The European Parliament’s resolution condemning the Malta Labour Party’s “patronage” of Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination should have sent shock waves of horror through every citizen of Malta.
With only 46 votes against, consisting almost entirely of far-right loony fringe MEPs and the four PL members, this resolution confirms what many of us have known since 3pm on October 16, 2017.
This Labour government, first under disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat and now under his stooge, Robert Abela, is directly implicated in the horrific murder of Malta’s leading journalist, who had been almost single-handedly exposing the corruption, fraud and cronyism of the PL administration from the very first day of its formation.
The resolution, a triumph of the two PN MEPs, Roberta Metsola and David Casa, cites the close links between the criminal underworld and the Malta Labour Party as having allowed the murder to happen and demands that every single individual implicated in the killing be brought to justice. It further exhorts the Maltese government to stamp out organized crime, corruption and the intimidation of journalists with extreme urgency.
Yet, of course, the PL government has no intention of doing anything of the sort. They signalled this publicly and unequivocally by instructing the four Labour MEPs to vote against the resolution.
The PL government and its minions, despite the overwhelming evidence against them, continue to spew their mind-bending, gas-lighting claims: the institutions are working, the guilty have been charged, the corrupt had simply made minor mistakes, the accusations are slanderous lies with no basis in truth…until they’re proven, and then they’re simply “oversights,” understandable lapses of judgement that could happen to the best of people.
So, the European Parliament is destined to be disappointed. Alfred Sant, Cyrus Engerer, Alex Agius Saliba and Josianne Cutajar, supported only by the flotsam and jetsam of the EU’s most unsavoury political parties, once again, publicly, shamelessly and in the eye of the international press, proved that they’d sold their souls to Malta’s resident demons and actively chose to continue aligning themselves with alleged murderers and thieves.
In the first few years of this tainted government, from 2013, while Caruana Galizia’s voice was the only one being raised in protest, the European Commission failed Malta spectacularly. Seemingly beguiled by the smirking, sycophantic Muscat, it allowed one scandal after another to be explained away with obvious lies, offering ongoing support to Muscat, which in turn fed the arrogance that saw him brazenly breaking every rule in the book, openly, unashamedly and, often, spitefully.
Hopefully, the European Commission under Ursula von der Leyen will take this resolution more seriously than were previous EU Parliament statements sent to the Commission then under Jean-Claude Juncker. The disgraceful passport selling scam, introduced suddenly in 2013, immediately after Muscat and his gang of thieves came into government, is one such example.
Clearly, a shady, dangerous activity that risked undermining the security of the EU as a whole, it was allowed to operate for years with only minor changes demanded. Indeed, Juncker continued to support Muscat through one scandal after another, effectively helping him and his cronies to continue fleecing the Maltese public and compromising EU security for years. It’s only after Juncker’s departure in 2019 that critics of Muscat and his criminal gang were finally given a properly receptive audience.
Admittedly, it’s not always easy to discern truth-tellers from hoodwinkers. And even then, suspicions need to be backed up by actions: investigations, evidence, trials, convictions. Criminal networks need to be exposed, or they can continue insisting they are innocent, their facilitators unmasked, so that their statements can be seen for what they really are.
In 2006 I worked on a publication about visiting, investing in and living in Sicily. The brief included getting an interview with the island’s regional president, Salvatore Cuffaro, a man already under investigation for Mafia association, who yet proclaimed he was working assiduously to eradicate this devastating Sicilian scourge.
Of course, during our interview, he denied the “rumours” strenuously, dismissing the many accusations swirling around him as fiction and pointing grandiosely to the various initiatives he’d introduced, ostensibly to defeat the hideous succubus still draining the lifeblood from any sort of locally-owned business, from self-employed taxi drivers and tiny village hairdressers to factories, agricultural enterprises and hotels.
After the publication was completed and I moved on to a fresh project, I continued to follow what was going on in Sicily. Before long, every Sicilian news site I read had Salvatore Cuffaro’s name splashed across its home page: the President of the Sicilian Region – whose main opponent in the 2006 election that brought him to power was Rita Borsellino, sister of assassinated Mafia victim Judge Paolo Borsellino – was standing trial for Mafia association.
After several appeals, his conviction was confirmed, and he was imprisoned for five years, only getting out in 2015.
The conviction for aiding and abetting the Mafia involved things that will be very familiar to anyone following Malta’s scandal-ridden PL government: election campaigns financed by known Mafia figures, envelopes of cash exchanged in public places, tip-offs about police investigation passed to the criminals concerned, serving as witness at weddings of notorious Mafia bosses, being in contact with a “middle man” who carried messages back and forth to Mafia chiefs, and so on.
Crucially, Cuffaro was re-elected to the Sicilian presidency in 2006, having first won office in 2001, although he had already been under investigation for Mafia-related crimes from 2003. He garnered 51% of the vote, despite being accused of involvement with the very organisation that had murdered his main opponent’s brother.
The parallels with Malta’s PL government getting re-elected despite known criminality and scandal, the claims of strengthened institutions, beefed up practices and crime-busting initiatives being implemented, aimed at placating international observers while concurrently hobbling the very same institutions and initiatives to render them toothless in practice, is frightening.
Like Cuffaro, Muscat and his criminal cronies all claim innocence, refusing to resign, or only doing so when their backs are pushed hard up against the wall.
Sicily, however, has the Italian mainland to hold it to account when its own people fail to. Convoluted and imperfect as Italian politics may be, non-local police forces, officers, and judicial departments ensure Mafia investigations are carried out, thus reducing the risk of police collusion in covering up crimes. Trials occur in distant mainland cities, and Sicilian Mafia convicts are incarcerated in prisons located in Rome or further north.
After Malta joined the EU in 2003, many of us hoped the Union would act in the same way: holding any corrupt politicians to account and ensuring that even if the police force became compromised, as it was in the 70s and 80s, the EU would step in and save the day.
Unfortunately, it’s not been that simple. With Muscat simpering at Juncker for years, his government went uncensored. Even when the EU parliament did protest, it had little real executive power, mostly depending on the Commission to take any action deemed necessary.
That’s not to say that the rebuke in this week’s historic resolution isn’t valuable. Even as a stand-alone act, it’s an unprecedented and powerful indictment of the criminals that have hijacked the country and turned Malta into a by-word for criminality, corruption and murder.
But hopefully, it will be more than that. Hopefully, the European Commission will take this resolution and use it, along with the many tools and instruments in its power, to make sure that every single person involved in Caruana Galizia’s murder, every single politician involved in corruption, fraud or nepotism, is brought to justice and punished as severely as the law allows. Because it’s now crystal clear that, just like Sicily, we simply can’t trust the Maltese electorate to do the job for us.