As the dust slowly starts to settle on the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia and grief turns to rage, calls for responsibility are becoming louder and chief amongst those in the line of fire already seems to be the police commissioner. This is hardly surprising. Laurence Cutajar has been tainted since the day he was appointed when Caruana Galizia retrieved an old Facebook post of him praising the Prime Minister for having big balls.
Now, with Malta reeling from its most serious assassination case in history and the eyes of the world turned towards us, Cutajar must be fired if the public is to have any peace of mind that justice will truly be served.
But let’s break it down:
1. Too many people believe he is not credible
This will be contested as political spin, but the fact is plain and simple. To many people out there, which until a few days ago included Caruana Galizia, Malta’s police commissioner is seen to take his orders directly from Prime Minister Joseph Muscat. While it would be unfair to crucify him for a simple Facebook status written years before his appointment as police commissioner, what happened next didn’t exactly help his cause. As scandal after scandal hit Muscat and people close to him, the virtual absence of the police grew ever more conspicuous.
Only a few months ago, Cutajar confirmed the police were not investigating the Egrant scandal because they didn’t have enough documentation to back up the criminal allegations, for all the world as though it wasn’t the job of the police force to investigate suspicions themselves.
2. But he is not even investigating the facts in hand
Cutajar’s excuse isn’t even backed up by facts. The Times recently reported that the police have not yet even started to press criminal charges against the Labour Party’s former secretary general Jimmy Magro, despite being recommended to do so by the Commission Against Corruption more than nine months ago.
And of course, the police have reportedly been sitting pretty on two extremely damning reports by the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit, which flagged two potential cases of money laundering by the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri.
It is very difficult to prove without a shadow of doubt that the police are refusing to investigate the powers that be, but the suspicion is most definitely there and it has been there for a while. Not only must justice be done, but it must be seen to be done.
3. The Chief Justice has actually warned us about police inaction
The state of rule of law is so bad in Malta that the Chief Justice himself recently took it upon himself to warn the public that justice may not be being served because the police and the Attorney General are abdicating their responsibilities.
“If they do not do their duties impartially and independently, the rule of law will be undermined,” Silvio Camilleri warned.
The comment may sound awfully generic but it is as strong as anything coming from the Chief Justice – essentially, he would not have mentioned something so obvious if wasn’t seriously concerned rule of law is being undermined here.
4. His media presence is zilch
Laurence Cutajar avoids the press like the plague and is yet to give a single crime conference since his appointment as police commissioner. To try and get a scrap of information out of him, journalists are often forced to hunt him down, chase after him with a microphone and keep questioning him as he repeats the same stock answer ad nauseum – usually on the lines of “I have nothing to tell you”.
Nobody’s expecting Cutajar to prejudice police investigations by revealing compromising information to the press, but demanding he show a shred of accountability by updating the public on investigations into the country’s major crimes surely cannot be so much to ask for.
Common sense dictates that, after Caruana Galizia’s murder, the very least the police chief could have done is deliver a crime conference about it. But no, Laurence Cutajar once again vanished and left the public to rely on the Prime Minister for information…
5. He has failed to visibly fight organised crime
It is easy to forget, but Caruana Galizia’s murder was by no means through an unusual murder method – indeed she was the victim of the sixth car bomb explosion in the past 21 months, with the previous five appearing to be related to organised crime and drug wars. Six car bombs in 21 months is no joke in any country, let alone one as tiny as Malta, and yet the police have so far failed to prosecute a soul. No wonder then that 84% of respondents to a poll on the Times of Malta said that Daphne Caruana Galizia’s killer will never be found…
6. His inaction against sergeant’s shocking Facebook post
After Caruana Galizia’s murder, police sergeant Ramon Mifsud (someone who is supposed to be enforcing the law) actually publicly expressed his delight, taking on Facebook to say “everyone gets what they deserve”.
More shocking than the Facebook post was Cutajar’s refusal to instantly sack Mifsud on the spot and to prolong the inevitable by launching an “investigation” (what that investigation consisted of is anybody’s guess). Even now, Mifsud hasn’t been fired but has merely been suspended and ticked off by the Prime Minister.
Some may think it petty for the media to kick up a storm over an off-the-cuff Facebook comment, but the comment and the commissioner’s reflects something far more sinister – a malaise of unprofessional behaviour at the heart of the police force that has been allowed to fester. Sacking Cutajar will not solve the problem, but it will go some way towards convincing skeptics there is political will to turn things around and to rebuild public trust in police independence. The country certainly needs this assurance right now.