A lot has changed hasn’t it? Having to stay home, change our routine, change our habits and norms. At times it feels like it’s the end of the world as we know it. However, much hasn’t really changed at all. Lots of things are happening just as they used to, the only issue is it’s all the wrong ones.
Although our timetables may have changed, quite a bit is still eerily familiar. Once again, Malta is in the international spotlight, and once again for all the wrong reasons. Once again Malta is being called out for its treatment of migrants and is once again called out for serious breaches of international human rights. While it may sound all too familiar, this time it is different; this time our Prime minister claims it is for public safety. This time, refusing humanitarian aid is applauded as politicians use the all-encompassing excuse of the Corona Virus pandemic.
However, rest assured that other things have not changed. For example, the Government still labels those who call out its actions as traitors. Just ask Paul Borg Olivier, who was branded as such for representing the families of two of the migrants who died at sea in a case against the Maltese government. Thankfully, normality continues as the brand of ‘traitor’ is still being dished out to reporters and NGOs alike for anything that comes close to shifting focus away from how different everything is.
And yet, thanks to Covid-19, it is different. Now there is ample reason to brand these people as traitors. The Government can now claim these people are dividing us in a time of struggle, that if we don’t just accept everything, if we try to change anything the government is doing, then things will get worse, that Government is only trying to protect us, that this is why we should just quiet down and accept the deluge of human rights violations and attacks on the free media.
“Surely, comrades, you do not want Jones back?”. This iconic quote from George Orwell’s animal farm might start ringing a few bells. Jones was the greatest fear of the animals on the farm, a fear that the leading pigs quickly picked up on and started using to shut down all those who point out their failings. This is where things stop seeming so different because although things have changed, these changes are not new. The Government has reused the same old formula to shut down the opposition, a formula that those who were alive during the 70s and 80s remember all too well. With the excuse of the Coronavirus pandemic, all morality can be chucked out the window as we fight against an outside force. This way, anyone who points out flaws in governance is really just attacking the nation as a whole and is an enemy of the state.
Whilst the Coronavirus is dangerous and deadly, it does not mean we should not fear this newfound arrogance of the state. This arrogance, this blatant suppression of our right to speak up, is not a sign that things have stayed the same, it’s a sign that we have regressed. If we as a nation come out of this thinking nothing has changed, or even worse, that things improved, then we would be allowing ourselves to lose an ability that is far more vital than the ability to go outside, our ability to speak.
Written by: Mikiel Cassar