“Impunity reigns, despite cosmetic changes in government”

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

“Impunity reigns, despite cosmetic changes in government,” artist, illustrator and Head of Department at Faculty of Media and Knowledge Sciences Professor Ġorġ Mallia told activists gathered in Great Siege Square, Valletta on Sunday afternoon.

The monthly vigil organised by Occupy Justice and rule of law NGO Repubblika was held demanding justice for slain journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Mallia was referring to an article saying that investigators were mulling action against disgraced former OPM Chief of Staff Keith Schembri and which appeared in the Sunday Times. The lecturer stressed that despite there was a change in the Prime Minister, the changes amounted to “cosmetic changes”.

Disgraced former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat announced that he will step down amid a political crisis, but did not do so immediately. However, disgraced minister Konrad Mizzi and Schembri resigned during the crisis. Schembri’s name came up in the secret recordings made by Melvin Theuma who acted as a go in between between the three suspected hitmen and Electrogas director and murder suspect Yorgen Fenech.

Robert Abela was appointed as prime minister after winning the internal leadership race. Mallia noted that justice has been delayed. “Arrests which should have happened months ago, are still to take place. And the police are still considering what their next move against Schembri should be,” Mallia said.

Mallia also spoke about the dehumanisation campaign on Caruana Galizia both before she was assassinated and after her death. He observed that the organised hatred campaign against Daphne Caruana Galizia sought to erase the journalist from the nation’s collective memory.

“€35 is used by those who stole millions to buy one’s loyalty,” Mallia told the crowd gathered, in a reference to the government cheque which was announced last week as a “one off bonus”.

In her introduction, Alessandra Dee Crespo from NGO Repubblika said that the activists were still waiting for the whole truth to come out, for all the masterminds in the assassination plot to be made known. She addressed all those who were arguing that Abela was just appointed prime minister and had to take “difficult decisions” such as asking Justyne Caruana to resign from her ministry few days after she was re-appointed.

Dee Crespo asked about Owen Bonnici’s fate after the highest Court found that he violated the activists’ fundamental rights by ordering the removal of the makeshift memorial dedicated to the slain journalist in front of the courts. The activist highlighted that the ongoing public inquiry would have not happened if it were not for the Caruana Galizia family’s perseverance in demanding an inquiry into the murder. She quoted a Facebook post by Abela who was then legal consultant to the government.

“Advice given by a private British law firm that is naturally dancing to the tune of their clients, Caruana Galizia’s children,” Abela had said. “My response to them is that we don’t need their prejudiced advice and that the people who paid for this advice can keep it for themselves.”

“It would have been better had they spoken about the mission of the Caruana Galizia children to hinder the investigations. Instead, they have the gall to say that the government is being hostile towards them.”

Dee Crespo said that this should serve as a reminder to all those who have short memory and were still giving Abela the benefit of the doubt. The overtime racket was also mentioned during the opening speech delivered by the activist. She highlighted that there was some grave concern about this scandal since it happened within the Police Force.

“An abuse at this scale does not happen because one person made a mistake,” she said.

“Instead of trickle down economy, we’ve got trickle down corruption,” Dee Crespo stated.

“We still don’t know why they resigned”

Facebook: Occupy Justice

Young activist Tiziana Aljasem in her brief speech said that disgraced former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat did not make public his reasons for resigning from his post. Giving a brief timeline of events from last November, Aljasem noted that Schembri resigned seven days after murder suspect Fenech tried fleeing the country using his yacht. She noted that some hours later the country suffered a nationwide power cut. On the same day, Mizzi also handed in his resignation.

Schembri had denied any knowledge about the claims made in the recordings when he was interrogated by the police last November. In court, it had transpired that Schembri claimed that he had lost his mobile phone shortly before the arrest.

A message of hope

Facebook: Occupy Justice

Activist Andre Delicata also addressed the activists. In his speech he brought to bring a message of hope and encouragement. Quoting Winston Churchill, Delicata sought to encourage anti-corruption activists saying that while it was true that the way ahead was long and difficult, one should not forget what was achieved to date.

“We have made civil society a national force to be reckoned with. We have been instrumental in forcing the resignation of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Keith Schembri,” he told those gathered.

According to Delicata there were two things on which the activists should focus their energy one – ensuring that stories by journalists which expose corruption are investigated and secondly to mobilize people.

“Democracy is being wiped out, slowly, surely,” he said. He explained that one should not accept arguments such as “I’m not interested in politics” saying that many would confuse politics with petty partisanship.

In his conclusion, Delicata said that the activists had one goal, “victory for justice, for rule of law for democracy. Victory against corruption, crime and impunity”.

Before the vigil came to an end, Dee Crespo invited those present to hold their candle up to remind Bonnici of some 500 times he had ordered the removal of the memorial before the court decision.

The activists made their way to Parliament after the end of the vigil.