Vigil for Truth and Justice

I was invited to deliver a speech at The Vigil for Truth and Justice organised by Repubblika, Occupy Justice Malta and Manuel Delia on the 16th February 2020. Below is the full text of my speech.

Fellow activists.

When I was asked to deliver a speech here this evening, I started thinking: what message could I pass on to you that has not been passed on to you already? What is there that needs to be said that has not been said already?

Then it struck me that a good message to bring to you is one that we can never have enough of, especially when the odds seem heavily stacked against us. One of hope. One of encouragement.

If we look around us, it may well seem that we are in a hopeless and dire situation.

Till a few weeks ago, we had a prime minister – Joseph Muscat – who was awarded the title of The 2019 MAN OF THE YEAR IN ORGANIZED CRIME AND CORRUPTION by OCCRP.

For context, OCCRP is the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project. It’s a non-profit media organization that connects 45 non-profit investigative centres and scores of journalists in 34 countries across four continents to turn the tables on corruption and abuse of power happening at the expense of the people.

OCCRP must certainly have been spoilt for choice when choosing the winner of the award. Yet it chose Joseph Muscat.

What are we faced with today?

The 2019 MAN OF THE YEAR IN ORGANIZED CRIME AND CORRUPTION’s chosen one appointed as prime minister.

The 2019 MAN OF THE YEAR IN ORGANIZED CRIME AND CORRUPTION’s cabinet of ministers still in power. A cabinet that oversaw the transformation of Malta into a melting pot of corruption, criminality and treason of the highest order.

An assassinated journalist. Daphne Caruana Galizia. A case still far from resolved. Justice deliberately delayed. Justice deliberately denied.

A prime minister – Joseph Muscat – who received gifts from, and who consorted with, the alleged mastermind behind Daphne’s assassination.

The prime minister’s chief of staff – Keith Schembri – being investigated for complicity in the assassination, as well as a whole litany of other offences, and who consorted with the alleged mastermind behind Daphne’s assassination.

A deputy police commissioner, a governor on the board of the FIAU, Malta’s watchdog for economic crime – Silvio Valletta –  who allegedly leaked information about the investigation to, and who consorted with, the alleged mastermind behind Daphne’s assassination.

Institutions systematically captured, paralysed, emasculated.

But take courage friends. The situation may look bleak, hopeless.

But it is not. Far from it.

At the height of the Second World War, Churchill visited his old school Harrow, where he delivered a speech. The situation looked dire then too. The Germans had 4 times as many war planes as the British had, at a time when victory in war was becoming more and more dependent on air superiority.

Here’s what he told his audience:

never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never, -in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

It is true that we still have a long and difficult way ahead of us, but let us also not forget what we have achieved.

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.

We have been instrumental in forcing the resignation of his chief of staff and chief of schemes, Keith Schembri.

And they called us erbat iqtates. Amazing what erbat iqtates can do, no?

Going forward, here are two things we need to focus our energies on:

  1. Firstly, ensure that every story that our journalists expose or have exposed, are investigated. Every story that is not investigated increases the impunity in this country. Every story that is not investigated continues to dismantle law and order and the rule of law in this country. Every story that is not investigated puts our brave journalists increasingly at risk.
  2. Secondly, mobilise people. Democracy is being wiped out, slowly, surely. Our friends may not all be realising this, or its ramifications and the impact that it is having and that it will have on their lives. Remember. Democracy does not go out with a bang. An Armageddon. It goes out in tiny, sometimes imperceptible steps. Till one fine day it’s gone.

Don’t accept arguments like I’m not interested in politics. People confuse politics with petty partisanship. Politics is about the air we breathe, the education our children receive, the law and order in our streets, the justice in our courts….pretty much everything around us.

We have but one goal. Victory. Victory for justice, for rule of law, for democracy. Victory against corruption, crime and impunity. Victory whatever the cost may be.

We will be relentless, uncompromising, unyielding. We will go on to the end. We will not falter. We will never give up. We will never surrender. We will prevail.

“Valletta l-oħxon”

In a recording played in court in the proceedings related to Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assasination, a “Valletta l-oħxon” was mentioned. The middleman in the assassination – Melvin Theuma – explained that this was a reference to Silvio Valletta: 

“Mr Fenech used to tell me that Mr Valletta used to pass on information to him.

MelvIn Theuma (middleman in Daphne Caruana galizia assassination) sworn testimony

Silvio Valletta was a deputy commissioner in the Malta Police Force and the chief investigator in the case of the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, till the Caruana Galizia family had him forcibly removed from the investigation by the law courts.

He was the one who set up unprecedented briefings on the investigation with former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and his chief of staff Keith Schembri. 

Valletta also sat on the Board of Governors of the Financial Analysis Unit (FIAU), the national central agency in Malta that is responsible for the collection and analysis of information to combat money laundering.

FIAU Board of Governors (photo from 2014 Annual Report)

The Caruana Galizia fought hard to have him removed from the investigation.

The government fought hard to keep him in it…

The Caruana Galizia won the legal battle to have him removed.

It turns out that the Caruana Galizia family were very right to want him removed. Valletta had very close ties with the alleged mastermind (or one of the masterminds) behind the assassination, Yorgen Fenech.

The former deputy police chief Silvio Valletta holidayed abroad with Yorgen Fenech when the business magnate had already been identified by the police as a person of interest in the murder investigation.

They travelled to London together on a business class flight to watch a football match from a private box on September 29th 2018.

Valletta was taken off the case in June 2018; Fenech had been identified as a suspect by May 2018.

Valletta holidayed with Fenech when he knew that Fenech was a person of interest in the investigation into Caruana Galizia assassination case.

The Times also reported that when Mr Valletta travelled abroad with Mr Fenech, the FIAU had just handed police an intelligence report detailing how Mr Fenech, the Electrogas power station director, was the owner of mystery Dubai company 17 Black, which was to pay the then Minister for Energy Konrad Mizzi and the then prime minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri some €5,000 a day each.

We now know that the ex-prime minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri was involved in the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

We now know that Valletta, then one rank away from the top job in the police force, was leaking information about the investigation to help those involved evade justice.

Malta IS a Mafia state. It’s impossible not to realise this. And if you think that this has nothing to do with you, you’re very wrong. It does, so don’t look away or sit on the fence.

 

The best that ever was and that ever will be

Nexia BT’s managing partner Brian Tonna heaped glowing praise on disgraced and discredited Joseph Muscat on Facebook when Muscat announced his resignation.

Commenting beneath a Facebook post by Labour diehard and former GWU boss Tony Zarb, Tonna said:

Here are a few background facts on Nexia BT:

  1. In 2011 Nexia BT company turnover was €1.6 million. By 2018 it had risen to €9.7 million.
  2. An analysis by The Shift News revealed that between 2013 and 2017 Nexia BT was awarded €2 million in direct orders.
  3. Nexia BT was the advisory company that opened Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri’s Panama companies – Hearnville and Tillgate – as well as their New Zealand trusts.
  4. It also set up the company Egrant, whose ultimate beneficial owner is still in question.
  5. Nexia BT sat on both the hospital deal and the power-station deal adjudication committees.
  6. Nexia BT are the auditors of Kasco Holdings Ltd, owned by Keith Schembri, who is currently under investigation for complicity in the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia and a litany of other offences.
  7. They are also the auditors for New Energy Supply owned by Yorgen Fenech, who is the alleged mastermind behind the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. The company was described by retired auditor Godfrey Leone Ganado as a possible vehicle for kickbacks in a detailed analysis.
  8. The Egrant inquiry report recommended that the Commissioner of Police should investigate the discrepancies in the testimonies of Karl Cini, Nexia BT partner, as it appears that he may have perjured (given false testimony).
  9. The Maltese government attempted to have a paragraph in a Council of Europe report on the Rule of Law in Malta deleted. The paragraph highlighted the “key role” played by Mr Tonna and Nexia BT in the Panama Papers, Electrogas, Egrant, Hillman ‘golden passports’ affairs, the lack of disciplinary action taken against them by the Accountancy Board and how Mr Tonna and Nexia BT received numerous lucrative government contracts.

Tonna described Muscat as the best that ever was and that ever will be.

Given Nexia BT’s relationship and good fortune with the Muscat government, one shouldn’t be surprised that Tonna thought so highly of Muscat…

There’s only one point

The Constitutional Court ruled that minister Owen Bonnici breached Manuel Delia’s fundamental human right to free expression when he (Bonnici) ordered the removal of flowers, candles and messages of protest that Delia placed at the foot of the Great Siege monument in Valletta as part of the campaign for truth and justice for Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Manuel Delia filed the protest in his name out of legal necessity, but had every protester who ever placed a candle, a flower a photo, a picture or a message at the foot of the monument filed the same case, they would have received the same judgement.

The Labour Party spin machine is working at full capacity to downplay the ruling, so let’s make sure that no-one loses sight of what the one and only point is:

Owen Bonnici breached human rights.

The rights of several people for several times.

He did this with the full blessing of the then Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.

He did this with the full blessing of Joseph Muscat’s cabinet, which was made up of pretty much the same people who are in Robert Abela’s current cabinet.

Abela says that he wants to set a new standard of governance. But he can never make it happen. Nor does he want to. 

 

 

Rule of law or musical chairs?

The rule of law is fundamental to protecting people’s rights and freedoms, and is foundational to curbing corruption, restraining the abuse of power, and to establishing the social contract between people and the state.

Contrary to popular belief, the goal of the rule of law is to control the abuse of power, not to ensure citizens submit to formal legal processes; the latter happens even in dictatorships.

The World Justice Project developed a working definition of rule of law based on four universal principles, the first of which is that government officials must be accountable under the law.

This means that government officials get sanctioned for misconduct such as using public office for private gain.

So it’s not enough that government officials that were close to Keith Schembri such as Neville Gafa resign or get transferred from OPM to some ministry.

The work they did needs to be scrutinised for bribery, improper influence by public or private interests, and misappropriation of public funds or other resources.

Bear in mind that these are the minions of a man under investigation for murder and a litany of other offences which include corruption, leaking extensive information about the investigation into Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination, obstructing justice, and acquiring a phantom job for middleman Melvin Theuma.

If this does not happen then what we are seeing is merely a charade, a travesty of rule of law, of justice, a game of musical chairs with a few expendables as collateral damage.

Putting whipped cream on cow dung and calling it a culinary delicacy

If you dress cow dung with whipped cream and call it a culinary delicacy, it remains cow dung.

In case it’s not clear, I’m talking about Robert Abela’s attempts at hiding his government’s corruption behind a veneer of good faith and a semblance of good governance.

The same people who were in in Joseph Muscat’s cabinet which was mired in corruption are nearly all in Robert Abela’s cabinet too. That includes Abela himself.

The same people who failed to stand up to Joseph Muscat’s defence of the indefensible, of the corrupt, are in Robert Abela’s cabinet too. That includes Abela himself.

Asking the Police Commissioner to resign may seem as though Abela is trying to do the right thing, but that’s bullshit.

Doing the right thing would mean firing Lawrence Cutajar, not asking him to resign, and asking the acting or new police commissioner to investigate Cutajar.

Cutajar’s serious omissions of duty resulted in the assassination of a journalist and the transformation of a country into a heaven and haven for criminals and money launderers.

Robert Abela’s asking Justyne Caruana to resign (of course he asked her) because her husband – an ex-deputy commissioner of the police and who sat on the board of directors of the FIAU – consorted with the alleged mastermind behind Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination may seem as though Abela is trying to do the right thing but that’s bullshit.

Did Abela ask Caruana whether she was aware of her husband’s intimacy with a person mired in corruption and accused of complicity in murder? If she did, he should have a big problem with her. She deceived him. She deceived everyone.

Terminating Adrian Hillman’s contract with the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) and Lou Bondi’s contract with the Arts Council may give the impression that Abela is trying to do the right thing.

The right thing to do would be to also fire the ministers who employed/contracted them back then. If it’s a bad thing now, it was a bad thing then. Clearly the objective of these terminations is merely that of keeping up appearances, a PR strategy.

Good governance can never be half-baked or in bad faith. There can be no compromises when it comes to justice and integrity.

It’s the little foxes that ruin the vines.

A brilliant career not

Mary ran to the police station bruised and bleeding.

She had just been savagely beaten up by her ex-partner.

She reached the police station, rushed to the desk, and told the police officer behind the desk what had happened.

The policeman calmly wrote out a report on the incident.

He opened a file.

“Thank you, we’ll look into it,” he told Mary, as he put the file away.

Mary stared at him. The violence had happened a number of times before. Each time it happened she filed a police report. Each time the police officer – Lawrence Cutajar – opened a file on the incident and told her that he would be looking into it. He never did.

Three weeks later she was dead. Buried six feet under the ground.

Replace “Mary” with “Malta”.

It is the story of Malta. A Malta that was raped, ravaged and pillaged by corrupt politicians, criminals and money-launderers. While its police commissioner chose to wilfully ignore it all.

Thanks to him, Malta’s reputation is in the mud, it’s economy endangered.

Thanks to him, impunity and lawlessness have become the order of the day

Thanks to him, a woman was assassinated.

What he did was criminal.

His resignation must not be the end of the story.

Will the next commissioner investigate him?