It’s been almost four years since the brutal assassination of trail-blazing journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia on 16 October 2017. Four years in which Malta was forced, finally, to listen to what she had been saying since 2013. Four years in which ears and eyes that had remained stubbornly closed, were ripped open and compelled to hear and see that which they’d tried so hard to ignore.
Malta had been hijacked by a criminal gang in league with some of the worst villains in the world. And the only person in Malta with the courage to see it and condemn it was first vilified, demonized and harassed, and then murdered.
Daphne was right. She was right all along. She was right about the off-the-scale corruption in the Electrogas racket, she was right about the Vitals (now Steward Healthcare) hospitals swindle, the AUM fraud, the Montenegro swindle. She was right about the dozens of smaller-scale corruption, cronyism, and cheating that she wrote every day on her blog, Running Commentary.
She was right about the characters carrying out these scams: disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat and his coven of familiars, Konrad Mizzi, Keith Schembri, Chris Cardona, Manuel Mallia, Rosianne Cutajar and so many others that were sitting smugly in cabinet, falling over themselves to come up with sneaky schemes to squeeze every last little drop they could out of the country they’d be entrusted to safeguard.
She was right about the bit players too. The sleazy hangers-on, illicit relationships, childhood chums and friends of friends. I remember the uproar whenever she posted photographs of the country’s representatives caught in compromising situations, or screenshots of shamed former parliamentary secretary Rosianne Cutajar posing suggestively as she advertised her services as a “hostess” in Catania. Or any of the scores of individuals she exposed as immoral, deceitful, cheap, vulgar and shameless.
But she was right there too. You can’t take a bunch of people with no morals, no guiding principles, no sense of what’s right or wrong, and expect them to be able to run a country honourably, or even efficiently.
“No good can come from bad people,” she wrote – explaining her objection to former PN leader Adrian Delia, in September 2017. The issue of ‘character’ was a theme she’d written about before and often returned to as she battled against the inexplicable resistance of the vast majority to understand that the way a person behaves in his or her private life is the way that person will behave in public life.
In 2016, she quoted Hugh Rifkind writing in the London Times: “Our MPs are not technocrats but representatives, and learning about their character is always in the public interest.”
If more people had understood, or wanted to understand, the essential truth in what Caruana Galizia was saying, perhaps Malta would have been spared the catastrophic consequences we’re reeling under now.
In an article on her blog in April 2017, she wrote: “The fact of the matter is that people can be divided into four broad categories: the fundamentally good, the fundamentally bad, the fundamentally spineless, and the fundamentally amoral. With three of those categories, you have a very real problem one way or another, and they are best avoided in all life situations.”
The title of the article was “Thank you for pointing out what poor judges of people and situations many Maltese are”.
It is the poor judgement of hundreds of thousands of Maltese people that led to Caruana Galizia’s assassination by a group of soulless, gutter-crawling killers hailing from the upper echelons of power to the lowest slime of the abyss. It is the poor judgement of more than half of all Maltese voters that put in power a cabal of crooks, thugs whose true intentions were glaringly evident, from years before the 2013 election that actually gave them the power they needed.
It is that poor judgement, that vacillating morality, that reluctance to condemn – just in case the ‘condemned’ is needed at some point in the future – that helped bring Muscat and his monstrous government to power, that handed them the keys to the safe and sat back watching gormlessly as they emptied it of valuables, sold off the country’s most precious assets in exchange for hefty commissions, and then plotted the eradication of their most astute and vocal critic.
Forty-seven months after that horrific day, the day we learned just how vicious and depraved these people really are, we all now know that she was right. We all now know she was right about the crooks in government, she was right about their hovering satellites, the businessmen, the officials and professionals who promoted clearly ill-intentioned characters because they wanted a slice of the pie they knew would be being shared out.
In the same April 2017 article, she wrote: “That’s why I always said you should not vote for Joseph Muscat. He’s a fundamentally amoral person. No good can come out of that in any situation, let alone by putting him in a charge of a small country with EU membership status and no checks and balances.”
As Kevin Cassar so aptly pointed out in his column for The Shift yesterday, Muscat was a magnet for crooks, local and foreign. Alice Elizabeth Taylor today writes about the way Muscat’s chosen men allowed international organised crime networks to infiltrate, poison and eventually destroy an industry that had been carefully and cautiously built up to provide employment to thousands of Maltese and foreigners.
Forty-seven months ago today, when Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered in broad daylight, we learned that she was right. Nearly four years later, after three eminent judges and almost the entire European Parliament have condemned Muscat’s government as being responsible, nothing much has changed.
Yesterday, in her State of the Union address, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen cited Caruana Galizia’s killing, and the murders of Jan Kuciak in Slovakia and Peter de Vries in the Netherlands, and urged member states to improve protection for journalists, media outlets’ independence and the public’s right to information.
In Malta, the public inquiry board demanded exactly that, more than six weeks ago. Daphne was right, the board concluded. Prime Minister Robert Abela swore to take action. But so far, he’s done nothing but pay lip service to the expectations of the public. This inaction is not going unnoticed. And in the meantime, all it does is prove, over and over again, that Daphne was right. Every time.