Action taken yesterday to arrest suspects in connection with the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was welcome news, but her family voiced strong criticism of the handling of the investigation and its outcome so far.
Her family were critical of the way the arrests were turned in to a “marketing exercise” for the government and the institutions. It was also insensitive not to inform the family of the arrests before Prime Minister Joseph Muscat made his announcement to the nation.
Muscat’s announcement was immediately followed by a narrative, especially on social media, that the arrest of 10 people (most previously known to the police), in a “nest of criminality” in Marsa, as well as Zebbug and St Paul’s Bay, meant that all was well with the country’s police force and its institutions. Not quite.
Law enforcement authorities should be congratulated for their work, which is why it was hard to understand why the Police Commissioner kept running away from media questions on these arrests on what should be his moment of glory.
The arrests do not absolve the Prime Minister from taking concrete steps to address the institutional crisis which has been festering for the past years.
Green MEP Sven Geigold was right to the point out, when welcoming the arrests, that “these arrests must not be used as a fig leaf for not investigating cases of corruption and money laundering in Malta.”
The various shortcomings in the way the Police Commissioner, the Attorney General and Muscat himself have tackled the fallout of Panamagate remain. It would be ironic if Caruana Galizia’s death were used to wash away the crimes and abuses she had denounced.
This does not in any way minimise the importance of apprehending suspects in a murder case that has shocked the nation, and which the whole country wants to see solved as soon as possible. The successful prosecution of all those involved in this murder would send a strong message to organised crime and anyone tempted to use force against our freedom of expression.
Yet we have to remain vigilant, to ensure that justice is fully done and that the case is not used to wash away other problems like corruption and the failure of the police to investigate the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff Keith Schembri and Minister Konrad Mizzi.
Institutional failures committed under the watch of Muscat and the present Police Commissioner are good reason to be extra vigilant at this sensitive juncture.
Internationally, Caruana Galizia’s murder has lifted the veil on Malta’s institutional problems. The prosecution of her assassins must also be accompanied by concrete steps to strengthen the rule of law in Malta.