Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi challenged the Labour Party to apologise for falsely claiming that an early general election was held in 2017 because of claims made by Daphne Caruana Galizia on the ownership of secret Panamanian company Egrant.
Speaking in Parliament, Azzopardi – one of the lawyers representing the family of the late journalist – highlighted that Keith Schembri, who had been chief of staff to disgraced former PM Joseph Muscat, had confirmed, at the public inquiry into the assassination on Monday, that planning for the election had started in February or March.
Schembri had confirmed this in reply to a question by Azzopardi himself, prompting the MP to interject that Daphne was right: in reply, Schembri observed that he never said she was wrong. In doing so, Azzopardi argued in Parliament, Schembri confirmed what much of the country had already known, including Caruana Galizia herself.
Parliament was ostensibly debating a simple amendment to the Criminal Code – which simply ups the fines for those convicted of causing others to fear that violence will be used against them. But the bill itself was uncontroversial, even though Azzopardi suggested that the single clause was not included in another bill just so statistics would show another bill was passed.
Instead, the PN MP argued that while the government was preaching against violence, it had to come clean on the campaign of intimidation, dehumanisation and demonization it had led against Caruana Galizia. Azzopardi argued that tyrants and autocrats would often seek to whip up support by depicting their critics as seditious or destabilising the country.
In Caruana Galizia’s case, he pointed out, this campaign was taking place while her murder was being planned.
Azzopardi argued that the Labour Party – and Muscat’s successor Robert Abela – now faced a choice: they could either distance themselves to the horrific lie that the 2017 campaign was based on, or remain inextricably tied to it.