A mafia mentality

It is clear that the main takeaway from the report by the Board of Inquiry established in the wake of the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia is that the Mafia exists.

Now when ‘the mafia’ is mentioned the first thing that probably comes to mind is Southern Italy, but even there the mafia is not simply a criminal organisation in some remote village, but a whole system controlling or even replacing the state and its institutions.

It is also as a cultural mindset that allows such an organisation to take root and prosper. A mafia means having people legislating in their organisation’s interests instead of the country’s interests.

Something which the report dwells upon, but seems to have been given little attention during the debate in Parliament on the same report, is the closeness between big business and politics. Of course when I say ‘closeness to politics’ I mean to those who devised a political system which over the years strengthened their grip on power, made people dependent on their largesse, and constantly propagated the message that there will always be crumbs and maybe a piece of cake left over if we let these so-called ‘entrepreneurs’, or rather parasites, have it their way.

The report emphasises a sense of impunity in institutions. That is, the  confidence that some people have that they will get away with anything. A sense of impunity does not come out of thin air. Over the years the rotten system, and made-to-measure legislation, has allowed big donations to PL and PN to be passed off as ‘adverts’ on the One and Net TV channels.

The system has closed an eye to party employees’ salaries to the tune of hundreds of thousands of euros yearly, being paid for covertly and illegally by big business. PLPN candidates and MPs on the state payroll get away with doing campaigning work instead of sitting at their taxpayer-funded desks. Shady contracts have been awarded, kickbacks and graft galore on fuel and new hospitals (including Mater Dei).

We have had MPs stash money away abroad to avoid paying their fair share towards the public coffers and a leader of the Opposition avoiding taxes for years without any particular strong reactions either than the usual Tweedledee and Tweedledum shenanigans. We even have ‘national consensus’ – read: PLPN in the same bed together – about selling Malta as a centre for international tax theft by multinationals and shady companies. They have even reached a ‘consensus’ about selling passports. Because you know, we really need our country to be associated with the kind of people who are after an EU passport…

One thing leads to another. Unfortunately, in this particular case it led to so many closed eyes, to so much impunity, that a journalist was assassinated.

A few days ago we called for the immediate implementation of the legislative and procedural recommendations contained in the inquiry’s report, starting with the development of new laws and institutions to combat the Mafia.

We also renewed our long standing demands for 100% transparency of the links between politics and business, that the huge loopholes in party financing laws be addressed, that political parties should not use private companies to circumvent the law. That’s called money laundering.

The country also needs more investigative journalism. The legal regime for freedom of information requests must be strengthened to prevent officials from hiding information. We reiterated our call for the strengthening of whistleblowing legislation, to ensure that it is effective. The effective regulation of lobbying through clear specific legislation is essential. There must also be a root and branch reform of the institutions involved in the investigation and prosecution of high-level crime – it is clear that Malta’s investigative institutions have failed and continue to fail in respect of the investigation and prosecution of high level crime and corruption.

Finally it is essential that we see the shouldering of responsibility at all levels from all players identified as having participated or acquiesced in creating the climate and conditions that ultimately led to Caruana Galizia’s assassination. This includes accountability from the heads of regulatory authorities identified in the inquiry’s report as having been pliant.

May everyone reflect on the serious and purposefully designed weaknesses of the Maltese state, as detailed in the inquiry report.

Ralph Cassar
ADPD Secretary General
Published in the Maltatoday – Wednesday 4 August 2021