Opinion: Freezing this Christmas

Daphne Caruana Galizia famously broke the news about the stink in Konrad Mizzi’s dealings in the run-up to Easter. New Zealand lamb did a cameo in a not-too-thinly veiled stab at the disgraced minister’s wheelings and dealings.

Soon after, Daphne’s bank accounts would be frozen as members and sponsors of Joseph Muscat’s government piled on libel cases to debilitate the journalist and stifle her cutting work.

It’s 2023 now. Six years and two months since Malta’s finest investigative journalist was assassinated. It’s the run-up to Christmas, and Joseph Muscat is in the news denying any knowledge of or involvement in the fast-tracking of new legislation that limits freezing orders by courts in financial crime cases.

That change in the law is a reaction to what are deemed to be “disproportionate orders” about the amounts involved in the underlying crime.

The disgraced former prime minister broke into a sweat and reverted to his broken record of distrust in the judiciary. This was an opportunity to continue to doubt the magistrate handling the inquiry into the Vitals hospitals deal.

According to Muscat, speculation that the law on frozen assets was being fast-tracked in his favour only meant that the possibility of his being charged in the case – the result of the inquiry – was a fait accompli.

There is no end to Muscat’s brazenfaced cheek. His constant evasion of accountability, or as he calls it, “paying the price,” is equalled only by the inexplicable backing he receives from those who remain in positions of power.

But it is not just him. The cabal of frauds at the heart of his government still finds solace and support in the actions of today’s institutions. 

Whether it is the Public Accounts Committee, the Commissioner of Police, or the Advocate of the Republic, a combination of inertia, feigned or real incompetence and stoic ineptitude serve Muscat and his former partners in corruption to no end.

The opposition has for once made an intelligent move of suing the State Advocate for failing to act on the Vitals deal developments.

Irony of ironies. In 2017, there had already been calls for removing the Commissioner of Police and the Attorney General – the weak links have long been identified as pawns at the mercy of the corrupt cabal.

But will they be forced into action? That remains debatable. 

Reading Paul Caruana Galizia’s outstanding account of the events leading to and following the brutal assassination of his mother, it is hard not to despair at the slow, drudging pace at which justice seems to operate.

There is a reminder that, as a nation, we have been through moments of catharsis before and failed miserably. A weak form of reconciliation and ‘forgiveness’ only paved the way for the faults and weaknesses that ultimately resulted in the backsliding of the rule of law.

It takes a particular form of stubbornness and hope to fight against all odds, the instinct to bury troubles. It takes a particular form of courage and determination to insist on the fight against the hold of the corrupt on the nation.

Six years of battles and tribulations against a system that clings on to power and desperately tries to stifle any protest while spinning an unbelievable alternative reality. 

Six years of lobbying, investigating and challenging. Six years as part of an age-old battle fought wherever democracy has been battered and abused.

A public inquiry, ‘Daphne’s Law‘ at EU level, victories in court while The Shift continues the work of investigative journalism. And yet, the struggle is far from over.

This Saturday, 16 December, find time and get to Valletta for the vigil calling for justice for Daphne. Dress warmly; that way, you will not be the one worrying about freezing this Christmas.

                           

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