The Prime Minister’s accountability

Joseph Muscat continues to deliberately confuse political responsibility with criminal liability.

Joseph Muscat
Photo: DOI / Pierre Sammut

Following the murder of Jan Kuciak and his girlfriend, Slovak Culture Minister Marek Madaric took it upon himself to resign from office, issuing the following statement: “Plainly said, I cannot as culture minister put up with a journalist being murdered during my tenure”.

Two officials who were implicated in Kuciak’s articles suspended themselves pending investigations. The Prime Minister is under a magisterial inquiry, but maintains his incumbency. Madaric, however, was not involved. Such a concept seems incomprehensible to the Maltese electorate: why should the minister resign if he didn’t kill Kuciak?

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat does not help by compulsively trying to obfuscate the concept of accountability. Muscat told The Times of Malta that his administration “will show accountability by finding whoever ordered Caruana Galizia[’s] murder”. Such a statement is outrageous on many levels.

Firstly, the suggestion is that the government will be doing us some sort of favour by pursuing the instigators of Caruana Galizia’s murder. The State is under obligation to bring justice not only for the sake of the victim and her family, but for justice’s sake.

Secondly, Caruana Galizia’s murder does not exclusively concern resentful individuals who plotted against another individual. Muscat’s Labour Party has for years on end blared acute acrimony toward her.

Muscat and his MPs had the duty to put aside their bitterness the moment they assumed office. They were no longer party partisans: in government, they were responsible for Caruana Galizia just as they are for every other citizen. Any statement they made in their official capacity was a statement made on behalf of all of Malta.

The conflict of interest emerged when the State came to uphold its duties towards its citizens. If Caruana Galizia was known to be targeted, with a history of arson attacks at home, then the State was obliged to provide additional security.

There is pressure on the Slovak Interior Minister to resign for failing to protect Kuciak, and thus failing in his public role. In Malta, not only were Caruana Galizia’s right to life and right to publish unsafeguarded, but her supposed guardians spared no opportunity to demonise her. It is on these grounds that a government that failed to uphold its duty towards a murdered journalist should shoulder political responsibility.

The third reason Muscat’s statement is preposterous is because he continues to deliberately confuse political responsibility with criminal liability. The accountability Muscat conveniently refers to is the latter. Ensuring criminal justice means finding the person on the casual chain who committed a criminal offense and directly caused Caruana Galizia’s death.

On this note, it is already appalling for a journalist’s blood to be on Malta’s hands, let alone when the response is deliberate misinformation disguised as “varying interpretation of facts”. Upon refusing to shoulder responsibility for a butchered journalist, it only adds insult to injury when distorted truths are spread.

Demanding the resignation of the Prime Minister does not suggest he did the bomb’s wiring, or personally instructed the three alleged assassins to do so. That would make the Prime Minister criminally liable, and nobody is suggesting that is the case.

What people are saying is that Caruana Galizia’s situation was made ever more precarious because of attacks rubber stamped (even if by acquiescence) by the Prime Minister through all the facets of the Labour machine: through TVM’s non-coverage of the Panama Papers, through Bedingfield’s abominable offensives against her, through government ministers denouncing her a hate blogger, through the party media’s abhorrent propagandistic smear campaigns – all of which facilitated the assassination.

In his role as the head of government, Muscat had a conflict of interest to tend to. He failed miserably in that regard, and accordingly, he should be held politically accountable for that dereliction. Yet, he insists on carrying out flawed investigations tainted with more conflicts of interest. With this backdrop, justice cannot be seriously delivered.

Many seem to have been dazzled by reports of the FBI being involved in Caruana Galizia’s case, as though that was enough to forgive Muscat and his acolytes for the years of psychological turmoil she had to go through because of them. That a journalist was murdered in the EU under their watch should be embarrassing enough for them.

It is much more embarrassing for Malta that Caruana Galizia’s bullies are the leaders of the country; when they are the ones responsible for ensuring justice, when they remain in power for the world, and history, to judge them.

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