“No one should be killed for what they believe in or what they write. In no country in the world, much less in a country of the European Union.”
Malta’s Prime Minister Robert Abela made this declaration as he was opening a Parliamentary debate on the Daphne Caruana Galizia inquiry report, after he called on the Speaker to convene Parliament.
“I am a new Prime Minister of a country that wants to move forward. And I choose to continue to offer people a positive choice. So that this country does not forget, it learns from its own mistakes, but continues to move forward in honesty with itself and with all people of Malta and Gozo.”
The Prime Minister said that the burden of this apology is borne by him as Head of Government and on behalf of the State. “Because it is not the Maltese and Gozitan families who should bear this burden, as there is no doubt that the murder does not reflect them or what they believe in.”
“I am a new Prime Minister of a country that wants to move forward.”
Prime Minister Abela said that no one expected that the impact of the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder would be mitigated overnight. This is a wound that we must heal slowly. Healing, does not mean forgetting what happened, as we can never forget what the family and the country has gone through. “If we forget the stories of people who have paid with their lives for what they and those around them believe in, we would be inviting more misery.”
He referred to the inquiry conclusions that the State did not play a direct role in the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. At the same time, the way the State worked created the environment that led to this case.
Turning on the inquiry recommendations, Prime Minister Abela said that the country’s advantage is that the reforms have already started. “We have made major reforms in the last 18 months. Some of them even needed the consent of the Government and the Opposition to make them possible.
He recalled the situation the country was in when he took the oath of office in January 2020 and said that Malta is now completely different than what it used to be.
“If we forget the stories of people who have paid with their lives for what they and those around them believe in, we would be inviting more misery.”
“We had a situation where the Commissioner of Police was appointed directly by the politician. Today we have introduced a system which starts from a public call, and ends with the candidate appearing before the Parliament’s Public Appointments Committee. This was a process I started in the first hours as Prime Minister, as I knew that it was one of the first signs I could give that the State was already learning. This has been confirmed by the inquiry.”
He noted that the despite the talk, the Opposition refused to participate in such a process at the time.
Major reforms have also been made in the judiciary, after years with a system that made it possible for previous prime ministers to choose whoever they wanted as Chief Justice.
The Prime Minister noted his disappointment that four months into the deadline, there is still no agreement with the Opposition on the new Ombudsperson, and extended his invitation to find common ground.
“I know that all these changes will not bring back Daphne Caruana Galizia, and the inquiry itself says that certain changes were long overdue. However, these reforms show that this country is moving forward. This country wants to strengthen the independence and autonomy of its institutions and there are even areas where we have gone a step further than other European countries,” Dr Abela said.
“I know that all these changes will not bring back Daphne Caruana Galizia, and the inquiry itself says that certain changes were long overdue.”
He recalled that a person has been convicted of the Caruana Galizia murder and sentenced to 15 years in prison. Six other people are facing Justice, and the judicial process is progressing well. From the alleged principal, to the alleged executors and accomplices.
On the role of journalists in society, Prime Minister Abela said that journalism must find the support it needs to survive, and recalled how this administration provided crucial financial assistance to media houses during the pandemic.
He said that people who do not want to be scrutinised should not enter politics. “If we do not understand this, then we would not have learned anything. And it’s not just us who want to learn. This episode has lessons for the whole of Europe. Four journalists have been killed in four European countries in just a few years. We will support any ongoing efforts to strengthen the rights of journalists at a European level.
The Prime Minister said that all the inquiry recommendations and reforms would mean nothing if we do not face the coming months as a united country. A country where we understand that we have different opinions and thoughts but we respect each other. He condemned recent xenophobic and homophobic incidents and said that such episodes sow the seeds of hatred which in turn lead to far more dire consequences.
“As a society that cherishes love, we cannot accept them.”