Yorgen Fenech admits to his involvement in the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia but he offers to become what the Italians would call a pentito eccellente, a Tommaso Buscetta for our time. Out of fear of a lifetime in prison, or out of fear that his lifetime in fear could be cut short, or out of overwhelming remorse, or out of disgust at the betrayal of his comrades, or out of anger at his masters: as the Italian anti-mafia judges his motivation would be irrelevant. Let us wonder what it would be like if Yorgen Fenech offers to uncover a far greater conspiracy than we’ve known there to be so far.
If this is going to be interesting it’s not going to be particularly interesting to anyone if he were to offer to uncover those who worked under him to commit this crime. It’s only interesting if he offers to uncover those working alongside him and above him.
It is not unreasonable to include in this scenario people in government that are very close to the prime minister.
Would Yorgen Fenech have to ask Joseph Muscat to grant him immunity and protection to turn state’s evidence against those close to him?
And if yes, what would Joseph Muscat do?
If he were to seek guidance from the law, things would be relatively clear. Let’s start with the hard bit.
The constitution gives the power to give immunity or pardons to the president as long as he is acting on the advice of the cabinet or a minister acting under the general guidance of the cabinet.
So, the prime minister cannot give the job of taking this decision to someone else. He cannot say let’s let the chief justice decide, say, or the attorney general, or even the president himself.
Nor can the cabinet do that. It cannot give this job to anyone outside it.
But then there’s another principle in the law. The law on standards in public life says that “no minister shall take part in the taking of decisions that affect his family members, or other persons close to him and no minister shall be improperly conditions in his decisions by a conflict of interest of a financial nature or otherwise, whether involving him or persons close to him”.
No minister, most especially the prime minister, can decide on such a request (and in any case on the “middleman”’s request for a pardon) while Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi sit around the cabinet table.
What’s happening now is merely a disaster. Unless someone puts a stop this, it will become a cataclysm.
Joseph Muscat should not be delivering the daily police briefing. He should be resigning. Now.