Seen from the outside, the story of the killing of Daphne Caruana Galizia might feel like a satisfying plot arc. Crooks plotted her death in secret. They killed her. They got found out and now we can watch the dénouement of this drama as they get what they deserve.
But this has never been an ordinary murder mystery. The causes of Daphne’s death ran deeper than the hate of the evil men who decided she would die.
The first layer beneath the forensic surface is the make-up of our politics, which has been sick for many years. The term ‘tribal’ suggests deep ancestral roots that cannot be broken.
But irrational loyalty to a party in Malta is, in historic terms, a fairly recent affair. Over the last three decades, it has been compounded by party-owned media that created the monsters of partisan hatemongers building the walls that divide us among ourselves even higher and the ditches deeper.
The fact that people could and can continue to believe that the evidence Daphne published was the product of lies and that she was killed by her own children is a direct consequence of the poisoned partisan well from which we have no choice but to drink.
The layer beneath our partisan duopoly is our institutional failure. The trappings of democracy have been captured by a criminal bunch intent to use our constitutional infrastructure for their own personal profit. The chains of command of all branches of power end at the prime minister’s desk.
That’s mostly okay when the prime minister is an elected public servant who is accountable to the people. These last six years, our prime minister may have been elected, but the interests he served were private, if not his own, then he served the interests of his assistant and of others who put him where he was.
And then there’s a darker, deeper layer, invisible to us like most of an iceberg. The corroding force of bloody and muddy money flowing through our country from the proceeds of crime into the London and Miami bank accounts of people we’ll never know. Some of that money belongs to organised crime of which some local ‘entrepreneurs’ are servants and accomplices.
These obscure interests of power were not created or even invented by Joseph Muscat. They are not the product of his work. He is the product of theirs. In him and through him they found what organised crime longs for, ‘a friendly government’. They did not merely stumble on this. They planned it all out in the now legendary fourth floor of Labour headquarters in the years, months and days leading up to March 2013.
We are learning the truth about the assassination of Daphne. The more evidence we hear, the more our long-held suspicions are confirmed. This was an act of state-sponsored, partly state-mandated, mafia terrorism intended to prevent Daphne from getting to the bottom of the corruption that beset our government and to intimidate anyone who would dare speak up. The fact that the attempt failed and provided journalists with resources to discover the truth that Daphne could never dream of is beside the point.
We choose to blindly support ‘our party’ in spite of the rot we refuse to see
The fact is our state attempted to cover up corruption with murder. This has happened. The nuanced distinction that state officials may have not actually ordered the murder but only covered it up after the fact ignores the simple truth that an indivisible part of an assassination is its covering up.
Discovering the forensic evidence to this offers us no satisfaction. Even seeing Konrad Mizzi quit and Keith Schembri arrested does not quench the thirst from the drought for justice this country has suffered.
And asking for the prime minister to resign, as we have done every day since Yorgen Fenech was arrested when the penny dropped on a country that spent three years giving Muscat the benefit of the doubt, is not vindictive retribution.
Certainly, everyone implicated in this crime must get what has been coming to them. But it would be unjust and unproductive if, in our eagerness for closure, we look to a happy ending and a satisfying landing for a dramatic plot.
Daphne was swept away challenging our partisan dogmas. She was killed because our institutions failed in their mission of standing on the side of law rather than raw power. She was assassinated because the acid river of dirty money would not deign to flow around the resistance of a single journalist, no matter how masterful.
When its stooges in government follow the criminals already behind bars for this homicide, the mafia is not going to go in a corner to weep and die quietly. Even as it has given up on Joseph Muscat, it is regrouping, dusting off the files of kompromat it has on those that aspire to replace him, ensuring that the exercise of political power in this country continues to serve its interests despite the present mess.
Crooks everywhere. Situation desperate.
Is there reason to hope? It is really in our hands.
This country has had a culture of waiting for one political party to save us from the other. And then we hoped Daphne “would have enough” to embarrass the government into resigning. Over the past two years, we hoped ‘the Daphne Project’ would knock the government down for us. And then we got angry because “Europe” was not saving us from ourselves.
The fact is this country belongs to us. If we want to choose a crook as our prime minister, no one can really prevent us from doing that. It is then for us to suffer the consequences of our choice.
Our tribalism is not a sentient inhibitor on our ability to act in the interests of our own community. We choose to blindly support “our party” in spite of the rot that we refuse to see. It is patently ridiculous to think that this myopia belongs to the supporters of one political party and not of the other.
My friends and I called for this afternoon a protest to ask again for Muscat to resign immediately. I could have written a piece today restating the reasons why he must go now but writing the obvious is insulting and presumes readers are sheep waiting to be told what to think.
As we march tonight, let’s look beyond Muscat’s resignation, close may it be. Let’s look at the road we must travel if we are to reinvent our role in the world and find ways of prospering as a community that do not force us to depend on crooks and dodgers. Let’s think of just how challenging the mission of reforming institutions left stagnant for half a century will be when the people to vote in those changes will effectively be reducing their own power.
Let’s breathe in the challenge of overcoming our prejudices and working across party lines to think of country before party, of neighbour before self.
Tonight, we rub shoulders together, people who voted PN and people who voted PL, labourers and employers, activists and spectators, journalists and readers. If our march ends with the immediate objective of the departure of Muscat, if we revert to type, to mutual distrust, to tribalism, the mafia will come in once again and we won’t even have Daphne to tell us about it.
Tomorrow the mafia must wake up finding us in the streets protecting our children from their greed.