Peter Grech this morning was an even worse spectacle than his boss, Owen Bonnici.
We have come to expect politicians to be utterly bereft of decency. But Peter Grech embodies the moral collapse of our public service which, ironically, he represented so accurately and ineloquently today.
In the four years of the past crisis, in which he has been such a central actor, this is probably only the third or fourth time Peter Grech’s voice was ever heard.
And what a miserable spectacle it was. Utterly unable to communicate complex ideas he read out of a presentation which was no more than a typed out script, the musings of a pubescent nerd who nervously goes through his oral exam like a mediaeval gauntlet.
He cut such a pathetic figure drowning in the technical irrelevancies he piled up in the hope of drowning everyone else instead. He had to be censured three times by the chair of the meeting as completely unable to plan an 8 minute intervention.
When there was a point to his poor, unhelpful, irrelevant intervention, totally bereft of any response to the piles of outstanding questions the world is asking of him, that point was an unseemly and undignified prosecution of the family of Daphne Caruana Galizia.
He went through mountains of what he considers as case law and grounds for him to refuse to advise an independent inquiry into the killing of their mother.
There while they watched he told them why he thought they had no right to find out how and why their mother was killed and if her killing could have been avoided. I could feel the entire room squirming in embarrassment on his behalf. He demonstrated a remarkable inability to empathise, thinking the law is the art of finding reasons for people not to get justice.
His climax was a point when incomprehensibly pleased with himself he reminded the room that the Caruana Galizia family had already sued him in the Constitutional Court on a different point emerging from the same ‘right to life’ clause in the European Convention on Human Rights.
In that case, he acknowledged without a hint of shame, the Court found (twice) that he – Peter Grech – was wrong and the Caruana Galizias were right. You will remember the argument that the State’s obligation to protect the right to life included the obligation to ensure proper and independent investigations when a killing occurs. And the Court found that insistence on keeping Silvio Valletta in charge of the investigation was a breach of their right.
Then incredibly Peter Grech went on to accuse the Caruana Galizia family of somehow being inefficient in their pursuit of their other complaint under Article 2 of the Convention that, they argue and he disagrees, includes the obligation to open an independent inquiry.
You really don’t get it, do you?
First, any democratic State which is genuinely concerned with the safety of its journalists and that does something about the stones it says it does not leave unturned, does not force relatives of bombing victims to have to go to Court – repeatedly – to secure what are their statutory rights.
For Peter Grech to argue that it is somehow an act of negligence on the part of the Caruana Galizia family that they have not already made a claim in Court on something which, by his own account, may after all be arguable, shows that this ‘public servant’ thinks this is some sort of a game.
The business of being a public serving lawyer is not in protecting the narrow interests of the government of the day as if they were any ordinary client. They are public servants, not government servants. Peter Grech’s primary obligation is to advise on how people’s fundamental freedoms and rights are safeguarded and only secondarily to argue on behalf of the violators of those rights.
But the second excruciatingly wide gap in Peter Grech’s logic is that in his premises in objecting to the Caruana Galizia argument about the article 2 breaches, he admits they have already proven him wrong once. They argued his advice was rotten. The Court agreed with them, including on appeal.
How does he boldly show up in that hall today to mock the successful record of the Caruana Galizia family and their attorneys in crushing his tyrant-excusing apologies?
There was then a single, focused, inescapable question put directly to Peter Grech. Have the Maltese authorities sought the cooperation of the Emirati and the German authorities in their investigation? It was a simple yes or no question. And answering that question would have revealed nothing about the content of any inquiries Maltese investigators could have made or whatever responses they got or even if they got any. The answer would have however confirmed whether it is true that as they claim the authorities were seriously looking into the evidence “wherever it takes them”.
And yet Peter Grech, insufferably patronisingly, replied that he could not answer the question in order not to prejudice on-going investigations.
It was a cop-out and no one in the room could imagine why Peter Grech would not say that cooperation from the UAE and Germany had been sought if indeed it had been. In saying the FBI and Europol helped the police find Alfred Degiorgio and company, no case against them is prejudiced. So why is it different in this case?
Because, one cannot help suspecting, the real answer is the government is controlling these investigations and does not want us to find the truth, perhaps because it knows what it is or, more optimistically but no more usefully, because it fears it.
Before the meeting started this morning Owen Bonnici insisted with the Council of Europe that strict rules of procedure are applied and no one except for sitting MPs are allowed to ask him and Peter Grech questions. They did not want Matthew or Andrew Caruana Galizia to take the floor.
They wanted instead to rush through with their stock replies, stretched, expanded, pulled and swollen to run down the clock and finish the show as quickly as possible.
Take the long way faster. This show will go on until every last one in the room gives up, until nobody cares anymore, until the perpetrators of this crime can get away with murder.