This article first appeared on Malta Today
Sometimes things happen for which there are no words; when you need to step back and process the whole thing, to allow your brain to absorb the enormity of it and not rush to comment simply to “say something”. Like the rest of the country, I reacted to the news that Daphne Caruana Galizia had been murdered in sheer disbelief and was shocked to my very core, followed by a feeling of dread and terror which I still cannot manage to shake. It has been 24 hours at the time of writing and I am still experiencing jolts of shock every time I read the details of her gruesome murder on the different news portals – the whole thing still seems surreal. This was a tragedy for her family, but also for the entire country because of the unmistakable sinister undertones when a journalist is cold-bloodedly targeted in this way.
So, instead of commenting, I have been silently reading everything being written: from the sincere to the inane, from the insightful to the downright callous, and in the latter case, wondering again and again what compels people to behave this way online. It hardly needs to be said that the police officer who gloated at the news of her death should be sacked, no questions asked.
In the wake of such a horrific event, it is only natural that we look to our leaders to see how they will react. Not because what they say is going to change anything, but because how they handle it will set the public mood and the tone for how the man-in-the-street will in turn speak. What we need at chilling moments like this are words which are carefully chosen and voices which verbalize what we perhaps cannot express ourselves.
I thought the President Marie Louise Coleiro-Preca was excellent in this respect. “In these moments, when the country is shocked by such a vicious attack, I call on everyone to measure their words, to not pass judgement and to show solidarity,” Indeed, she took her own advice as not one word was out of place, and she showed true statesmanship.
Another prime example of saying the right thing came from Ian Mifsud, Director-General of Directorate for Quality and Standards in Education, who sent out a heartfelt circular to all parents which went to the heart of the matter: “My plea to everyone of us, is to be cognizant of the beacon we represent to so many youngsters, encouraging our interactions within formal education to inspire love, creativity and critical thinking, epitomized in the pursuit of a meaningful life within a just and better world, also through responsible freedom of speech.”
I also agree wth Mr Mifsud in how he described Daphne’s murder as a “grievous awakening”. If we do not wake up after this; if we do not see this as a turning point to put aside partisan hatred and work together as a nation, I do not know when we will. It also goes without saying that the onus is also on Joseph Muscat and his government to strengthen the country’s institutions, because the people’s faith in them is (understandably) at an all-time low. He said all the right things during his speech in Parliament, but actions, as always, speak much, much louder.
Unfortunately, the many sleuths and forensic experts we have online have already decided who to point the finger at, and who should be considered guilty . Even more unfortunate is when I hear the Opposition leader saying completely the wrong thing at the wrong time, rather than weighing his words at this delicate moment when the country is still numb and still trying to understand the implications of why Daphne was so brutally killed.