Committed to justice on Malta’s culture of impunity | Neil Falzon

Repeatedly we find ourselves juggling the same questions: Where is the accountability? The commitment to serve the nation? Is the nation truly a “ġaħan”? | Neil Falzon, Aditus Foundation

“…l-Ministri kollha individwalment min b’mod u min b’ieħor, kienu qed jissottoskrivu u javallaw id-deċiżjoni tal-Prim Ministru li jħalli kollox għaddej… illi s-sens ta’ impunitá li kien qiegħed jinħoloq proprju fil-qalba tal-amministrazzjoni kellu l-approvazzjoni siekta, jekk mhux il-barka, tal-Kabinett kollu.”

“L-assassinju kien il-mezz krudili biex titkisser is-sistema li kienet qed tnawwar id-demokrazija fil-pajjiż.”

The Board of Inquiry’s report is an unequivocal condemnation of Malta’s democracy. It should shock the entire nation into realising that what we believed to be a functioning democracy serving the people is really a rotten apparatus set up by, and for self-serving tyrants. That Daphne Caruana Galizia’s brutal assassination was deemed necessary for government and its business connections to continue their plundering underlines the extent of depravity ruling the country.

Today, Malta is in a terrible state. Yet we are seriously concerned that the prospects for the years to come are just as bleak, if not darker and more dangerous. The report is a stark indictment of the Maltese State turning on its own citizens, prejudicing a citizen’s right to work freely and safely, and culminating in prejudicing a citizen’s right to life.

An apology is simply not enough. An apology is certainly not enough to allay our fears as we see the same Members of Parliament, high-ranking officials and business people identified in the Inquiry still standing up in Parliament defending government’s actions, still part of the civil service and still being able to operate their businesses without any consequence. An apology is not enough to comfort us in the face of the inexplicable and reprehensible inactivity of the Malta Police Force in relation to serious allegations of crimes and violations. An apology is simply not enough to restore our faith in all the institutions that failed to act. They too are indicted. They too are responsible.

Presently, Malta is run by the same persons who were closely affiliated with Joseph Muscat, the ‘Person of the Year in Organised Crime and Corruption’ (OCCRP 2019). The Office of the Prime Minister, the Cabinet of Ministers, the House of Representatives, Ministries and most State entities were mobbed with people who knowingly and unashamedly allowed and – in many cases – facilitated the dramatic erosion of Malta’s rule of law. As we had flagged in an earlier commentary, the report notes how values and the duty to serve the nation were sold cheaply for jobs, tenders, direct orders and other privileges. It is shocking that such behaviour continues today with no shame and full impunity, despite repeated calls for better governance from national, European and international institutions.

Despite such calls and notwithstanding the shambles that Malta’s international reputation now sits in, Malta’s ruling class remains above it all. Instead, we remain assaulted and offended on a daily basis: meaningless and inconsequential ministerial Facebook posts expressing sadness at the dire situation; unabashed selfies in Parliament whilst Joseph Muscat and his vile gang are being forced off their thrones; the daily clearing of the ‘Daphne memorial’; embarrassing and compromising text messages between ministers and Yorgen Fenech; allegations of ministers and parliamentary secretaries involved in unethical – if not criminal – deals. And so many more.

Repeatedly we find ourselves juggling the same questions: where is the accountability? Where is the commitment to serve the nation? Is the nation truly a “ġaħan”?

We find no consolation or hope in the recent reforms enacted, and we have openly flagged our concerns with the Venice Commission and with the EU Commission. We are also not comforted by the futile attempts of the President of the Republic to trigger a national discussion on reconciliation and peace.

Flawed from the start, the Constitutional Convention promises neither reform nor accountability but guarantees the reshaping of our current mess into another system primarily intended to serve the interests of Malta’s two main political parties. There is little consolation in knowing that nine members of the current Cabinet also formed part of the 2019 Cabinet, found by the Board to be collectively responsible for failing to see the value in journalism, failing to ensure the strengthening of the institutions and failing to restore the rule of law.

Yet we do find hope in our colleagues and friends in civil society and we firmly believe that this is where Malta ought to be looking at for the basis of its future. For decades, non-governmental organisations have taken care of Malta’s excluded, marginalised and vulnerable communities and have fought to protect national interests against the interests of the powerful few. NGOs have consistently pushed for laws and policies that uphold human dignity first and above all else, whilst provided invaluable services where the State was unwilling or unable to intervene.

Civil society triggered the resignations from and reform process of Malta’s institutions and we are committed to continuing this process. We are committed to ensuring that the recommendations contained within the inquiry report are followed through in a transparent and inclusive manner. We are committed in continuing to demand justice and accountability from every single individual who contributed to the appalling state we are in and to the culture of impunity that allowed Daphne’s assassination.