The Malta Independent 14 November 2019, Thursday

TMID editorial: Passive aggressive diplomacy - Was that an offer we can’t refuse?

Monday, 21 October 2019, 11:00 Last update: about 23 days ago

The statement issued this week on the second anniversary of the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia by the American Embassy took many members of the public by surprise. And it no doubt took some members of the government, who perhaps have not been privy to behind-closed-doors diplomatic talks where such pressure is usually best leveraged, by even greater surprise.

And that is why the statement was strange. These matters are usually discussed behind closed doors, where diplomatic pressure is best applied. So why was it that this statement was made public in the way that it was? That is a question on the tips of many a tongue since Wednesday.

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Sometimes when diplomatic pressure is not yielding the right results, the grievances are made public, first subtly and then somewhat more forcefully.

We in the media are, for obvious reasons, acutely aware of this type of behaviour – from all walks of life, business, and politics.

To our knowledge, this was the only public statement of its kind on the second anniversary of the assassination of Caruana Galizia from any diplomatic mission to Malta, and if it was not the only one, it was certainly the strongest.

Now we will not put words into the mouth of the American government, but this really did seem like some passive aggressive diplomacy at play here. And the very carefully-worded statement perhaps raises more questions than it answers.

In was a unique statement that was not issued through the usual media channels as a press release. It was simply a photograph of a printed document placed on the Embassy’s Facebook page. 

Nevertheless, its contents have been making huge waves on the Maltese section of the social media sphere.

Such as, for example, when the Embassy states that ‘it is not too late for Malta to bring Daphne’s killers to justice in a credible manner’ and that ‘accountability, strong judicial processes, transparency and convictions are the best ways to support freedom of expression and rule of law, and deter future would-be criminals’.

What is the US trying to tell us exactly? Again, we will not put words into any government’s mouth but the writing is very clearly on the (Facebook) wall for all and sundry to see.

The Embassy went on, in not too thinly disguised diplomatic language, that it continues ‘to call for a thorough, transparent, and timely conclusion to the investigation into Daphne’s death’.  Should we take this to mean that so far, the US government, which is following this situation very closely indeed for reasons best known to it, that the investigation so far has been anything but ‘thorough, transparent, and timely’?

And to make matters even worse, the Embassy even appeared to admonish the government to a certain extent, saying that Caruana Galizia, ‘took risks to promote greater transparency and speak uncomfortable truths to those in power’, and we all know very well where she stood on these issues.

The US said how its government had supported its Maltese partners in the investigation that led to three arrests ‘so far’, implying that there are certainly more arrests to be made, as we all know, and, in what was a diplomatic coup de grace, it said the US ‘stands ready to support the investigation in any way we can, if requested by the Maltese authorities”.

‘If requested by the Maltese authorities’?  Was this an offer we can’t refuse?  We suppose it is, but it’s just that refusing it, under whatever circumstances, would look very bad indeed. 

The US Federal Bureau of Investigation had, after all, played a fundamental role in tracking down the alleged hit men, why are we not asking for more assistance in tracking down those who actually paid them? 

We were under the impression that no stone was being left unturned by the government and the authorities in the hunt for the masterminds. Yet this seems to be one huge stone, a virtual boulder, that is simply begging to be turned over.

Why is it still there sitting as pretty as ever, and why did the Americans need to remind the public out there that US assistance on cracking this case is there readily on draught, but no one in Malta is pulling the tap.

The Maltese government’s silence to date on this offer, and its apparent neglect in seeking more American assistance on this case, is very curious indeed.

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