Facing stormy weather and cold winds, activists from NGO Repubblika have been camping out in front of the police’s headquarters in Floriana since yesterday, demanding that police commissioner Angelo Gafa’ proceed with the prosecution of disgraced former energy minister Konrad Mizzi.
“In a way, the fact that it is raining heavily throughout our protest helps us prove our point – this action is meant to be ‘not normal’ because we can’t go back to normal as if nothing is happening,” Repubblika president Robert Aquilina stated when reached for comment, stressing the urgent need for prosecutions.
“We want the public to understand that. As for the commissioner, we were well aware we would bother him with our presence here, and we wanted to do so to remind him that we’re determined to hold him accountable,” Aquilina added.
While Aquilina made it clear that Repubblika does not “doubt Gafa’s ability to do his job”, the president of the NGO was adamant that there is a lack of willingness to prosecute figures such as Mizzi whose political careers were mired in corrupt deals.
“What’s missing is the will to proceed forward, and it is evident that Gafa’ only proceeds with corruption-related arraignments when the court orders him to do so or if he is pressured by civil society,” Aquilina said.
Citing the organisation’s sources of information, Aquilina believes that the pressure applied on Gafa’ and the need for the police to investigate and prosecute those found to be corrupt had brought the commissioner around to pushing further on the Pilatus Bank arraignments, by way of one example.
“If that’s the system that actually works, then we use it. We want, ultimately, to achieve these results because there is an urgent need for them,” Aquilina said.
While the police force has brought some Pilatus Bank officials to court, the investigation seems to have been limited to officials who were allegedly engaging in money laundering while failing to target account holders, according to news reports published in September, meaning that the clients who actually sought to launder money seem to have been left out of the probe completely.
Aquilina also pointed out that Gafa’s approach, as police commissioner, with cases involving formerly high-ranking officials like Mizzi is in stark contrast to Gafa’s previous approach back when he was an inspector.
“Gafa’ is not using the same approach he himself had used when the oil scandal broke out; in a month’s time after the story broke, people were arraigned in court. On the Panama papers, however, nothing has been done since 2016, not by this commissioner or the one before him,” Aquilina said.
“This is besides the fact that Konrad Mizzi is outright humiliating the highest institution of our country as well as the country’s people with his behaviour since he does not want to be held accountable for his actions,” he added.
Addressing prime minister Robert Abela, Aquilina also said that, ultimately, Abela must shoulder political responsibility for the lack of prosecutions, pointing out that Abela “cannot afford to explain why he kicked Mizzi out of his parliamentary group as doing so would mean distancing himself from Joseph Muscat and therefore, condemning the recent history of the Labour party”.
In reference to the Labour party in general, Aquilina also condemned the way in which Labour’s media arm, One News, is attempting to portray the sit-in protest as “a conspiracy to seize power”, with One’s poster boy Karl Stagno Navarra broadcasting identifying pictures of the people who were present on social media.
“History will judge them as persons who sowed hate and intimidation, especially people like Karl Stagno Navarra. They want to give people the message that Labour’s media is identifying people who show up to our protest and marking them, intimidating them into thinking that they will end up facing some sort of consequences for their decision to show up,” Aquilina said.
“This is a breach of fundamental human rights and we will do everything we can to resist these attacks and hold them accountable for all of it,” he added.
The sit-in protest will end with a demonstration in front of Castille at 6.30pm on Friday, 29 October.