The Malta Independent 13 December 2019, Friday

The danger of back-tracking

Thursday, 28 November 2019, 11:13 Last update: about 14 days ago

After the excitement of Tuesday, with two ministers resigning and a massive protest at Valletta, things seem to have quietened down yesterday as the country came to terms with what had happened.

Meanwhile, there is a risk of back-traking. Konrad Mizzi, who had announced he was resigning while meeting journalists at the door of the Auberge de Castille, later clarified he had resigned as a minister but not as an MP.

Chris Cadona went one better: he announced he was suspending himself. This is not ministerial responsibility as we understand it: a minister is appointed by the head of government, can offer his resignation but then it is up to the head of government to decide if he wants to bring him back. A ministerial responsibility is not a bus one can decide to descend from or to enter.

So there may be a real risk that most of the excitement experienced on Tuesday peters out into nothing after all. And then there is the position of the prime minister too. Is he going to resign, as the protesters told him in the demos in Valletta? Or does he intend to brazen his way through, as one may surmise from the multiple endorsements (by secret vote) of the Cabinet and the Labour executive and the mass meeting now being held at Fgura on Sunday?

There is also the possible reaction by the seemingly dormant Labour supporters to consider: the events of the past days have been hugely traumatic for them. The government they considered as solid is now like a pack of cards. This is hugely shocking for many of them, considering many depend on the government continuing to support them through social assistance, housing, jobs etc.

Meanwhile, the police investigations continue, at least with regards to those persons who have been arrested. Huge link-ups are being discovered between previously unsuspected persons. This is incredible work that must be allowed to go on without any interference. At last we do not have now the almost daily commentary by the prime minister which was very wrong on so many levels.

There are huge areas, we say, where more investigations are warranted. People who have been frequently mentioned connected to claims of corruption do not seem to have been spoken to so far.

The risk is that the investigation loses its momentum, that it gets side-tracked, that not all leads are followed and that the cases get lost in the courts' labyrinth. The risk is that the guilty get away with murder, in this case the very real murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia. The risk is that the wide ramifications of the entire plot go unseen and uninvestigated.

The very real risk is that political considerations intrude and the guilty get away scot-free. If the trail goes back to Dr Muscat, then so be it.

There are risks all around. The Labour Party risks hardening into denial, thus losing a very important opportunity to clean and regenerate itself. The Nationalist Party risks, as it almost did yesterday, to offer the country the sorry spectacle of a party which jumps at every opportunity however heinous that may be.

But over and above all these risks, there is the huge risk of driving the investigation into the quicksand of controversy. Malta's international reputation is at risk. The world is watching. The investigation cannot back-track.


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