The message in Valletta this evening was one of hope that Malta can overcome the corruption plaguing the country.
Thousands of protestors took to the streets of Valletta to call for the resignation of the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff Keith Schembri. The crowd chanted “Korrotti Kastilja”, referring to the corruption at the Office of the Prime Minister at Castille.
The march coincided with the day marking 25 months since the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
“One day we will have justice, we will have crooks behind bars, and we will be a normal country where journalists don’t have to fear for their lives, where we no longer have to organise protests for justice,” said Petra Caruana.
Vicky Ann Cremona, the President of civil society group Repubblika, said: “corruption causes harm to our country’s reputation and our quality of life, even those who are not here today and those who still support Joseph Muscat’s government”.
She detailed a number of scandals that occurred under the current government, including secret companies in Panama, kickbacks from Dubai companies 17 Black and MacBridge, the sale of hospitals, secret contracts, and the sale of European passports.
“They all are flourishing from our money, and worse than that, they are being stolen from the future of our children,” she added.
Lawyer Jacques Rene Zammit honoured Caruana Galizia in his speech, linking her assassination to demagoguery and corruption.
“Daphne Caruana Galizia is a victim of the rabble rousers who con the people into wanting to destroy institutional accountability, who lull you into a sense of disillusion, who lead you to abetting or ignoring systemic breakdown, who sell you the lie that these are the best of times”, he told the crowd.
Politician Mark Anthony Sammut reminded the crowd that “silence and indifference were the greatest allies of corruption”. He called for citizens to make their voice heard, adding: “Together we can design the Malta we really want to live in, where justice is our all, where truth is all of us, even where democracy is really all of us.”
Members of all opposition political parties attended, and Manuel Delia also addressed the crowd.
The call for Schembri’s resignation came after he withdrew the libel case against former Opposition leader Simon Busuttil to avoid being questioned on the witness stand about Dubai company 17 Black linked to corruption in the Electrogas deal. He had filed the case against Busuttil after comments that he had received kickbacks on the controversial Electrogas agreement in 2016.
Schembri’s decision also led to Opposition leader Adrian Delia to call for his resignation, pointing out that the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff had “done everything not to respond to questions in the libel case that he himself opened”.
In a tweet, Delia said that “Schembri chose not to respond in order not to incriminate himself” and said that he “must either resign or be removed immediately from the position of Chief of Staff of the Prime Minister”.
Delia also called an urgent Parliamentary Group meeting, which unanimously agreed to file an urgent motion in Parliament calling on Prime Minister Joseph Muscat to sack Schembri from his “highly sensitive” public role.
17 Black was identified as one of two sources of income for the Panama companies owned by Minister Konrad Mizzi, as well as Schembri – with Yorgen Fenech identified as the owner of the Dubai-registered company. Fenech is also a shareholder and director in Electrogas – the company that built and runs the Delimara power plant.
In her last blog post published minutes before her murder, Caruana Galizia had reported on one of the sittings of this libel case saying that “that crook Keith Schembri was in court claiming he was not corrupt, despite moving to set up a secret company in Panama along with favourite minister Konrad Mizzi and Mr Egrant just days after Labour won the general election in 2013, sheltering it in a top-secret Trust in New Zealand, then hunting around the world for a shady bank that would take them as clients.”