The term ‘parliamentary privilege’ is a misnomer or at least it would be if the meaning of ‘privilege’ is understood within the narrow meaning given it by common conversation. This is not some perk given to MPs allowing them to badmouth people with impunity. It is a protection inherited from the civil rights revolution of British democracy fought over centuries between king (which today would mean government) and parliament (which then and now should in theory mean the same thing: representatives of the people).
There are truths that cannot be proven in a court of law because all evidence to support them is tainted by government control and influence. Whether because all record is expunged or because witnesses are intimidated the truth cannot be revealed without the sort of protection Parliamentary immunity can provide.
Just because no one hears it crush to the ground, a tree that falls in the forest still makes a mighty sound. And just because it cannot be proven, what is true is still true.
I had known for some time of the story of the tip-off from within the criminal intelligence unit of the police to the alleged assassins of Daphne Caruana Galizia. And the person involved was pointed to me by separate and independent sources, separately and independently of Jason Azzopardi. I too was getting ready to publish though of course my vulnerability is that the witnesses to these occurrences need protecting. To know what happens within police headquarters you obviously have to be a policeman. The rest is self-evident.
Robert Abela yesterday challenged Jason Azzopardi to repeat his statement about police leaks outside Parliament or ‘assume responsibility’ and face the consequences after retracting his claims. This presumes that Jason Azzopardi is not assuming responsibility by the simple act of making the claim in chamber. Of course he is. And a heavy one at that.
Consider for example a similar incident in the British Parliament just this week. Conservative MP Bob Seely revealed in Parliament that Christopher Chandler was suspected of association with Russian state interests. The MP claimed that a billionaire who founded an influential pro-Brexit thinktank has “a link with Russian intelligence”. In a speech made in the Commons under parliamentary privilege, Bob Seely alleged that Christopher Chandler had been an “object of interest” to French intelligence. Chandler, who founded the Legatum thinktank, rejected the claim as “complete nonsense”.
Now Bob Seely’s sources are clearly security service operatives. None of them can stand up in court to defend him if Christopher Chandler were to sue him for libel. Should that mean that we don’t get to find about a senior government consultant spying for Russia or a junior intelligence police officer tipping off criminals?
Robert Abela sure would like us not to. As does the prime minister who yesterday banked on the lack of credibility world-wide newspapers enjoy with his followers who never read them, suggesting they accepted to carry Jason Azzopardi’s false stories so that he can subsequently repeat them. Joseph Muscat called this a ‘game’, which presumes that journalists of La Repubblica, Le Monde, The Guardian, Sueddeutsche Zeiting and The New York Times would be willing to stake their professional reputation in order to help Jason Azzopardi out with his little games.
You can see who’s playing games here. Jason Azzopardi spoke at 9pm on a Monday night when all government MPs were half drunk celebrating the 14th anniversary of Malta’s entry into the EU which they had fought so hard to prevent. But by 11pm the police corps had a statement to respond to the MP which is, as far as anyone in the trade can tell me, unprecedented. Only Kurt Farrugia had anticipated that with a tweet minutes earlier giving the gist of the police’s response ahead of its publication.
Even Robert Abela described statements made by investigator Keith Arnaud denying what Jason Azzopardi said as unprecedented. His statements are not statements by the police. They are his statements. I have absolutely no recollection of anything similar ever happening: an investigator in a crime personally and directly makes a public statement outside the strictures of police or court procedure.
What’s more, his statements directly contradict the transcripts of his own interrogations of the alleged assassins which I have seen and transcribed. No attempt was made to reconcile his flat denial of any tip-off, even as a possibility, with the questions he asked the indicted alleged assassins on the assumption that the tip-off is a certainty.
Indeed there does seem to be a game going on here. It would appear that police communications are driven from the prime minister’s office. It is a small leap to think that the investigations themselves, such as they are, are driven from there as well.
Here’s Jason Azzopardi’s speech of last Monday.
Dan huwa d-diskors tieghi jumejn ilu fil-Parlament. Flok ha passi kriminali, l-Kummissarju tal-Pulizija ghatta ghemil il-kriminal.
Geplaatst door Jason Azzopardi op Woensdag 2 mei 2018