterling performance). I was lucky enough, privileged I would say, to be able to address the group and explain the workings of the Court. It is part of my job to regularly meet students from universities, professors or members of the judicature of EU countries who are on an educational visit to the Court. We normally take a break from our day to day task of drafting cases to share our knowledge of the workings of the court with such visitors.

This September (only two weeks ago actually) I remember walking into the room full of Mini-European Assembly visitors with a feeling of apprehension. They were a young group – younger than our usual visitors (most of them are finishing college before University) – and my recent idea of the produce of Maltese schools and university were not the most positive. My first look around the room I remember being surprised at the variety of students sat before me. Sure, I am of a generation where the “foreigner” in class was a token presence so the trigger “surprise” instinct can be forgiven if just for that. It did not take long for me to rubbish that little element of “surprise” to a corner of my brain.

Having finished the usual delivery we had a Q&A session. With university students (Sorbonne, Harvard and the like) we normally have to plead to get a question out of them and when we do we are often disappointed at the type of question being asked. This was not to be. The young first year lawyers and sixth-formers had loads of questions to ask – all pertinent, all intelligent and all interesting. That included the splendid lady in the centre of the picture now being circulated by oafs who wouldn’t know better.

They are Maltese students. Very intelligent, ambitious and interesting Maltese students. Each of them carries a dream. It’s a dream that they would like to see through living in a Maltese society. I’d very much like to think that one in every two Maltese students is like this group of fantastic ambassadors. Sadly I know that the Ernest Ferrante’s of this world vastly outnumber them.

It’s a tough task ahead for all of us and all of them. I can only wish the beautiful ladies who were exemplary on the visit and who feature in this sad racist meme all the best in their lives ahead. With courage and conviction much can be achieved.



Aylan Kurdi’s lifeless body washed up on a Turkish beach.The photo was snapped moments before the body was picked up by a Turkish rescue operator. Within hours it became the internationally recognised symbol of the unfolding Syrian tragedy. Not the thousands of persons bandied across borders, not the hundreds of thousands of unwanted finding doors slammed in their faces, not a whole people that has become a European hot potato much to its own chagrin. No.

Just a little boy in a red t-shirt, shorts and shoes. Face down. Arms along his sides. At first glance it is not so much an image of death as one of exhaustion. Before you are struck by the dark reality of the death of an innocent you are first made to think of an exhausted loss of the will to go on. Then it hits you. This is a dead little boy. And this image has struck home in millions of households. It has been described as the ultimate eye-opener, the straw that broke the camel’s back. Did we really need the image of one dead kid set in a romantic position in order to unlock the last shreds of humanity? If so why?


Last night Rai3 showed the second of a two piece instalment called “Generation War“. The series, originally called “Our Mothers and Our Fathers” in German follows the fate of a group of five young Germans throughout World War II. The German channel ZDF had commissioned the series in order to act as a dialogue between generations. The series attracted huge criticism in Germany since it seemed to portray the Nazis as “others” to the German population but also served as an eye-opener to the great deception that Nazism had been to the young pre-war generation.

Dealing with history is hard enough. Remembrance and knowledge that results from not forgetting are crucial tools in understanding the freedoms and liberties that have been achieved in the last century. Reading abut Generation War I learnt that the first real big eye-opener in Germany with regards to the horror of the holocaust “only” appeared on TV in the form of a mini-series in 1978 (featuring among others a young Meryl Streep).

The media has an important role in shaping ideas about great events. There was no media as we know it at the time of the holocaust or anti-semite pogroms. Most news was state controlled and played to the tune of the dictatorship. More recently we can see the mediatic effect of reporting of mass exodus such as that of the East Germans in  1989. In fact it should not be too hard to remember that not too long ago the pathways of Austria and Hungary were flooded with another people eager to reach the Holy Grail of German free territory. At the time a collapsing East Germany witnessed a haemhorrage of citizens eager to escape the claustrophobic atmosphere behind the iron curtain.

27 years later East Germans are replaced by Syrians. The plight of the people running away from a war torn country had been gathering momentum for over three years now. It took a symbolic snapshot to bring home the reality. Those who had hitherto been numbed by the excessive amount of daily information covering tragedy after tragedy, war after war, displacement after displacement, were suddenly shocked into action.

Aylan was buried back in his tragic hometown of Kobane. The hopes that humanity can once again stir itself out of its egoistic stupor were not buried with him though. Right or wrong, the stolen snapshot of a dead boy’s curls playing with the waves on a turkish beach might have kicked off the tide of compassion and care that had long been lacking.

I am J.



I am the owner of a flat in Saint Julian’s – Paceville to be exact. For some time now I have known that I share the address of this flat with over fifty individuals who I have never met or contacted in any way. I have known of this Kafkesque situation for over two years.

I have been waiting for a police investigation to be concluded on the issue but due to the prominence that such situations are currently being given in the media and in order to avoid any nasty consequences that could be made by “investigative journalists” jumping to the wrong conclusions I have decided to tell the story of how this came to be on this blog. It is a story that results from the ridiculous legislation and administrative rules governing residence in Malta and (for the record) it starts under a nationalist administration and continues under a labour one. Bear with me. This might take some time….

I am J. 11 years ago, just before I got to know that I would be moving to Luxembourg for a new job I signed an agreement to purchase an apartment in Paceville. Why Paceville? Why not? I had grown up there and I liked it. I never had the chance to move in. By the time I actually bought the apartment I was already installed in Luxembourg. For a very long time it would be my holiday base and I resisted all entreaties to put it on the rental market – partly because I know that I lack the business acumen required in such circumstances (yes, I’m missing some Gozitan traits).

You should know that my visits to Malta are always short and tend to centre around Bank Holiday/Holiday periods when administrations and businesses are on shut down. Anything from installing a phone line to getting work done on the flat would be a logistical nightmare. Even in the internet age you would be surprised as to the number of transactions that require your presence (in person) “Ghax Sir, ma nistghux naqduk inkella”.

Sometime around mid 2012 I decided to bite the bullet and rent out the flat for a short trial period. I approached a decent estate agent based in Paceville and literally got a tenant within seconds. It was simply a question of opening my mouth and saying “I have a flat in Paceville to rent”. The agent told me he had a client next door who was looking for just that. I checked out the person. He seemed a decent businessman, Austrian. He told me that he wanted to start a business in Malta – a driving school aimed at foreign customers.

I assumed (as you would) that the guy needed accommodation in Malta while he would run the school elsewhere. Who runs a school from a flat? Who indeed. The rental contract was signed and Mr Hans Dieter Schwing (real name, not that he gave me any incentive to protect his identity) moved in. There I was thinking Mr Schwing would use my flat as accommodation while running the “school” in appropriate quarters he would probably rent elsewhere.

In fact I had checked out the Schwing’s website – it offered a package to German and Austrian clients (later it turned out to be also East European clients) who would obtain a Maltese driving license “within weeks of applying”. It seemed above board, website and all so I signed the rental agreement and Schwing moved in. He had told me that sometimes it would be a rep of his who would use the apartment as he was moving between Germany and Malta.

As I mentioned earlier I am rarely in Malta and between visits I corresponded with Schwing or his representative in Malta via email. As tenants go they were not very demanding bar the request for a few more fans in summer. I had the first indication of problems half way through the rent when the rep became incomunicado and payments stopped only to be resumed within a month or so. I put this down to bickering between the rep and Schwing. Within a few more months (by March 2013) however everything went awry. Rental payments stopped and Schwing & Co. literally vanished. When I came back to my apartment it was a complete mess. All of the furnishings were broken or irretrievably damaged, the walls and structures damaged (drillings) and there was evidence that the apartment had been used as a dorm including lockers and all.

Schwing was untraceable and I could neither sue for damage nor for rent lost. The damage to the apartment went far beyond the rent payment that had been settled. I resigned myself to repairing the damage and swore never to rent the apartment again. The trouble though was only about to begin.

It turns out that by the beginning of summer in 2013 the post box in the apartment was bulging with mail addressed to persons I had no idea existed. VAT department, Inland Revenue, Financial Services and ID Card office. On my occasional visit I would go through the mail and resend them in the post with “No such person at this address” written across the envelope.

In June 2013 I received a summons from the Police Fraud Unit (now Economic Crimes). The summons read “kaz ta’ falsifikazzjoni ta’ dokumenti u dikjarazzjonijiet foloz”. To be exact, the summons was posted to the address of my apartment. I only read the mail in late September when a family member had been through the mail and I immediately contacted the police officer in question. First thing I informed them is that Jacques Rene’ Zammit would be a Sinjur not a Sinjura as their letter indicated and then I informed them of my willingness to collaborate with their investigation.

On my next visit to Malta which happened to be in November 2013 I was interviewed by PS Sean Scicluna in the Office of Inspector Rennie Stivala. I gave my side of events twice that day. The reason I gave them twice was that the first time that I recounted my story there was a power cut at Police HQ as soon as I finished and I had to return in the afternoon since all the data had been lost on the PC – apparently no save was made while the deposition was in progress.

I signed the declaration and left the office hoping that I would get news from the police regarding any progress. Almost two years have gone by and I have no news from their part yet. Meanwhile I have invested considerable amounts of money in restructuring the flat (an investment that far outweighs the meagre amount I had managed to recoup from the rent period) and I stand by my resolution never again to rent it out to anyone. The mailbox is still regularly flooded with administrative documentation (as is clear from the envelope) and it was touching to see how quickly the political parties added the new “residents” to their mail lists.

From my interview with the police it turns out that it is remarkably easy for someone to get an ID on a residence that is not theirs. The owner is practically powerless and it is even more complicated to get the names OFF the register once they are there. In the words of the police officer you could have walked into the ID office and said you lived in “1, Castille Square” and probably got your ID card.

I am not a victim of the fraudsters. In my case this is no conspiracy of the Joe Sammut kind. I am a victim of shoddy administrative systems that can be so easily abused of. The worst part is that the moment the abnormal list of residents in one flat came into the hands of the police the number one suspect is the owner of the property. This is a ridiculous situation where a citizen can end up bearing the consequences of the shoddy screening by the administration. It does not stop with ID Cards. There are VAT numbers and even letters from the Employment and Training Corporation. I am also almost sure that the dossier at the Fraud Unit had been kicked off by the Electoral Commission (yes, I sneaked a peak during my two hours long interview – boohoo Kaizer Sauzee).

That the current government is so malleable when it comes to dealing in residences is no bonus for people (and I am sure there are many others) in my situation.

I had not felt it necessary to make this issue public because it is a private issue that I had hoped will one day be solved by police intervention and by the smarting up of the administrative authorities who should have better checks about who they register on their books. Since however the flat in question is now being mentioned and linked to other dealings I prefer doing a Wikileaks on myself as I said earlier rather than have the “investigative journalists” have a field day about whatever spurious links they may conjure up between myself and the free-riding residents of my Paceville apartment.


  • People ask how can one not notice when loads of mail arrives in one’s mailbox addressed to unknown persons? True. In my case I am abroad most of the time and when I am back it is a case of piles and piles of letters. Thankfully the police summons came relatively quickly and I was hoping that their work would put an end to the situation. I also ask however how can someone at the VAT department or ETC send out 50 or so letters to different individuals all based at the same address without batting an eyelid?
  • Schwing is still on the run as far as I know. When, after the interview, I asked the police to inform me if he is brought to Malta I was told “good luck, he has loads of creditors who are ready to pounce on him” and they also mentioned a prominent Sliema businessman.
  • My flat is NOT for rent, so please no enquiries.
  • also in today’s Times: http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20150903/local/i-am-victim-says-fake-lease-address-owner.582964

Labour & Flames


On March 9th 2013 Joseph Muscat’s Labour government decided to switch off the eternal flame (from 6am to 6pm) at the War memorial in order to save money. The move was calculated to save the government €9,000 a year.

On August 27th 2015 it was announced that Joseph Muscat’s Labour government had opted not to have a statue of Dom Mintoff in Castille square. Joseph Muscat’s Labour government opted for an abstract 5 metre high flame instead. Estimates of the cost of creating this flame are around €500,000.

That half a million euro could have kept the eternal flame going for another 55 years.

L-aqwa l-fjamma astratta f’gieh is-salvatur. 

Castille square, now bereft of greenery, will sport a design that mimics the idea of Piazza Campidoglio in Rome. It will be “adorned” with a series of statues culminating in a five metre high flame designed by a ceramic artist commissioned on direct order. In a way it is a fitting symbol of all that is wrong with the ideas behind Joseph Muscat’s Labour.

The Business of Worship


The Office of the Prime Minister has been busy denying that there are any plans for building a mosque in or around the American University of Malta. Yesterday, the Malta Independent had reported the result of a Social Impact Assessment on the Zonqor Site for Sadeen’s University and had:

“revealed how the Social Impact Assessment on the Zonqor site suggested the inclusion of a mosque on campus seeing that the majority of students attending the American University of Malta are expected to be Muslim. It did not suggest a new mosque for the Cospicua campus since students would be able to attend the Paola mosque. The report, by Dr Marvin Formosa and Mr Joe Gerada, also called for a multicultural education campaign for residents of Marsascala. [The Malta Independent] never implied that a mosque would be built but simply stated the facts that emerge from the document, which was disseminated to the media by the OPM last week.”

The opposition media had jumped at the opportunity to fan the waves of anti-muslim sentiment in Malta by highlighting this suggestion. It is one thing to sell the new University as an opportunity for heavy investment in Malta, it is another to understand the obvious implications of attracting the purported 4,000 or so students and all their needs – including those spiritual. The fact of the matter is that the people happy clapping Joseph Muscat on his visit to Dock number 1 in all the pomp and glory (all the while showering new gifts on the local populace like some character in Sid Meier’s Civilisation) might have quickly turned into a disgruntled lot had the highlight been on the obvious consequence of having to cater for the spiritual needs of the same student population.

This was never meant to be the discussion about whether or not Malta needs a new mosque. Chances are that the current number of practicing Muslims  in Malta warrants a new mosque anyway. The Paola mosque might have become too small for the burgeoning community so we are probably talking about an inevitable consequence anyway. Allah knows whether another construction enthusiast from the Middle East might turn to investing in the construction of a spiritual refuge and whether that will also be considered a good “investiment f’Malta ghall-Maltin”. Good luck to Joseph selling the land space necessary and convincing any local council to become the beneficiary of such heavenly blessings.

And that, really, is the case. Whether or not the OPM intended to heed the warning signs of the Social Impact Assessment is neither here nor there. The truth is that this dubious university investment obviously has the government by the balls. The whole point is neither improving educational standards in a region that is a stone’s throw away from Tal-Qroqq (compare the “South” to Gozo – arguably the furthest region from the UOM but with the highest percentage of students in tertiary education for a very long time) nor about  bringing money or employment that will stay in this fictitious “South”. The point was finding an excuse for Sadeen to build his residential part on ODZ land. In a throwback to Mintoffian begging bowl years disguised as supposed smart salesmanship, Muscat bent over backwards to appease a construction specialist and grant him the people’s land. To sell the project he invented stories about improving education – for whom? Will the sons of Cottonera who failed to attend the UOM for free benefit from the four IT degrees of a haphazardly assembled university?

He sold the lie that this would increase employment for the area: It’s a lie because you are not allowed to discriminate on the basis of residence when employing someone. He sold the lie that the students would leave money in the area. Would they? If Sadeen’s plans are what they seem to be then the students will be spending most of their money in the “American” University itself – when they are not travelling around Europe thanks to the student visa that will perforce be issued (u hallik minn  Joe Sammut). Those who will not be doing the Grand Tour d’Europe will be living in and around the AUM right? Which is where the need for a mosque comes in. Not just a mosque mind you. Is it fear tactics that lead me to mention proper food catering (hallal), maybe a bank or two dealing in sharia approved commerce. How does this impact the local population?

Which is the point I want to get at. The issue of integration where a muslim community is concerned is far from being an openly discussed one in Malta. The assumption is that this is a catholic country with catholic mores. A new mosque is the least of the worries if worry it is. What it cannot be is an unplanned afterthought forced on a community without much planning and education. In a country where the press goes with the flow and ignores the nuances and effects of the choices it makes when reporting we are far from having a clear plan that understands the functioning of a multicultural community. The adaptation of our society to one that really understands and works fully with integration cannot happen as a result of hodgepodge spin-offs of ill-thought planning by this government.

It cannot happen especially in the context of a project that is one big sham from start to end – an excuse for a university that leads to the raping of public land outside a development zone (compromise or no). The mosque cannot become Joseph Muscat’s Trojan to his prostituting of more land and resources to the highest (and shadiest) bidder.


The TV station Al-Jazeera has announced in its official blog that it will no longer be using the term “migrant” and its derivatives to refer to the peoples being displaced across the Mediterranean and from the Middle East. The Doha based network has chosen to refer to all such persons as “refugees” from now on. The power of the media is also in the words it uses. Public opinion and sentiment can often be swayed or fanned by the use of certain terms and not others. It is decisions like this that highlight  the full force of words and their use in reporting.

Terms they employ


Everybody loves the Gaffarenas. Or so it seems. They have been “in bed” with both of the main parties in one way or another. They have kept up their part of the general unspoken deal of the Maltese version of the mafia “pizzo” by making sure that donations (of different proportions) go to the two parties. Whenever they have had business in court they made sure to make use of the services of lawyers on both sides of the great divide in Liliput – the Independent is currently running a story that not only was Beppe Fenech Adami once a lawyer to the Gaffarena family but so were PL MP Joseph Sammut and PL president Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi. It’s not so much a tirade of mud as it is a tirade of non sequiturs.

This blog has gone on record as saying that the simple matter of begging for and receiving donations from the commercial sector (no matter the amount) is a dangerous game that is played by all parties – whether or not the IOU is eventually cashed later on. Unfortunately this risks to be misinterpreted thanks to the malady of “par condicio” that all parties are guilty of playing the game in the same manner. It is not the case. At all. First of all the political game requires that the message is garbled and confused by throwing together the matter of donations and legal services given to the Gaffarenas as though it was all part of the same boat.

MaltaToday, just before a visit to their offices by Joseph Muscat, had gone ballistic about links between former PN secretary General Joe Saliba and some dealings of the Gaffarena family. Again, no surprises here – even where Saliba is concerned. International politicians like Tony Blair and Bill Clinton retire to the lecture circuit that pays millions in return. Politicians like Saliba and, Austin Gatt (he comes to mind) “retire” to businesses run by former sponsors of their parties. Where does it all put us?

The PN is right to insist that the Labour government is much more eager to allow Gaffarena to cash in on his “investments” with the PL. The proof that we have before us points strongly in that direction. Gaffarena’s petrol stations and property dealings happened under a very faulty and accommodating Labour watch. Labour’s attempt at deviating the issue onto Beppe Fenech Adami’s involvement with Gaffarena as a lawyer is pathetic to say the least. As was the botched attempt to nail Busuttil with some kind of pre-electoral deal with the same. There is no doubt that in this particular circumstance Labour’s clumsy way of playing the political power game is much more at fault than the PN’s.

Is it a defence for the PN that in its time in power it maintained a level of “decency” when dealing with the how and when to accommodate its own sponsors? Not really. The end result is the same – especially in the construction and planning business. PL took up the baton where the PN left it. Only to shed completely any mask that feigned democratic accountability and to plunge directly into undemocratic mayhem. This “mess in denial” is the same one that is reforming MEPA to blatantly accomodate the greed of the construction industry. It is the same one that explodes smoke bombs of supposed scandals in the PN past while obstinately steamrolling over public opinion in matters such as the Zonqor development. As for the latter scandal, for scandal it is, the noise is still so loud about the development in Zonqor that little or nothing more has been said about the actual “university” itself. A real social movement would not only oppose the development in Zonqor per se but would also oppose a Sadeen University of fake anywhere. Yes, anywhere.

The Gaffarena family is now a hot potato in the PLPN battles. It is becoming the scapegoat for all the deals and trading that happened in our corner of the world. Do not get me wrong. Deals with lobbyists, musical chairs in “positions of trust”, preferred traders and the like are a trademark of the democratic system as it happens in the western world. The danger in Malta is that the PL seems to be intent not only to play the game at its most blatantly obvious but also to dismantle completely the system of checks and balances that every now and then acted as  a brake.

Pointing fingers at lawyers for the having offered their services in the past (so long as such services are legit) is just not on. Muscat and his clan are quite adept at surfing the wave of public ignorance. They have little care about the “collateral damage” that could be done in the process so long as the ends justifies the means in the short run. In this, as in many other matters, they are proving to be short sighted and risk being hoist by their own petard in the future.

Donations and Donations


Donations to political parties were already a hot topic during the last election campaign. We all remember the explanations given by Paul Borg Olivier regarding what amounted to the practice of “trading and barter” between the PN and commercial “supporters” of the party. Doubts were also raised about the Labour party’s mysterious meetings with persons of substantial economic weight that seemed to explain the expensive electoral campaign afforded by Muscat and the Taghna Lkoll gang. During an electoral campaign it all boils down to more fodder for one or the other party but ultimately little is ever done about the links between parties and their economic “sponsors”. As for the unprofessionally drafted party financing law, don’t hold your breath if you are expecting it to change anything. It has more holes in it than Swiss Cheese – and little wonder at that for it is drafted and “fine tuned” by the very parties that are supposed to be kept in check.

More recently we have the Gaffarena scandals with Marco (of said Gaffarena descent) making much fuss about the fact that he donated monies to both parties. We’ve been there before. Sandro Chetcuti, of Malta Developers’ Association fame, also went on record in the press as to how much of his money went to line either of the main party’s pockets because “it was important to be in their good books”. There is no doubt that the structure of our political fabric is such that depends equally on having a well-oiled party funding machine as part of the greater process of achieving the Holy Grail of a place in power. The not too finely spun network of quid pro quos that follows logically from such a system of interdependence is one that belies the recent statement that “it’s not whether you took a donation that counts but whether you do anything in return”.

Such a statement alas is equivalent to ignoring the bare truth that lies before all to see. The only reason that such donations are given (whether on or off record) is to curry favour with the recipient party. In the words of the man in the street… “they owe them one”. Sometimes they owe them much more than one. The structure of our political system cannot ignore this simple state of affairs. It is useless to assume a holier than thou attitude when the general trend is to enable the giving of donations anyway. Whether you allow the donor to cash back his cheque in the future is, frankly speaking, rather irrelevant.

I for one do not doubt (and am rather glad) that the PN did not cave in to Gaffarena’s requests with regards to his Qormi petrol station but the fact of the matter remains that Gaffarena was at some point a registered or unregistered donor of the PN to the tune of a thousand or so euros. Why were such donations accepted? Because the sub-literate Gaffarena was eager to support the party ideals inspired by Don Luigi Sturzo, Rafael Caldera and Serracino Inglott? Pull the other one. The smallest donation of 1€ to the largest donation lining a party HQ in marble and snazzy furniture is all there for a purpose. It is an IOU that lies heavily on a political party’s conscience.

Labour have proven to be masters in the IOU banking service. They have taken the informal word of donations exchanged for favours and have brazenly exercised it out in the open without any ounce of shame (when they are not profiting from the expropriation and use of public land such as Australia Hall). Far from the meritocratic and transparent government the Labour movement has signified the consolidation of the hitherto subtle network of exchanges between businessmen, lobbies and politicians. Cui bono? That is the question (sadly, the only question) that can be asked of practically every measure and move under the present government. Who benefits? Laws can be altered hastily and even framework legislation (such as that for planning and environent) radically reformed simply to be able to allow donors and supporters to cash cheques. This is no system of donations to support a roadmap… it is a direct consequence of cosi fan tutti reaching its final climax of corrupt obscenity. With practically no one batting an eyelid.

Creating spurious distinctions on whether the donation was “cashed” directly by some counter-move does not help in uncovering the deep-set malaise that both underpins and (ironically enough) undermines our political system. Accepting donations from the Gaffarenas and Chetcutis of this world is wrong in any case. It is wrong because such donations have ALWAYS created an expectation for what the donor seems to perceive as a legitimate return. The fact that our political parties need to millions of euros in order to exist is neither here nor there nor an excuse for this kind of enabling of a sick network.

A new style of politics is one that clearly creates a huge distance between profiteering businessmen and the political parties. It is one that reneges on developing money hungry political parties and concentrates on a system where the boundary lines between policy making and benficiaries of such policy are clear. We are very far from that ever happening. Frankly it might be too late.

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