Once, we had a country – until Joseph Muscat wrecked it. Deep in the fuse box of my mind, I feel a switch flick. I feel no fear, helplessness or exasperation but a white-hot wave of searing indignation. A fury of furies that Muscat with his smirks and arrogance continues to affront the country – even after the damning indictment of the Daphne Caruana Galizia report.
As the painful weight of the public inquiry’s shocking conclusions slowly seeps into the national psyche, Muscat brazenly hurls his “serious reservations” in his scornful Facebook post. The full force of the tsunami that report will trigger has not yet hit, but we can already feel the deep rumbling of its imminent approach.
As others flee or hide, Muscat stands there oblivious of the force approaching him. He lobbed insults at his predecessors: “They spoke a lot but did nothing”. Those predecessors, perched on pedestals of virtue, stand so high that his poisonous projectiles cannot touch them from the depths of vileness in which he wallows.
Lost in pettiness and irrelevance, he droned on about his reservations that “have not been addressed” by the Board of Inquiry. He resorted to deflection, accusing the Opposition Leader of having access to the report before publication.
The hollowness of Muscat’s distractions is amplified by a cursory glance at the inquiry report. Joseph Muscat falsely claimed that “the report unequivocally declares that I was not implicated in the murder”. It does no such thing. In conclusion 3, the report specifies that the Board mandate was not to investigate, identify or place responsibility on persons allegedly involved in the murder.
The Board did not and could not have looked at individual responsibility. But the report refers directly to Joseph Muscat, unequivocally.
Muscat decided not to take serious action against Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri when they were implicated in the Panama papers and far worse after the 17 Black revelations. The report states that while Muscat justified his inaction after the Panama papers leak as bad political judgement, something the Board rejects, he could not make the same excuse after 17 Black led to allegations of criminality.
The Board concluded that Muscat’s inaction strengthened the culture of impunity that facilitated Caruana Galizia’s assassination. But there was worse. The Board found that after 2013 the government started to consider Caruana Galizia as “the only opposition”.
The “incestuous marriage” between politics and business led to the need for Caruana Galizia to be silenced (conclusion 17). Conclusion 18 states that there was an orchestrated plan for the journalist to be neutralised to limit political damage and to protect the personal financial interests of those involved in huge state projects – a plan that succeeded because it was organised by the Office of the Prime Minister.
Conclusion 20 makes an even more depressing reading. The mentality existing among organised crime that the Chief of Staff could be referred to as No 1 and the prime minister as “ix-Xih” and “il-King” showed the confidence they bragged about as a result of a culture of impunity through which they felt protected.
Conclusion 21: A net of control was created to concentrate power in the hands of a few people.
The report delivered a crushing blow to Labour’s ludicrous boast that “the institutions are working”: “what is striking is the utter failure of the institutions to react appropriately and effectively which can be attributed to the close ties between those leading the institutions and those with dubious interests”.
Muscat’s hollow bluff is shattered. Conclusion 22 deals the fatal blow: “What aggravates the responsibility of the state is the creation of a culture of both impunity and dehumanisation but, much worse, allegations that still need to be confirmed that there may be persons within state entities who through their actions, directly or indirectly, contributed to or favoured the commission of the assassination”.
Yet Muscat takes a leaf out of Donald Trump’s book claiming “total and complete exoneration” after the Mueller report. But far from exoneration, the Caruana Galizia report is a sad indictment of Muscat’s guilt.
“The Board identifies the responsibility of ex-prime minister Joseph Muscat for what happened”. Conclusion 29 does not mince words. No equivocation here. Muscat was responsible for what happened.
Muscat oversaw the looting of the nation, its assets passing under our windows and noses, on their way into the pockets of “big business” and their political enablers. A bag of €9,000 here and several million transferred through 17 Black there.
An aching sadness lingers as I leaf through the 437 pages of the report highlighting the stark tragedy not only of Caruana Galizia’s assassination but of the despicable attempts to cover up, deflect attention and protect those who commissioned and executed her brutal assassination by Muscat’s loyal core.
Muscat’s indecent shrill protestations are muffled by the quiet determination of civil society organisations and independent media. These provide a grain of hope to which Malta can cling.
That sound of quiet resistance is a sign that someone, somewhere is standing up against greed, indecency and evil. When you are in a dark place, worried for your country and your children’s future, the knowledge that someone is putting up a fight on your behalf, in however small a way, can make all the difference.
“You know why we’re doing this?” one leader of the French resistance asked a young boy risking his life distributing copies of the Voix du Nord (Voice of the North) newspaper in Nazi-occupied France. “It’s about the truth, about the evil this regime represents and how our countrymen are starting to push back. People need to know. It gives them hope”.
I dare to hope. That the precious report into that heinous crime will serve as a sanctuary, visited regularly by those who come not only to honour that lone fighter for the truth but to reaffirm their commitment to oppose evil, no matter what the price, no matter how supreme the sacrifice required.