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raphael_vassallo
Raphael Vassallo

Political prejudice has never solved a crime

If you want evidence of just how incurable our political cancer has become, you need look no further than public reactions to the 10 arrests made on Monday in connection with Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder

raphael_vassallo
Raphael Vassallo
7 December 2017, 7:53am
'At present, though, we are still a LONG way off from unilaterally declaring this case ‘solved'
'At present, though, we are still a LONG way off from unilaterally declaring this case ‘solved'
Now that I think about it, it has never really solved anything at all... unless you count questions like, ‘But why have we remained so utterly pig-headed and immature as a nation?’ On that score... oh yes, political prejudice will always come up with an answer.

In all other areas, however, it is about as helpful and beneficial a quality to possess as a malignant, terminal tumour. I mean, just look at us for a second, will you? There is barely a single national issue or problem in this country of ours that does not somehow owe its origin to our endemic culture of political tribalism; yet instead of abating over the years, it just keeps exponentially growing, and growing, and growing, with no end ever in sight. Exactly like a tumour, in fact...  only without the equivalent of anything like chemotherapy, as far as I can see.

If you want evidence of just how incurable our political cancer has become, you need look no further than public reactions to the 10 arrests made on Monday in connection with Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder. They very neatly fall into two distinct categories, depending on... you’ll never guess... which pair of political blinkers you happen to be wearing. And I need hardly add that neither of these two (obviously completely incompatible) reactions seems in any way interested in establishing the truth of who murdered Daphne Caruana Galizia, or for what reason. This is perhaps the only thing they both have in common: their only interest lies in confirming a narrative chosen to fit neatly within a very specific political bias... and to hell with what actually happened on October 16.

Let’s start with the category that is very obviously sympathetic to Joseph Muscat... and therefore, by extension, also firmly believes in the integrity and professional expertise of the Police Commissioner, etc. Going only on how this category responded to news of Monday’s arrests... anyone would think Daphne’s murderers have already been charged, tried, convicted and sentenced to prison (which sentence has already been confirmed by the Court of Appeal). That’s a process that can take anywhere up to 15 years... sometimes more... yet there they all were, a few hours after the first small step of a massive legal and institutional journey had only just been taken... all ‘congratulating’ the Police Commissioner for having ‘solved the case’, and for ‘giving an answer with facts instead of words’ (that’s an approximate quote from a Facebook comment, by the way)

Whoah. ‘Solved the case’? ‘Answers with facts’? Aren’t we jumping the gun slightly here... if not jumping the entire invention of gunpowder, by a few centuries at least?

At the time of writing, those 10 suspects haven’t even been charged in court. It’s just been announced on the radio that the arraignment is expected later this evening. But until it happens, those 10 are to be considered as potential suspects, and thus given all the rights due to persons in police custody... including (do I even need to say it?) the right to be ‘presumed innocent until proven guilty’.

Separately, we have been told – TOLD, I stress - that there is compelling material evidence connecting them with the crime; and that this will be made public in due course.

Now: I don’t want to swing to the opposite extreme by simply dismissing all these claims out of hand. That would place me in the second category, to which I will come in turn (and which, as you can surely already guess, is no better). Clearly, some form of evidence must exist for those people to have been arrested... and if it doesn’t... well, we’ll find out soon enough anyway.

At present, though, we are still a LONG way off from unilaterally declaring this case ‘solved’. None of us has seen even a jot of this evidence yet. For all we know, it may consist of misinterpreted data. The suspects themselves may have been misidentified. (Who knows? ‘Ic-Ciniz’ instead of ‘II-Gappuniz’. These things happen, you know...) Even if the presumed evidence exists, it might be thrown out of court as ‘inadmissible’ for any of a million technical reasons. Heck, at this stage we can’t even say with any certainty whether there will even be a case to throw it out of (though by the time you read this, we’ll probably know). What if it turns out the police have to release all 10 suspects without charge after the mandatory 48 hours are up?  Or if they do press charges, but a judge finds insufficient grounds to try the case at ’compilation of evidence’ stage? What would become of all these premature ‘congratulations’ then?

In all honesty, I find it amazing I even have to point these things out... so soon after almost identical arguments were made (by the same people) to defend Joseph Muscat from similar allegations last April. I didn’t take Daphne’s word for it when she claimed to have evidence of an account owned by Michelle Muscat used to launder money for the Azerbaijani ruling family. Then as now, I said ‘show us the evidence’.

Well, by exactly the same token, I am not going to simply assume that the 10 people arrested in connection with Daphne’s murder are, in fact, the ones who murdered her.  In both cases, the presumption of innocence forces us to concede the benefit of doubt. And not just in those two either. In ALL cases, equally... regardless how the outcome may impact one’s own cherished (and, OH! So childish...) political views.

Why do people find this so difficult to understand? How can they not immediately see, that to presume guilt on political grounds is just as illogical and irrational as to presume innocence for the same reason?

I can only conclude it is because we’re a sick country. I hate to fall back on medical imagery, but there is a clearly a pathology involved here. These reactions do not conform to a normal, healthy mode of behaviour. There is something deeply – but deeply – amiss.

Even the fact that I now feel I have to devote equal attention to the other, equally idiotic category of public reaction – you know, just to maintain a semblance of ‘balance’ – is a symptom of the same disease. By now, it is entirely pointless, because you all know precisely what I’m talking about. If one side of this twisted equation is only too happy and eager to dispense with the most fundamental principles of natural justice, just to preserve their own political illusions... well, what else can we expect? Isn’t it perfectly obvious that the other side is going to do EXACTLY the same thing, only to preserve the clean opposite illusion?

But still, perhaps we should thrash this one to the bitter end. It seems to be the only way to drag it out in the open. In any case: shortly before writing this, my social media feed – limited though it may be – was awash with dark hints that these 10 arrests may constitute some kind of ‘frame-up’ of the Pietru Pawl Busuttil/Raymond Caruana variety (by a spectacular coincidence, on the anniversary of Caruana’s murder in 1986).

Some of those warnings come with a proviso: ‘I’m not saying that’s what happened... just that it MIGHT have happened’, or words to that effect. Others were more pointed and cocksure. Either way, the reaction itself is totally irrational. It would, in fact, be a good test-case for a study on paranoid delusion.

A lot of things ‘might have happened’, you know. My mind reels with ‘possibilities’ at all times... because ‘possibilities’ are, in themselves, endless.  In the absence of any mitigating probabilities, the full range of ‘possible occurrences’ is, in fact, so utterly enormous that it cannot even remotely be quantified. That is why we generally limit speculation only to cases where there is evidence of something that doesn’t add up... i.e., something that warrants a doubt in the first place.

What doesn’t add up in this equation, exactly? Like I said a few paragraphs above... we haven’t even seen the evidence yet. We don’t know what numbers we’re supposed to be even counting here. How, therefore, can some of us already smell something ‘fishy’, in an odour that hasn’t reached our nostrils yet?

To my mind, however, the bigger question is: what are these people ultimately after, anyway? I was under this vague impression that we were all ultimately interested in solving Daphne’s murder, and bringing her killers to justice. From that perspective, all my previous doubts about those 10 suspects work just as well the other way round. Maybe they are guilty. Maybe the case has indeed been ‘solved’; and maybe it is only a matter of time before congratulations are indeed in order.

This is why both these otherwise diverse reactions are very clearly a symptom of the same underlying sickness. They do not respond to the known facts of the case at hand; they respond only to the desired outcome: which in turn is ‘desired’ only for its political implications...  and not for anything remotely to do with the truth of the case at hand.

And at this rate, I greatly fear that this ‘truth’ we’re supposed to be looking for will elude us forever. If political prejudice is going to be the only yardstick we’ll ever use, you can all – both sides – forget any hope that this case will ever be ‘solved’. Political prejudice has a long and depressing history of failing to solve murder cases in this country. And it’s not hard to see why, either: by its very nature, it is destined to only ever cause problems, never to solve them.

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