Sant calls out MEPs’ debate on rule of law as ‘infantile contestation’ of Maltese government

MEPs in Strasbourg will debate a motion on the state of rule of law in Malta marking the fifth anniversary of the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia

Labour MEP Alfred Sant
Labour MEP Alfred Sant

MEPs in Strasbourg will debate a motion on the state of rule of law in Malta, as well as media reform, marking the fifth anniversary of the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

The motion will carry a tour de force on rule-of-law shortcomings in Malta, particularly as to investigations dealing with the 2017 murder, but also on the lack of prosecution of political actors in the Muscat administration, and financial enablers within the now-defunct accountancy firm Nexia, the shuttered Pilatus Bank, as well as Malta’s golden passport scheme.

The debate has provoked a reaction from Labour MEP Alfred Sant, who branded it a mistake on behalf of MEPs. “It is a superficial discussion on a hastily-worded resolution. It says nothing new,” Sant said, attributing the motion as a political weapon to discredit the Malta government.

Paying tribute to the memory of Daphne Caruana Galizia, the MEPs will acknowledge the progress in the ongoing judicial proceedings on the assassination, reiterating the call for the finalising of the investigation into the core motives behind the murder.

They acknowledge that prime minister Robert Abela has publicly apologised for the state’s shortcomings that could have contributed to the murder of Caruana Galizia, but say they are concerned that the implementation of the public inquiry’s recommendations is “deficient”.

The MEPs say the government should implement all the recommendations of the public inquiry report without further delay.

Welcoming the efforts of the FIAU in fighting financial crime, the MEPs whoever say they are “appalled” at the lack of progress in prosecuting the corruption and money laundering that Daphne Caruana Galizia had been investigating at the time of her murder, which involved suspects at the highest political levels.

They add they are “alarmed by the institutional failure of law enforcement and justice in Malta” in bringing to justice every individual implicated in one or more of the numerous cases currently being investigated or reported. Specifically, they expressed concern about the impunity afforded to key figures in the former prime minister’s administration, “including the former prime minister himself, his chief of staff, and the former minister for tourism, formerly the minister for energy.”

They called on the authorities to the delays on high-level corruption cases, and to investigate possible attempts by public officials to conceal evidence and obstruct investigations and judicial proceedings.

The MEPs also flag the reported lack of cooperation from Maltese authorities with the European Public Prosecutor in connection with EU-funded roadworks in which the alleged mastermind of Caruana Galizia’s assassination and owner of the Dubai-based company 17 Black, Yorgen Fenech, is implicated.

They also remind the government to improve media freedom by ensuring proposed reforms meet European and international standards on the protection of journalists, in particular as regards preventing and sanctioning threats against and harassment of journalists, and call for broad public consultation concerning the media sector, and in particular the restriction on the use of SLAPPs.

Labour MEP Alfred Sant has called out the motion. “I think it lacks any sense and is a waste of time. I understand the need to mark, politically, the atrocious assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia. But I see no value in having a superficial discussion in the plenary, on a hastily-worded resolution.”

Sant said the debate itself would bring nothing new to the other resolutions debated beore, and said the resolution – which is also being promoted by socialist MEPs apart from the EPP, Renew, Greens and the Left members of the rule of law delegation to Malta, was intended as a political weapon.

“This is an infantile way of contesting the government of the day simply to create a hullabaloo inside the European Parliament, or elsewhere outside Malta, to place the country on the defensive... it is a reflection of our colonial past, and the more time passes, the heritage of the right-wing dinosaurs in Maltese politics.”