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.

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…

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.

Arnaud investigates Arnaud

I nearly fell off my chair when I read that Police Commissioner Lawrence Cutajar said that Inspector Arnaud had been tasked with finding who was leaking information on the investigation into Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination, given the possibility that Arnaud was the person leaking the information.

In a normal country a police officer is not tasked with investigating himself.

In a normal country it is protocol and policy that anyone above the rank of inspector is investigated by an officer of a superior rank, and definitely not by himself.

In a normal country, it is protocol and policy that such a matter would be investigated by a unit dedicated to such matters. Arnaud contradicted the commissioner and said that it was in fact the Economics Crime Unit that was tasked with investigating the leaks, which is baffling, since it is the remit of the Internal Affairs Unit not that of the Economic Crimes Unit to investigate such matters.

The remit of the Economic Crimes Unit (together with its parallel unit the Money Laundering Unit) is to investigate the Panama Papers, Keith Schembri, Konrad Mizzi, Adrian Hillman, Brian Tonna etc.

The number of people who would have known the full details of the case, including who the suspects were, and any planned actions should not have exceeded three or four persons. Other members of the team would be acting on a “need to know” basis.

In the UK this group of people would be known as the knowledge group. The people within the knowledge group for this case would normally be Arnaud’s immediate superior – Assistant Commissioner Kevin Farrugia , the Police Commissioner Lawrence Cutajar, Inspector Arnaud himself, and possibly Arnaud’s right-hand man.

Joseph Muscat and Keith Schembri should not have been privy to the information, but they were. That’s five or six people in all.

It shouldn’t be hard to figure out who leaked the information.

Call a spade a spade

Disgraced and discredited ex-prime minister Joseph Muscat said that he is paying the highest price possible for “whatever mistakes I made or were made by others”, whilst freshly appointed prime minister Robert Abela is continuing in the same vein, assuring all that “mistakes will not happen again”.

But “mistakes” were not what bought down Joseph Muscat. Crime and corruption bought him down. Crime and corruption which he allowed to happen under his watch bought him down.

Premeditated murder is not a mistake. It’s a crime. Earning millions of euros illicitly (off taxpayers’ money) is not a mistake. It’s a crime. Corruption in the prime minister’s office is not a mistake. It’s a crime.

Whenever we allow people to relegate corruption and crime to mistakes, we allow them to rationalise and justify corruption and crime and even to trivialise them.

Crime and corruption are not mistakes. Crime and corruption are exactly that – crime and corruption. They should be called crime and corruption and they should be treated as crime and corruption.

And the new prime minister speaking of crime and corruption as mistakes does not bode well.

A breath of fresh air

In the midst of the political crisis on our island, there’s a refreshing and unprecedented rise in civil society speaking out and taking a visible and tangible stand against the corruption, crime and treason of the highest order that has overrun the country.

People who never cared started caring. People who never spoke up started speaking up. People who never took a stand started taking a stand. NGOs came together to speak up and take action. New ones have been formed.

It’s time we realised that politics is not just about political parties, or exclusively their remit and domain, though political parties are of course essential, and their role can never be ignored, sidelined, bypassed or eliminated.

It’s also time we realised that being indifferent to politics is being indifferent to the society we live in and our quality of life, indifferent to the deterioration of human rights, democracy, rule of law and freedom of expression, indifferent to impunity, corruption and crime, indifferent to the principles of justice, fairness and social justice, indifferent to the quality of the air we breathe, to the environment and to the education of our children.

One NGO , a fledgling NGO which vociferously fights corruption is Repubblika. It has become conspicuous thanks to its admirable and unrelenting efforts, and thanks to its success in mobilising thousands to join in the fight against the impunity, the sleaze and the lawlessness that has taken over this country. It has become conspicuous because it is making a tangible difference.

During the meeting the NGO identified and approved the following areas which it will be directing its attention to:

  1. Public Life based on and guided by ethical principles
  2. Structural and Constitutional Developments
  3. Training for a participative and responsible citizenship
  4. A New, Honest and Sustainable Economy
  5. An Environment that is enjoyed by All
  6. . An inclusive, just and humane society.
  7. Equal Justice, Guaranteed Liberties

Their full policy document can be accessed in Maltese or in English.

It concluded that as citizens we need to understand that:

Democracy means much more than the five minutes we spend every five years to cast our vote.
Democracy is not the tyranny of the majority.
Democracy is far greater than a parliament that works on a part-time basis.
Democracy is a fragile treasure that is constantly under threat but which can flourish if we protect it and sustain it.”

They’re right about that. Democracy doesn’t go out with a bang, with an apocalyptic event. Democracies are dismantled in hard to perceive steps: take over the executive, take over the judiciary, take over the police, take over the institutions, take over the media. Bribe a media house. Democracies are dismantled when people don’t mobilise because their attention is diverted to smokescreens, to manufactured lies, conspiracies and enemies.

Wake up. All this has already happened.

Good riddance to bad rubbish

Rather than taking delight in the removal of a person on whose watch:

  • Malta became a heaven and a haven for criminals and money-launderers,
  • corruption and crime prospered,
  • rule of law was replaced by impunity, lawlessness and mob rule,
  • freedom of expression deteriorated,
  • and a journalist was murdered for uncovering the corruption of his best friends and closest collaborators, corruption of which he was aware and which he defended,

they gave him a hero’s send-off.

They depicted him as a saviour, a saint and a martyr, the ultimate politician and statesman.

They should have depicted him as he really is – reprehensible, repugnant, repulsive and revolting.

They should have told him “good riddance to bad rubbish”.

The fact that they didn’t shows that it doesn’t really make a difference who is elected as his successor. All we can expect is more of the same. Cut from the same cloth.

It’s time for change. Real change. But change doesn’t happen just by saying that we need change, or by thinking it. By doing nothing. Words are cheap.It’s time to stand up and be counted.

Mahatma Gandhi once said,

“Silence becomes cowardice when occasion demands speaking out the whole truth and acting accordingly.”

I would add it also becomes complicity.

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Repubblika PR

09.01.2020

Repubblika will be holding a General Meeting on Saturday 11 January 2020 to discuss and consider the adoption of its policy document “Malta Ġdida: Repubblika Ġdida”. The meeting has been convened with the following agenda.

09:00 Registration

09:30 Call to Order   + Introduction by Robert Aquilina, President-Elect

09:40 Presentation of Policy  Document by Manuel Delia

10:00 Debate Part 1

10:45 Coffee Break

11:15 Debate Part 2

11:45 Vote

11:50 Concluding remarks by Vicki Ann Cremona, President

12:10 Closing

12.15 Refreshments 

The General Meeting is convening at the St Aloysius Assembly Hall, Birkirkara. Entrance through Triq il-Kulleġġ.

The Press is invited to attend any part of the meeting and committee members will be available for interview. A digital copy of the policy document in English and Maltese will be provided.

Stop throwing stones at every dog that barks

Diversionary tactics have long featured in war and in politics. They serve to attract people’s attention away from something which you do not want them to think about, know about, or deal with. They divert attention and resources away from the key, core issues.

In the summer of 1998, at the height of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Bill Clinton confessed on television that his romantic relationship with a White House intern amounted to “a critical lapse in judgement … a personal failure.” Three days later, with his presidency hanging in the balance, the administration announced airstrikes against suspected terrorist sites in Sudan and Afghanistan, following the bombing of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Many observers claimed that Clinton had launched a classic diversionary war, or a use of force to sidetrack the media, whip up patriotic sentiment, and boost approval ratings. ”

The Atlantic June 15 2017

Diversionary tactics are a staple of the Labour party’s strategy. The Labour party manufactures and fuels distractions from key issues on a daily basis. Now more than ever.

Those opposing to this government’s corruption – NGOs, civil society and the Opposition party – need to be careful not to fall into the their trap. No one should lose sight of the endgame – justice, and doing what needs to be done to ensure that we never end up in the situation we are in today again.

‘You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.’

Winston.S.Churchill

So here’s a reminder of what some of the key matters I believe we should keep our focus on:

  • The Electrogas power station project was designed as a lucrative pension fund for Joseph Muscat, Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri and a number of other people.
  • The police commissioner’s attention was drawn to the corruption in which the whole project was mired, however he refused to do his job and investigate.
  • Daphne Caruana Galizia however did do her job, she did investigate, she did ask the right questions, and she found out the truth, but at a terrible cost.
  • What Daphne found out about the Electrogas scam cost her her life. Those who were (are?) making millions thanks to the scam off taxpayer money assassinated her, so that they could go on with their criminality unhindered.
  • Joseph Muscat, Keith Schembri, Konrad Mizzi, and all those who enabled, allowed, or closed an eye to the brazen, blatant corruption and crime have blood on their hands.
  • In the meantime, Joseph Muscat is globe-trotting, ensuring that he and his assets are beyond the short arm of the law, Keith Schembri lives like a Rajah, running the country and its institutions from his luxury home in Mellieha, and Konrad Mizzi has dropped out of sight and out of mind.

We need to keep our eye on the ball, and starve ourselves of any distractions from the core issues.

The priority at the moment is to ensure that all the people involved in the Electrogas scam and in the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia are put away behind bars. All involved in any way and at any level, without exception.

Then comes the next step – to ensure that such atrocities never happen again.

Why you shouldn’t attend protests against corruption

There’s going to be a protest next Sunday, a protest organised by Civil society organisations and NGOs such as Repubblika, #occupyjustice and manuedelia.com, and supported by Moviment Graffitti, KSU, aditus, UHM Voice of the Workers, Friends of the Earth Malta, The Times of Malta, The Shift News, Lovin Malta, The Malta Independent, and MaltaToday as well as several artists.

While most people agree that the country has been overrun by corrupt politicians (it’s hard to disagree since it’s a well-established, documented fact), many are not too sure whether these protests are the way forward.

Here are a few of the “buts” I get when I encourage people to attend these protests.

But wasn’t there corruption under the previous administration too? Yes, but the amount, level and the rate at which corruption increased post 2013 is unprecedented, and the institutions whose job it is to safeguard against corruption, crime and the deterioration of rule of law were completely captured and emasculated in 2013. This is why civil society, NGOs etc must take a stand – otherwise no-one else will; not the police, not the AG, not the judiciary.

But why didn’t people hold such protests back then?pre-2013? Many did – with their vote. The governing party at the time (PN) lost the 2013 election with a resounding defeat.

But aren’t the protesters being incited and egged on by the PN? This is not about PN and PL but about the corrupt and those who reject corruption. Anyone who reframes the issue into a partisan context is doing so to obfuscate, and manipulate minds and hearts.

But aren’t these protests damaging Malta economically? The only thing that is damaging Malta economically and politically is unchecked, brazen corruption, crime, lawlessness, impunity and breakdown of rule of law.

But don’t you think that these protests are a bit too much? The people who are at the centre of the network of corruption and crime were ready to snuff out an innocent life and assassinated a journalist because she uncovered their corruption and would doubtlessly have revealed more had she not been savagely silenced. Do you want to live in a country where such things happen / are allowed to happen? I don’t.

The highest price

Disgraced and discredited Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has repeatedly told us that he has paid “the highest price possible”.

I am not sure what he means by that. To my knowledge, he hasn’t paid a price for his actions (and lack of action) – yet.

He can never pay the “highest price possible”. So far only one person has paid a price, and it will always remain the “highest price possible” – a life senselessly and savagely snuffed out.

As Prime Minister, he had the duty to protect Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Instead he and his minions dehumanised and demonised her, making her fair game for violent elements within the Labour Party and for criminals.

The alleged mastermind (or one of the masterminds) of Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination – Yorgen Fenech – was an intimate friend of Muscat.

Muscat even invited Fenech to an intimate, wild birthday party he held at Girgenti which was so exclusive that not even the ministers in his cabinet were invited. The two were that close.

Fenech also gifted Muscat with wines costing thousands of euros as well as a Bvlgari watch costing some €17,000. The two were that intimate.

The other person allegedly highly involved in the assassination calls Muscat his best friend. Keith Schembri was Muscat’s closest collaborator, his chief of staff. He was certainly involved in the corruption that ultimately led to Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination. And Muscat could have stopped that corruption years ago; he knew all about it.

So if Muscat is trying to elicit sympathy or playing the empathy card by playing the martyr, he can go stuff himself. He could have prevented Daphne Caruana Galizia’s death.

Instead he now has her blood on his hands. That will be his legacy, along with the title of “2019 MAN OF THE YEAR IN ORGANIZED CRIME AND CORRUPTION”.