Prime Minister Robert Abela has publicly apologised for the state’s shortcomings that contributed to the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia as confirmed in an inquiry report published earlier on Thursday.
Speaking at a press conference, he invited the Caruana Galizia family to a meeting and said the government was not ruling out compensation if that was needed as part of a process of reconciliation.
“I was appointed prime minister after the public inquiry into the murder started. But I am now prime minister and it is now up to me to apologise for the state’s shortcomings,” Abela told a press conference hours after the inquiry's report was published.
He said he was apologising to the family and all those affected by the state’s failures.
The inquiry report found that the state should shoulder responsibility for the murder because a culture of impunity was created from the highest echelons of power within Castille. It also said steps must be taken to rein in and regulate the links between politicians and big business.
In his press conference, the prime minister welcomed the fact that the inquiry board had acknowledged reforms the government has launched to strengthen the institutions.
'A dark chapter in Malta's history'
He said the government was committed to delivering justice to the Caruana Galizia family and the people in general.
“The murder was a dark chapter in the history of Malta and it would be a shame if lessons are not learnt,” he said. The report was another step in the healing process, he added.
The government would hold public consultations on the implementation of the inquiry report’s recommendations, Abela said. Talks would be held with the Opposition and others, including the Institute of Journalists in view of recommendations involving journalists, he said. But it was not just laws which may need changing, he said. Attitudes needed to change. The message should be one of seriousness, integrity and good governance. There would be no immunity or impunity for anyone.
Replying to a question on whether a general election would be called, Abela said his is a new administration and it has not lost its legitimacy to govern.
Institutionally, the country was unrecognizable from what it was a few months ago, he said, and, it had drawn praise from the EU, the Council of Europe and the Venice Commission, among others, He said the reform process would continue.
Wish to meet Caruana Galizia family
He also said he wants to personally meet the Caruana Galizia family to personally convey the government’s apology and also discuss the implementation of the inquiry report’s recommendations, starting with reconciliation. He was therefore inviting the family to a meeting. If reconciliation involved compensation, the government was not dismissing this principle, he said.
No resignations from the Cabinet
The prime minister said he was not expecting anyone to resign from the Cabinet because all those members of the government mentioned in the inquiry report were no longer part of it.
When it was pointed out to him by Times of Malta that some members of his Cabinet were also part of the Muscat Cabinet and that the inquiry found that collectively responsible, Abela again said those mentioned had been removed.
This, he said, was one of his earlier decisions.
When asked about his role as legal advisor to former prime minister Joseph Muscat, Abela observed that the inquiry had not said anything about him, and he was not asked to testify before the board
On Muscat, he said the former prime minister no longer held any position within the Labour Party but would not comment on whether he would be kicking him out of the Labour Party.
Lessons must be drawn
Earlier in the day, in his immediate reaction to the report, Abela had said lessons must be drawn and reforms must continue with greater resolve. He also summoned parliament for an emergency debate, tomorrow morning. There will be no vote.
Opposition leader Bernard Grech has demanded that Abela and his predecessor Joseph Muscat shoulder their responsibilities.
Rule of law group Repubblika has demanded an apology and state compensation to the Caruana Galizia family and the resignation of members of the Cabinet.