The Malta Independent 23 February 2020, Sunday

TMID Editorial: A real public inquiry post-haste or not

Saturday, 13 July 2019, 10:00 Last update: about 8 months ago

Confusion appears to be reigning at Cabinet level about what exact action, if any, the government is going to take about the repeated and resounding calls for that public inquiry into the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

On Thursday at a press freedom event in London, the foreign affairs minister appeared to have been caught off guard when he was asked if the government would find the wherewithal, gumption or what have you to do what the local and international community now backed by a resounding resolution by none other than the Council of Europe – has been demanding: the opening of a full public inquiry into the murder.

In fact, the resolution's most important recommendation that the Maltese Prime Minister set in motion an independent and impartial judicial public inquiry into the circumstances of the assassination.

The foreign minister, of all people, must be well aware of all this. But so far, the government has not moved a muscle, at least not in public, to initiate any sort of public inquiry, other than to give excuses as to why it should not be held.

To use the words of one online commentator, the foreign minister looked like a rabbit caught in the headlights when he fielded the question. But that really should not have been the case at all. He should have known very well what was awaiting him in that forum, he knew exactly where he was and who his audience was, including that meddling little Irish woman his aide had insulted so crassly recently.

“My Prime Minister has made it very clear that a public inquiry will be set up, and the public inquiry will be set up within the three months that the Council of Europe stated,” Abela said.

But really and truly he was only mimicking what the Prime Minister had said in the wake of the Council of Europe resolution when he left the door open for the appointment of a public inquiry into the murder, but said that he will definitely not shoulder responsibility if such an inquiry affects the outcome of the currently ongoing case against three persons who were arrested for the murder.

“I definitely will not be the person to shoulder responsibility if a public inquiry and its process ends up destroying the current case against the three arrested persons; I will not shoulder that responsibility – I am definitely not ready to do that,” he appeared to warn.

So really, Abela and Muscat are on something of the same page, but are giving slightly divergent messages. Castille really needs to make its intentions know here, stop flirting with the idea and get down to doing what it will eventually have to do at the end of the day: hold the inquiry because this is something that simply will not go away.

Malta has been given a three-month deadline to do so, and the clock is ticking.

But what is of fundamental importance is that this inquiry is truly impartial and independent. Now that the first hurdle has been overcome and the government appears to be ready to launch the inquiry within the time frame, now comes this next crucial obstacle: ensuring the inquiry is a real one, and a fair one.

It must also be given as broad a remit and terms of reference as possible given the broad nature of the crime and be established on a sound legal basis in line with the law.

The passing of the resolution and its demand for this public inquiry within three months was of crucial importance but it may, as such, also be just the beginning.


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