We are going to pay the price for sucking up to a violent madman for 42 years, and serve us bloody well right

Published: February 22, 2011 at 11:02am

The psychopathic Gaddafi – ah, what bliss it is to be able to call things by their real name, for even in Malta we were reduced to self-censorship because of the looming monster 250 miles away – decided to make a brief appearance on Libyan state television at roughly the same time that Cinderella’s carriage should have turned into a pumpkin.

At 1am Malta time he emerged from a rusty Chinese truck, put up an umbrella, and spoke for 22 seconds to a nation shattered by violence, in which he has given orders for the militia to kill his own people.

His words were as crazy as ever: “I am in Tripoli and not in Venezuela. Do not believe the channels belonging to stray dogs.”

That’s it.

Did you hear that demonstrator outside the Libyan Embassy in Attard yesterday? “We should take a cross and stick him to it. Then we should ask the people to come and bring stones and kill him, but small stones so that he will take long to die.”

It was not a savoury sentiment at all, but it gives you some idea of what the Libyan people have had to endure in total silence for four decades that they should have reached that level of hatred and contempt for their oppressor.

What must it have felt like to them, watching European politicians and commercial interests line up to suck up to him and, by doing so, help prop up his regime, while going into business with his sons and his aides?

Don’t expect Libyan people to have any sympathy at all for foreign investors in Libya now. They don’t see it as FDI which brings wealth to the country, because they saw little or none of the benefits. They see it as going into business with the psychopath who treated them like animals and denied them their basic rights and freedoms for four decades.

And with that infamous hindsight, we too can now see the situation clearly for what it was, and perhaps we might have the decency to feel the slightest degree of shame.

33 Comments Comment

  1. el bandido guapo says:

    An anonymous Chinese truck: just the sort of thing you’d choose for discreet transportation. And it looks like it’s parked in some side street.

    No, things aren’t going too well for the self proclaimed king (was it?) of Africa.

  2. maryanne says:

    Has Joseph Muscat lost his voice? Usually he always has something to say about everything and likes to be the first to comment.

    [Daphne – This is why he’s got nothing to say now. http://www.maltatoday.com.mt/news/joseph-muscat/muscat-meets-libyan-leader-in-tripoli
    http://www.maltastar.com/pages/r1/ms10dart.asp?a=11015 ]

    • maryanne says:

      I wonder what his conversations with Sceberras Trigona are like. The latter may still believe that the law against foreign interference is still valid.

    • John Balli says:

      Say what you will about Joseph Muscat’s relations with Gaddafi and his violent regime, but still Lawrence Gonzi would forever be remembered as the last head of state to have held official, bilateral meetings with the much-hated Libyan dictator.

      [Daphne – Yes. It was a terrible error of judgement to go there. I can’t imagine what his advisers were thinking. The progression of events could have been foreseen, whatever people say. It was obvious that Libya would go down next, that Libyan people would be encouraged by their neighbours’ success in deposing Ben Ali and Mubarak. I suspect that our prime minister listened to Maltese businessmen who said that it would never happen in Libya because the situation is ‘different’. That was wishful thinking. The situation is different in Libya because it is worse than that of Tunisia and Egypt, but people are the same everywhere, so commonsense should have told them that Libyans had more incentive, not less, to get rid of their oppressor. It is because Libyans were so terrified of speaking out that the Maltese businessmen in Libya, who mixed mainly with Gaddafi’s people anyway and had no idea how ordinary people felt, got the wrong impression of the situation there.]

      • H.P. Baxxter says:

        Some of these advisors were frequent guests of the Libyan régime, so what do you expect? It had become very fashionable among certain Maltese intellectuals to look down upon anyone criticising Libya as some sort of racist hick. Well there you go now.

  3. R Camilleri says:

    How is it possible that the Vatican has not yet issued a statement condemning the violence in Libya?

    What about the Archbishop here in Malta?

    [Daphne – The only figures who need to make it clear where they stand on violence are those whose position might be in doubt. Priests don’t need to condemn violence because we know where they stand on the matter. However, it would be nice if they brought their voice into the debate, particularly because those being killed are Muslim and a show of solidarity would be encouraging.]

    • Why, please, Daphne? Why exactly “because” they “are Muslim”? Why not “particularly because they are human beings,” created in God’s own image?

      [Daphne – No, because they are Muslim and because the Catholic Church has had a difficulty history with Muslims just as it has had with Jewish people. A message of solidarity from the Vatican in this situation is worth a hundred message of solidarity from Muslim leaders.]

      And, by the way, do you understand Arabic? Do you understand if in the video at http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20110222/local/protesters-turn-to-prayer-and-cry the caller says “America” and what exactly he says about it or rather against it? (Just a slight preoccupation of mine as to what kind of future at least some of those (Muslim men) who pray here in the streets are wishing/fighting for…).

      And, once more “by the way,” did “official Catholics” even express themselves re the recent murder of the Polish priest in Tunisia (murdered as a “Jew”), or even re the mounting Islamist threat against the “real” Jews there? ‘Particularly because they are Jews’?

      And, is there any proof that absolutely no Muslim has been killed by Gaddafis African Janissaries so far?
      Sorry for being emotional.

      [Daphne – I’m sorry, but I don’t understand your point. It’s quite obvious that the only people being killed in Libya are Muslim, because they are Libyan.]

      • Ooops! That little accident must have happened while I was re-editing my comment. Of course I meant to say “no non-Muslim”, i.e. no Christian, no Atheist, no Jew, no Buddhist or Hindu either. I had already been quite sure that Libya is “judenrein,” of course. But I didn’t know yet that, for instance, there is no Libyan Christian or Lybian Atheist nowhere in the whole world to be found.
        As far as non-Libyans currently staying in Libya are concerned, you may be right, too. Indeed I have just read at Serbianna that “[s]ome 50 Serbs have been attacked and robbed by armed Libyans,” but that their oil firm “claims that all of them are alive.”
        The Serbs reportedly wrote in an email, ‘We don’t have arms, and we expect soon another attack, to come back and take what they didn’t.” So Christians might only be robbed at the time and not killed, by whomever, in Libya. Well then, maybe even only that would already well be worth a message of solidarity by the Vatican to the protesters!

      • Daphne, the “difficulty [!] history”, as your euphemism goes, the Vatican or the Catholics or the Christians have with the Muslims is still in process, in Lebanon, in the PA, in Turkey, in Iran, and in numerous other Muslim countries in the world; they are being slaughtered, driven out, stoned, and the Vatican does not say that much even about that, perhaps in part because that could cause much more of that butchering in the name of the religion of peace, also in Europe. And the Vatican is not an NGO, it cannot easily issue statements of solidarity with people of whom it only knows that some of them state that Gaddafi should die on a cross while being stoned and that his agony should take a long long time. The Pope is a Christian, as far as I know.

  4. S Azzopardi says:


    [Daphne – Talk about a massive failure of diplomatic intelligence! It is astonishing that, despite all our people on the ground in Libya, nobody saw this coming.]

  5. Macduff says:

    Labour haunting us from the past, again.

    It was Mintoff who handed over the whole Libyan flight information region, bar Tripoli and Benghazi, to Gaddafi in the early seventies. And it was that other madman, Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici, who alerted Gaddafi of the impending American strike on Tripoli in 1986.

    Look what it has it come to: Lord David Owen suggesting a closing down of the Libyan airspace, put in effect by NATO operating from Cyprus, Italy and “other countries”.

  6. Maria says:

    Well, maybe Joseph Muscat could give our dear prime minister a few ideas of how to tackle such a delicate situation. One wonders where he together with most of our MPs are at this moment in time. It seems that two of them were only bothered about their mobile phones. What a sad story!

    [Daphne – The use of the word ‘delicate’ is completely inappropriate in this situation, which is not delicate at all. The Maltese use ‘delikat’ to mean risky and highly charged. But English uses ‘delicate’ to describe situations like how best to break it to somebody that the man she thinks is her father isn’t really.]

  7. Alan says:

    Daphne, I disagree with you totally on your post title.

    Once this is over, if and when it gets to be over, the only groups who are going to feel the repercussions will be the locals who were the regime’s blue-eyed boys and got rich in the process.

    Foreign companies and their respective nations doing business in Libya does not make them active regime supporters.

    It is the way of the world – business will remain business.

    I do not wish to make this post lengthy, but I will sum it up with only one example of many others. There have been far worse dictators in South America for the past 150 years.

    Do you think that once some of those countries reached a (sort of) democratic state of affairs, they refused to do business with foreign companies and countries who had done so during violent dictatorships ?

    Nope – it was business as usual.

    C’est la vie.

    [Daphne – The situation is rather different, Alan. Libya was a pariah at the feet of multifarious states. South American dictatorships have very few neighbours. Europe took a conscious choice to collude and to ignore what was going on, some states – including Malta, Italy and Tony Blair’s UK – to a much greater extent than others. Italy wasn’t always that way, which is why we grew up with the insult ringing in our ears ‘Malta, la valletta (a word they used instead of whore) di Gaddafi’. It cannot possibly be business as usual for the people involved for the simple reason that it was impossible to do business in Libya unless you entered into partnership with members of Gaddafi’s family (his son Saif Al Islam, for instance) or his closest aides. It is precisely that which made them supporters of the regime. Operating under Gaddafi is one thing. Going into business with Saif Al Islam Gaddafi is another. There are going to have to be big changes. As for Malta, we are in a very difficult position. We distanced ourselves temporarily from Libya so as to gain ‘permission’ to join the European Union. Safely in, we began our courting and sucking up once more. We have compromised our integrity and if we rush to do the same thing with Gaddafi’s successor/s, this will ironically only serve to compromise that integrity, or what remains of it, even further. For then we shall truly deserve the accusation that we are ‘whores’. The BBC went to town over the last few days showing film footage of Tony Blair embracing Gaddafi and beaming with pleasure as a BP oil deal was signed, and then following it with footage of David Cameron (on the side of righteousness) visiting Tahrir Square now.]

    • David Buttigieg says:

      David Cameron, to his credit, condemned the violence from the centre of another (let’s face it) regime, the Kuwaiti parliament.


    • Joseph A Borg says:

      Gaddafi used Italy’s colonial invasion to legitimise his rule. I doubt the Italians would have gained any business publicly.

      ENI is in Nigeria with the other oil companies raping the Niger Delta and the people living there. The delta suffers bigger spills than what happened in the gulf with nary a peep in the media.

      The big trouble for corporations, will be the reparations they will have to make for the ecological mess they have been leaving behind.

      • Steve Forster says:

        Give me an example of this please. I work for ENI in HSE and would love your input and in-depth knowledge on “raping the Delta” oilspills and all, plus the cause and effect as it relates to ENI negligence as you accuse in Nigeria.

    • snoopy says:

      Just to put everything in its perspective, other EU countries have invested heavily in Libya since 2008. Not least the UK with an estimated £1.5 billion a year worth of business with Libya, soaring exports (it increased by over 50% between 2008 and 2009) and more than 150 UK-based companies that operate in the country.

      In 2007, BP signed an oil exploration deal worth around £550 million. Libya produces around 1.7 million barrels of oil a day making one of Africa’s largest oil producers and is Europe’s single biggest supplier.

      In addition, 8000 Libyans are currently studying at UK universities, 5,000 of them with Libyan-funded (regime) scholarships, and over 4,000 Libyan doctors are either working or training in the UK.

      This is similar to the situation with China – everyone would like to see an increase in democracy in China but at the same time, everyone is looking at the investment opportunities with China. Same with Russia.

      Unfortunately, this is the real world where idealism has disappeared and everything revolves around money and business.

      Having said that, my major worries at the moment are my Libyan friends who were either fellow postgrad students or my own students, as I know that these were quite anti-Ghadafi and I have had no news from them in the past few days. I just hope that everything is fine wth them and their families.

  8. Manuel Camilleri says:

    What about a statement from KMB? He is a close friend of this dictator and sucks up to him when the time comes to distribute the Gaddafi Peace Prize. This ‘hbiberija zejda’ was always on Mintoff’s and KMB’s agenda and no wonder Muscat is mum on the goings-on in Libya.

  9. Herbie says:

    Helping him amass a personal fortune of $75 billion.

  10. el bandido guapo says:

    Sentiment will undoubtedly be mixed. At this time however it will go your way. I’d definitely be quaking in my boots if I had any Libyan investments.

    But business will be business, “opportunity” and “opportunism” are bedfellows, and furthermore, when a country advances (through employment and wealth, i.e. business) it’s people start to demand more freedoms, so dealing with the devil can get the devil himself out of a job.

    A Trojan horse for regimes around the world.

    Not very well written (I’m hungry!) but there you have it.

  11. Hot Mama says:

    “And here, just to lock our minds on to the brain of truly eccentric desire, is a true story.

    Only a few days ago, as Colonel Muammar Gaddafi faced the wrath of his own people, he met with an old Arab acquaintance and spent 20 minutes out of four hours asking him if he knew of a good surgeon to lift his face.

    This is – need I say it about this man? – a true story. The old boy looked bad, sagging face, bloated, simply “magnoon” (mad), a comedy actor who had turned to serious tragedy in his last days, desperate for the last make-up lady, the final knock on the theatre door.

    Robert Fisk”

    Read it here:


    • Hot Mama says:

      In my humble opinion, no one can hold a candle to Robert Fisk as the best foreign correspondent for the Middle East. Karl Stagno Navarra tried some warbling on his former bolt hole Al Jazeera last night but he was all ‘posh’ accent and no substance.

      [Daphne – Fake, not posh.]

  12. Etil says:

    Why is it just Malta which is going to pay the price for sucking up to Gaddafi?

    [Daphne – Did I say ‘just Malta’? I didn’t.]
    Other European countries have done practically the same, so what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, although certainly this does not mean that sucking up to dictators is right. I would have liked no country, Malta included, to back dictators but there you have it, because of business interests…

  13. Antoine Vella says:

    Another vicious dictatorship we’re courting is China. It appears stable and strong at the moment but will one day end up like Libya – all totalitarian regimes break down, sooner or later.

    We should at least learn something from events in the Arab world and keep our distance from similar – or worse – regimes.

  14. TROY says:

    KMB should take his Gaddafi medal for human rights and shove it up his………

  15. Another John says:

    I hope that now, with things turning sour, Maltese businessmen who have interests in Libya do not have the gall to turn to the Maltese government (ie the Maltese peoples’ pockets) to ask for compensation for ‘losses’.

    Besides, once the turmoil is (hopefully soon) over, these same Maltese businessmen would be in a uniquely advantageous position in the new Libya.

    If things go well (again hopefully soon), it would be the turn of the new authorities in Libya to suck up to foreign businesses to help create jobs and a normal life to Libyans. The oil wealth cannot last forever and cannot provide for all the needs of every Libyan.

  16. Gerald says:

    The Maltese government is obviously caught between a rock and a hard place. Seeing the GRTU’s attitude to the crisis is rather alarming also: money before human lives.

  17. Angus Black says:

    ‘Sucking up for 42 years” is a simplistic way to describe Malta’s relationship with Gaddafi’s Libya.

    If any sucking up took place, it was a long time ago and which set the scenario for today’s dilemma faced by the government.

    Keeping in mind that there are several hundred Libyan firms/businesses etc. registered with MFSA and 300 Maltese citizens earning their daily bread in Libya, it is not that easy to outrightly point accusing fingers at Gaddafi without putting our own citizens and trade relations in extreme jeopardy.

    Diplomacy sometimes wins over knee jerk reactions such as suggesting that out of other countries’ turmoil, Malta stands to gain. Indeed the events in Libya proved how ill thought such a statement was.

    With regard to Dr. Gonzi being remembered as one of the last statesmen visiting Gaddafi just prior to the fatal protests by Libyans, I would challenge anyone to categorally state that they anticipated these events. If they did, why did they stay silent?

    [Daphne – I anticipated them, Angus, and I am just a columnist with a blog. The unrest in Benghazi had begun already when our prime minister visited. The Foreign Office, diplomats and advisers exist for just this sort of reason, among others: to apprise their political bosses of situations and advise them as to whether certain action is advisable or inadvisable. Look at the US Wikileaks cables – do you honestly think our diplomats are gathering or communicating that level of detailed information, with such insight into the characters and personalities of those they meet?]

    Not the CIA, not British intelligence anticipated Tunesia and Egypt and much less Libya, so why expect Malta with its limited Security Intelligence to be in a position to advise the Prime Minister that his pending visit would be inopportune?


    Was Lawrence Gonzi not one of the first to condemn the violent way the protesters were treated? If my memory serves me right, the PM’s statement came before any significant condemnation came from the US State Department or from official British sources.

    [Daphne – 1. He didn’t condemn the way the protestors were ‘treated’. He condemned ‘violence’. 2. The prime minister did not issue a statement. He answered a reporter’s question in passing when he passed by on the steps to his office. The first to condemn the violence in a specific and direct way was British foreign secretary William Hague, and that’s from a country with gadzillions invested in Libya and thousands of British subjects still trapped in the country when the statement was made.]

    Joseph’s wish may come woefully true and he did not have to establish a travel agency in Libya in order to attract ‘tourists’ to Malta. He is currently sheltered under a rock where he feels comfortable and away from public scrutiny.

  18. Gerald says:

    European nations considering sanctions against Libya are being blocked by states including Italy and Malta, diplomatic sources have told AFP. What about this for cowardice?

  19. Angus Black says:

    Just for the sake of discussion (not argument), may I concede that you, Daphne, as a private citizen (not a politician), ‘anticipated’ the events which are unfolding in Libya. You are an intelligent person who happens to have an anticipatory perception which diplomats, advisors do not seem to have – and I grant you that too.

    [Daphne – No, Angus, I just have insight into human nature, common sense and – this is the most important bit – the Libyans I know are not friends of Gaddafi or part of his regime. I didn’t need hindsight to work out that once Egypt and Tunisia ‘went down’, Libya would be next. I knew that Gaddafi was absolutely detested and that his people lived in the sort of fear that Egyptians and Tunisians could only imagine (and that’s saying something), and that basic human psychology would see this as their now-or-never chance to get shot of him.]

    Then how come the ‘trained professionals’ from Britain, the USA and others did not order their citizens out of Tunesia, Egypt and Libya mere days before the protesters hit the streets? Many had predicted a domino effect once the s**t hit the fan in Tunesia, but who next? When? So now, who follows Libya? Bahrein? Algiers? When?

    [Daphne – Because they kept hoping it wouldn’t happen, as they had too much invested. What is it called in economy theory – loss aversion? Yes, I think that’s it. When you don’t have much to lose, you cut those few losses and run. But when you stand to lose millions, you stay on and hope for the best. You even delude yourself into thinking that it can never happen.]

    No, Gonzi did not condemn the treatment of those protesting in the streets! Would he have had reason or even bothered, had the ‘treatment’ not been violent or worse, deadly?

    The British, Americans and others can afford to denounce in strong terms because they have ‘gadzillions invested in Libya’ although I suspect that the other reasons include the thirst of Libyan oil and enough power to wipe the smirk off Gadafi’s face, once and for all – at least even a little stronger taste of Reagan’s limited solution!

    [Daphne – I don’t agree with you. It’s the other way round. Britain and America have been harsh in their criticism DESPITE having thousands of their citizens still in Libya and billions invested there. Now look to Malta, where people are saying: Ah, but the government can’t afford to be forthright because Maltese businesses have investments there and there are still Maltese workers in Libya.]

    Let’s face it, during the 42 years of Gadafi’s reign, he did a lot of horrible things to his own people, implicated others in acts of terrorism which he authored or abetted himself and no one raised a finger.

    Maybe little Malta whose AFs have just been strengthened by two French fighters and two helicopters may hire the Libyan pilots (on a contract basis) and send them out to finish off Gadafi and liberate Libya.

    [Daphne – You know, I was just thinking that this afternoon. But then the other 450 would be here in 10 minutes and wipe us out.]

    Can you imagine how many brownie points Malta will earn with the USA and Britain?

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