March 2012


Killing someone by omission is still a murder. If a nurse is responsible for giving medications to a patient and as a consequence of her failure to do so he dies, that’s murder. If a prison guard fails to ask for medical assistance for an inmate who has shown the need, and as a result of that the latter dies, that’s murder. At best, if there was no intention to kill and the deaths were the result of negligence, that’s manslaughter.

Thus when 63 out of the 72 Sub-Saharan migrants on a rickety boat died of dehydration and starvation while Malta, Italy and NATO were bickering on who had to take responsibility for rescuing them, that is at best manslaughter. There’s no way to go around it. Especially when one considers the fact that a distress signal had been sent and received. Even more so when the surviving migrants reported that a military helicopter hovered over the boat and gave them water and biscuits and indicated it would come back.

Not knowing was definitely not an excuse.

What happened is more than clear. This isn’t the first time the Maltese and Italian authorities left people on the open sea while they were playing who blinks first to impress the public back home (ara kemm ahna taff mal-klandestini!). On other occasions, either someone blinked before people had died, or there happened to be no survivors to recount the story.

This is unacceptable. The blame is simply on “Malta”, “Italy” or “NATO” as noted in the press. It is on the individuals responsible who shrugged off their duties so that they could appear tough.

If the prison guards remain playing Monopoly, forget to feed the inmates and the latter die they will be charged with murder or manslaughter. These 63 human beings have died because our so holy politicians were having fun playing “who blinks first”.

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Despite two (non-independent) inquiries which proved no hard evidence of malpractice in the case of Nicholas Azzoppardi, many Maltese people including myself, still have a lot of doubts on whether the man was murdered while in police custody or not.

Lately there was a striking development related to the case. Adrian Lia, the Police Sergeant who escorted Nicholas Azzoppardi before the latter allegedly committed suicide has admitted to stealing hefty amounts of money seized by the police from illegal gambling.

In other words, not only the whole saga of Nicholas Azzoppardi has been fishy from the start, but the person who escorted him exactly before his death is now a confirmed crook.

Many people who had doubts about this what really happened rejoiced to the news that Mr Azzoppardi’s inquiry is to be re-held, for the third time. His family are not so positive, since unless it’s performed independently from the police, it’s practically useless. I don’t blame them for their mistrust.

While many people have been sympathetic to Nicholas Azzoppardi and his family, some believe that it’s no use crying over spilled milk. Nicholas is dead and no inquiry is going to bring him back in this world.

The general reaction to this attitude is that these people are being disrespectful to the Azzoppardi family. They’re right, but there’s more.

People who share this opinion, either have vested interest in the truth not coming out, or happen to be utterly stupid and naïve. This is not just about Nicholas. This is about us.

Though in general I trust Malta’s police force, it’s an undeniable fact that there are bad apples in every institution. If the institution puts its members in a position of power, the risk of having bad apples is higher. To make matters worse, now we even have proof that the person escorting Nicholas was a rotten apple.

The police commissioner can’t be at more than one place at the same time and vouch for all his subordinates. This is why an independent enquiry is needed – he doesn’t know which apples are rotten.

Some day or another someone close to me or even myself can be a Nicholas Azzoppardi. No, it’s not far fetched. These things happen when you least expect them. There are rotten apples in every institution of power all over the world. Some are dealt with effectively, some don’t. And those who don’t (such as in police forces in most South American countries) are all reserved the same fate – the few rotten ones will manage to rot the whole lot.

When Poland was under the Soviets, Trade Unionist Lech Walesa used to greet his fellow Solidarity members with rosary beads in his hands. It wasn’t simply a religious act. It was an act of rebellion. The Soviets had taken all freedoms from the people of this vastly Catholic country including freedom of worship. The Poles were up in arms and the Catholic church was by their side. Rightly so.

Freedom of worship is a fundamental human right and a society that tramples upon it can never claim it’s a democracy.

Unlike the “forced atheism” of the Soviets, Malta is today witnessing a wave of secularism. Believers and non-believers are coming to the rational agreement that freedom of worship should be accompanied by the freedom not to worship. That, within the remit of the law, everyone is free to practice his religion but not to impose it on others.

This change was particularly marked by the divorce referendum, where 53% of the voters, a substantial amount of whom must be Catholics, agreed that if a marriage is over, one should call a spade a spade and declare it over. Whether the former spouse decides to have a new relationship and even get married again or not, is up to him. If he considers that a sin because his Catholic beliefs, he has every right to remain single.

Like always, this created a backlash from fundamentalist Catholics who consider imposing their beliefs a human right. They are even uniting on Facebook in a group they call “The Catholic Vote”. Discussing the usual issues: Divorce, same-sex marriage, abortion, euthanasia, IVF and occasionally even drug legalization. Needless to say, compassion, forgiveness or, horror of horrors, turning the other cheek don’t feature anywhere in the discussions.

I won’t enter the merits of the issues but rather the tactics used to achieve their goals. One of them is lumping all issues together and threatening that if say, a legislation regulating same-sex relations is passed this will pave way for the much more frowned upon abortion. When truth is that there is absolutely nothing in common with these issues except for the fact that the Catholic church opposes them both.

Another tactic is implying that everyone who disagrees with them is a sleazy hedonist, who wants to cheat on his wife and most probably takes drugs!

Then there is the ultimate tactic: Playing the victims. The terms “harassing Christians” and “Christianophobia” are regularly used. Yes, for these fundamentalists, daring to disagree with them is considered as harassment, even hatred.

There will be no mincing of words on this. Unlike Lech Valesa, you don’t have a case. No one is going to take away your religion. Stop playing the victim, grow up and get over it.

Christianophobia may be a reality in Nigeria and Egypt where attending mass might get you bombed but not in Catholic majority Malta. The “secularists” and “humanists” you hate so much, would be the first to defend you if someone tries to forcibly take religion from you.

But it’s not the case. And you know it.