The Malta Independent 4 June 2020, Thursday

The workings of a rule of law which works

Owen Bonnici Friday, 6 December 2019, 08:17 Last update: about 7 months ago

Malta is right now grasped and to some extent seized by the happenings which are being unveiled during the judicial procedures in relation to the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Last Wednesday our country read with shock reports in the media of the testimony of Melvin Theuma, the "middleman" turned State witness who decided to spill the beans on what actually went on in the days up to the actual murder and the days after that.

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Of course what hit the headlines were the statements uttered by Theuma which in some way or another hint or mention or refer to Keith Schembri.  I am aware that investigations are ongoing by the Police authorities on all persons who are of interest in this case and the least I comment and dwell on this point, the better. 

But what shocked me more is the sense of total disregard towards a human life portrayed in the testimony by the people standing accused of performing the murder with which they allegedly decided to put away the life of a person- in this case a journalist. 

The brutality lay in the simplicity with which Theuma was describing what was going on, giving out crude details which are so direct and unrefined that they hurt even more.

This is not the time to be political or try to score political points.  Yet, it must be stressed that Melvin Theuma would not be giving testimony in front of the Courts of Law had it not been for a decision by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat to grant a Presidential Pardon, after obtaining advice from the Attorney General and the Commissioner of Police.

This pardon proved to be a breakthrough in the investigations. The evidence which came out of this decision and which was corroborated is proving to be important- so much so that only a few days after the granting of the Presidential Pardon another person – businessman Yorgen Fenech – was arraigned to Court charged with being the mastermind behind the murder.

I cannot stress enough how important the decision of the Prime Minister to grant a Presidential Pardon to Theuma is proving itself to be. I believe that the Prime Minister took the best decision in the circumstances – that of making sure that truth prevails, independently of anything else.

The Prime Minister took another important decision in this case, this time a considerable number of months back- that of accepting the offer of assistance in the investigations by the Government of the United States of America. It was only a few hours after the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia occurred in October 2017 that the Prime Minister saw that FBI get involved in the investigations from the word go. The FBI proved to be crucial in finding the alleged killers because of technology they use which we, and many other countries, simply do not have.

Justice, they say, must be blind. The Prime Minister should be lauded for taking the necessary and timely decisions without fear or favour.

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It is quite astonishing how people tend to forget the level of scepticism on the progress or alleged lack thereof of investigations on this case which was continuously being aired in the last two years from all corners of Malta and Europe. I have personally spent the past months answering burning questions directed to me from everywhere around Europe and elsewhere on when on earth will the mastermind behind the murder be found. Before that, the first 50 days since the murder were all about immense scepticism as to whether the killers would be identified.

After a little more than 24 months, the institutions managed to identify the alleged killers, the middleman and the alleged mind behind the murderous plan. 

This fact should be lauded. This fact shows that the rule of law works, that the institutions are doing their job and that most of the criticism levelled against them in the past was unfounded.

There are people who are crying foul and protesting loudly over the fact that Keith Schembri has been released after intense questioning by the Police. Investigations are ongoing and I have full trust in the Police and judicial authorities.

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I am not alone in showing trust in the Police authorities. Only a few hours ago, a mission from the European Parliament declared very unequivocally that the police authorities are working hard on the case of the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia and important investigations are ongoing. If one ever needed a certification of competence for the Police, this came directly from the mouth of the Chairperson of an EP committee – called LIBE - which has been very critical of Malta in the past months. 

This is, again, another proof of the workings of a rule of law which works.

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Undoubtedly it was not the case of all smiles and flowery compliments from the part of the Euro-Parliamentary mission. They had words of criticism too, particularly on the decision of the Prime Minister to resign after the election of a new Labour leader rather than resigning there and then. 

I personally prefer an orderly exit as opposed to an "unorderly" one, particularly if the person who is bound to exit is the leader of the party in Government. A quick process of succession has been planned out, which would see a new Prime Minister being instituted in a matter of a few days over the festive period. 

In the meantime I thank once again Prime Minister Joseph Muscat for all the good things he did throughout his career. The list of achievements are endless: social reforms, civil rights, economic growth, record job creation and it goes on and on.  He has been a strong figure who showed leadership and charisma in an unprecedented manner. I hope that he continues to form part of the Parliamentary Group as an MP once he resigns from office- his wisdom, experience and vision will certainly be of immense value to us all.

I strongly believe that Malta will be poorer off without Joseph Muscat as its Prime Minister. Yet, he decided to shoulder political responsibility for things other people did because - in his own words - that is the right thing to do. 

I salute also his wife, Michelle, who has been a bastion of strength for Dr Muscat throughout all those years.  I am sure that she is proud of the amazing reforms her husband did while in office, as we all are of him.

They leave behind them a very popular party, with strong grassroot appeal and a united Parliamentary group.

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Indeed these last days have been very difficult for everyone.  I appeal for calm and unity during these testing moments. I am confident that together we can overcome all the challenges that the recent events provided us with. We have a duty to make all the necessary reflections, to see that truth comes out and that the institutions keep working and that they are given all the resources they need.

We have a duty to Govern and see through the mandate which was given to us by the electorate in 2017. It has been a rough ride these couple of days and I personally was at the receiving end of very harsh protest actions. Yet, our resolve is undiminished and we want to keep bringing about important reforms which make our country better and our democracy stronger.

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