The Malta Independent 22 September 2021, Wednesday

TMID Editorial: Daphne inquiry – Tackling abuse of office

Saturday, 31 July 2021, 07:47 Last update: about 3 months ago

There are so many considerations to make after the publication of the report drawn up by three judges tasked with a public inquiry into the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

What is important, however, is that it is not taken to mean that the matter is now concluded. To the contrary, it is simply the start of what should be a process that leads to changes that will hopefully bring about more accountability.

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The public inquiry pointed out, more than once, that the way things were being run under the Joseph Muscat administration led to what is called a culture of impunity which led to the collapse of the rule of law. The independent media had for long been stating this, but now that we have it from three judges after hours of hearings and still more hours of deliberating, it is high time that a strong effort is conducted to reverse the trend.

The board actually enlists ways how this could be achieved, and one such suggestion is that “abuse of office” is included in the criminal code as a crime. The board also recommends the creation of a specific crime for when a person with a public post obstructs or attempts to obstruct the police or other authorities in the performance of their duties including criminal investigations. 

Frankly speaking, it is strange that a country that prides itself as being in the forefront of legislative changes to reflect modern society still does not consider as abuse of public office as going against the law. But now that this matter has been highlighted in the judges’ report, this should be one of the first recommendations that our legislators should see to.

Public officers should be made to realise the responsibilities that they carry towards all the country, not just part of it. Making abuse of such office as a crime might serve to instil a stronger sense of duty.

Prime Minister Robert Abela, in a very sombre mood, said in a press conference that his government would be doing its utmost to see that what has been suggested by the three judges is implemented. It is also good to note that the Opposition is ready to give its contribution in this respect. The two sides must work together to come up with a solid legislative framework that ensures accountability.

One word of caution: both sides of the House have said that they do not want to turn the report into a partisan football. It is hoped that they maintain their word, especially knowing that an election must be held in the next 12 months.

With regard to the implementation of the recommendations, it must be noted that there may not be enough time between now and the election for Parliament to enact all the necessary legislation that has been suggested.

This process should however not stop once the election is held. The new government must ensure that the ball that has started to roll now will continue after the election.

 

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