The Malta Independent 15 December 2017, Friday

TMID Editorial: Police raids and arrests - Unfair criticism

Wednesday, 6 December 2017, 14:18 Last update: about 9 days ago

Some people will always find a reason to complain, even when there is none.

The criticism levelled at the Prime Minister this week after he announced that a huge police and army operation had bagged ten suspects linked with the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia was a case in point.

Instead of recognizing the work of the forces of order and the fact that they had made a breakthrough in the space of just six weeks, many online commentators focused instead on the fact that the police commissioner was nowhere to be seen, that the press conference was addressed by Joseph Muscat, and later on the fact that the government released footage of the operation.

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Some, including the #occupyjustice movement, which has done sterling work over the past few weeks, described the operation and the way it was communicated to the public as ‘theatrics.’ We do not agree.

First of all this was a huge operation involving hundreds of officers, as well as vehicles, boats and helicopters. The authorities cannot mount an operation of that scale without giving an explanation.

While it is true that the PM spoke to the media before the operation was concluded, the police, by that time, had cordoned off the entire area, and the suspects were cornered.

Some said the PM should not have addressed a press conference. The government had been under fire for weeks for failing to provide any information about the case. Now that it has given certain information it is being accused of doing what last week it was accused of not doing. This is illogical.

During the press conference the PM made it very clear that, because this was an ongoing operation and the suspects had not yet been arraigned, he had to be very careful with his words since one slip up could jeopardise the court cases. But the PN media very unfairly criticized the PM for ‘refusing’ to answer questions.

These included questions on whether there were any links between the suspects and the oil smuggling racket. Anyone who has been in this job long enough knows that some questions can simply not be answered at this point in time and it would be premature for one to make such conclusions before the case is even taken to court.

Later in the day, the government came under fire again when footage of the operation was released.

The brave soldiers and police officers who apprehended these notorious criminals, who could well have been armed, were not going round with some TV camera crew. The footage came from cameras mounted to their helmets, which are used for a variety of reasons.

These include for debriefing/performance reviews, for there to be a record of how things went down, for use as evidence in court and to protect all involved. There was nothing wrong in distributing some of that footage to the public. It is done all around the world.  

Instead of accusing the government of employing marketing tactics we should take the time to be grateful to those soldiers and police who risk life and limb to keep the rest of us safe. That footage gave us a small peek into the perils of their job.

It also highlighted the investment made in the army and the police force under this administration. Gone are the days when the AFM’s special operations unit, formerly known as C ‘Special Duties’ Company, uses AK47s and other weapons from distant eras. Both the soldiers and the police SWAT team are today kitted out in the most modern uniforms, equipment and weapons.

In our view, the government and police can only be criticized for two things: the fact that not all investigations are given the same importance and resources as this one, and the fact that zero effort was made to investigate two of the PM’s closest allies over claims of corruption.

Criticism on how the government acted on Monday is, in our opinion, as well as in the opinion of the Dean of the university’s law faculty, Professor Kevin Aquilina, unfair. 

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