Seizing the day

Published: March 27, 2011 at 11:24am

He's Malta's problem, too - and we should be seizing the day to get rid of him.

The prime minister acknowledged in an interview on Radio 101 that his government’s stance on Libya is an unpopular one. Perhaps he should have been a little more specific: it is not generally unpopular, for Labour supporters appear to love it, and so do many of those who voted for Lawrence Gonzi.

It appeals to a certain xenophobic mindset and fits with the general attitude of disengagement and isolation so common among those who support the Labour Party.

And in the Nationalist Party, it has brought to the fore that slow-burning anti-British sentiment that never really went away.

There’s no mistaking it.

What the prime minister meant to say, I suspect, is that his government’s decisions on Libya have proved unpopular with many of those who voted for him, but who are not handicapped in their thinking by historical resentment towards the British. For we forget, don’t we, that it is the Nationalist Party which is the historic enemy of the British, and not the Labour Party, which entered that particular fray as late as the 1970s and only because Mintoff felt rejected by Britain.

It is true that I am the most vocal example – by dint of my work, which is to write about such things – but then I rarely speak in a vacuum. People who vote Nationalist tend to have a completely different outlook on life to those who vote Labour, and that outlook does not involve ‘what does it have to do with us’, ‘what do you mean, principles’ and ‘let’s stay out of it’. It certainly does not glorify neutrality, something we associate with Dom Mintoff and Gaddafi, despite the Nationalist Party having voted for it too in that constitutional trade-off after 1981.

Some of the prime minister’s supporters have accepted with alacrity the new reason he gave, in the flood of opprobrium after his ‘neutrality’ talk, for not offering Malta’s services as a military base: that the airport is too small and we have but one. They clutched at it eagerly, despite there being no statement from the company which runs the airport or from the head of our armed forces, because talk of neutrality embarrassed them. And also, of course, though we’re not allowed to say this, because they still despise the ‘English’.

Neutrality = Mintoff = Gaddafi in the minds of people like me. And in the minds of some of us, but not me, military base = RAF = the ‘English’ = the coloniser = the old political tensions = how dare they ‘try to use us’.

Either way, we are left with the distinct impression that a decision was taken at the outset that Malta is not to get involved, for reasons that are being kept from us, and that the government is now making up its explanations on the hoof, hence the inherent contradictions.

On the radio yesterday, the prime minister equated ‘military base’ with ‘airbase’ when the term ‘military bae’ is much wider than that. He went on at length about why our civilian airport cannot be used by military planes for attack, though the same military planes are welcome to use it for ‘humanitarian exercises’. But when a reporter rang his office to ask about naval use of the Grand Harbour, he got no joy.

Our annoyance at the prime minister’s churlish refusal to cooperate goes deeper than logistics, however. Many of the prime minister’s supporters, because of their political beliefs, have never regarded Muammar Gaddafi as anything other than a terrorist and an oppressor of his people. We even regard him as an oppressor of Malta, because many of us grew up with the real sense that he was puppet-master to our prime ministers Dom Mintoff and Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici.

I was only 14 at the time, but I can remember vividly the fear when the British left 32 years ago this week that Gaddafi would take over and Malta become a satellite state of Libya. Those fears were sharpened when Gaddafi flew to Malta to stand by Mintoff’s side as the Union flag went down for good on the island, and they were well founded.

If you vote Nationalist, the likelihood is that you despise Gaddafi and his regime – unless, of course, you felt it necessary to tolerate him so as to do a spot of business or, like EU Commissioner John Dalli, you got to know Gaddafi and his henchmen so well that you were able to open a Tripoli-based consultancy taking payment to open doors for others.

Politicians like the prime minister and his foreign minister are unable to understand just how much the people who voted for them despise Muammar Gaddafi and all that is associated with him because, for all these years of government, they have been forced into a relationship with him and have ended up embracing that relationship with enthusiasm.

They went from shaking his hand to hugging him. That must have demanded a certain amount of accommodation of their conscience and principles, but the mind works to allow that sort of thing to happen. Needs must when the devil drives – that sort of thing.

But Dr Gonzi’s supporters, unlike Dr Gonzi himself, have not changed their view of Muammar Gaddafi since the 1970s, when he used to bully Dom Mintoff, give him cash hand-outs and speak at Labour mass meetings. So we cannot understand the prime minister’s reluctance to help zap him out of existence now.

The way we see it, we should not only be joining in with our mosquito’s worth, but we should be doing so with cathartic zeal: “Take that. And that. And that again.”

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to Dr Gonzi and Tonio Borg, if they care to remember that Muammar Gaddafi was the devil incarnate to all those of us who were opposed to Mintoff and Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici and who haven’t, unlike our political leaders, changed our minds since 1987.

Every one of those 170-plus Tomahawk missiles was met with a silent cheer in Maltese households. If we get the much-awaited news that one of them has finally landed on Gaddafi’s rooftop and blown him to kingdom come, the champagne corks will be popping all over the island. It may not be very Christian, but we’re not playing games of ‘let’s pretend’.

Gaddafi has been a threat to Malta and a great impediment to the furtherance of the so-called national interest for the last four decades. The way people like me look at it, this is the very reason Malta should embrace with everything it has got the coordinated effort to blow him out of existence. High-flown arguments about principles and morality aside, we should do this because it pays us to do it. It is in our national interest to get rid of him and to start afresh without him.

Those who say otherwise are short-termist in their thinking. Malta stands to gain far more in the long term by having him wiped out than it stands to lose in the short or medium term. It stands to gain more by getting rid of him than it could ever have gained had none of this happened.

By saying that Malta will not get involved, the prime minister and his foreign minister suggest that to them it makes no effective difference whether Gaddafi stays or goes, because the outcome will be the same for Malta. If they acknowledge that getting rid of Gaddafi is the best option for Malta, then they cannot continue to say that Malta will keep out of it because it is not our battle. And that is why neither of them has given a straight answer to the simple question of whether they believe Malta – not Libya – will be better off without Gaddafi.

The ‘fear of reprisal’ excuse can be similarly demolished. To many of those who voted for Lawrence Gonzi to become prime minister, myself included, the way to deal with a constant threat is not to appease it, keep out of its way or try to neutralise it by playing nice. That is Labour thinking, because the core Labour vote still has the mindset of southern Mediterranean peasants and serfs.

First you stand up to it and then, when you can, you simply eliminate it. Eliminating Muammar Gaddafi was not possible in these last 42 years. When Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher tried their hand at it in 1986 in response to his acts of terrorism, the leaders of Malta and Italy vied for the privilege of being the first to warn him of US bombers travelling through our airspace and heading his way.

But now that the Libyan people themselves have risen up with the single goal of getting Gaddafi out – a euphemism for killing him with the same relish that the Romanians killed Ceaucescu and the Italians killed Mussolini – sensible countries like Britain, the United States and France have seized the day.

David Cameron’s thinking on the matter can be boiled down to its essence: “Now’s our chance.” To say that it is about oil, as the unthinking do, is to miss the point. It is not about oil. It is about eliminating, once and for all, a dangerous and long-standing threat.

The mistake Malta makes is to claim special ‘endangered status’ because of geographical proximity, when the remoteness from Libya of the United States and Britain did not spare them. Gaddafi funded the Irish Republic Army throughout those terrible years in the 1970s and early 1980s when every week seemed to bring a fresh bomb attack in Northern Ireland and England. And when he blew up an American passenger plane, he did so over Scotland.

Kenneth Clarke, the Lord Chancellor, has given an interview to The Guardian in which he suggests that the end-game is to eliminate the threat called Muammar Gaddafi – though he says ‘depose’ rather than ‘kill’.

“The British people have reason to remember the curse of Gaddafi – Gaddafi back in power, the old Gaddafi looking for revenge, we have a real interest in preventing that,” he said. The UN Security Council resolution does not support regime change, but the Lord Chancellor’s remarks make it quite obvious that the British government understands it has a “direct security interest” in removing him.

Malta shares that exact same interest, and the sooner we stop pretending to ourselves that we don’t know this, the better for us all.

This article is published in The Malta Independent on Sunday today.

54 Comments Comment

  1. red nose says:

    Daphne – I do not think that you are still enamoured to the Constitutional Party of Mabel Strickland. I cannot see any connexion between “anti-Britishism” and today’s Nationalist Party. I think that Cameron knows that Gonzi is a “friend”.

    [Daphne – I never was. It was way before my time. I merely observed that those Nationalist Party supporters whom I know personally, and who repeat what Gonzi says about the airport with a certain ferocity, also have a tendency to be anti-British which is the result of having grown up in fervently pro-PN families at a time when being pro-PN meant being scathing about anything ‘English’. I don’t think it’s a coincidence.]

    • Antoine Vella says:

      Red nose, I think Daphne may also be referring to people like Tonio Borg.

      [Daphne – Certainly.]

      • H.P. Baxxter says:

        And Ugo Mifsud Bonnici. Which is the ultimate irony because his family rose to prominence through Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici’s service in the government. Of Malta. Under the British. When the Maltese were oppressed and could only become peasants or dockyard workers. Yeah right.

    • .Angus Black says:

      Daphne, you are stereotyping and you could not possibly be more wrong!

      [Daphne – I live here in Malta, Angus.]

      • H.P. Baxxter says:

        She’s right though. We despiseour greatest benefactors and suck up to countries who’ve done next to nothing for us at best.

        The UK, which taught us parliamentary democracy: “L-Inglizi imperjalisti”, conspiracy theories about the Falklands (closet fantasies over them losing that war) and so on.

        France, which pushed for our EU membership: Dawk snobs, Sarkozy l-womaniser, Algeria etc etc

        Russia, which provides free of charge adverts through blockbusters like ‘Russian Transporter in Malta’: “Qhab Russi, mafia, Putin korruzzjoni, etc”

        Germany, without whose industry we’d be screwed: Il-Germanizi li bbumbardjawna, Hitler, Sieg Heil, turisti qniezah, etc.

        Compare with:

        Italy, which really did bomb us to shit during the Second World War: Ah! Ahna kulturalment Taljani! Nies il-veru friendly!

        Libya, about which the less said the better: “Tipprovdi l-hobz ghal eluf ta’ haddiema Maltin u Ghawdxin.”

  2. Sue Mercieca says:

    Well said. I must confess I too have been perplexed as to the whys of the current government’s decision in the issue. Money talks perhaps.

    • Bus Driver says:

      Sue, this time round money is not so much talking, as exerting a great degree of pressure invisibly and in silence.

      Publication of the list of Gaddafi assets frozen in Malta could, however, tell us a lot.

      X’tahseb, Ton?

  3. Dee says:

    For a Muslim woman to admit to the whole world that she has been raped, and several times over, is the height of bravery. Rape is the height of dishonour.

    The same goes for being restrained by those men. Men do not touch women to whom they are not related.

    One wonders what has happened to this poor woman since yesterday.

  4. Dee says:

    During the Mintoff and KMB years when Malta was so buddy-buddy with Gaddafi, allowing him build institutions on our soil backed by his money, Gaddafi was known to be funding major terrorist activities taking place all over the world, thousands of miles away from Libya or the immediate neighbourhood and repressing and subjugating his own people in the most brutal way. People in Malta then may have been excused from being unaware of the true nature of this dictator.

    Xandir Malta-controlled news programmes were always heavily censored, there was no cable TV or internet. This is not the case nowadays. The pro-Gaddafi Maltese have no excuse now not to be fully aware of the sort of monster they have been and are still supporting.

    Appeasing the monster is nothing short of feeding the creature in the hope that you will be the last one he will maul and then gobble up.

  5. Frank says:

    Meanwhile the pope is pleading for a ceasefire.

    • yor says:

      A ceasefire will allow Gaddafi and co to reorganise, hunker down and plan merry murder for the future. The rebellion has begun, there is no place for half measures.

      It has to carry on to its bloody end. The rebels have been murdered and enslaved in their own country so they have every right to seek their own finale. It will not be an easy ending for some.

  6. Rita says:

    Please watch RAI Uno now.

    [Daphne – What did I miss?]

  7. P Shaw says:

    I am watching Domenica In on Rai Uno. They are discussing the situation in Libya as well as the refugee crisis in Lampedusa.

    The presenter (Massimo Giletti) and one of the guest speakers (Vittorio Sgarbi) are spitting blood about Malta, due to (i) not participating in the Libyan intervention by opening its bases, and (ii) absence of refugees landing in Malta.

    I am not familiar with the facts, but these are claiming (very angrily) that Maltese are shooting towards any approaching refugee boat, and hence all boats (with Tunisian refugees) sail towards Lampedusa.

    I also read an article in a US newspaper, a few days ago. One of the mayors in Lampedusa was interviewed and made the same assertion about Malta.

    • MikeC says:

      I think he should be reminded that the last time we were shooting at boats in our territorial waters they were full of Italian Fascists. Perhaps he would care to go on a diving tour of the wrecks?

      [Daphne – U dak Sgarbi f’xi dublett biss jifhem. You can’t take him seriously.]

    • Bus Driver says:

      The reason boats leaving Tunisia with refugees head for and land in Lampedusa rather than Malta is geographical, as even a cursory look at a map of the area will show.

      When refugees were departing from the Libyan coast towards Sicily, again for purely geographical reasons, a good number mistakenly ended up in Malta.

      The Sgarbi guy just likes to hog the limelight, even to the detriment of innocent parties.

      • Edward Caruana Galizia says:

        The guy hosting the show seems to be just another bigot in a suit who thinks he can bully perfectly honest people around. He doesn’t even let people finish what they are saying. What a coward!

    • El Topo says:

      Italians don’t shoot at migrants. They shoot at Italians.

  8. Erable says:

    Brava. You’ve summed it up perfectly.

  9. Edward Caruana Galizia says:

    There is no way Gaddafi will bomb Malta. If he does, he will have the entire EU slamming down on him. I’m sure he knows this. So I don’t know what people are afraid of.

    In fact, when they start listing their reasons I find it difficult to believe them.

    [Daphne – He has nothing left to bomb Malta with by now anyway.]

    Malta shouldn’t stay out of anything. We should stand shoulder to shoulder with our European friends against oppression and tyranny and protect the rights of others. Why aren’t we doing that?

    • John Schembri says:

      “He has nothing left to bomb Malta with by now anyway.”

      Daphne, in war the first casualty is truth.

      No one knows exactly what he has left in his arsenal. He bought armaments from everywhere. How many Scud missiles did he buy?

      Just before the UN resolution, big Russian transport planes Antonovs travelled from Ukraine to Libya. By any chance do you know what the cargo was?

      [Daphne – No, but doubtless the French, the Americans and the British do. And it hasn’t stopped them attacking him. A Scud missile will not reach Britain, but as Gaddafi has shown us already, bombs on the ground or up in the air do. How have we earned the right to do nothing while others get rid of him for us? And why should we take it for granted that others will risk their lives on our behalf while we roll over and play dead?]

      • John Schembri says:

        A Scud missile will not reach Britain, but it will surely reach Malta.
        We’re told that Libya has the Scud B missile and we are within range.

        NATO codename Scud-A Scud-B Scud-C Scud-D
        U.S. DIA SS-1b SS-1c SS-1d SS-1e
        Official designation R-11 R-17/R-300
        Deployment Date 1957 1964 1965? 1989?
        Length 10.7 m 11.25 m 11.25 m 12.29 m
        Width 0.88 m 0.88 m 0.88 m 0.88 m
        Launch weight 4,400 kg 5,900 kg 6,400 kg 6,500 kg
        Range 180 km 300 km 550 km 300 km
        Payload 950 kg 985 kg 600 kg 985 kg
        Accuracy (CEP) 3000 m 450 m 700 m 50 m

        [Daphne – Mohh l-iScud missiles ghal Malta ghandhom, John. Malta l’ombelico del mondo. Il-vera kaz. So what are we saying here exactly? “Go and get rid of him for us while we pretend to be his friends?” So Maltese.]

      • .Angus Black says:

        Truth be told, ‘others are risking their lives’ not for our sake but for their interests.

        It just happens it suits us fine.

        [Daphne – Angus, you make me mad. They are risking their lives for their interests AND OURS. Here is Liam Fox, answering the most unbelievable question from a Maltese reporter:

        Q. If Mr Gaddafi remains in power long term, would the British government be able to re-establish relations with the regime?

        “Our aim is very clear, which is to isolate and hasten the removal of the Gaddafi regime and move to more representative government. That will continue to be the aim of our policy. The quicker Colonel Gaddafi goes, the better – for Libya, for the Libyan people, and for Europe.” ]

      • John Schembri says:

        Daphne look at the amount of people from Britain and the other countries who were working there and you will realise where the interests lie.

        America and Britain are grabbing the occasion to get rid of Gaddafi the Lockerbie Terrorist and the IRA sponsor.

        Would they have done this for us? Are they going to do the same in Syria, Yemen or Saudi?

        British, French and American companies have interests in Libya, they cannot just stand there watching ‘their’ assets disappear.

        We just eat the breadcrumbs which fall from the table , like we always did.

        [Daphne – You are absolutely contradicting yourself, John. Contradicting yourself and proving several of my points, including the one where I said that most of the opposition to Malta to offering help to the coalition comes from people with an innate anti-British ‘feeling’, because of the political history of their families, starting most conspicuously with our foreign minister, unfortunately. Remarks like your last line here are very revealing; they show what people truly think and why they think it.

        On the one hand you say that Malta should hold back and do nothing because of Maltese interests in Libya. Then on the other hand you say that Britain, France and so on attacked BECAUSE they have interests in Libya. Using your original argument, Britain and France should have stood back and said they wouldn’t do anything because they didn’t want Gaddafi to retaliate against BP/not buy any more weapons/etc. I don’t think you get the fact that the national interest they talk about is a lot wider than that and encompasses our national interest too: Gaddafi is a destabilising threat, has been a destabilising threat for 40 years, nothing could be done about him before now (thanks to KMB), but now that his own people have risen up against him, it is crucial to seize the day. If you stopped to think beyond your narrow focus, you would see that ‘the Lockerbie terrorist’ is not a threat only for Britain, or for America, that he is a threat also for Malta, which is why our prime minister is still afraid of him and was still taking his emissaries’ calls until last week.

        Above all, remember this: the enemy of my enemy is my friend. So even if you were raised in an anti-British family that saw the coloniser as the ‘hakkiem’ who dropped crumbs from ‘his table’ (and just imagine what life would have been like for a nation of serfs and peasants struggling for survival on a barren rock if the British had not been here at all – we would have ended up eating each other, not crumbs) you should be able to drop that prejudice now and say ‘Fantastic job – how can we help you get rid of the bastard?’

        As for Yehmen and Syria, that argument has been more than adequately addressed several times over in the international press, but let’s boil it down to its essence as David Cameron did: your reasoning belongs to the ‘why should I tidy my bedroom when the rest of the world is in such a mess’ school of thought. Also, there is no national interest involved in those two countries – not for Britain, and not for Malta. If you are going to justify use of millions of pounds of your taxpayers’ money every day in an exercise like this and in very troubled times at home, you must have a national interest argument, and a strong one at that. But of course, people like you – and I don’t mean that offensively, but as a description of a particular Maltese mindset, think that it is all right for those ‘who can afford’ to spend their money doing Malta’s work while ‘poor little Malta’ sits back and takes advantage of the situation and of the tax money earned by the British and the French.]

  10. Farrugia says:

    Our politicians’ engagement with Libya IS linked to oil, not Libya’s oil (the most obvious suspect) but OUR oil, that is the oil we were never allowed to extract, because of Gaddafi’s bullying.

    I wonder how Gaddafi ‘persuaded’ our politicians to give up on oil exploration.

    Significant are George Pullicino’s reticent responses to questions in parliament linked to oil exploration and Malta’s continental shelf in recent months (end 2010). His overall response was that everything is confidential and that everything is under negotiation.

    Incredibly, he would not even specify the geographical extent of Malta’s maritime boundary even though every nation on this Earth would make such claims (whether recognised or not by the international community) clear to everyone.

  11. ciccio2011 says:

    Daphne, maybe we should campaign to have Parliament reconvene and change the referendum question to:

    “Would you like to have Malta involved in the removal of Gaddafi now that he is without any power to attack us, or would you prefer to have another 42 years of his family giving them the time to re-arm themselves and develop the next generation nuclear bomb?”

    I know the question needs some refining, but Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando and Joseph Muscat can sort that out while the world watches the developments in Libya.

    • .Angus Black says:

      Ciccio, inadvertently you have justified Dr. Gonzi’s stance regarding the Libyan crisis.

      By your own question, you want to ask the electorate whether they approve Malta’s full involvement as part of the coaltion NOW THAT GADDAFI IS NO LONGER ABLE TO ATTACK US !

      Perfect 20-20 vision I suppose AFTER the fact. Dr. Gonzi had no way of determining how events were to turn out, who was willing AND ABLE to spearhead a force to neutralize Gaddafi but had to make a decision even before the coalition was formed.

      He decided to err, if at all, on the side of our safety. This was not a case of winning sympathy, – most difficult decisions are taken because they need to, irrespective of political expedience.

      [Daphne – Had you followed his comments from the start of this debate, you would know that he shares your views on the matter.]

  12. Farrugia says:

    Maltese politicians please note: the rebels have taken Brega and now most of the oil-rich Sirte Basin is in rebel hands.

    Time to change loyalties, dear politicians. Your bread can no longer be buttered in Tripoli.

    • ciccio2011 says:

      I hope the rebels spare Malta (so far still a province of Gaddafi). Someone please tell them that there is no oil here.

      • Another John says:

        Luckily for us, there is a stretch of water between us. Otherwise what would stop them from marching on Malta, mistaking it for one of their cities.

  13. Edward Caruana Galizia says:,8599,2061656,00.html

    Despite this, our government decides to stay out of it and only help out with the humanitarian side of things. Che?

  14. Carlos Bonavia says:

    In more than 20 years of following and admiring your writing and opinions, I think I differed from your opinion twice : once about the JPO saga and the second time is the present. Gung Ho opinions do not always serve a country best. What is diplomacy for then when we can bulldoze our way through problems ?
    You must understand that our PM has the responsibility of the whole nation and has to think in terms of the overall good of the country. You seem to think we have the USA’s war potential at our disposal. Calm down woman, it’s not a game.

    [Daphne – “It’s not a game.” Exactly. We would have had the USA’s war potential at our disposal had we joined them. But we didn’t. You just don’t get it, do you. The idea of cooperation and pulling together just does not exist in the Maltese mindset. It must always be us against the world. Tal-ghageb. “The PM has the responsibility of the whole nation” – for God’s sake get yourself a sense of perspective. He runs an island 17 miles by nine, another island that’s smaller, with 400,000 people on them. Our only possible contribution in this battle comes from our geographical position right next to Tripoli, but we won’t use that because, what do you know, we’re relying on others to do our work for us. As usual.]

    • John Schembri says:

      Get yourself a sense of perspective, do you realise what harm these attacks are doing to our economy?

      Do you know that whole groups who were considering Malta for a conference cancelled their plans and went to ‘safer’ places. Ask people who work in the hotel industry about bookings and they start talking about cancellations.

      [Daphne – I think you are the one who needs a sense of perspective, John. What are you saying here – that the coalition forces should not have attacked Libya so as to preserve the Maltese economy in the short term? That no attempt to safeguard the Libyan people should have been made so that Malta can keep its conference bookings? What sort of small-minded, up-my-own-butt thinking is that? Is that how they thought you to think at Tal-Muzew? And yes, that last remark is justified, because I am beginning to suspect that much of what is wrong with the typical Maltese mindset boils down to that kind of early training in self-absorption and disengagement.]

      If people see fighter jets and destroyers on TV using a small island like Malta would they consider coming here?

      [Daphne – Mmmmm, let’s see now. Are people still going to Palermo? And how about Taormina? Crete? Cyprus? The point is, John, it’s IRRELEVANT. You’re looking at the wrong picture. This is the picture you should be looking at: if Gaddafi stays and begins to promote terror, how will that affect our tourism industry, do you think? Not good, right? Damn lucky we’ve got other people to get rid of him for us, then, isn’t it. I can’t believe you have the nerve to complain about the loss of conference bookings when every Tomahawk missile that blows up Gaddafi’s tanks costs the US and UK taxpayers an eye-watering amount, and the cost of the exercise is counted in millions every day – millions that come out of the taxes of British, French and American ordinary people like you. And you’re complaining. Incredible. Tad-daqqiet ta’ harta, kif jghid il-Malti.]

      Fighter jets are operating from the UK , they did not even go to Crete. Most probably, for logistical reasons, many countries prefer using their own bases like the US Sigonella base in nearby Sicily. Why would they need Malta when they are only sixty miles away?

      [Daphne – Here I go, counting to 10 again. Because Sigonella is not large enough to accommodate all the jets required for this exercise. Sigonella was not designed or intended for a full-scale attack on ‘enemy territory’. The fact that British jets are operating from the UK should embarrass you, not make you rest easier. You clearly don’t mind seeing them burn huge sums of money in fuel while 500,000 ordinary people march in London complaining about various cuts their government is making to save money. That’s what I mean when I say that so many Maltese are disengaged.]

      • C Falzon says:

        “and the cost of the exercise is counted in millions every day ”

        Just to put it in perspective, at just under half a million euros each, the cost of the missiles alone in the opening salvo was around 50 million euros.

        How many conferences is that?

      • H.P. Baxxter says:

        Each of those missiles took countless conferences to design, more conferences to market, and yet more conferences to deploy. It employed thousands of researchers, inginiera brillanti, studenti tal-MCAST and esperti fl-ICT.

        What’s more, it wasn’t outsourced to some sweatshop in China, but made in hi-tech factories paying excellent wages back home.

        Now you tell me: what does the European economy need? More handouts to PIGS and aid packages to the Third World, or a lovely war?

        It’s Kevin and like-minded peacenik bourgeois-bohèmes who are responsible for the disastrous state of our economy and our dire job market.

    • H.P. Baxxter says:

      Gung ho is the new prudent.

  15. Anthony says:

    I think it was on Thursday the 3rd of March that the commander-in-chief, in the presence of Felipe Calderon said :

    “Let me just be very unambiguous about this. Col. Gaddafi needs to step down from power and leave” .

    At that very moment the rais became the victim a sudden bilateral orchidectomy from which he will never recover.

    Any politician worth his salt should have taken his cue from these words and acted accordingly.

  16. Edward Caruana Galizia says:

    Listening to Barak Obama talking about Libya makes me think just one thing: we, in Malta, are not part of it.

    “This is how the international community should work. More nations, not just the United States, bearing the responsibility and costs of upholding peace and security.”

  17. Ragunament bazwi - the nightmare edition says:

    The friendly way of responding to someone who escaped from repression back home – comment on

    John Azzopardi
    No wonder this man has time to go on protest everyday. He should have joined his family in Libya and joined in the rebels getting rid of GAddafi. That is what is called sacrifice for your believes and your country.

  18. Lorna Saliba says:

    You insinuate that the Maltese government in somehow in collusion with Gaddafi’s regime, which is more than apparent, given this shallow behaviour and continual correspondence with those brutal people.

    I suspect there is more than the national interest at stake here. All the European powers have a lot to lose, but while they went in for the kill, we continue to sit on the fence, hedging our bets.

    First we hide behind the neutrality skirt, now we dish out the pathetic excuse that we are allowing them to use our airspace and our territorial waters to mount their attacks.

    Malta should be involved. It should have allowed or at least offered the coalition a more proximate catapult position for its attacks on eastern Libya, now that the bombardments are turning the tides of the uprising.

    Our government somehow continues to remain reluctant to get wholly involved and this is tantamount to compliance with a regime that has benn muscling in on us for endless decades.

    Is there some hidden agenda you want to tell us?

    [Daphne – If I knew, I would say. But I don’t. I suspect that more than a hidden agenda it is gross misjudgement of the situation and of the potential consequences of the various options.]

    • H.P. Baxxter says:

      Please stop calling it “bombardment”. You make it sound like Dresden or Coventry. These are targeted air strikes.

    • Another John says:

      “I suspect there is more than the national interest at stake here”. My same thoughts. I have been having this nagging thought for the last 25 years of my life.

    • C Falzon says:

      My guess, and it is just a guess, is that the government is under heavy pressure from some of those Maltese who have considerable business interests in Libya. Many of them would have preferred to see no uprising at all, and to carry on with business as usual regardless of the misery of Libyans.

      They probably think and hope still that Gaddafi will survive – and so they want to make sure that the Maltese government doesn’t do or even say anything that would put them in bad light with him or put their businesses at risk.

      • El Topo says:

        Business in Libya is very much transacted at the personal rather than the corporate level. Directors of not-for-profit organizations have told me of their frustration – after many months of building up a good working relationship with the head of a government department or ministry, the guy gets fired or transferred and they have to start all over again with the new one, addio what had been signed and agreed with the predecessor.

        It will be the same with whoever takes over from the Gaddafi regime; Maltese businessmen will have to put out new feelers, hand out new gifts … not something they’ll be relishing.

  19. cat says:

    As a Maltese citizen living in Italy, I really appreciate the intervention of the Maltese ambassador on Rai Uno’s L’Arena, when Massimo Giletti said that North Africans are staying away from Malta because they are being shot at.

    The ambassador was quick enough to call in and deny this claim.

  20. Cornelius says:

    “Do you hear that? There are planes in the air now. Everyone here is so grateful that these air strikes are happening. I don’t know anyone who isn’t happy Nato is doing this. We don’t have anyone else to protect us.

    “I would say to anyone in Britain who opposes the air strikes, you are not the ones living here; you are not the ones with no water, with no medication for your children, you are not suffering the fear of being killed in your own homes.

    “Even if some innocent people are hit in the air strikes, so be it: because otherwise, Gaddafi will wipe out the whole city.”

  21. Mario Farrugia, Washington DC says:

    Excellent article Daphne. It’s a pity that the Maltese Prime Minister in 1986 cannot (and will not) be brought to justice for aiding and abetting an international terrorist.

    Come 2011, Malta is (once again) choosing to stay in the backwaters, when it could have played a leading role in support of freedom.

    Even if one were to take the self-centered ‘national interest’ perspective, neutrality has been and remains a veritable threat to Malta’s freedom: by using the neutrality argument to shirk off participation in international military coalitions, Malta is also opening the door to quid-pro-quo behavior by other states should the island ever need foreign assistance from a coalition of countries.

    Furthermore, it pays to to take ‘risks’ ( the Libyan Opposition) as the bigger the risks, the bigger the gains. Just think who will be taking decisions when Gaddafi’s regime is gone.

    In short, Malta… scrap neutrality and play your part in helping the Libyans achieve their dream. It’s to your benefit too!

    [Daphne – The thing is that we don’t even need to ‘scrap neutrality’ to do it, because the Constitution specifies that a UN Security Council resolution overrides that clause, so it is literally sheer bloody-mindedness and poor judgement masquerading as the opposite. When I read yesterday that the prime minister said on radio that his “reality check” on Gaddafi came when he used the Japanese crisis as the opportunity to forge towards Benghazi, I thought: “What?” It sounded as though up until then he had been holding out hope that he would find reason to believe that his friend Gaddafi was not so bad after all.]

    • Mario Farrugia says:

      It is true that Malta doesn’t need to scrap neutrality to abide by UN Security Council resolutions, but the quicker it’s scrapped, the better.

      I totally agree with your comment about the poor judgement and very short-term, inward-looking mindset (to put it mildly) of Malta’s politicians. I was unable to listen to the statement concerning the ‘reality check’ – but it seems like Malta wants to be a Gaddafi ally for as long as possible.

  22. red nose says:

    In all this, I think that those who hesitate to condemn Gaddafi have an absolute amnesia about when he sent a warship to threaten our oil-exploration project. Why trust such a person? Why decorate such a person?

  23. Steve says:

    I’m not in Malta, so perhaps there is some fear at being that close to the action which I cannot feel. However I just cannot understand the official Maltese stance.

    I am not a gung-ho hawkish kind of person. I was 100% against the invasion of Iraq, as that was never about the people of Iraq.

    I do not pretend to know the motives of people like Sarkozy and Cameron. I’m a cynic, so tend to look for ulterior motives. For once, I cannot see any.

    Some people talk about oil. Sorry, but things were going just fine with Gaddafi in power. The status quo was pretty profitable for western countries.

    I just hope Malta’s official position is to do with fear and not money. Fear I can forgive, greed I cannot.

    Actually if it is money, those making the decisions are being very short-sighted. A free Libya on Malta’s doorstep would be a veritable gold mine for Maltese business.

    I can’t actually see any downside to getting rid of Gaddafi. For Malta it’s win/win. If Libya is free, even the flow of refugees will die down. A free Libya will be a rich Libya.

    I’m one of those who Daphne describes as always seeing Gaddafi as a murdering thug and bully. I cringed every time I saw our leaders (and I’m beginning to use that term loosely) hug and cosy up to the tyrant.

    I’m one of the generation that was forced to learn Arabic at school (no harm in that; it’s just the way it was done, and the whole atmosphere of the time). I also have Libyan friends, and I consider them good friends. I know how much they yearn to get rid of Gaddafi, and I for one support them 100%.

    The Libyans I know are decent people. I’m proud to call them friends. And though they are Muslim and we are not, I feel we as Maltese have more in common with them than most Europeans. The only reason I bring religion up is because others have and no doubt will. It’s not something I bother about.

    If it was up to me, Malta would be doing more. The least we could do is allow coalition planes to use our airport. Sorry, but by denying them that, you are in effect saying you are against the strikes, and in turn you favour the status-quo.

    There is no other conclusion you can come to. They are now flying French flags in Benghazi. It would make me proud to be Maltese if they could fly Maltese flags too. We haven’t given them any reason to yet.

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