Opposition leader Adrian Delia this evening backed a motion by Nationalist MP and former PN leadership contender Chris Said for three retired judges to be appointed to investigate all public officers and departments against whom allegations were made by Daphne Caruana Galizia. He also challenged the government to back the motion, saying this was 'a golden opportunity' for the people to know the truth about the allegations.
The proposal, however, was quashed by the government, which moved amendments to the motion praising the police for having arraigned three persons who stand accused of the murder.
The motion had been announced by Dr Said at the end of October, two weeks after the blogger was killed by a car bomb, and it raised controversy with some claiming it was aimed against Dr Delia, who was among those against whom Caruana Galizia had made allegations.
At the start of today's sitting, the government moved a series of amendments noting that the police after excellent work had arraigned three persons in connection with the murder.
The amendments noted that some of Caruana Galizia's allegations were already being investigated by magistrates.
The amendments therefore remove Dr Said's call for the appointment of a board of inquiry, while urging the government to continue to strengthen the rule of law and democracy in the country.
Opening the debate, Dr Said said the government's amendments led one to the conclusion that the government had something to fear and something to hide. That was why it did not want any independent inquiry.
The murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia had shocked Malta and the world, he said. But the state itself had created the environment conducive to the brutal murder.
Those who through their words or actions helped create this environment had a responsibility to bear. Some responsibility could be borne by voting for this motion for an investigation of the abuses, crimes and corruption that Ms Caruana Galizia had written about.
It was shameful, he said, that some were continuing their campaign of contempt against Caruana Galizia. Whose interest was it to shut up certain journalists?
Daphne Caruana Galizia's murder was what happened when a government was secretive and corrupt, where a police commissioner failed to act while evidence of abuse was spirited away, and institutions were undermined.
Caruana Galizia revealed what was going on in the country, but the state had failed to act.
Whoever wrote in The Guardian that Malta is a mafia state was kind
Whoever wrote in The Guardian that Malta was a mafia state was kind. Other countries tried to fight the mafia. But in Malta, the state turned its cannons at whoever was revealing abuse and corruption.
Did the police commissioner and the attorney general receive government instructions not to investigate the allegations which Caruana Galizia made? Or were they scared of investigating people in power?
The independent investigation by three judges, which he had proposed could give some explanations to the people.
But Malta had a government which, using the machinery of the state and of a party funded by the people, had waged a strong campaign against the journalist, calling her ‘saħħara’, ‘galiziabarra’, ‘bicca blogger’ while seizing her assets worth thousands of euro and persecuting her with libel cases.
A culture of impunity had also contributed to the Caruana Galizia murder. Why had the police not taken effective action in the wake of the six other car bombs this year? Did the police need the prime minister’s instruction not to leave any stone unturned, before they took action?
If Dr Muscat really did not want to leave any stone unturned, he should back this motion, Dr Said said. Anyone in the House who had nothing to fear should, indeed, be backing his non-partisan motion.
SENSE OF RELIEF
Deputy prime minister Chris Fearne referred to the arraignment of three men accused of the Caruana Galizia murder and said there was a general sense of relief in the country that its institutions were strong and functioning.
Mr Fearne said Dr Said had moved his motion without the knowledge of the new PN leader or the former whip.
Practically all of Daphne Caruana Galizia's allegations, made before and after the general election, were already being investigated by the mechanisms of the state. The only allegations not being investigated were those against a person currently not in the House (a reference to Adrian Delia).
Interjecting, Simon Busuttil (PN) said no investigation was being made about the Panama case and the House was therefore being misled.
Continuing, Mr Fearne said it was not anyone in the government who had spoken of the biċċa blogger, mentioned by Dr Said. This motion, clearly, was an extension of the internal battles in the PN. But Parliament should not be used in this way. That was why the government had moved its amendments.
Later in the sitting, during comments by Labour MP Edward Zammit Lewis that the police had solved the murder case, Dr Busuttil interjected again, saying the House was being misled again as whoever had commissioned the crime had not been found out.
Edwin Vassallo (PM) called government arguments 'bullshit' and was later told by the Speaker to withdraw that word because it was unparliamentary. Mr Vassallo said that if the government wanted to 'crucify' Adrian Delia by highlighting what Caruana Delia said about him, why wasn't it voting for this motion?
Marlene Farrugia (PD) said Caruana Galizia was killed after a general election called a year early because of the government's 'confusion of corruption'. The fact that three persons had been arraigned over the murder did not mean that the mastermind had been caught. That the people wanted an independent inquiry by three judges was the least they could expect, and the fact that the government was opposing this call showed it had something to hide.
MUSCAT: GOVERNMENT COMMITTED TO JUSTICE
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said that in order not to be accused of prejudicing the court case in any way, he would hold back on comments he wished to make. He, however, wanted to reiterate the government's commitment to justice and would back all of the state's institutions to this end.
Robert Abela (PL) said it was no lapsus of Dr Said to refer to biċċa blogger, a term used by Adrian Delia. Was he therefore implying that Dr Delia was among those who created the environment for Caruana Galizia's murder? If that was the case, how could he accept to be part of Dr Delia's opposition? Serious allegations had been made by Caruana Galizia about Dr Delia regarding money laundering and other activities. He instituted libel proceedings, but dropped them following the murder, before any judgement could be made.
CHICKENS AND COWARDS
Beppe Fenech Adami (PN) said the government's amendments were the actions of 'cowards of chickens' who wanted to praise themselves and protect the corrupt. They wanted no investigations on the Panama companies, the building of the new power station, the Gozo hospital, the sale of passports and the 'American' University, procurement from Azerbaijan and the involvement of Pilatus Bank and a whole list of direct orders.
Glen Bedingfield (PL) said chicken and coward was the one who dropped libel cases so no judgement could be made, and who had not called for inquiries about allegations made against him. This was in stark contrast to what Dr Muscat did. Mr Bedingfield said Dr Fenech Adami had not spoken about the Capital One Inquiry.
Amid uproar, the Speaker ordered microphones to be switched off.
A heated exchange then followed between Dr Fenech Adami and Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi. Dr Fenech Adami said he had been called 'dirty' by Dr Mizzi, but coming from that minister, he considered it a compliment. Mr Mizzi said Dr Fenech Adami had the audacity to speak when he had refused an inquiry on his unexplained million euros and the dealings of Capital One. Rules applied for all.
DELIA: WHAT DOES THE GOVERNMENT HAVE TO LOSE?
Opposition leader Adrian Delia said the rule of law dictated that every person was subject to the rules, including lawmakers, law enforcement officials, and judges. This motion called for a board of inquiry to examine the behaviour of public officers and institutions, in view of allegations made about them by Daphne Caruana Galizia. He agreed with this motion and would vote in favour.
The people had a right to know the truth, Dr Delia said. The government MPs had accused Dr Said that he had moved the motion as a slight against him. Therefore why didn't they stand to be counted by voting for the motion? In the interests of democracy, they could vote in consensus, he said. Whoever was found to have committed an irregularity would pay the consequences. This was a unique opportunity for the people to know if the allegations by Caruana Galizia were the truth. What did the government have to lose?
Justice Minister Owen Bonnici said Dr Delia had still not gone to a magistrate to have the allegations made against him investigated, as the prime minister had done.
The government's amendments were approved after a division with 36 in favour and 29 against. The motion was defeated.
The House is adjourned to January 15.