In a process that is as carefully stage-managed as the broadcast we saw, everything contains clues. The performance of the national anthem that preceded his announcement told us that this was planned as a tear-jerking farewell to a local hero. There was an abundance of platitudes about him feeling that a two-term PM was bad form and that this is why he was leaving.
He went on and on about how well the economy has been doing. He told us that we now have cleaner power generation thanks to him, but did not mention Electrogas by name because this was the one pachyderm that had to be avoided. The only reference he made to the crisis that has engulfed Malta in the last months and weeks was made when he said we need to turn over a new leaf and that only he can turn it over by assuming the burden of mistakes made by others.
He never told us what those mistakes were or who committed them. He wanted us to believe that this departure was a mixture of a job well done, a term of office coming to an ethically correct end and a principled immolation for the errors of others. But nobody was fooled: this was the sacking of a powerful man who looked around him seeking support and instead found colleagues and comrades averting their gaze.
Meanwhile, growing crowds of ordinary Maltese who were shocked by the alleged involvement of his right-hand man in a murder were screaming for his political head outside his office. The international press pounded our reputation with heavy artillery and everybody, on all sides of the political divide, acknowledged the grim implications this had for our economy and way of life.
The thunderous rumblings that demanded his departure started the process but it was the deafening silence of his comrades, when he plaintively asked for their support, which signed his letter of dismissal. It was only when he accepted the inevitable that the room said it would publicly declare its support for him and allowed a five-week process leading up to his departure. There was no question of a farewell mass meeting being allowed, let alone one to rally the troops. The fact that this was nixed was one of the first indications that things were changing.
In the coming weeks we may see an attempt to sculpt his monumental achievements. This may or may not be met by lukewarm support from his party. All those who want to know the truth about what happened under Joseph Muscat’s premiership must use every day of his remaining term to assert their thirst for truth and justice.
Sacking this Prime Minister was just the first part of the job
There can be no respite in the street protests. The more the numbers swell and the broader the demographic, the clearer it will be to the new Prime Minister that Muscat’s departure from office must be the start of a proper investigation. Not the end.
Muscat allowed corruption to become an integral part of the dialectic between chosen businessmen, the government and the regulatory agencies.
Had this not been the case, Pilatus Bank would never have been licensed. As Leader of the Opposition, he used to rail against the corruption of the PN government. He did this on a daily basis. He told us it would never happen on his watch and that meritocracy would replace the culture of the friends of friends.
He dumped a couple along the way into Castille, like Speaker Anġlu Farrugia. But it was cosmetic and politically expedient. As soon as his closest colleagues became implicated, he dug in his heels. He protected Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi. They must have felt untouchable. They knew he was on their side. Their enemy was not the anti-corruption crusader that Muscat once proclaimed to be. Their enemy was Daphne Caruana Galizia. The rest is history. Tragic history.
Had Muscat and Schembri remained true to their proclaimed anti-corruption principles, there would never have been the sort of economic interests that were threatened by Daphne’s investigations. Clean business does not become the target of investigative journalists and clean businessmen do not conspire to eliminate such journalists.
This is why the protesters flooding the streets every day accuse this government of having blood on its hands.
Sacking this Prime Minister was just the first part of the job. The second part requires a Prime Minister far more honorable than Muscat. One who is supported by a government that can guarantee a full investigation into the dealings of the one it will replace.
Georg Sapiano is a lawyer and former journalist.