Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has personally replied to the Chair of the European Parliament’s Rule of Law Monitoring Group in the wake of a damning resolution passed last month, accusing the Group, and others in the EP, of having fallen victim to “direct or indirect interference by Maltese political forces with an overtly partisan agenda”.
The European Parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee last month voted in favour of the Group’s resolution, which calls, among other things, for the government to stop its passport sales contract with Henley & Partners and to publish the Egrant inquiry report in full.
In correspondence seen by this newspaper, Muscat refers to the Group’s calls for members of government to drop the lawsuits against the heirs of Daphne Caruana Galizia, saying, “Your concern has been noted”.
Muscat waxes lyrical about the recent changes to Malta’s libel laws and about striking the right balance between freedom of expression and the rights of individuals against slander.
“One may argue that these libel cases should be dropped in view of Ms Caruana Galizia’s murder. At the same time, it should be kept in mind that the claims have not been withdrawn and still continue to exist in the digital space of the internet to this day.”
On Egrant, Muscat claimed that the conclusions of the magisterial inquiry “were universally accepted, even by the Opposition, which undertook internal structural changes within its Parliamentary Group as a consequence”.
Muscat, however, failed to mention that Opposition leader Adrian Delia has taken court action to have the entire Egrant inquiry published or at least made available to the Opposition.
On Muscat’s offer to the Caruana Galizia family to drop the Egrant case, he repeated his offer to “cease my libel court action of the family of Ms Caruana Galizia recognise the conclusions of the independent and autonomous judicial process, after a very thorough magisterial inquiry and declare themselves accordingly”.
The letter had been sent on 13 March, a day before Caruana Galizia’s family rejected the offer, but Muscat should have known very well what the answer would have been. The day the offer was made, the family had told this newspaper last month: “We will not concede to extortion by our public servants.”
On 14 March, Caruana Galizia’s family officially rejected the offer in a formal reply to the Court of Magistrates, pointing out that they had not seen the full inquiry report and was therefore not in a position to accepts Muscat’s offer.
Nor, they said, did they have access to Caruana Galizia or Maria Efimova’s testimony before the magistrate, or access to the testimony given by Mossack Fonseca employee Jacqueline Alexander, whose signature was Egrant’s declaration of trust. Moreover, the family also said it had no access to testimony by Nexia BT’s Karl Cini and Brian Tonna – who had claimed to be the owner of the once secret company – as well as other findings that allowed the magistrate to reach his conclusions.
He also confirms that the constitutional reform that is to take place will be done with “extensive consultation with civil society and with the social partners which will take place at a steady pace”.
Among other things, Muscat says that such is his spirit of cooperation with the EP that he has “engaged with the Venice Commission, which we have done immediately despite criticism from the Parliamentary Opposition that it is demeaning to have such a peer review”.
But the thing is that the Opposition has wholly welcomed the Venice Commission’s involvement, but remarked it was demeaning for things to have come to such a pass.
The Prime Minister also questions the veracity of the information on which the resolution was based, saying: “It would be of assistance to the openness of our further cooperation if your Monitoring Group were to provide a reference to the basis upon which particular factual assertions in the Resolution are made, such as that to the effect that the Maltese judicial authorities showed no interest in requesting from the German police the late Ms Caruana Galizia’s laptops.
“This claim,” he says, “has already been exposed as false but we would welcome information showing otherwise.”
Muscat, in his correspondence, left several stones unturned and failed to address several issues raised in the resolution. These included: calls on the Maltese authorities to set up an independent public inquiry into the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia and publish the full version of the Magistrate Aaron Bugeja Inquiry report. To investigate corruption and the link between the 17 Black company and Minister Konrad Mizzi and the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff; to take concrete action against the orchestrated hate campaign against the memory and family of Daphne Caruana Galizia, and to fully investigate the medical visas racket.
Original article found on The Malta Independent