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Worse than Mongolia but better than Germany

One fine February day, eight months before Daphne Caruana Galizia was assassinated, Glenn Bedingfield, patriot and visionary, put quill to parchment and gave heart to the decent people of Malta, living under the evil oppression of Caruana Galizia:

The time is coming when her sordid mind will be laid bare to the public glare. […]

Crowded will the spectator’s balcony be on that day, soon to come, when she takes that unfaltering step into the nothingness that awaits her.

Those who have sought to make a monument of her, those who have sought to depict her as a martyr will stand silent, with shameful faces averted lest her vitriol drags them down with her.

So all you innocent and decent people, take heart. Do not let her last few violent upheavals dishearten you. These are her death throes and her departure from our nation’s mentality will usher in an era of cleanliness and wholesome political thought, free of the intrusions of the evil that she has sowed for so many years.

May that day be with us soon.

Caruana Galizia uploaded Bedingfield’s blog post on her own Running Commentary, confessing she thought the government was going insane (as she believed one passage, not quoted here, was implying she was guilty of murder). I myself have no idea what Bedingfield meant, but I’m fascinated by how things have turned out, paragraph by paragraph, point by point.

Last week the Council of Europe (CoE) passed a resolution urging the government of Malta to institute an independent public inquiry into whether Caruana Galizia’s right to life had been adequately protected by the authorities.

The resolution refers to its concerns about “inflammatory and misleading statements by persons close to the prime minister”. In introducing the resolution, the author of the report, Pieter Omtzigt, said two of the Prime Minister’s communication aides had made outrageous statements about the case, with one even suggesting the victim’s family was complicit in the murder.

The Maltese government objected to the reference to inflammatory and misleading statements by persons close to Joseph Muscat. Curiously, it did not distance itself from the comments by appealing to freedom of speech – as Muscat and Owen Bonnici, the justice minister, have done so far.

Instead, the government wanted the resolution’s wording changed to refer to “the inflammatory tone which the political debate tends to adopt in Malta”. In other words, such outrageous statements are normal. The rest of Europe must make allowances for us.

Our government has gone from defending the statements in the name of Europe’s sacred values, to saying it should be held to a lower standard.

Please understand, it’s because an inflammatory tone is normal that protesting women are called whores, orphans are taunted as being complicit in their mother’s murder, and an assassinated journalist continues to be dehumanised. The political bosses should not be held responsible or expected to set an example by sacking the offending officials.

However, the CoE thinks we’re better than that. Commenting about the current Maltese environment of impunity, Omtzigt pointed out that “even in Mongolia” a minister who turned up in the Panama Papers had to resign.

On this, too, our government wants to be held to a lower standard. It tried to remove the mention of Konrad Mizzi, Keith Schembri and Brian Tonna from the resolution. Interestingly, three representatives from Azerbaijan co-signed that proposal, but it was shot down.

Some of the government’s proposals were truly curious. The resolution refers to the Director of Europol’s complaint about lack of cooperation by the Maltese police on the case. The government wanted to add that the director’s successor did not take up the complaint. Is the government really suggesting that Europol’s current director has disavowed his predecessor?

Anyway, that amendment was shot down.

Another amendment attacked the resolution for expressing concern that the Malta police had failed to request any evidence from its German counterparts, who are in possession of some of Caruana Galizia’s laptops. The government wanted that paragraph replaced with a different concern: that the Caruana Galizia family might have obstructed justice by giving the laptops to the German police, since that might prevent their data from being used as reliable evidence.

Is the government really implying that having the German police as middlemen might lead to any evidence becoming unreliable?

Let’s hold that thought. Our standards of political responsibility are lower than Mongolia’s; our political debate is admittedly coarser than the rest of Europe’s; but let the world know Malta’s police force can handle potential evidence better than Germany’s.

The CoE didn’t accept that amendment either. But every “era of cleanliness and wholesome political thought” (as Bedingfield so presciently put it) needs to start somewhere. And the government is already putting together an international alliance of wholesomeness.

The CoE’s resolution was opposed by the brave representatives of Azerbaijan, Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP (Turkey), Viktor Orban’s Fidesz (Hungary), and Matteo Salvini’s Lega (Italy). Now that’s what I call an international alliance of wholesomeness.

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With friends like Azerbaijan…

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