No simple truth

Whatever the merits and demerits of Caruana Galizia’s blog, the fact is that she was on the right track in her hunt of the ramifications that became apparent after the Panama papers were published

We live in a particular period of our country’s chequered history when the search for truth has become paramount. However, as Oscar Wilde put it in ‘The Importance of being Earnest’: The truth is rarely pure and never simple.

The revelations in the evidence being given in the legal process whereby Yorgen Fenech is accused of being the person behind the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia and in the wider public inquiry on the same assassination are, to say the least, astounding.

Astounding: such as Inspector Kurt Zahra telling the Caruana Galizia inquiry that Yorgen Fenech knew from as far back December 2016 that an early general election was going to be called the following year; or that Yorgen Fenech had photos of the terms and conditions of the pardon granted to middleman Melvin Theuma.

The tale of this assassination is no longer just a whodunit story. It is much more complicated... with more questions being left unanswered than being satisfactorily answered. The quest to discover who knew what and when, has become the story’s pièce de résistance - and not without good reason.

And now, Jason Azzopardi has promised us even more.

Whatever the merits and demerits of Caruana Galizia’s blog, the fact is that she was on the right track in her hunt of the ramifications that became apparent after the Panama papers were published.

What hits me most in this scenario is the way people react to these revelations. People hate having to admit they were wrong, and so people believe what they want to believe. Whatever fits into one’s preconceived idea is accepted as the gospel truth; while whatever doesn’t is ‘obviously’ suspect or an outright lie. Since people’s preconceived ideas are very different – even diametrically opposed to each other – the objective simple and pure truth can hardly be established.

Konrad Mizzi’s Montenegro adventure adds even more spice to the already astounding story of the way he turned politics into an exercise of conning everybody. His skill at fooling people for personal profit is incredible.

On reading his ‘explanation’ that Enemalta made good money from the deal, many felt confused. How can you steal from someone in a deal when this someone makes a profit from it?

I had to explain to a friend that before Enemalta ‘invested’ in the windfarm, the ‘investment’ had changed hands with Yorgen Fenech’s 17 Black making a handsome profit of some €4.6 million. And 17 Black was indicated as a source of funds for the two companies set up in Panama by Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi. Some might even consider this an almost ‘normal’ business transaction - except for the fact that Konrad Mizzi was the Minister responsible for Enemalta and Keith Schembri was the Prime Minister’s Chief of staff.

Konrad Mizzi even had the gall to defend himself on the social media by insisting that Enemalta had made a good investment, which is technically the ‘truth’.

The art of the con man to sell a ‘win win’ situation, in which he wins more than anyone else is captivating - although that is hardly the right term in the circumstances.

It is incredible how the members of the Labour Party executive, most of whom originally thought that the allegations were just some die-hard Nationalists throwing dirt at a hardworking minister were suddenly converted and voted in favour of kicking Konrad Mizzi out of the party.

But in this case, conversion is accepting that the truth is whatever the leader says is the truth.

The problem that Robert Abela continually faces is that he did not seek to make a clean cut from Joseph Muscat’s administration as soon as he was chosen leader of the Labour Party. The way he sought to ‘persuade’ Chris Cardona - who had said that he intended to quit politics - to resign in an amicable way from his position as Labour’s Deputy Leader for Party affairs is a case in point.

Finally, Abela did get Chris Cardona’s letter of resignation, but in the process, he came across as an amateur dentist sweating to extract a rotten molar – with the exercise doing much more damage than was necessary.

The PN media even reported that before the Labour Party executive meeting, when the decision to ditch Konrad Mizzi was taken, Robert Abela had a short tête-à-tête with his predecessor Joseph Muscat.

Muscat, however, missed that particular executive meeting. The implication is that Muscat is still the man behind the throne and that Abela does Muscat’s bidding.

Whether this allegation has any element of pure and simple truth - which, in any case, does not exist - is still to be seen; but Abela’s success as Prime Minister hinges on his ability to send the message that he is his own man – warts and all – and not someone else’s puppet.

The fact that Joseph Muscat supported Abela’s bid for the Labour leadership, and that Abela would most probably not have made it without this support, speaks volumes.

Is Abela unable to sever all connections between his administration and that of his predecessor?

That is another question for which there is no pure, simple and truthful answer.

Interfering with justice

The independence of the judiciary – one of the three branches of the state – is considered a ‘sine qua non’ for any democracy to thrive healthily.

Not any longer in Trump’s USA!

The story of the approach of the US Department of Justice (DoJ) to the sentencing of Roger Stone, a longtime adviser to Mr Trump, is an eye-opener.

Mr Stone was convicted of witness-tampering and multiple counts of lying to Congress and prosecutors recommended a sentence of 87-108 months in prison, in line with federal sentencing guidelines. But it seems that a senior counsellor to the Attorney General, William Barr ‘was receiving heavy pressure from the highest levels of the Department of Justice to cut Stone a break’.

In another case, the DoJ moved to dismiss altogether the case against Michael Flynn, Mr Trump’s former national security adviser, who pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators.

Trump and Barr also intervened – rather clumsily – when they removed Geoffrey Berman from his post as chief prosecutor for the Southern District of New York, so that Mr Trump could replace him with Jay Clayton, a corporate lawyer without prosecutorial experience.

The reason for Mr Berman’s ouster remains unclear - except that he was in Trump’s bad books.