August 2010


Admirably, the General Workers Union (GWU) has issued a bold statement condemning racism in which it pointed out that African immigrants were not a threat to Maltese workers. Needless to say, on the online version of newspapers and through social media this raised a furious debate. Some agreed, others disagreed, some vehemently so.

A very common comment was that ‘they should be protecting Maltese workers’. Something to which I would reply ‘this is exactly what they’re doing’. I will not enter the debate on whether African migrants should be given protection or not. It has nothing to do with a stand a Trade Union takes. The issue that the GWU clearly pointed towards is racism. And the GWU is right – racism harms Maltese workers.

Why? We all know that many African immigrants are employed illegally, paid less than the minimum wage and work longer hours or both, amongst other issues such as less health and safety provisions. (There are also many Maltese employed in such conditions, but that’s another story). Who is the abuser here? The migrants? Hardly so. I don’t think anyone is paid less than he deserves or than stipulated by law out of personal choice.

We know who the abusers are, don’t we? Why isn’t anyone doing anything? Is there a sense of helplessness? And above all, aren’t the abusers enjoying the friction. Quite convenient, no? Point your fingers at the Africans while we make a feast out of you all.

A comment by a person vehemently against African immigrants explains it all. This woman stated (apart from asking for Africans to be expelled etc.): “My husband was kicked out of work because his employer employed three illegal immigrants instead of him.” Others replied that they have suffered the same fate.

I believe them.

However, I would like to ask them the most crucial questions. What have you done about it? Have you reported this abuse to the authorities? To your husband’s Union? (Assuming he is in one, since many people are being intimidated into not joining a Trade Union). Do you really think that expelling Africans from Malta will make justice to your husband, even if it happens?

I’m sure that many of those fueling the fire of hatred are either right wing sympathizers or abusive employers themselves. Grilling the GWU is very convenient for them since probably the main things they hate more than Africans are Trade Unions and worker’s movements.

My fear is that there are many honest workers who are duped by the fear the egocentric scaremongers managed to create and are playing in their hands, thinking the GWU is acting as their enemy rather than their ally. This blog is directed towards the latter.

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An editor of a student’s newspaper (Mark Camilleri) faces criminal charges for publishing obscene material. The author of the “obscenities” (Alex Vella Gera) comes to Malta from Luxemburg where he is living at present. He ends up interrogated by the police, and criminal charges were filed against him too (thankfully there wasn’t any European Arrest Warrant involved)

What are the obscenities involved? Nothing more than the first words a tourist learns as soon as he puts his foot on our island. A work of fiction that makes a parody of an idiot whose life is centred on f**king women. (Sorry for the asterisk but I’m not taking any chances).

Here the crucial word is Parody. The importance of this word is due to the fact that Vella Gera and Mark Camilleri were accused (if not at the Courts of Law at the Courts of Public Opinion) of being sexist. Something’s really wrong here. Ridiculing a sexist is not sexism, it’s actually the opposite. I don’t think anyone ever said Charles Chaplin is racist because he makes a parody of Adolf Hitler!

An individual (Giovanni De Martino) writes a letter to the most read newspaper in this country – The Times of Malta. Titled ‘Visual Abuse’ this person is asking if men should have the right to sue women for exposing quite a hefty amount of flesh. According to De Martino this is ‘visual sexual abuse’ on us, males.

Funny isn’t it? However, a comment Mr De Martino himself sent to the online version of the same newspaper is not only sexist but proposes a very dangerous attitude towards the way we view sexual abuse (on women). This is what Mr De Martino wrote, word by word:

“If a female, as stated below, is free to dress what she likes and how she likes, a male is equally free to say what he likes and does what he likes in her presence as long as he does not touch her. And even if he does touch her, the courts would take into consideration her provocation. We are all humans, my friend.”

I don’t want Mr De Martino to be prosecuted, it’s not the point of my article. However, at least at the Court of Public Opinion, I would like to ask: Who should be accused with sexism here?