Updated 5.25pm with Repubblika statement
Government parliamentary whip Glenn Bedingfield has lashed out at the public inquiry looking into the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, saying it had become politicised.
“It is clear that the process is marred by intentions that go beyond the truth of the facts of the murder itself,” he said on Facebook.
“The inquiry was allowed to turn into a political exercise. The aim of the inquiry is to establish facts, not conjectures that are prolonging the process and leading to extension requests. If they were to concentrate on their terms of reference there would be no need for further extensions, unless their requests are due to ulterior motives."
His comments come after the government imposed a time limit on the inquiry. Prime Minister Robert Abela told the board earlier in September that he was granting a one-time deadline extension to December 15, following a request by the inquiry.
On Tuesday, MaltaToday said Abela held certain reservations over the terms of reference for the inquiry.
The imposed deadline also featured in a surprise anti-corruption demonstration, held in front of the Prime Minister’s Office on Wednesday. One protester held up a poster with the words "don't you dare try to stop the public inquiry".
In his post, Bedingfield said that the chair of the inquiry, Judge Michael Mallia was being paid €4,500 a month while Chief Justice Emeritus Joseph Said Pullicino €4,000 per month.
Madam Justice Abigail Lofaro received a salary as a sitting judge.
Stop threatening inquiry, Repubblika says
In a statement later, civil society group Repubblika said it will use all possible means to resist any threat to the independence of the inquiry.
Comments by the Prime Minister and Bedingfield to discredit the judges forming the board of inquiry was tantamount to a threat to the independence of the inquiry, it said.
The inquiry's remit was to investigate whether the government could have done anything to stop the crime and the evidence from emerging and it was therefore necessary for it to be free from government interference, the group said.
An independent inquiry meant it should not be the prime minister or the whip of the government’s parliamentary group who decided what was relevant and the time needed to carry out its work.
It was natural for the process to have political ramifications if the inquiry was examining government behaviour, Repubblika insisted.
"The Prime Minister and the Labour Party were arriving at the conclusion that the evidence coming out of the inquiry was not placing them in a good light. They were responsible for the government that was being investigated and from what they heard so far they were not expecting to come out with flying colours," Repubblika said.
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