The government is in crisis. They feel the pull of gravity, the weight of Joseph Muscat around their ankles, the free fall into perdition that is in their future. They are clutching at proverbial straws and ditching metaphorical ballast.
Robert Abela, Byron Camilleri, Silvio Schembri, Aaron Farrugia, Ian Borg, Clint Camilleri, Julia Farrugia Portelli, Clifton Grima, Jonathan Attard, Owen Bonnici: none of them would be anywhere near where they are now had it not been for Joseph Muscat. They all know they owe their political power, their jobs, and their fame to him. They all worshipped him publicly, proclaimed him invincible, unambiguously defended him and his reputation from “that witch” Daphne Caruana Galizia. They said she lied. They defended him from “the clan” of Simon Busuttil saying they envied his success. They said he lied.
The truth has been out for some time, but right now they are being sucked down the vortex by events they cannot control. Merely three years earlier on the eve of their coming to front line prominence, an entire generation of politicians was swept away from office. Konrad Mizzi, Chris Cardona, Carmelo Abela, Justyne Caruana, Edward Zammit Lewis, all went down with Joseph Muscat. The pogrom that turned them from pages to princes is fresh in their collective memory. They fear it might happen again. They fear Joseph Muscat might want to drag them down with him.
Joseph Muscat doesn’t think what’s happening is fair and he’s making it known. Joseph Muscat is behaving like a man with a famous moustache in a bunker railing against the inevitable. He knows the game is up and frankly what he hates most about the situation is that people who rose to power and fame on the back of his talents now expect to outlive him, to somehow find a way of staying at the party while he’s dragged away from it.
Joseph Muscat’s finger is itching to give the scorched earth order. And the people who would be burnt by it – Robert Abela and his ministers – know that his finger is closer to that catastrophic button than they are to him. Even if they look like they’re going to try to stop him he can and probably will ruin them.
You know, the comparison with the bunker does not end there. The man with the moustache is not the only one flailing between denial and despair.
Some ministers, like another man with another moustache, think that the end of Joseph Muscat’s influence is an opportunity for them. They can pin on him all their guilts and start afresh.
Consider how Byron Camilleri and Jonathan Attard held on to the report into their failure to prevent the killing of Bernice Cassar until exactly the eve of the court decision in Adrian Delia’s case on the Vitals/Steward swindle. The fact that the decision was scheduled for Friday was universally known. The fact that the government was bracing for that decision and fully expecting to be humiliated by it is also known, not least because they briefed the press that should things go south on Friday they had a back-up plan to take over the hospitals “seamlessly”. The fact that the Bernice Cassar inquiry report had been ready for more than a month was acknowledged by the ministers themselves.
That report is damning. People are calling for ministerial resignations because iċ-Ċiniż smirked at a camera on Friday night (more on that below). There are far greater reasons for ministers to resign in the Bernice Cassar report. They (the judge preferred to harmless term “the system” but we know who runs “the system”, don’t we?) have been assigned political responsibility for allowing her to be killed. Had it not been for the events that followed their announcement they would be under enormous pressure right now.
But there was no space for that shocking scandal on today’s Sunday newspapers because they were swamped by other things since then. That’s exactly what Byron Camilleri and Jonathan Attard hoped for: that within 24 hours of finding out they are responsible for allowing an innocent woman to be killed no one would remember their grotesque failures.
Is anyone here willing to bet that this was a coincidence, that they did not time the announcement of the findings of the Bernice Cassar inquiry on the eve of the Vitals court decision to avoid scrutiny and save their skin? I’m not.
And now to Degiorgio going to a party. It is, no doubt, offensive, particularly to the relatives of his victims that he gets to celebrate his grandchildren’s rites of passage and his victims do not get to celebrate theirs. Daphne Caruana Galizia did not make it to her grand-daughter’s baptism because Degiorgio prevented her.
But as much as it is grating, particularly watching him and his family gloat on Facebook, let it be clear that for people serving sentences without causing trouble while on the inside, prison leave on family occasions, though not automatic, is normal. Not all inmates are as notorious as Degiorgio and not all their crimes are as heinous. But it happens and we can discuss elsewhere if it should.
Let’s also be clear about something else. TVM reported yesterday that the Court of Appeal, which is currently considering Degiorgio’s appeal from his conviction for killing Daphne Caruana Galizia, “authorised” Degiorgio to go to his grandchild’s party. That’s not altogether accurate.
It is true that Degiorgio asked the Court of Appeal to let him go. But that does not mean they told him to. The fact is that Degiorgio has already been convicted for the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia and therefore he no longer needs to ask a court (even a court hearing his appeal from that conviction) for permission for prison leave. In his circumstances prison leave is at the discretion of the chief warder of the prison. It is an administrative decision.
For completeness, it is customary for the chief warder to ask a court when an inmate is being held under preventive custody while awaiting trial. Degiorgio is indeed being tried for another murder and that court ruled that if the chief warder wants to let him go to the party the court has no objection. But if Degiorgio hadn’t been Daphne’s self-confessed killer we’d never have known or probably ever cared if the chief warder asked and got a no objection for Degiorgio’s prison leave while on preventive custody.
The anger at the sight of Degiorgio partying is entirely understandable. From the government’s point of view, it is the sort of anger they would prefer us to feel, certainly preferable anger over our feelings after hearing Judge Francesco Depasquale on Friday saying what we knew: that Joseph Muscat’s government (and all those who worked for it) allowed us to be swindled by Vitals and Stewart. It is especially preferable if we blame judges no one has ever seen for Degiorgio’s partying, taking our heat off ministers’ sore backs.
Excuse my French, but we’re being mind-fucked by people who feel entitled to survive the official recognition of what is, up to this point, the greatest political scandal, and the greatest act of fraud at the expense of the Maltese state in our history and for which they are all, to a greater or lesser extent, personally and directly responsible.