Judge Joseph Said Pullicino’s questioning of witnesses in the public inquiry into the killing of Daphne Caruana Galizia is incisive. There are few pleasures in this experience. But watching people like Nigel Vella and Matthew Carbone squirm under the pressure of his deceptively gentle questions is a considerable compensation for the dread and the discomfort the process creates.

Then there’s that throwaway remark at the end where the judge lets the witness know they should not go home thinking they performed to any acceptable standard.

Judge Said Pullicino is not alone in this of course.

Judge Michael Mallia yesterday assured the courtroom: “We see everything. Not just what the witnesses say. But also, their behaviour and their attitude.” We see it too. And the behaviour of Joseph Muscat’s minions reflects a government that is at best indifferent to the killing of a journalist and when the mask falls under pressure it reveals an even uglier image of anger at the journalist for dying and making them look bad.

Judge Abigail Lofaro yesterday reminded a witness a dozen times that he was under oath which is a positive way of pointing out to him that she was not believing his claims. And at one point the courtroom fell silent as she boomed down on Nigel Vella, chiding him for his arrogance.

She was so right. These are people who are used to have it their way like spoilt princes in Versailles. They are also people who are used to an audience that is accepting of any spin they put on an event or an occurrence, no matter how outrageous that spin is. The way Nigel Vella and Matthew Carbone in obviously coordinated and rehearsed testimonies expected everyone to accept their explanation that locking up journalists in Castille was “normal” and that is was “normal” for heavies they did not know to be around Castille at 3am locking journalists inside without anyone’s authorisation, is such an outrage.

But they are the ones who profess indignity. And they are the ones who claim to be victims of “assaults”, of “name calling”, of being afraid of some violent mob that exists only in their imagination but that they want to inflict on everybody else’s.

But the thing that really gets to you is how witnesses from the office of the prime minister and the entire government all claim to be hollow avatars. They obey instructions “from above” without giving any input themselves. They are stuck in their offices unaware of what anyone else is doing next to them. They claim to have seen no one in the years they’ve worked in the same place, heard nothing, learnt nothing.

The killing of Daphne Caruana Galizia was the water cooler subject in every office in Malta around the time of her assassination and then around the time of the arrest of Yorgen Fenech. Everywhere it seems except in the Auberge de Castille. All witnesses claim the subject was never discussed. Not because it was some taboo but because it was uninteresting. It wasn’t “xogħol”. The only impact on the government’s communications department was an increase in requests for interviews.

We are expected to believe no one sat down to think why the requests were increasing, how to deal with them, what the government’s message should be.

Nigel Vella said he would be in his office, get instructions on what to say and then send it to the department of information to say it for him. In other words, he’s an overpaid fax machine. Judge Michael Mallia yesterday certainly thought so: “What are you paid for? The way you describe it, anyone can do your job.”

At the end of proceedings Judge Joseph Said Pullicino threw in his last remark for the day. “Everyone passes the buck. Perhaps it’s symptomatic of the nation.”

No one is responsible for any decision. No one even participates in any decision. No one has an original thought of their own.

Of course, the judge was giving the witnesses the benefit of taking their testimonies at face value. If we were to believe their testimonies these people are mindless automata, individual cogs with no understanding of the big picture and no value to add to the process of governing. They have no responsibility for anything because the little that they do is so irrelevant as to be incapable of culpability.

But the remark “symptomatic of the nation” cuts deeper if you do not give the witnesses the benefit of taking their testimonies at face value.

If you don’t, then you go for the likelier explanation. That they’re lying. That they have been wilful participants or at least witnesses to a cover up. That being so close to Keith Schembri and Joseph Muscat they have a better understanding than anyone of the extent of their involvement in this crime.

That they have engaged in activities that are unethical and abhorrent. Such as disseminating misleading information about the motive of the crime to throw an entire country off the rotten scent emerging from their own office. Or such as intimidating journalists covering the collapse of the government using Paceville-like bouncers and treating the office of the prime minister as their thieves’ den.

That would mean they lied. Under oath. Repeatedly. That an official who does not feel morally bound to say the truth when speaking in his government office, will not mind lying in a courtroom.

That they are contemptuous of the process because it is a process that seeks to establish an objective truth which is independent of their brutalising machinations and spin. That in their mind there is no room for any reality but the one which they create in order to preserve their own power.

That right or wrong does not matter. What matters is the preservation of their party and the guarantee of its perpetual supremacy.

That too is symptomatic of the nation. It compares with the harmless inability to see a foul in the penalty box of your football team because the line to take is to deny that a penalty shot should be given to the opponents.

More typically it compares to the vile insults thrown at each other by supporters of rival band clubs in Maltese towns and villages: the hurtful hatred, the claims of infallibility, the glorification of gaudy mediocrity and the assertion that one’s mediocrity is astoundingly better than the mediocrity of your rivals.

That manner of reinventing truth to make sure it’s convenient for self and for party becomes dangerous, even criminal, when the football fan becomes the party fan, the party official, the top-ranking member of the administration.

This is the disease that is symptomatic of the nation that has afflicted the Auberge de Castille and by extension an entire nation.

At one point the judges patiently reminded their witness yesterday that it was the government that appointed them to conduct the inquiry and establish the truth. Indeed, the fact that they are judges and the fact that the inquiry is being held in a courtroom are misleading quirks that give people the idea that this is a judicial process.

It isn’t a judicial process. This is a fact-finding mission established by the executive. The government has asked for the truth to be established. Never mind how reluctant the government was to do this and that its hand was forced by international and local pressure.

The point is significant because the witnesses – Matthew Carbone, Nigel Vella and so on – work for the same government that engaged these judges to conduct this inquiry.

And yet what everyone can now see is that the government is not cooperating with the inquiry. Senior officials working in the office of the prime minister (Prime Minister Robert Abela, mind you) are refusing to answer legitimate questions. They are probably misdirecting the inquiry. They are definitely acting in contempt of the process.

Nigel Vella left the courtroom yesterday and went on Facebook to harass and “respond to” Jason Azzopardi because of the tough questions he asked him. Nigel Vella ignored the fact that Jason Azzopardi was the attorney for Daphne Caruana Galizia’s family. Instead he acted in and outside the inquiry’s chamber as if he saw this as yet another front for PL-PN crossfire.

Now the state’s attorney (the lawyer that represents the government) is asking the inquiry to let her participate and to cross-examine the inquiry’s witnesses. Why should the government need lawyers representing it in front of the inquiry board it set up?

The state does not need its advocate to represent it. The inquiry board is there to represent the state. The sole objective of the state should be to establish the truth not to colour a nice spin on it that ensures the government does not look bad.

But it’s “symptomatic of the nation” too to seek to scupper a process which is not made of sides, of Labour against Nationalist. Here we have a truth and justice commission that asks questions to get to the bottom of things. And here is the government and its employees who want to change that into yet another arena where they outnumber their opponents and can shout down any evidence presented against them.

And they do this because they don’t need the truth to be established. They know it. When I see Josef Caruana, Matthew Carbone, Nigel Vella and so on walk past Daphne’s parents, sisters, nieces, husband and sons trying to look like they’re ignoring them, their veins pulsating around their bald skulls, flushed, gritting their teeth with anger and hatred, I don’t see people interested in finding or helping find the truth about the killing of their daughter, sister, aunt, wife and mother.

What I see instead is that bloody-minded partisan obsessive hatred that you see in those trolls who write that Daphne deserved to die. I see people who in their own small way would if they could have a hand in her elimination.

I see the symptoms of a nation poisoned by its misguided loyalties that would rather kill their prophet than think about the evil that has taken over its affairs.