The brutal assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia a year ago today delivered a mortal blow to Maltese democracy, former Opposition leader Simon Busuttil argues in a Times of Malta opinion piece.
"In the immediate aftermath of the assassination, the Prime Minister was big on words but short on action. His bravado of “leaving no stone unturned” to solve the murder quickly turned out to be doublespeak, the very opposite of what he promised," he said.
His opinion piece was published in a supplement published in the print version of Times of Malta out on Tuesday.
From the word go, the man he allowed to lead police investigations had not one, but two, conflicts of interest and could never serve justice impartially. Not only was he married to a government minister, he also sat on the FIAU board, the 'embarrassing' anti-money laundering agency that still refused to take action against the Prime Minister’s chief of staff and minister Konrad Mizzi despite catching them in money-laundering activities.
The Daphne Project and also made disturbing revelations about Economic Affairs Minister Chris Cardona which should have led to his interrogation and dismissal, at least until the matter was cleared. Nothing happened.
"Ask yourself: in which other democracy in the world would this happen in any murder investigation, let alone such a high-profile case?
"The government’s shamelessly disrespectful behaviour towards the slain journalist beggars belief," Dr Busuttil said.
The government was refusing a request by the family for an independent inquiry. It also refused to give straight answers to three successive rule of law missions of the European Parliament to Malta, treating inquisitive MEPs with contempt.
"It eggs on online hate groups to vilify Daphne. It allows taxpayer-paid cronies to insult her with total impunity. It repeatedly removes flowers and candles laid at a symbolic memorial for truth and justice. And it even wrapped the entire Great Siege monument to stamp out protests altogether.
Refusing to accept this state of affairs does not make us traitors. It makes us patriots
"While we grow accustomed to this unbelievably deplorable behaviour, outsiders look on in disbelief. In the meantime, our country’s name is in tatters.
"Ask yourself: which other democracy in the world would treat a slain journalist with such contempt?"
Dr Busuttil observed that a systematic government-led campaign has been under way to discredit Daphne’s investigative journalism and whitewash corruption at the highest level.
The Prime Minister’s 'outrageous manipulation' of the Egrant inquiry report which he published only in part, was just one example. His solemn promises to publish the full report had been repeatedly broken because he wanted the people to rely on his spin to form an opinion.
"But no amount of spin can whitewash the truth. Daphne’s revelations exposing Keith Schembri and Mizzi with secret companies in Panama were 100 per cent true.
"Not only. Earlier this year, new shocking revelations exposed why they had opened them. They were planning to channel monthly payments of $150,000 from 17 Black, a Dubai-based company linked to the Muscat’s pet project, the LNG power station. In my book, there can only be one explanation for these payments: corruption.
"Ask yourself: in which other democracy in the world are people exposed in the Panama Papers still in office?"
And despite these damning revelations the Prime Minister continued to stand by his two men and refused to remove them.
"The obstruction of justice is so brazen that the Prime Minister and his friends are still resisting in court a request for a magisterial inquiry that I filed over a year ago to investigate the Panama Papers. If they were innocent, they would welcome an inquiry as an opportunity to clear their names."
Meanwhile, the three were still running the country. Holding on to power had become a necessity to protect themselves from justice.
"Ask yourself: which other democracy is run by a Prime Minister whose very own chief of staff was repeatedly exposed in money-laundering activities?
You know the answers. In no other democracy do these things happen with impunity. This is why our democracy is mortally wounded. This is why we are living in a fake democracy."
Malta, Dr Busuttil said, was a proud European nation. it did not deserve this.
"Refusing to accept this state of affairs does not make us traitors. It makes us patriots.
"Do not look the other way. Barack Obama recently reminded us that the biggest threat to democracy is indifference. He is right.
We all share a historic responsibility to save our democracy from being killed in this way."