An early election is the answer to this calamity

Before the 2017 elections, nobody had the slightest notion that there had been a dormant plot to kill Caruana Galizia, or that Keith Schembri's deep-rooted friendship with Yorgen Fenech was at the heart of the Panama-17 Black mystery

Protestors on Castille square in Valletta outside the Office of the Prime Minister, 28 July 2021. Photo: James Bianchi
Protestors on Castille square in Valletta outside the Office of the Prime Minister, 28 July 2021. Photo: James Bianchi

Much food for thought came out from the last day’s reactions to the public inquiry into the Caruana Galizia assassination. Prime Minister Robert Abela’s apology on behalf of the State was more than correct, even in its timeliness. It was to be expected and the least a prime minister could do in the face of the now much-documented malicious intent and manipulation of the last years. There is no doubt that these events are indeed the fruit of the Muscat legacy: ironic then, that the great chess player himself gave the green flag to (or had he no other choice at that point) an independent inquiry thta would ultimatey denude him, blemishing his track record forever. 

There is no doubt that the problems that link corruption to the institutions and a certain omertà within party functinoaries, are endemic to the Maltese partisan culture and have no one particular home in one party. Perhaps that’s why I was surprised by the inquiry judges’ tone and analysis in their report: when I faced them on four different occasions as one of the witnesses in this public inquiry, I was appalled at their ‘declared bias’ and gratuitous commentary, particulary Madam Justice Abigail Lofaro. I have been proven wrong by the conclusions of this report. In the end, their findings are fair and of an impartial spirit to the evidence presented before them. Interestingly, the inquiry went out of its way to propose a blueprint for the future of journalism in Malta. 

I was also surprised that the Caruana Galizia family accepted Abela’s apology. It is indeed an important step, a much needed mature step forward in the need for national reconciliation and healing. 

Daphne Caruana Galizia was certainly a contentious personality; that fact alone was recognised by the inquiry, which pointed out the personal, hurtful commentary she often employed on particular targets. But the inqiury highlighted one very important aspect of her body of work, which is that the revelations she uncovered far outweigh the negative style and punch in her commentary. True indeed. Of course, when the dust settles down, and we take further stock of all the machinations that led to Daphne’s murder and the attempt at covering up and even derail newspapers and investigators, clarity and rationality can overcome past regrets. 

It is truly an ugly chapter in our lives and history, and it cannot be forgotten. We do need to move on, of course, with a fresh start.... 

That fresh start can only be facilitated by an early election that will (polls-wise, one assumes...) award full legitimacy to Robert Abela or the next prime minister of whichever political party. Everyone knows this and no one disputes that the momentousness of the inquiry’s report demands a swift response. 

It is about restoring normality, rather than some semblance of normality. Of having new faces on the block and of bringing in new blood at all levels of politics.  

Robert Abela would do well to deliberate on this. Bernard Grech shied away from calling an early election when he faced the press on Friday. But he should have; it was the right thing to demand. And he refused to consider this because he sees the polls showing that Labour will enjoy another electoral victory. 

The same applies to Repubblika, who have called for political accountability, by calling for basically the entire Cabinet to be culled... but falling short of asking for an election. 

The fact is that Abela has inherited the Muscat administration, even though he has carefully crafted a strategic set of co-opted ministers and shipped out some veterans. But he still needs a government whose pledge to the electorate is one that governs fairly. To do this, Abela must go to the polls and win his own election. 

The 2017 election was won on the premise that not everything was truly rotten in the State of Denmark. Nobody had the slightest of notions that before the 2017 election, there had been a dormant plot to assassinate Caruana Galizia, and that criminals with direct access to people like Keith Schembri could be told to reignite the plot at the drop of a hat; or that Keith Schembri’s deep-rooted friendship with Yorgen Fenech was at the heart of the Panama-17 Black mystery; or how, only four years earlier, the chief electoral plank that Labour was given power for, the reduction of energy bills through the shift to a gas plant, was itself the heart of a secret, offshore enrichment scheme. Daphne had touched right upon it, and she was murdered before she could dive deep into it, with a cache of leaked Electrogas emails that had come her way. 

Neither could we have suspected that after her assassination, Joseph Muscat could have been well aware, if not having had direct knowledge, of who was involved in the killing and their link to the Panama offshore companies. The murder was intrinsically linked to the existence of 17 Black and its role in kicking back millions to Labour’s inner core. 

We were cheated. We were derailed. We all feel humiliated. We were misled in believing that a non-political criminal element had flexed their muscle in some show of force. 

That is why this administration must be allowed to start afresh; to mend the damage that was done and to never forget the death of Daphne and what this has meant for all of us. However hard it may be, Robert Abela must do the thing he probably would hate to do most: call an early election, present a new team, and all that aplies as much to Bernard Grech. 

Reconciliation can only take place with a process that truly leads to a Second Republic of good governance, fairness, and honesty.