Muscat challenges Delia to ask inquiring magistrate to investigate Caruana Galizia’s allegations

The Prime Minister said that unlike the Opposition, the Government would not be placing any conditions on it towards national unity

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has challenged Opposition leader Adrian Delia to ask for a magisterial inquiry into allegations made against him by Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was killed in a car bomb on Monday.

Responding to yesterday’s budget reply by the leader of the Opposition, Muscat noted in parliament that Delia was quick to drop the libel cases he had filed against Caruana Galizia following her death.

“Everything she had to say about me she said in front of a magistrate,” insisted Muscat. “But we will never know what she had to say about him [Delia].”

“Now we are in a situation where there is a vacuum. Where an enormous allegation was made against me, I went to the courts and asked for a magistrate, not of my own choosing, to be appointed to investigate that which had been said.”

He insisted that the Delia now had “no option” but to go to the courts and order a magisterial inquiry. “And if it turns out the accusations were correct, he should resign”.

Muscat gave his speech during a tense parliamentary debate, during which Muscat was continuously interrupted by the Opposition.

The Prime Minister said he had not wished to speak about Delia in such a way but said he had been left with no choice, given Delia’s remarks yesterday.

Muscat insisted that Delia had three main problems: the remarks he had made about Caruana Galizia, the things “people around him” said about the journalist, and finally, “everything she knew about him”. 

“It is for this reason that I came here with a speech that has perhaps offended some of you,” he said, explaining that he was trying to explain how he felt about Caruana Galizia in an honest manner while also trying to show his disgust at her brutal killing.

Muscat said at such a difficult time, the country needed to see two sides of the House that might not be agreeing but that were working towards the same goal.

Turning to the conditions the Opposition yesterday said needed to be met for it to work with the government towards national unity, Muscat said the Government was prepared to work for unity, without placing any conditions.

Muscat then said that Delia’s speech yesterday was the result of him being held hostage.

“I know that yesterday it was not the leader of the Opposition that spoke. I know he was hostage to a situation where he wanted to keep everyone happy and said things he perhaps didn’t want to say,” said the Prime Minister, stressing that unity is not achieved by “compromising on one’s beliefs”.

Government to offer ‘substantial’ reward

Muscat said that given the extraordinary nature of the Caruana Galizia’s killing, the government was prepared to offer a “substantial” reward to anyone coming forward with information that could lead to the arrest of her killer. He added that the state would also be offering the necessary protection to whoever came forward.

On the government’s decision to request help from foreign powers, Muscat said that this had been done because Maltese authorities lacked certain technologies that could help the investigation such as the ability to accurately pinpoint mobile phone users’ position.

“Do you blame us for asking for help from the Dutch, when they are European leaders in cadaver reconstruction? We can never have this expertise,” he said.

Muscat said he no issue accepting calls for an international investigation. “We are prepared to ensure a process that leaves no doubt on its integrity.”

Responsibility for the assassination

Muscat said that defended the Police Corps, Armed Forces, and Attorney General (AG), insisting that all three had been criticised and attacked despite working for the country. He once again insisted that the present AG had been appointed by a Nationalist Government.

“This government that supposedly didn’t believe in the country’s institutions worked with [AG] Dr Grech for a whole legislature,” he said, adding that the only reason the Opposition had no faith in him was because he had worked with a Labour government.

Turning to the calls for him to take responsibility for Monday’s attack, Muscat said the Opposition leader had sought to place the responsibility on Muscat.

“This was the not the first attack against a journalist in our country,” he said.

The Prime Minister than ran through a number of attacks against journalists, including an arson attack on Caruana Galizia’s residence in 2006, as well as the bombing of the Transport Malta’s offices in 2010.

“I am mentioning these cases, not to justify, but to add context,” Muscat said, who questioned what would happen if it turned out that the murder wasn’t politically motivated.

“The leader of the Opposition needs to understand he has a constitutional role and he should know better.”

He said that inflammatory remarks, would make the country’s healing process more difficult. “This is not a new way. This is a very old way.”

Muscat said that if the Opposition leader had any information he should take it to the inquiring to the inquiring magistrate and pointed out that he was surprised that despite all that was said about Caruana Galizia’s writing, nobody has spoken about what the she had been working on.

Defending freedom of expression

Muscat said the primary target of yesterday’s attack was freedom of expression. He said there were remedies through the country’s institutions people could go to if they felt aggrieved about something said about them, and that violence was never the answer.

Muscat said that while it was noble for one to speak up in favour freedom of expression, MPs on both sides of the House needed to be consistent.

He said that when the government had removed vilification of religion from the country’s laws, it had found an opposition that opposed the change.

“If we are here committing ourselves to freedom of expression this can’t be partial,” said Muscat. “There is no relativism, not even in freedom of expression.”

Moreover, the Prime Minister said the government also proposed a law during the last legislature that sought to remove criminal libel, with the aim of strengthening freedom of expression.

He insisted that his had motivated by the understanding that newspapers faced threats from commercial interests that sought to stifle freedom of expression.

His own relationship with Caruana Galizia

Speaking of his own relationship with the slain journalist, Muscat said he would be respectful but said he needed to be consistent by acknowledging the fact that they did not see eye to eye.

“She was a person whose pen could cut like a knife, and a person I would describe as consistent in her inconsistency,” said Muscat, insisting he would not say anything about Caruana Galizia people could see is fake.   

He said her style of writing varied from work of a very high “international standard” that were very clearly well-researched to work that was purely gossip.

He said he could agree with her on issues on civil liberties but not on her judgement of people on the basis of their beliefs, he said she could be calculated and meticulous at times and reckless at others.

The Prime Minister said that despite 20 years of attacks against him, he had never slandered her. “I always sought to calm the situation, even when I was attacked personally”.

He said that anything Caruana Galizia had to write about him, she had written, and that his family had gotten accustomed to assuming that people were always watching them and reporting back to Caruana Galizia.

“We had to explain to our children why when they googled their names, they found comments about them,” he continued.

He said there was no part of him that could be happy about what had happened, underscoring that too much was at stake for the country.

More in National

Get access to the real stories first with the digital edition