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Dear Prime Minister

Dear Mr. President,
Come take a walk with me.
Let’s pretend we’re just two people and
You’re not better than me.
I’d like to ask you some questions if we can speak honestly.

I didn’t expect this song would be in my head all day round over 15 years later since its release, but here it is. The single is an open letter for George W. Bush released by P!nk. Instead of writing a boring text on plain paper, the singer got creative — the best way she could. Unless we know the song was about issues painfully critical to the USA a decade ago, the lyrics seem to be about problems in modern Malta.

But if I sang this open letter to a Maltese high official, it would be Prime Minister Robert Abela. Not only because he has more influence and power to rule the country, but also because his actions — and lack thereof — raise more questions among the Maltese society this year.

What do you feel when you see all the homeless on the street?
Who do you pray for at night before you go to sleep?
What do you feel when you look in the mirror?
Are you proud?

At first sight, this verse seems irrelevant to us as homeless people are banned on the streets in Malta. However, it doesn’t mean there are no homeless people or people in need in the country. The National Statistics Office shows that one in three people over 65 is at risk of poverty. If a person of that age lives alone, there is a risk of dropping below the poverty line.

The situation for the younger generation isn’t better as they also can’t afford their own place and live from rent to rent. The housing question hangs over these families like a sword of Damocles, and the government could help them by using a part of public funds. Instead, the authorities spend tax money to pursue personal agendas and show Malta in an attractive wrapper for tourists, hiding the inconvenient truth.

This past June we learned that the government spent €160,000 to promote Budget 2023, about €300,000 to organize a three-day public service expo, and at least €1 million to produce the Mediterrane Film Festival. Suppose the figures still don’t look impressive, in that case, I’ll add that taxpayers also paid over €11 million for the Pilatus case — the court trial that no ordinary citizen knows and retrospectively negatively impacts Malta’s reputation.

So, my first question is: what does the Prime Minister feel when he spends tax money on his own interests, leaving his citizens behind?

How do you sleep while the rest of us cry?
How do you dream when a mother has no chance to say goodbye?
How do you walk with your head held high?

Even if Isabelle Bonnici had a chance to say goodbye to her son before he went to work on the construction site, she barely thought it would be their last farewell. The construction collapse took Jean-Paul Sofia’s life last year, but his family still can’t seek justice.

Unfortunately, tragedies on construction sites in Malta are not uncommon, but they barely get attention from the government and the judicial system. About 68% of construction fatality cases remain open ten years on. When the court wraps up the case, the fine for the contractor could be as low as €1,000. The “lucky” ones could receive compensation of €11,650.
Contractors don’t want to spend money on safety measures and equipment for workers, and the authorities don’t want to implement controlling measures. Isabelle Bonnici wanted to change the situation, but if only she knew what she has to go through. Her pleas to open a public inquiry and punish the guilty were ignored. Robert Abela was sure that the current magisterial investigation would be enough.

The government reacted when it was impossible to ignore society’s response to its inaction. Then, something outrageous happened. The parliament held a meeting where forty officials voted down an independent public inquiry over Sofia’s death. Worse, the ruling party called for a speedy conclusion of the magisterial inquiry into the tragedy.

The final decision over the public inquiry was also infuriating because most court processes were at the taxpayer’s expense. The Maltese society expects the government to use public funds to address and implement relevant challenges. Here, we come again to the situation when the officials spend time and tax money, such as the €11 million on cases that should easily be concluded in minimal trials, and continue to ignore what’s vital to people.

Can you even look me in the eye
And tell me why?

Robert Abela wasn’t brave enough to look into the eyes of the mother who lost her son and to the rest of society, who sympathized with her. Instead, the Prime minister escaped widespread outrage in his residence to host an orchestra concert — also paid with taxes — and on his yacht. It didn’t help that Abela avoided criticism and only added more work to his PR managers.

Five days later and hours before the vigil for Jean Paul Sofia, Abela called an urgent OPM, after which he addressed the nation and announced a public inquiry over Sofia’s death. Finally, Robert Abela listened to his people, but the thought that we must put too much effort into making the government do its job is frustrating.

The second question would be: why should we fight for justice with an outcry to be heard by the government?

What kind of father would take his own daughter’s rights away?

In late 2022, Robert Abela discovered an opportunity to gain more votes among the pro-choice advocates by introducing amendments to the abortion bill. It was perfect timing as the country and international opinion hadn’t yet moved away from the horrifying story of Andrea Prudente, who had to evacuate to Spain to terminate her unviable pregnancy and survive.

PL supporters laid high hopes on the amendments to minimize such stories and give women more freedom to control their bodies, but Abela crushed these hopes with a bang. The amendment stated that abortion would only be allowed if the woman’s life was at risk, given that other possible treatments to save pregnancy would have been exhausted.

It’s not that the status quo hasn’t changed for women in Malta and left Andrea’s case unaddressed. Rebecca Buttigieg from PL says that “For the first time, this amendment will provide professionals … the peace of mind that they are not at risk of going to prison and that their work is actually covered by the law.” In these lines, I can see care for medical workers, but there is no way I can see care for women and a desire to save their lives.

This time, Abela’s decision was more than breaking a promise — it was a betrayal. Betrayal of all women who live in Malta and support him. Betrayal of those who love these women and risk losing them because of the Prime Minister’s weak will.

And my third question is: how many women should die from pregnancy and birth complications for the right to control their bodies?

Let me tell you ’bout hard work
Minimum wage with a baby on the way

By writing these lines, P!nk pointed out that Bush was born into a wealthy and highly influential family. Thus, the former US president had no idea what it took for less privileged people to stay afloat.

The same can relate to Robert Abela. The Prime Minister was born to George Abela, former president of Malta, and Margaret Abela, who later managed a family law firm. He graduated from one of the top universities in Malta and received a promising profession. Undoubtedly, he put much effort into studying and working to reach heights and become a prime minister. However, he’s never faced a fraction of what an average Maltese goes through nowadays.

He doesn’t know what it’s like when you can’t save money to buy a home, or to feel stressed due to rent increases. He doesn’t know what it’s like when your taxes don’t go towards improving education, healthcare, and communal services, but are used for funding useless trials that last for years and ruin Malta’s reputation. He doesn’t know what it’s like when you can’t feed yourself and face an unwanted pregnancy.

The fourth question: why has the Prime Minister asked for our votes if he doesn’t hear us?

Dear Prime Minister
You’d never take a walk with me.
Mm, would you?

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