The Italian blogosphere is awash with commentaries about Malta’s state of affairs after Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed. The general tone is a sense of vindication. Many Italian commentators are interpreting the bombings as a confirmation of long held suspicion that under the polished sheen of a Maltese paradise lies something more sinister that has now, pardon the metaphor, exploded into view.
As a sample, here’s a commentary on Striscia Rossa that my team translated to English. There are many others in a similar vein.
Malta, the loneliness after the crime: the quest for the truth about Daphne
A month after that infamous death – torn by a car bomb in the hills of the Bidnija borough, as if it were Beirut – only a few spots in Malta serve as a memorial for Daphne Caruana Galizia, She was pivotal in the Panama Papers investigation that uncovered powerful criminal webs, from political corruption to illegal oil trafficking.
Our first stop is at the monument dedicated to the Knights of St. John, right in front of the co-cathedral that houses the famous Caravaggio masterpiece depicting The Beheading of St John the Baptist. On the steps of the monument’s pedestal, under the Crusaders , friends placed a photo of Daphne, a few flowers and the inscription “will not be silenced”. A stark contrast with the way of life in Valletta, with tourists passing by, some making the sign of the cross, as they eat ice cream and shop around.
On the Internet, the homepage of Running Commentary, Daphne’s news/blog site remains fixed on October 16th. The main title on that day – “That crook Schembri was in court today, pleading that he is not a crook” – is an accusation that will last forever. It refers to Keith Schembri, the Chief of Staff of the Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, who together with Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi was accused by Daphne of corruption. It was after the court hearing, towards the end of this piece, that Daphne wrote the phrase that shook Europe: “There are crooks everywhere you look now. The situation is desperate.”
Online one still finds the column that the journalist had on a Maltese newspaper, the Independent. The last post is a reprimand against the legalization of cannabis, a subject that divides public opinion: “It’s not just a personal choice – she wrote a few days before the assassination – and it has a high social cost. I say this as a liberal in the true meaning of the word: respect for the rights and freedoms of others, with minimal interference by the state.
One month after Daphne’s death, loneliness seems to be the fate of militant Malta – the blogger Manuel Delia remind us on l’Espresso: “A small minority is angry and outraged that greed has become a national religion capable of opening doors to Azeri dictators and the various mafias who recycle their dirty money here. ” This minority, on November 16th, finds itself in a silent march promoted on Facebook by Daphne Caruana Galizia’s son Matthew: “We will be marking the one month we failed and lost as a nation. This will be a silent, reflective walk. A walk where everyone should think about what role they are playing in fighting for drastic changes in this country.” There are the now famous placards: “The situation is desperate”.
The condemnation of Daphne’s sons and friends is very harsh, and after such a massacre it could not be otherwise: “The Maltese government is corrupt and helps mobsters, the laws promote and protect international crime.” It’s a clash of opinions. “Maybe the police will find out, or maybe not, who ordered the death of my mother – wrote Matthew Caruana Galizia – But as long as the one who has led the country at this point will remain in charge, the name of the assassin will not matter, it will only be a footnote in the story of how our state was dismantled piece by piece and devoured by criminals and corrupt individuals. ” The resignation of the Premier Muscat is the minimum that Malta deserves.
The other part of the island is now a Panama south of Sicily, with its millions of legal and illegal funds, with the high-rise buildings and hundreds of cranes that raise continuous building sites. Nearly half a million inhabitants (growing constantly due to the passport scheme), more than fifty thousand companies registered with the Chamber of Commerce, a local tax system and privacy rules that favour investors (by reducing taxes from other countries in the European Union), Malta is booming – housing costs and rents have superseded those in Rome – without any concern that these riches are related to Libyan ties or the gaming industry.
Casinos thrive, just like the tourist numbers arriving via cruise ships and through tour operators . From the old city of Mdina to megalithic monuments, from the film locations of Game of Thrones on the island of Gozo to the mysterious paths reminiscent of Dan Brown, the archipelago booms. The spectre of Libya and the car bomb that killed Daphne Caruana Galizia, the shell companies, oil and drug dealers, illegal immigrant and gaming rackets are prospering under the official economy, with corruption fuelling this growing glamor that mimics that in Montecarlo.
Not so paradoxically, therefore, the assassination of Daphne Caruana created bigger shakes in Europe than in this small EU state. And this, in the end, is the only victory at the moment of the resurging front. The European Parliament yesterday approved a resolution that brings to light the crisis of legality and the rule of law. Police chief Lawrence Cutajar and senior judges were asked to investigate the politicians involved in the Panama Papers and the FIAU reports, the Maltese agency for money laundering.
The EU also, belatedly, brought up the issue of Pilatus bank, the financial institution headed by the daughters of Azerbaijan dictator Ilham Aliyev, through which, according to Daphne Caruana’s allegations, millions of euros were wired to a Dubai company owned the Prime Minister’s wife Michelle Muscat. The EU Commission asks the Maltese Prime Minister to cooperate in an independent international murder investigation and to compare the standards of Maltese citizenship and its uniformity with the European framework. The true inquiry, however, is still there, despite the size and solemn proclamations of government and opposition: no arrest and no plausible clues in this maze of potential plotters of this killing.