The right de­ci­sion… in the end

Malta Independent - - DEBATE & ANALYSIS -

Malta’s con­sti­tu­tional neu­tral­ity is be­ing in­creas­ingly called into ques­tion th­ese days – from the coun­try’s ar­guably cor­rect stance dur­ing the Libyan rev­o­lu­tion to the sur­veil­lance mis­sions that have pur­port­edly been un­der­taken by French forces, as re­vealed this week after their ‘spy plane’ went down in a ball of flames over Luqa.

There is no doubt that the promised con­sti­tu­tional con­ven­tion, of which we have not heard a word for some time now, will have to se­ri­ously con­sider the coun­try’s con­sti­tu­tional neu­tral­ity, which was en­shrined in the Con­sti­tu­tion in dif­fer­ent times and for dif­fer­ent con­sid­er­a­tions.

In this day and age, with the Cold War now long done and dusted, and with the coun­try now be­ing a mem­ber of the Euro­pean Union, it is high time that the con­sti­tu­tional clause that stip­u­lates the coun­try’s neu­tral­ity must be reengi­neered to re­flect to­day’s dras­ti­cally changed day and age.

To­ward the end of last week yet an­other con­sti­tu­tional neu­tral­ity co­nun­drum raised its head when it was re­vealed that a Rus­sian war­ship, ap­par­ently headed to the coast of Syria, was to dock in Malta where it was to take on fuel and sup­plies.

This case is a se­ri­ous one in­deed and the fact that Malta, at the end of the day, re­fused per­mis­sion has been ap­plauded most of the world over. That is be­cause it is no se­cret that Rus­sian bombs have been hail­ing down on the be­sieged city of Aleppo, and else­where, caus­ing so much death and de­struc­tion that one’s blood cur­dles at the mere thought of what is tak­ing place.

Syr­i­ans are be­ing slaugh­tered whole­sale and, geopol­i­tics aside, those Rus­sian bombs are at the very least partly to blame for the great tragedy that is con­tin­u­ally un­fold­ing with in­creas­ing fe­roc­ity in to­day’s Syria.

The phrase ‘not in our name’ has be­come some­what hack­neyed re­cently, but it aptly de­scribes what the vast ma­jor­ity of the Mal­tese pop­u­la­tion feels about the prospect of aid­ing and abet­ting the war crimes be­ing com­mit­ted in Aleppo and across the hellish in­ferno that Syria has be­come.

Malta, how­ever, had a nar­row miss this time around and our coun­try was al­most com­plicit in the atroc­i­ties be­ing com­mit­ted on a daily ba­sis, of which, we are more than cer­tain, a crit­i­cal mass of the Mal­tese pop­u­la­tion want to have noth­ing to do with in any way, shape or form.

That is be­cause it now tran­spires that Malta had at first given diplomatic clear­ance for a Rus­sian tanker to berth in Malta to re­fuel the war­ship a week ago. The Mal­tese gov­ern­ment, thank­fully, an­nounced on Thurs­day that Malta would not be re­fu­elling Rus­sian ships – re­port­edly un­der pres­sure from the United States and the United King­dom to re­scind the per­mis­sion.

Malta’s de­ci­sion came just a day after Spain re­fused to re­sup­ply Rus­sian war­ships that are


sus­pected to be headed to­ward the east­ern Mediter­ranean to sup­port Rus­sian and Syr­ian airstrikes – airstrikes that have caused so much har­row­ing dev­as­ta­tion and loss of civil­ian life.

While the re­fu­elling in­ci­dent and Malta’s even­tual de­ci­sion to deny the Rus­sians per­mis­sion to re­fuel in Malta re­flects Malta’s con­sti­tu­tional neu­tral­ity, it also, on the other hand, shows that Malta is in a po­si­tion to take the right stance in sit­u­a­tions such as th­ese, and that it ab­so­lutely must take such stances when called to do so.

Just yes­ter­day Syr­ian gov­ern­ment forces launched a coun­terof­fen­sive un­der the cover of airstrikes in an at­tempt to re­gain con­trol of ar­eas in Aleppo. The UK-based Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Human Rights re­ported that the new of­fen­sive by Syr­ian troops and their al­lies went un­der the cover of Rus­sian and Syr­ian airstrikes.

The United Na­tions Gen­eral Assem­bly on Fri­day voted Rus­sia off the UN Human Rights Coun­cil, a solid and re­ver­ber­at­ing re­buke to the coun­try which is in­creas­ingly be­ing ac­cused of war crimes over its ac­tions in Syria.

Malta it­self re­buked Rus­sia this week, and in so do­ing it took the right stance. Malta had ab­so­lutely no busi­ness con­tribut­ing in any way to the atroc­i­ties be­ing com­mit­ted. This news­pa­per and the vast ma­jor­ity of the Mal­tese pop­u­la­tion salute the gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion, which was the right one at the end of the day.

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