A short clip featuring Dr. Bernard Grech, the recently elected PN leader recently resurfaced, where he confesses his contempt towards expressing his nationality when abroad. Grech goes on attribute his contempt to the former “Prime minister, his clique and all this dirt.”
The following rationalist analysis of Malta’s socioeconomic and political state is meant to defend Bernard Grech’s reluctance to adhere to a dogmatic chauvinistic attitude. It is not, however, meant to defend Grech in a political capacity.
The list of reasons behind the decay of Maltese national pride is bountiful but for simplicity’s sake, I will divide my argument into three parts, each more imminent than the last.
1. The degradation of the Labour party
The Labour party’s 2013 election campaign promised a return to accountability, transparency and meritocracy after more than two decades in the opposition. However, over the past seven years, the exact opposite has happened.
Nepotism and corruption have become institutionalised. A list of political scandals ranging from the Vitals-Stewards Healthcare saga and the Electrogas ordeal have opened the doors for the parasite that is corruption to siphon and thrive on tax payer money at its most honest state and cause the death of a journalist at its most sinister.
A Eurobarometer survey in 2017 reported that 79% of the Maltese believe that corruption is widespread in Malta, a number that rose to 89% in 2019. Similarly, 39% of Maltese companies believe that corruption has prevented them from securing a public tender in the last three years. These statistics offer some insight into the decline of patriotic values.
PL has not only turned its back on its socialist roots in favour of laissez-faire capitalism (which is futile if accompanied by systemic corruption) but has perverted itself into a government that privatises large portions of the environment and its healthcare system to be sold off to multinational developers. Perhaps the greatest hypocrisy of the self-styled social democratic party lies within its government officials using tax havens to avoid taxation. The explicit comparison between citizens and senior government officials continues to drive an anomic tear in the fabric of our society.
However, the government still manages to advertise itself as Malta’s progressive party through its numerous liberal social policies. The most trusted healthcare system in the EU (a triumph threatened by the Vitals deal) providing free services to all, the highest standard of LGBT rights and a strong social welfare state enable PL to retain its progressive label.
The left-wing support for egalitarianism and social equality comes to a swift end with sexual and reproductive rights, as does my sympathy for Grech. Both political parties go against evidence-based medicine and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists to be the only country in the EU to out-right ban abortion in all cases which may include rape, incest and foetal abnormalities which may subject a woman to carrying a non-viable pregnancy to term only for the baby to die a few minutes or hours after it leaves the uterus. Under the relevant abortion law, dating back to 1724 (a few decades before Malta became a part of the British Empire), women undergoing an abortion in Malta risk imprisonment for up to 3 years. Poland, a country who recently made international news for establishing ‘LGBT-free zones’, has lighter policies on abortion.
The Labour party’s recent discrete willingness to participate in the abortion debate could strengthen its liberal facade but seems unlikely to materialise into anything worthwhile; owing to the widespread opposition mounted by the general public, even university students. Either way, this issue continues to divide the country, leaving pro-choice individuals with an unpatriotic stance.
The pandemic was an excellent opportunity for the labour government to flaunt their healthcare system, and they did. Rapid mobilisation and widespread availability of free testing and efficient contact tracing contained the first wave of infections which led to Malta being applauded by the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Europe. An accomplishment that revived a sense of patriotism in the hearts of the public, at least for a short while.
Malta’s fall from grace came with PM Robert Abela’s inconsistent messages such as ‘everything is under control’ and ‘Malta is open for business’, the government’s decision to re-open the airports and host several mass events.
In a recent paper published in the Journal of Community Health, the Superintendent of Public Health Charmaine Gauci and four other health experts take a definitive stance by blaming Abela and the Malta Tourism Authority for the ‘avoidable’ second wave due to their advertisement of Malta as the ‘Island festival hotspot’ and allowing mass events to be organised against expert advice.
As the island faces a second spike in cases and a sharp rise in mortality, it earns first place amongst EU countries when it comes to the 14-day cumulative death index. Needless to say, one doesn’t have to be a health expert to share in Prof. Charmaine Gauci’s concern.
3. The SOFA Deal
If Malta’s cash-for-passport scheme failed to cause a widespread abandonment of flag-waving behaviour, this deal surely will. The most imminent threat facing Malta is this month’s assessment of anti-money laundering laws and their enforcement carried out by the Council of Europe’s Moneyval panel. Following last year’s failing grade in September 2019, a second failed assessment will lead to Malta being grey-listed by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) which would make the country less attractive to investors and bring a potential end to economic prosperity.
The Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) deal has been on the US agenda for some time now but has always been dismissed. Ministers have recently agreed to a ‘watered-down’ version of the proposed SOFA deal without consulting with the opposition but this still requires a two-thirds majority in parliament before it is finalised.
The suspicious timing of all this has raised concerns over whether the deal is being made in exchange for US lobbying efforts with the FATF, an arrangement the US has successfully made in the past. However, former US Chargé d’Affaires Mark Schapiro and Malta’s Foreign Affair Ministry have dismissed such concerns.
As a direct dialectical consequence of the aforementioned degradation of the labour party, the SOFA deal now presents a very real threat to the country’s constitutional sovereignty, economy, its neutral geopolitical stance and by extension, the nationalist sentiment in question.
To conclude, we should not only tolerate the rise of an unpatriotic sentiment but accept it as the sensible attitude a well-informed citizen would assume. Instead of condemning such attitudes, a true patriot that has their country’s best intentions in mind ought to reflect on how this was brought about and what can be done to reinstate patriotism in the hearts of Maltese citizens.
Written by: Anonymous