PM still expects Daphne inquiry to conclude next week

Updated 09:45 AM
Photo by: Miguela Xuereb

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

The public inquiry into the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia is still hearing testimony – the latest sitting took place only today – but Prime Minister Robert Abela is still expecting it to conclude by the deadline he had set – 15 December.

When asked by reporters, Abela insisted that the inquiry had been given enough time to fulfil its mandate.

Abela’s insistence that it stick to a deadline has been controversial: among others, the Council of Europe’s rapporteur on the assassination Pieter Omtzigt emphasised that a Prime Minister had no right to determine when an independent inquiry should bring its work to a close.

But Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis appeared to echo the PM’s insistence that the inquiry concludes as quickly as possible in reply to a parliamentary question by PN MP David Thake.

Thake had asked for assurances that the government would not interfere in the running of the inquiry, but the minister said that it was important for this inquiry to be concluded promptly. He insisted that it was ironic that the Opposition was calling for the expediting of inquiries as it felt they were proceeding slowly whilst insisting on delaying the Daphne inquiry.

However, Zammit Lewis denied that there had been any government interference into the inquiry.

The inquiry itself was only started last December in the face of sustained local and international pressure.

On Sunday, as it marked the first anniversary of the opening of the inquiry, the Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation called on the government not just to respect the inquiry’s autonomy, but also to implement any recommendations it would make.

Grech, Cassola condemn PM

Opposition Leader Bernard Grech strongly condemned Abela’s remarks, stating that once more, the PM was seeking to pressure the board into rushing through their work.

He highlighted that former PM Muscat had criticised the inquiry last week and that Abela’s own interference confirmed that the incumbent represented continuity. His efforts, Grech maintained, were an interference into the quest for truth.

Independent political candidate Arnold Cassola, meanwhile, said that Abela’s remarks were “a hideous attempt at obstructing justice.”

“He should stop trying to defend and cover up for Joseph Muscat, whose government was his paymaster since 2013 when his company of advocates got hundreds of thousands of euros in contracts and direct orders. Robert Abela’s conflict of interest is blatant,” Cassola maintained.

Cassola also lamented that the inquiry board had been subservient to Muscat when he testified last Friday, and expressed his hope that they would find the means to “stand up to this blatant interference of the Prime Minister, to ignore him and to keep going on with their work.”