Our community was rocked a few days ago with the arrest and prosecution of Keith Schembri and another ten people on money laundering charges, among others. Keith Schembri was, until recently, the most powerful unelected official in Malta with unfettered access to the machinery of the state. We also continued hearing from hitman-turned-witness Vincent Muscat about how the Maltese Mafia carried on contract killings for a fee. We were shocked to hear that potentially the rot runs deeper than ever thought, with sitting and former ministers involved in major crimes over the past decades.
All this points to a very deep malaise in our country. Put simply, the Mafia is stronger than we could have ever thought. There is a strong possibility that the Mafia operated for at least a decade with relative or complete impunity. It is safe to assume that it took the Mafia even longer to reach such a position of strength.
While we deal with these revelations, we cannot be entirely sure that the various organs of the State do not remain compromised. Surely, there is some development in the various criminal investigations and this is welcome. But is this the entire picture? Are we really leaving no stone unturned? What guarantee do we have that we have rid ourselves of all crooked politicians who were compromised, in one way or another, by the Mafia?
We are facing an existential crisis that will determine the course of our history. Our response today will reverberate for generations to come.
The political response to date from our major political parties has been dispiriting. Instead of rising to the enormity of the historical crisis that we are facing, our elected representatives are wasting precious time pointing fingers at each other.
The intense political polarisation over the failure of our State in the fight against the Mafia will only help to ensure that the Mafia continues to have its way. Instead of puerile arguments, we need strong action; a common front against the Mafia. We need all hands on deck.
The argument that Labour is the Mafia and therefore ridding ourselves of Labour will rid us of the Mafia is an oversimplification that has no basis in reality. There is no evidence that the Mafia has not infiltrated the Nationalist Party, currently the second largest party in Malta. Until we find incontrovertible evidence to the contrary, we should assume that the Mafia has infiltrated the entire Maltese political system and, at the very least, has an emissary in each political party represented in Malta’s democratically elected institutions.
Our party was and continues to be very well aware of this risk. We recognise the duty that we owe to our voters at this stage of our country’s historical development. In spite of our current limitations, we carry out background checks on candidates we put forward. We seek to improve our processes as we grow. We continue to remain vigilant of the threat and will do our utmost to implement proportionate and appropriate mitigation.
It is only by assuming that the worst has already happened and the Mafia has expanded its tentacles to every corner of our public life that we start preparing a response that is properly calibrated to the extent of the crisis that we are facing. We need a strong, uncompromising response that will consign the Mafia to history. Anything less than a clean sweep will only curtail the Mafia for a few years, for it to return stronger and more complex in a few years’ time.
It is not sufficient to simply point to small progress, as our Prime Minister is doing. We cannot say that the arrests and prosecutions are evidence that the institutions are working. We can only say that the institutions are starting to catch-up. While this is encouraging and somewhat of a step change compared to the position we were in under Joseph Muscat, we remain very far away from the end goal: Truth, justice and change.
In order to embark on this journey of truth, justice and change, we will first need to be in a position to establish the full facts. To do so, we need a fearless and uncompromised investigation. Our investigators have had some important successes so far but it is clear that they are dealing with a very large threat. We need to strengthen them and ensure that they are completely free to act.
In order to fight the Mafia, we need a fully dedicated body whose only purpose is securing convictions against every single Mafioso in Malta. This is a full-time fight, not a part-time effort.
Second, we need to design an institution that is shielded from any form of political interference. Since we can only safely assume at this stage that the Mafia has infiltrated all layers of power in Malta, including our Opposition, we need a body that is encircled by a strong bastion of defences against any form of improper influence.
This is where our European partners can – and should – help us. In a spirit of partnership and alliance, we need to seek the active involvement of our European partners in monitoring the work of our anti-Mafia investigative bodies and report directly to us, the people, if the Mafia seeks to wield its influence in any way whatsoever. Unlike what some of our MEPs seem to think, Europe is not the enemy; the Mafia is!
We are living through testing times. Our response will determine our identity for years and generations to come. Let’s show the world that the Mafia has no place among us. Let’s deliver the truth, justice and change that we all deserve. This is the time to unite in the fight against the Mafia, not argue with each other.
ADPD Executive Member
Published in The Malta Independent – Sunday 28 March 2021