Amid calls by the Opposition to resign in the wake of Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder, Malta’s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat gave his first interview to the local press since the journalist’s assassination.
In it, he dismissed calls for the Attorney General and the police commissioner to resign, said he sympathised with the rage felt by Caruana Galizia’s son, and gave his take on the possible motive behind the crime.
1. ‘Police are investigating what Caruana Galizia was working on’
Muscat confirmed police investigations will not only take into account what Caruana Galizia had written, but about what she was planning to write – which could give rise to a queasy situation whereby extremely sensitive stories and sources could end up in the hands of a police commissioner Caruana Galizia had repeatedly described as the Prime Minister’s “puppet”.
However, Muscat said he is convinced Caruana Galizia’s family will accept such a state of play as it is primarily in their best interests that the murderer is caught.
2. ‘Full trust in the Maltese police’
Police commissioner Laurence Cutajar (right) is once again in the Opposition’s line of fire
In the wake of harsh criticism by Opposition leader Adrian Delia, Muscat reiterated his trust in the capability of the Maltese police force and in its commissioner Laurence Cutajar.
“We are talking about the same police force which recently arrested people who committed a hold-up and who managed to seize a record quantity of drugs which had been imported to Malta,” he said. “The Opposition leader said the reason we’re bringing in the FBI and other foreign agencies to help out is because I don’t have faith in the Maltese police, but that’s absolutely not true – we are simply requesting specialised assistance. I can guarantee you that had we not asked the FBI to help us, then the Opposition would have said that we didn’t the truth to be uncovered.”
3. ‘Reward for information on the murder’
In what could be an unprecedented move in Maltese crime history, Muscat confirmed he is seriously considering the possibility of offering a substantial monetary reward to people who come forward with information which could help the police arrest Caruana Galizia’s murderer.
“The people elected me as their Prime Minister and I cannot abdicate my responsibility. I am here to ensure the police have all the resources they need to get to the bottom of this case and bring the perpetrator to justice.”
4. ‘Caruana Galizia had refused fixed police point’
The scene of the crime at Bidnija
The Prime Minister rebutted accusations that the police had failed to guarantee Caruana Galizia’s safety, by arguing that the journalist herself had refused a fixed point outside her house because she didn’t trust the police.
“The last time Caruana Galizia had a fixed point outside her house was in 2010. It was offered to her again in 2013, but she refused and wrote that she didn’t want the government to find out who visits her house and what she was doing. I cannot send the police to protect someone who doesn’t want to be protected because she doesn’t trust the police…”
5. ‘Caruana Galizia was likely murdered for what she was about to write’
In a notable moment, the Prime Minister said it is likely Caruana Galizia’s murderer was not seeking revenge for something she had written but was rather seeking to stop her from writing something new.
“When similar murders took place in other countries, they were usually committed by people who wanted to shut the journalist up,” he said. “I’m amazed at how so many theories are currently focused on what Caruana Galizia had written and not about what she was about to write. Who knows what it could have been about? It could have been the political class, but it could also have been about the criminal underworld or prostitution rackets…”
6. ‘Caruana Galizia was threatened by Adrian Delia’s supporters’
Muscat turned the tables on Adrian Delia by pointing out that Caruana Galizia was also a harsh critic of the Opposition leader and arguing that her murderer could just as easily have been a person who supported Delia.
Indeed he cited a recent blogpost in which Caruana Galizia said she had recently started receiving death threats from Delia’s own supporters/
“It would be presumptuous of me to theorise on the motive, but if it was politically motivated then it could have also been motivated by criminals sympathetic with the Opposition,” he said. “Daphne Caruana Galizia herself said she was threatened by people close to Delia. I could quote these words, but I won’t.”
7. ‘Calls for Attorney General’s head extremely insensitive’
Adrian Delia has called for the resignation of Attorney General Peter Grech
Apart from the resignations of the police commissioner and the Prime Minister, Delia last night also demanded the resignation of Attorney General Peter Grech – a call not even his predecessor Simon Busuttil had made.
According to Delia, Grech’s refusal to investigate government corruption helped contribute to the creation of a culture of impunity which was fertile ground for Caruana Galizia’s murder.
Last night, Muscat singled out the criticism of Grech as being particularly insensitive, repeating several times that the AG had originally been appointed by the last Nationalist government.
“Although I disagree with them, I can see the reason why Delia is attacking the police commissioner and the brigadier…because I appointed them myself. However, Peter Grech was appointed by a Nationalist government and is one of the most dedicated and hard-working people I know. He is now being attacked by the Opposition because he isn’t dancing to their tune, something I had never done when I was Opposition leader.
“The difference between myself and the Opposition is that they accuse institutions as being corrupt and incompetent whenever they disagree with them, whereas I take note of their criticism and correct myself where necessary.”
8. ‘I sympathise with Matthew Caruana Galizia’
Matthew Caruana Galizia has blamed his mother’s murder on a ‘culture of impunity’
Muscat said he sympathises with Caruana Galizia’s son Matthew, also a journalist, whose first public reaction to his mother’s mother was to blame it on Muscat and other powerful government officials for creating a “culture of complicity”.
The Prime Minister insisted he has no hard feelings to the son’s statement and said he would have reacted similarly if he had found himself in that situation.
“If I had found my mother blown to pieces in a car bomb, I would have probably written something worse than that. It would be insensitive of me to respond to a person’s pain and anger.”