After the truth

As I see it, the Caruana Galizia assassination points to a murder masterminded by the same people who executed the plan - a network that has been in place for decades

I am sickened by the clichéd narrative repeated ad nauseam, about the need for justice to be seen to be done and not done, and the responsibility of publicly and constitutional appointed officers.

I am turned off by the same posse that repeatedly gives the impression that this malaise in our society and the recent criminal drama is the fruit of one political party.

The men arrested some two weeks ago were not novices of the underworld. If they had gone unnoticed it is because journalists have been unwilling to look into their connections, and the law courts over the years found them ‘innocent’ and they benefited from networks that safeguarded them.

Daphne Caruana Galizia did write about crime and she was daring, painting bold strokes of the criminal underworld that often made the news. But she was also careless in detail, reckless in her use of adjectives, and obnoxious in her subjectivity when it came to political and social subjects. But her critics are not culpable in this crime. Journalists just have to get their facts right. And making simplistic links to Joseph Muscat or Azerbaijan and Pilatus Bank, might be a neat narrative for some. But let us not overlook the place of Maltese criminality in wider society, and its connections.

Of the ten people who were arrested, while politics might matter little at this stage, nine are reportedly Nationalist-leaning. That proves nothing. It should not prove anything. But the fact that two of the accused had at one time canvassed for a deceased Nationalist Party deputy leader, and been represented recently in court by the family scions, is of interest for the public to know. Not because it implicates any of these politicians – but because it shows to what extent the dark forces hover around a political class that is intertwined with the lucrative criminal defence system. Something Caruana Galizia would have surely pounced on.

Consider had it been Labour deputy leader Chris Cardona who had defended one of the accused; there is little doubt in my mind that the same angry folk would have come out screaming and calling for him to resign for extending a defendant the right of representation in court. They would have raised the ante and painted Cardona as the rogue who defends the villain.

But this is not the case. Mario De Marco surely has every right to extend his services to any client who is willing to pay for them. And successful criminal defence lawyers who can do their job well, will be the first to be picked by anyone facing serious charges.

Mario De Marco has always come across as a reasonable and affable guy, but throughout his political career he has been plagued by embarrassment, such as when two of his close friends and canvassers turned out to be freemasons; or when he worked for a major company that was being frontally attacked by his political party. Throughout this period he was one of Caruana Galizia’s targets, together with Joseph Muscat and hundreds others, including Adrian Delia.

So the fact that he recently rendered his legal services to one of the accused in the Caruana Galizia assassination, would that be sufficient to place him in the league of criminals? Of course not. If anything, it’s the kind of argument that raises an eyebrow when critics want to invoke criminality as a problem endemic to the Labour administration. Such a standpoint is puerile, partisan, and self-conceited.

As I see it, the Caruana Galizia assassination points to a murder masterminded by the same people who executed the plan - a network that has been in place for decades

We have a very serious criminal problem, and it goes deeper than that. It is a case of impunity which goes back decades, it is a story of public officials who operated in the shadows of questionable characters and of professionals who acted in unethical fashion.

Caruana Galizia was right when she said we live in desperate times, but she wrongly assumed that this was a problem rooted in Labour fault because of her partisan bigotry.

The problem is a very Maltese problem. When the three men accused are released on bail eventually, it will be the Maltese system that would have failed to keep them in preventive custody – as has happened several times in several courts before. Last week MaltaToday’s report was clear: these men have benefited from the light touch, and it begs asking which magistrates are unwilling to apply the full force of the law and expedient proceedings to see justice being done.

Today’s front-page story shows a darker story, for a link now connects two victims of car-bombs.

There are several questions we need to ask. They are not the type of questions led by the belief that the assassination is a political killing, that fit in the scripted Panama narrative, or that suit the tabloid inclinations of the foreign press feasting on this Maltese tragedy.

They are questions about organised criminality and the reach it has, allowed by buying the silence of many.

As journalists we should be looking at how the criminals make their money, funnel it and more importantly legitimise it with the help of businessmen and lawyers who allow this to happen for them, and who are ‘bought’ to look the other way so that the culprits can never be convicted.

Journalism in Malta is today more of a dangerous trade than it has ever been. The last thing the fourth estate needs is a hysterical group of self-conceited zealots taking it to task in the hope that Labour evaporates into thin air. That is not our job.

Earlier this week, the socialist MEP Ana Gomes told the editor of Illum newspaper that Maria Efimova, the Pilatus whistleblower, did not hand over any documents as reported in the local press. Should we not be giving credence to news stories that are verified by facts and cross-checked, rather than those where commentary is the only veritable thing on offer?

Sure, many are those who want to say their bit. But in a democracy, information that helps people take decisions should be based on proper journalistic standards. Certainly, we all make mistakes, but at least we try our very best to publish the news that can be substantiated, and as I see it, the Caruana Galizia assassination points to a murder masterminded by the same people who executed the plan – a network that has been in place for decades, and which Caruana Galizia also touched upon in her writing.

If the same people who cry wolf want swift justice, my suggestion is that they take a step back, because at this point the situation could really be turning desperate.