A year ago, three judges handed down what should have been the cahiers de doléances of Malta’s great revolution. An organ of the Maltese state had never before taken the time to hear hundreds of witnesses from within and outside Maltese institutions testify openly about the deep problems in the way we run our country.
None of the findings of the Daphne Caruana Galizia inquiry were entirely new to any pair of ears belonging to people living in the country. What was unprecedented was the frankness, the institutional honesty, the complete absence of grandstanding and hyperbole and the fact that, this time, the problems with this country were being catalogued in a diagnosis undertaken by an institution of the state.
Some of the highlights from that inquiry report bear repeating.
Failures in the public administration were causes of Daphne’s killing and the authorities were asked, morally commanded, to recognise this fact formally and publicly.
In giving political protection to Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi, Joseph Muscat created the atmosphere of impunity that empowered Daphne’s killers. In allowing Muscat to do so, his ministers were complicit. They had the power to stop and reverse the rot but they preferred to preserve their share of power instead.
The inquiry took a wider view of things. It found organised crime had infiltrated institutions of the Maltese state and found that Malta did not have appropriate laws to push back on mafia crime. It found that politicians and political parties had inappropriate relationships with moneyed people perverting the democratic process.
The inquiry found politicians could obstruct law enforcement agents without consequence because there was no specific law they could be punished under for doing that. They found that rules against abuse of office, making money for oneself through improper conduct when holding a public position, were scattered and difficult to police.
This country wants to kill Daphne again, every day we make the choice of changing nothing- Manuel Delia
Speaking of the police, the inquiry found our investigators ill-prepared and ill-resourced and suspiciously unwilling to do their job. They also had little praise for prosecutors and wondered at the motivation of some of the advice the attorney general gave to the police, uncertain whose backside was being covered.
The inquiry found that it was dangerous to be a journalist in Malta, if you did your job right, especially if you were anywhere as competent, tenacious, connected and gutsy as Daphne’s sandal.
The inquiry found the government manipulated newsrooms by misusing public funds to support its lackeys. The authorities honoured their freedom of information obligations in the breach. They collaborated with billionaire bullies and their cross-border lawsuits. Ministers harassed journalists with punitive libel action, even promising to harass their children should journalists die on the line.
The inquiry found TVM rewrote an official version of history that wipes out facts exposed by independent journalists and the broadcasting regulator did nothing about it. They found political parties use their TV stations to make enemies of journalists and no one did anything.
All that is in a single document bearing Malta’s coat of arms, handed down from the highest bench of our law courts. It is the most explicit diagnosis yet of our key ailments, the vices that we knew of and the ones we refused to believe afflicted us.
And the inquiry came with a prescription of 28 actions we needed to take to address those ailments, to start our recovery, to rediscover our decency and our sense of community again.
On my blog (manueldelia.com), this week I listed the 28 key recommendations of the inquiry and put them against a traffic light system, a high-level status indicator of progress over the past year. Because of my line of work, I follow closely the events of the country so, for me, it was a hypothesis waiting to be confirmed.
But you’d be forgiven to expect we had made a lot of progress in the past year. The government has spent this time congratulating itself for implementing “unprecedented reforms”, fixing all that was broken in 2017. And, yet, in the same vein, the government has embarked on a campaign of auto-absolution.
Consider Cressida Galea MP’s remark this week that Labour had no part in Malta’s greylisting. It was, predictably, the Nationalists’ fault.
A year after that inquiry, we have achieved nearly nothing of the recommendations of the inquiry. We still have no law to fight the mafia, no law against obstruction of justice, no law against abuse of power. We’re still ruled by the ministers who propped up Muscat.
Muscat bangs on his drum of innocence and Schembri and Mizzi and Chris Cardona and Carmelo Abela and Silvio Valletta and Lawrence Cutajar and Ian Abdilla and on and on and on, mock the very idea of justice by their very being.
We still have no reforms to protect journalists, no rules to regulate public expenditure in the media.
The government still perverts the principles of freedom of information by working on the premise that all government functions are secret until they choose what we’re allowed to know.
George Vella has visited the site were Daphne lived her last and that’s a good thing. The rest is failure.
Go beyond the long list of failures documented in the inquiry. There’s a failure that is greater than all of them, a failure the authors of the inquiry could not predict. We have failed to take the findings of the inquiry and use them, use the fire that consumed Daphne to forge a new country for our children, if not free of corruption, at least free of our collective corrupt attitude to corruption.
Now it’s all written down. We have no more excuses. Not happy with killing Daphne once, this country wants to kill her again, every day we make the choice of learning nothing and changing nothing.