This fish rotted from the head down

There’s no proof that the government killed Daphne Caruana Galizia, but it was responsible for her death.

At first glance, these words might seem like a contradiction. How could the State be responsible for her death but not necessarily involved in it?

Let’s deal with ‘responsible’ first.

The public inquiry was tasked with finding out how things reached a point where conspirators decided to kill a journalist who obviously had access to inside information that would expose their roadmap to corruption before they could reap the rewards, quite possibly toppling their ‘friends’ in government in the process.

The board’s conclusions couldn’t be any clearer.

This fish rotted from the head down.

Every thread in this tangled web leads back to Joseph Muscat and his chief of staff, and their deliberately blurred line between politics and business.

Every appointee from every institution that mattered answered directly to Muscat. The disgraced former prime minister used his power — systematically, deliberately — to exploit each of the country’s institutional weaknesses by placing stooges at the head of law enforcement and regulatory bodies, safe in the knowledge they wouldn’t act against him or those he deemed untouchable.

By creating an atmosphere of impunity where corrupt ministers were protected, where regulatory and law enforcement institutions were toothless, and where business interests colluded with politicians to promote lucrative large scale projects regardless of whether they were in the public interest, Muscat and his inner circle engineered the collapse of the rule of law.

Personal greed trumped responsibility, and influence outweighed the public good.

Some of his friends got a lot richer as a result. People like Yorgen Fenech and his Electrogas collaborators, the Apap Bolognas and the Gasans. Concrete kings like Silvio DeBono and Joseph Portelli. Con men like Ram Tumuluri of Vitals Global Healthcare.

Other friends were protected from consequences, both legal and political, when their illicit schemes were exposed. People like Keith Schembri, Konrad Mizzi, Chris Cardona and Ali Sadr Hasheminejad were — and still are — untouchable.

The inquiry found evidence “that powerful elements in public administration could have been involved in illegal activity which was the primary focus of the investigations of the murdered journalist”. It also found ample evidence that the State failed to safeguard her right to life.

The responsibility for this lies with Joseph Muscat. But what about the assassination itself?

It wasn’t part of the board’s mandate to find out. Any proof of official involvement in the plot — the contract killing — or lack thereof must be established by the criminal courts.

You can see why Labour’s predictable attempt to muddy the waters doesn’t hold up. They’re crying “No proof” and trying to claim the report said the State wasn’t involved in the actual murder. In doing so, they’re trumpeting the inquiry’s clarification of its original mandate as proof of innocence.

It’s a deliberate misrepresentation, a tactic I think of as Pulling an Egrant.

Far from letting the government off the hook, the inquiry’s conclusions broadened the scope of responsibility for Caruana Galizia’s death to the entire Cabinet.

And not to some “previous government” that quietly vanished when Joseph Muscat was driven from office in disgrace. The very same officials who are still warming their seats right now while displaying a profound aversion to the public responsibilities inherent in their role.

You see, the board wasn’t buying Edward Scicluna’s excuse when he said, “Whoever wants to hijack a system, it is that person who is responsible. I am not.”

On the contrary, it found the entire Cabinet “collectively responsible” for sitting back and doing nothing to stop the festering rot all around them.

They could have nipped it in the bud when Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi were exposed in the Panama Papers. Instead, they voted to retain the two men.

They had another chance to change the course of events when Yorgen Fenech was outed as the owner of 17 Black. The connections between Mizzi, Schembri, Egrant and the Electrogas project couldn’t be any clearer. But again they toed the Party line rather than take action against men who were clearly being protected by the prime minister.

In doing so, they gave “silent approval” to the impunity at the heart of the Muscat administration. “Elements of organised crime relied on this impunity,” the board said, “and this culture certainly facilitated the assassination.”

While much of the Cabinet may be crippled by an inability to tell right from wrong, the public inquiry made it clear that excuses will not be found in the grey zone between behaviour that was illegal and behaviour that was ‘merely’ illicit.

“It is not enough for one to determine whether the public authority was acting illegally,” the board said. “An appreciation of whether the authorities acted in conformity with principles, values and virtues that comprise the rule of law and all elements that constitute good governance and liberty was also necessary.”

Hiding behind the letter of the law is a de facto assertion that anything which isn’t specifically forbidden is acceptable.

While there’s no actual law against bestiality in Malta, few people would argue the screwing of sheep is technically ‘orrajt’.

Looking back, it’s easy to see that the board’s definition of ‘illicit’ could act as a summary of Muscat’s modus operandi: “illicit behaviour (defined as ‘unacceptably bad behaviour such as bad public administration and governance, manipulative behaviour and conduct that is considered wrong, improper, abusive, oppressive, unethical, immoral and harmful that is not necessarily illegal’)”.

It’s the role of journalists to expose such behaviour and to hold those in power to account, but this only works as intended when the institutions act on the information revealed.

Instead of cracking down on corruption, the government treated Daphne Caruana Galizia as “the only opposition in the country”. Adrian Delia’s Nationalist Party wasn’t a threat to their hold on power, after all. The only threat was the skeletons they’d hidden in their own closets, and the person trying to shine a light on them.

Those skeletons included “excessive closeness and intrigue between elements of public administration at the highest levels and influential businessmen interested in promoting large development projects.”

When Daphne Caruana Galizia started exposing criminal collusion at the heart of those projects, the government and its State-funded attack dogs started treating her as the enemy.

“This direct confrontation reached its peak after the publication of Panama Papers and the external circumstances surrounding the setting up of the foreign company known as 17 Black, when it became obvious that the journalist had obtained and was still receiving information that was most sensitive,” the report said. “Confrontation escalated up until the point at which she was assassinated.”

Joseph Muscat was the active enabler who turned an entire government into a personal enrichment project. And when that project was threatened by the journalist who kept exposing the details, the people who plotted and financed her murder went ahead with it, safe in the knowledge that they would be protected by the very same compromised officials who controlled the institutions tasked with catching and convicting them.

The hired killers were so sure they’d get away with it that they bragged about “their contacts with ministers, the chief of staff, and other persons at the heart of power”, referring to them in court as ‘No. 1’, ‘the old man’, and ‘the king’.

Their confidence was not misplaced. Even after the murder, high-ranking police officials and public authorities acted “in a manifestly illicit way, if not illegally” to assist suspects by deflecting journalists from the sordid details that were being uncovered.

Malta went from up-and-coming EU Member State to international disgrace in just eight years, and the voracious greed of individuals — from the OPM to Cabinet, from big business to every voter who cast a ballot in order to get something for themselves — allowed it to happen.

Expecting this government to sort out its own mess is delusional. Does anyone imagine they’ll investigate their own corruption and that of their colleagues, deliver justice for the family of Daphne Caruana Galizia, and ensure nothing like this can ever happen again?

And then what? Slap handcuffs on themselves and trundle off to Corradino?

The report ends with a long list of recommendations, many of which involve strengthening existing laws and passing other reforms on paper.

Such laws are important and necessary, of course, but all the paper laws in the world won’t protect you if the people responsible for enforcing them are corruptible.

As the simpering Evarist Bartolo said to Tim Sebastian on Deutsche Welle’s Conflict Zone, “The rule of family and the rule of friends is stronger than the rule of law.”

It will take a society to change that fundamental truth.

It starts by holding Joseph Muscat responsible for what he has done. Begin with the rotten head and work all the way down.

                           
                               
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John
John
1 month ago

The report also identifies the arms of an octopus. It mentions them by name. One of them is former MFSA CEO Joe Cuschieri. Will the President of Malta condemn him? Will FIAU investigate him? Will MFSA revise all his decisions? Let’s start from having answers to these basic questions.

carlo
carlo
1 month ago
Reply to  John

joe GREEDY cuschieri is one that should be fired from his post and declared as a person non grata – together with all corrupt people of trust who are/were responsible for the mess we’re in.
Why should we trust any of them – make way for a party who will have the honest worker at heart. You saved enough illicit money to go and dump yourselves in azerbajain or dubai where all corrupt people end up. Until then our island will still be marred by your presence and will never regain its good image.
Up to this very day the most corrupt of you all are still running around making fun of us as we are unable to unseat them.
Bil-paroli m’ahna se naslu mkien.

Paul Pullicino
Paul Pullicino
1 month ago

An order to kill in Mafia code is no more than a wink. Al Capone, responsible for hundreds of assassinations, was never proven to have legally been involved. What the Board’s Inquiry said in one line is that the government of the day winked at its business partners.

viv
viv
1 month ago

The best summary I’ve read.

Joseph
Joseph
1 month ago

So the president of Malta wants a new beginning, NOW! Funny how when anyone’s back is against a brick wall, they’re sorry and swear to change and turn a new leaf. Why NOW, Mr. President, after all you knew what was happening all along. Of all the opportunities you had to say something meaningful, you waited ’till now? How could you and your government lead an EU country, while still selling their dodgy passports, you’re all shameless and a disgrace. You and your current corrupt government should all resign ‘en masse’ NOW!

saviour mamo
saviour mamo
1 month ago
Reply to  Joseph

Before a new beginning there has to be justice.

Joseph
Joseph
1 month ago
Reply to  saviour mamo

Absolutely total criminal justice, resigning doesn’t absolve anybody either! But alas, can there ever be a new beginning in this country, it’s a very desperate situation indeed when the majority still back the corruption culture that engulfed the country.

viv
viv
1 month ago
Reply to  Joseph

As far as presidential Facebook bathroom statements go, today’s was embarrassingly subjective.

carlo
carlo
1 month ago
Reply to  Joseph

It’s toooooooooooo late now – we only ask for all the supporters of crime to shut up; the less they talk the better and let justice take its place WITHOUT INTERFERANCE.

Joe
Joe
1 month ago
Reply to  Joseph

Maybe like Edward Scicluna, the President was not invited in the Kitchen Cabinet where important and corrupt decisions were made?
One wonders what took place in regular Muscat Cabinet meetings? Coffee and pastizzi, and ‘important stuff’ given to Keith Kasco to handle behind the unimportant Ministers’ back?
That’s the impression they try to convey to us, though.

Henry s Pace
Henry s Pace
1 month ago

The disgraced joseph muscat betrayed the whole country.
This man should be outlawed.

Last edited 1 month ago by Henry s Pace
carlo
carlo
1 month ago
Reply to  Henry s Pace

He wanted Simon Busutill to be exiled – it’s our turn to tell him to exile himself after justice is made.

Joe
Joe
1 month ago
Reply to  carlo

Can’t exile himself. Someone with balls of steel has to do it.
And it ain’t Roberto the body builder.

Joe
Joe
1 month ago
Reply to  Henry s Pace

You mean exiled?

KD Far
KD Far
1 month ago

L-affarijiet jidher li diga hadu xejra ghall-ahjar b’Robert Abela. Nemmen li ser jirnexxilu jnehhi l-istigma negattivi u li saret fuq pajjizna.

carlo
carlo
1 month ago
Reply to  KD Far

L-istigma negattiva titnehha meta jitnehha l-gvern KORROTT u jkun hemm gvern onest – ikunx ahmar blu jew ahdar ftit jimporta – l-importanti hu li jkun dicenti u mhux korrott.

Joe
Joe
1 month ago
Reply to  KD Far

Clutching at straws, are we?
Min jghix bit-tama, jmut bil-piena, jghidu.

Malta is chaos
Malta is chaos
1 month ago

Ministers must start bearing their political responsibility. Starting from those Ministers that were members in the previous Cabinet.

gadflyg
gadflyg
1 month ago

To the President of the Republic
Your Excellency,
It is time for you to rise above politics, above the petty political prejudices. It is time for you to act like a President of a republic: you should have the courage to denounce all past and present abuses committed by the party now in government, and this independently of the fact that you formerly belonged to it. It is time to shoulder responsibility; to be A gentleman, to be a statesman and not a mere party stooge. At your age you cannot possibly have any ambition for career advancement: you are already at the apex. Hence there should be no physical or psychological ties to draw you back. Your courage in condemning all past abuses; your courage in insisting that those guilty be punished; your courage in ensuring that all those tainted be prosecuted would be the best monument that can be erected in your honour. Your position as head of state requires you to be courageous in defence of your own country and of its inhabitants. Let the other politicians be the gormless insects that they are; you are o longer one of them. You represent all of us!

Joe
Joe
1 month ago
Reply to  gadflyg

The President cannot do much about the sorry situation, for two reasons:

  1. He has no executive powers, he cannot on his own initiative fire anyone for any reason. He acts on the advice of the Prime Minister, remember?
  2. The Inquiry found Muscat’s government as a whole including his Cabinet as contributors to Daphne’s assassination and during Muscat’s tenure, the President was a Minister in his Cabinet.

My bet is that His Excellency is not sleeping too well these days.

Carmelo Borg
1 month ago

Jien kont wiehed li fit 2013 kont gejt ikkonvincejt li Muscat kien we jaghmel il bidla li kien hemm bzonn imma lanqas ghaddew xarhejn li kont gejt imqarraq. Illum inhares lejn l izjed prim ministru li ha it titlu infami tal 2019 lejn stmerrija li Lili it tradini Illum nahseb b mohhi mhux b qalbi. Illum ma Ghadniex GAHAN. Prim Abela nahseb li hemm izjed nies jahsbugha bhali. Bil forsi li hemm xi haga li qeghda izzommok milli TIKKUNDANNA LIL INFAMI MUSCAT. NERGA NGHILEK LI JIEN MINHIEX GAHAN IZJED.

Joe
Joe
1 month ago
Reply to  Carmelo Borg

Jista avukat li kien jaghti pariri w kien haga wahda mal-klient, jittradixxih w jikxef dak kollu li jaf fuqu? Wara li l-klient kien hallsu xi 500,000 ewro ghall-pariri?
Daqshekk iehor jista Abela jichad jew jikxef lill-Muscat!

Lawrence
Lawrence
1 month ago

A new construction must be built on solid foundations, not on exiting crumbling ones.

Janet W
Janet W
1 month ago

One of the important aspects is the ‘collective responsibility’ of the Cabinet at the time. All those wise monkeys who heard, saw and spine no evil should do the honourable thing and resign, or be sacked. That’s the starting point and it should happen immediately. It’s time Bob the builder grew a pair!!

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