Opinion Giselle Scicluna
It’s been one hell of a long, hot summer on this sweltering rock. But at least entertainment has come hard and fast, proving a distraction from a host of mini-catastrophes which afflict us every silly season; slimy seawater, sunbathing on public landmarks, skinny dipping in public beaches, gang warfare in our designated ‘ghettos’… you name it, we’ve been there, done that and got the t-shirt.
But the continuing saga that has set our collective imagination on fire is unquestionably the makeshift ‘shrine’ to murdered blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia. Set up by her legion of followers beneath the Great Siege Monument in Valletta, it is turning out to be as divisive as the woman herself.
Since her untimely and tragic demise, I have consistently refrained from commenting on what the woman represented, because until now, I, unlike her, consider it bad form to speak ill of the dead. However, this rabid drive by her fans to elevate her to some form of perverse sainthood has gone way beyond the absurd.
So, to the ‘shrine’… A shrine to a woman whose poison pen reached far and wide, wreaking so much havoc in ordinary people’s lives. A woman who purported to be the ‘champion’ of freedom of speech yet undermined her own credibility each time she dragged another unsuspecting family through the mud, for the delectation of her horrible and perverted fan base. A woman who was fêted for telling it like it is (or not) yet spinning tales and running with an iota of truth and inflating it beyond recognition was her particular specialty. A woman, who time and a magisterial inquiry has proved to be an extraordinary liar of unprecedented proportions.
Yet we are expected to worship at her shrine. To simply look the other way when one of our finest monuments dedicated to our brave ancestors, is sullied by the memory of a woman who hated at the very least half of the country’s population with a zealous passion. And yes, whichever way you look at it, hatred and vitriol she did well.
No matter how eloquently wrapped up in fine English, her infamous blogs are Daphne Caruana Galizia’s real monument; forever representing her vicious mindset towards anything or anyone who had, in her classist view, anything to do with the Labour Party. These second-class citizens, the great unwashed, the ‘hamalli’, she ranted; this portion of the population could do no right, ever.
And still the bouquets and candles keep turning up. Until one fine day, the Honourable Minister decides that restoration of the Great Siege monument is well overdue… And inevitably, as is wont on this hallowed rock, all hell breaks loose. A couple of avid followers, now no longer satiated by their daily dose of evil rantings, set about their usual pilgrimage to the monument which they discover is now a no-go zone. But not all is lost! Instead, we now must contend with mini-shrines sprouting all over the island. How absurd!
The Workers monument in Msida? Daphne’s portrait stuck to a monument representing the working classes she so loathed? Oh! The irony! The Freedom monument in Birgu? Oh! How she would have relished being enshrined in a place I doubt she ever visited in her lifetime. A location where the loathed ‘hamalli’ of her blogs lived and thrived. How she would have loved being stuck to a structure which so represented her nemesis Dom Mintoff and all that he stood for. Oh! The delicious irony of it all!
Her followers reiterate that they ‘will not be silenced’. Of course not. Despite their deluded rantings of Malta being a ‘mafia state’, it is still a free country and worshipping of a fake idol is still not illegal. Despite numerous vociferous protestations, our rule of law is still functioning, thank you very much, so anyone and everyone is free to express themselves however they so wish. But! Freedom of speech is not exclusive to Daphne’s ‘chosen people’, so if her makeshift ‘shrine’ is offensive to those who do not believe she was Malta’s unique Veronica Geurin, then, they too have a right to vociferously air their views.
It is a tragedy that she had to meet such a bitter end; no wife, mother or daughter should ever have to meet that kind of fate. That said, no matter how many words are written and how many eulogies are ranted, in my eyes she will remain the one who, no man, woman or child should ever aspire to be, let alone idolise. Yes, Daphne Caruana Galizia will rest in peace, but it is now also time to lay her dubious legacy to rest.