Inquiring about the Inquiry

I have already dealt at length about the findings of the Daphne public inquiry. Its conclusions, and the fact that it was finalised and published in its entirety, were all positive moves in the right direction. Kudos to the Prime Minister for immediately ordering the reconvening of Parliament and for unconditionally apologising on behalf of the state for the latter’s shortcomings as depicted in the said inquiry. And kudos for the Caruana Galizia family who accepted the apology and agreed in principal with the Premier’s sentiment, rightly stressing the need for accountability from everyone identified as culpable in this horrific murder.

But more thoughts need to be put in ink with regards to the public inquiry. There has been a constant and growing Machiavellian overture in the background that the need for this inquiry is due to a rotten government and that it is unheard of in modern day developed democracies. Our legal system and decades of governance, most of which were under the helm of whiter than white Christian Democratic governments, seldom resorted to public inquiries in order to bring serious national matters, including national tragedies, at rest. One can safely say that there is not really a local culture for such an undertaking. However, other democracies in Europe, which are daily projected to us as our supposed models, do have a long tradition of public inquiries. I do believe that a spotlight must be shone on such supposedly utopian models.

I will not refer to the United States and its 6th January Special Committee dealing with the deadly and horrible insurrection of Trump supporters at the Capitol which left public officers dead and maimed for life.

More than six months since hundreds of Donald Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in a bid to prevent Joe Biden’s confirmation as president, and two months since Senate Republicans blocked a bipartisan plan to establish an independent commission to explore the attack, this Inquiry finally started its work. Circumstances left Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic House speaker, to create a select committee that has become the focus of an unsavoury political row, with Republican leadership turning down the opportunity to participate and attempting to boycott proceedings. In a country which is supposed to be a beacon of democracy, half the Senate believes that video coverage of such a brutal assault and the murder and maiming of public officers where indeed ‘a peaceful gathering’ and that the same videos show ‘so much love’! Surreal but true.

Let us look at the United Kingdom: There were nearly thirty public tribunals/inquiries in the UK since the war, most of them dealing with government corruption, murders and deaths, the excesses of the press and other sordid goings on in the mother of democracies. The last two public inquiries, both announced in June and July 2017, have, to date, not been wrapped up at all. The Iraq Inquiry took seven years to be finalised.

The murder of Rosemary Nelson, a prominent Irish human rights solicitor, was announced on the 1st October 2001 and its conclusions were published ten years later. The inquiry found no evidence that state agencies (the RUC, British Army and MI5) had “directly facilitated” her murder, but “could not exclude the possibility” that individual members had helped the perpetrators. It found that state agencies had failed to protect her and that some RUC intelligence about her had ‘leaked’. Both of these, it said, increased the danger to her life. The report also stated that RUC officers had publicly abused and assaulted her in 1997, and made threatening remarks about her to her clients, which became publicly known. The British State did not apologise in the aftermath of this inquiry.

The Bloody Sunday Inquiry, led by Lord Saville, which investigated the killing of 14 people by soldiers of the Parachute Regiment in Derry, Northern Ireland on 30 January 1972, was launched in 1998, 26 years after the massacre. Twelve years later, the Inquiry submitted its findings. Prime Minister David Cameron, addressing the House of Commons after the publication of the report on 15 June 2010, described what British soldiers had done as “both unjustified and unjustifiable, it was wrong”. He acknowledged that all those who died were unarmed when they were killed by British soldiers and that a British soldier had fired the first shot at civilians. He also said that this was not a premeditated action, though “there was no point in trying to soften or equivocate” as “what happened should never, ever have happened”. Cameron then apologised on behalf of the British Government by saying he was “deeply sorry”.

These are but two illustrations from the mother of democracies. Note the years which passed from the incident to the findings. If one analyses the bulk of the UK inquiries, one inevitably notes tonnes of legal mumbo-jumbo which blames everyone – and no-one. And when inquiries really come up with the goods, there is no mass resignation of cabinet members, no calls for the Prime Minister to resign and certainly no calls for the Queen to abdicate.

The same precise situation can be noted in Germany. In June this year, a committee of lawmakers in the Bundestag published its inquiry into the Wirecard fraud affair. The damaging report comes months before Germany’s general election.

The parliamentary committee, consisting of opposition lawmakers, ended a month’s long investigation into the scandal with the publication of a 675-page draft report. The report called out Scholz, who is Germany’s Finance Minister and also the chancellor candidate for the Social Democrats, for his oversight and mishandling of the biggest fraud scandal in post-war Germany. It also singled out Christian Democrat German Chancellor Angela Merkel for lobbying on behalf of Wirecard. Lawmakers say that the German government was biased in favour of the company, turning a blind eye to allegations of irregularities in the run up to its collapse. Parliamentarians asked Merkel why she brought up Wirecard’s planned takeover of a company in China during a state visit in September 2019. A senior official in her office had also pledged further support to Wirecard.

Wirecard, which began by processing payments for gambling and pornography, had been hailed as a rare German technology success story, although few really understood it. Once valued at $28 billion, it abruptly unravelled last year, after the disclosure of a €1.9 billion financial hole triggered its insolvency.

The Wirecard debacle tarnished Merkel’s government reputation by shining a spotlight on the lengths some German politicians have gone to in order to support companies. Stephan Klaus Ohme of Transparency International said it had exposed cracks in Germany’s laissez-faire model towards industry, leaving companies largely to their own devices. “In Germany, you should stick to the rules but if you don’t, nothing happens. The penalties are laughable,” he added. Angela Merkel and the Finance Minister still hold their offices.

All these examples are not being brought to one’s attention in order to diminish in any manner whatsoever the despicable murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia. In last week’s article I also mentioned the hundreds of journalists killed in these last years including dozens killed in Europe. But for the life of me, I cannot stand the arrogance of persons who should know better who try to depict Malta as the shadiest place on the planet, when they are supposedly fellow Maltese citizens and supposedly fellow patriots. The rhetoric that ‘look how bad Malta has become’ and ‘we need to report Malta to big daddy for a proper spanking’ is naïve, infantile, self-serving and utterly damaging to our island nation. It plays completely into the hands of competing countries out there which have a long history of embracing fifth columns in order to get what they want.

And, believe me, this hymn sheet is not about justice for Daphne Caruana Galizia, notwithstanding the fact that everyone and the cat sincerely believes that Daphne Caruana Galizia deserves justice and that ALL perpetrators and those involved in this heinous crime should get their just rewards. The hymn sheet is all about political spite and revenge. It smells of sour grapes and it hurts our country. It is also the reason why the opposition will remain just that in the months to come, the opposition.

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