The Malta Independent 23 August 2019, Friday

Allow the truth to set us free

Timothy Alden Sunday, 14 July 2019, 09:32 Last update: about 2 months ago

There has now been a promise for a public inquiry into the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia within three months. This seemingly arises as a result of the Council of Europe report. Only a few years ago, it seemed certain that Muscat would become the next President of the European Council. Malta’s reputation has suffered greatly since then. The promise of a public inquiry may therefore be a late attempt to patch up our worsening reputation. Until now, the reason given against having a public inquiry has been that it would prejudice ongoing investigations by creating a potentially incompatible parallel process. 

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Throughout this tragic saga, I have attempted to avoid speculation and pointing any fingers. I will not stop doing so now. The truth is, we do not know what happened, and to make direct accusations would be to walk into a terrible trap. An unfortunate analogy would be the Egrant story. I find it suspicious that there has been no attempt by the government to identify who Egrant belongs to, which would be a logical move by anybody accused of owning it when attempting to clear their name. While I do not believe it belongs to Prime Minister Joseph Muscat or his wife, it may very well be the case that it belongs to somebody close to him, or somebody linked to government. Therefore, while it was prudent for the prime minister to hold an inquiry to exonerate himself, the inquiry's scope may have been limited strategically so as to avoid any unwanted can of worms.

I could, of course, be completely wrong about this, and there could very well be another reason why the government has refused to ask the question ‘Who does Egrant belong to?’ However, this brings us to an even greater problem our government has. When there are allegations of corruption, the handling of these cases makes the government look guilty, whether that is the case or not. Therefore, however harsh it may sound, in this regard, the government is either dirty or incompetent. It almost always fails to present a satisfying explanation to the discerning observer. Instead, the government produces propaganda which is useful enough to reduce public pressure, until most people forget. Yet it does nothing to put the matter to rest. Many people will never truly move on, because the appearance of guilt is too overwhelming to truly lay a scandal to rest.

Unfortunately, the Egrant saga will remain a giant question mark, because we still do not know who it belongs to. While, again, I do not personally believe it belongs to the prime minister, many consider it likely that it belongs to somebody close to him. If that were the case, it would never be prudent for the government to take the inquiry any further. The refusal to investigate is exactly the problem at hand. Similarly, the prime minister’s refusal to sack Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi will always make it seem like he was unable to do so, possibly because of some leverage they may have over him. These questions will continue to arise from the government’s pattern of behaviour. Public officials have appealed in court against any investigations taking place into the Panama Papers in Malta. This looks overwhelmingly suspicious. Why not let the truth come out, if there is nothing to hide?

Similarly, the government's handling of the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia has been a disaster from the very start, giving rise to justified paranoia both at home and abroad. It has left us with a tattered reputation on the international stage. One can hardly browse the subject of the Panama Papers online without coming across the statement that the only thing to come out of the Panama Papers worldwide was a murdered journalist. This keeps Malta in the spotlight. The crass way that the authorities have dealt with her makeshift monument is also irregular, insensitive and further paints Malta into a corner in the eyes of our peers. Overall, the way that the situation has been handled has fuelled speculation that the government was in some way involved in the murder. I consider this to be highly unlikely for various reasons, but due to the handling of the affair, this paranoia has infiltrated deep into the psyche of much of the population. While I am loathe to speculate, I must link this pattern of behaviour to the handling of other corruption cases, where half-truths in of themselves are damning.

As with all corruption cases, what I want is perfectly simple. I want an airtight and independent public investigation. While I am glad to see the promise that one will be delivered in three months, it also makes one question the timeframe provided. There is the possibility that the government has known who was behind the murder for some time, but that whoever is responsible is linked to the government, despite not being a part of it. That is to say, as the government has indulged in a higher-than-usual level of corruption, it may have made deals with the devil which have unleashed forces it is unable to control. If whoever killed Daphne Caruana Galizia has any links whatsoever to the government, through business or sponsorships or anything in between, or if the killer is linked to a story which somehow involves the government, then I think it likely that the government has been working on an investigation which may deliver us a prettied up version of the truth, so as to avoid all blame.

If the government created an environment which enabled the assassination to take place, then it is indirectly responsible, and that is a situation it cannot afford. This would be an explanation for the lack of a public inquiry until now, as the variables would need to be controlled, and the truth would have to come out in a controlled manner.
Perhaps we have been offered three months until a public inquiry because the current ongoing investigations will conclude before then. Perhaps the truth is a lot less sinister than any scenario I have described. The point of this article is merely to highlight that the government has failed miserably to handle the various corruption stories coherently, and I suspect this is because there is often something to hide. In the case of the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, I will point no fingers. However, it is crucial that I do point out which variables need to be considered, so as to ensure that not only is justice done, but it is seen to be done. Only then may our nation heal, and only then may we all come together for a better tomorrow.

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