The Malta Independent 25 February 2020, Tuesday

TMID Editorial: Goodbye Commissioner - A resignation a long time coming

Saturday, 18 January 2020, 09:28 Last update: about 2 months ago

Prime Minister Robert Abela yesterday morning announced that Police Commissioner Lawrence Cutajar handed in his resignation.

The Police Commissioner has, to say the least, proved to be inadequate, and was one of the main reasons trust in the police force is so low. Cutajar resigning from leading the police force is definitely a step in the right direction, but much more needs to be done.

Prime Minister Robert Abela surprised many over the few days he has been in his post. Firstly, he left out key figures who were at the heart of past scandals from his Cabinet, and brought in fresh faces, indicating a change of direction – even though he preaches continuity.

Now, Lawrence Cutajar has resigned, and while it is not yet known if he was urged to do so by the new PM or not, it still bodes well for Abela.

The Prime Minister has also announced a reform in the way Police commissioners will be appointed, a bold step, and hopefully a good one, but one will need to wait and see as he has not yet divulged any information as to what he intends to change. Alongside this, came the announcement of a reform in the police force. One hopes that this will not be a similar exercise to what happened under Muscat’s tenure, but rather one that will see the police force again rise in terms of respect among the people.

The new Prime Minister seems to have made the right moves over the past few days, and we hope that these are not just cosmetic changes, but he has earned himself a chance to prove himself.  The changes he made were done quickly, and he did not end up wasting too much time in doing them.

The next Police Commissioner needs to be a man of integrity, a man who will not kneel before those in power. The next Commissioner needs to seriously investigate Keith Schembri, Konrad Mizzi and all others who were tied to the Panama Papers, as well as other scandals, and information given by Yorgen Fenech in connection with the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia. The new police chief must also look into all the leads that merit investigation that were highlighted in Egrant inquiry.

Both Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne and Opposition Leader Adrian Delia have said that police commissioners should be elected by a 2/3rds Parliamentary majority, which could be one solution in terms of raising the trust level in the eyes of the people.

The question of the Attorney General holding his position is still there however. Many see Peter Grech as weak, and argue that he is not fit to hold the Office which he does, but the Prime Minister said that he found nothing that currently would require the Attorney General’s resignation or removal, or at least nothing in terms of what would require such actions from what is written in the Constitution. This is something which Abela might want to ponder on. Lawrence Cutajar was not the only figure many portrayed as being the reason why Malta’s institutions are weak.

Another move to be praised was Abela’s decision not to clear out the memorial to assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia at the foot of the Great Siege Monument in Valletta, a move which could perhaps be seen as an olive branch by the new Prime Minister, to make amends with civil society.

The new Prime Minister has indeed taken the first steps required, but if the second and third steps are not taken, then all that has been done would just be a cosmetic change. He has earned some time to prove himself, but he must still do just that. This cannot be a cosmetic change. An end to impunity must be the main aim.

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