Justice for Daphne is justice for Malta

‘Justice for Daphne is justice for Malta’: a simple affirmation that need not unravel the progressive achievements of the decade, but demand a judicious prosecution of all in connection with the journalist’s assassination

After the latest revelations from the ongoing compilation of evidence against Yorgen Fenech, it can no longer be said that ‘demanding justice for Daphne Caruana Galizia’ implies any form of ‘buy-in’ into our national culture of political partisanship. 

For too long now, it has been argued that those calling for justice are somehow motivated by the Nationalists’ typical anti-Labour hysteria: or, conversely, by the late journalist’s prejudicial, and often unjust, treatment of all those who fell into her sights.   

But given the sheer weight of the allegations that have now been made public, all such considerations should be dismissed out of hand.  ‘Justice for Daphne Caruana Galizia’ is not the sole prerogative of the Nationalist or Labour Party, or even of the growing civil society movement that has arisen in the wake of the murder itself.  

On the contrary: justice for Daphne is justice for Malta. Not merely because the entire country needs nothing less than full closure, to heal the wounds left by this brutal crime; but also because the factors that made this murder possible in the first place – and which can be seen to have hindered, or at least tried to hinder,  the subsequent judicial process – are also institutional shortcomings that affect the entire justice system: and not this particular case only. 

This was already evidenced by a number of previous allegations: including that the former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri had, at minimum, attempted to obstruct the course of justice; or that former Police Commissioner Lawrence had alerted middleman Melvin Theuma of his impending arrest – and even more so by the fact that these allegations, among others, were not even investigated by the police until recently: i.e., after a change to the helm of the Police Force. 

But with the explosive testimony this week, we now also know that Fenech had alleged with the police – in November 2019 – that the plan to murder Daphne Caruana Galizia had been hatched by, or with, none other than Keith Schembri himself; that he allegedly paid €80,000 for its execution; and that Joseph Muscat himself could be one of only three people – outside Keith Schembri, Yorgen Fenech and the others already implicated – who was allegedly aware of these details: even if only after the murder was committed. 

While these claims still remain to be proven – and the presumption of innocence applies here, as it applies in all other cases – it is nonetheless a fact that the police had been alerted to them more than seven months ago. Yet it was only last week that Joseph Muscat was called in for questioning in connection with his presumed WhatsApp chat with Fenech; and there has been no indication of any investigation opened specifically into Keith Schembri’s possible involvement. 

From this point on, there is no further room for partisanship in our collective approach to the issue. The disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat’s name has been irremediably sullied, even before the latest revelations.  

For two whole years after the murder of Caruana Galizia, he kept by his side a chief of staff whose offshore machinations were intimately tied to the affairs of Yorgen Fenech; all throughout, Muscat was privy to Fenech’s name being investigated by the Malta Security Services and the police force, with Schembri present for these sensitive briefings. 

Elements inside Castille, such as his own MSS security detail – a contact with middleman Melvin Theuma; and the police force’s top brass – allowed themselves to be instrumentalised by the powers that be to obfuscate the rule of law. 

Muscat and Schembri exacted loyalty from staff, who befriended Yorgen Fenech well before the political crisis in December, but also promulgated the PM’s innocence on the mysterious Egrant company that troubled Labour in 2017. On top of all this, Muscat and Fenech sought to have the former Prime Minister installed at the helm of the European Council during 2019.   

Clearly, then, it is not just the individual suspects themselves that are on trial in this case; but also the country’s governmental and juridical institutions. 

And it will have to be a concerted police effort – with the muscle of European and other counterparts, and the political pressure of EU partners – to bring about not just a resolute prosecution of the criminal parties named in the Caruana Galizia investigation; but to drive a criminal investigation through all the preceding murders and assassinations that are linked to the same protagonists.   

It is this twitch on a thread, that runs deep into the Maltese underworld and its links to Malta’s political class, that must deliver Malta from the crisis it finds in.   

This is also why ‘justice for Daphne is justice for Malta’: a simple affirmation that need not unravel the progressive achievements of the decade, but instead demand a judicious prosecution of all who have been named in connection with the journalist’s assassination. 

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