At 3pm on 16th October 2017, a bomb went off in the peaceful Maltese village of Bidnija, slaughtering the nation’s most famous journalist and shocking the country.
Matthew Caruana Galizia, Daphne’s son, ran barefoot out of the house to see his mother’s car up in smoke and her body pieces scattered all over the ground. While two policemen were trying to put out the flames, a neighbour drove up in a silver SUV with his phone in his hand.
Despite being consumed by terror and grief, Matthew realised the potential implications of this, photos of his mother’s body parts going viral on social media, and smashed the man’s phone onto the ground to prevent this.
And so began a fight against the Maltese establishment to ensure full justice is done for their mother’s assassination as well as the corruption she exposed.
So much has happened since that fateful day that it’s easy to forget it but here are some reminders.
On the very same day (the very same day!) that Daphne was assassinated, her family went to court to get magistrate Consuelo Scerri Herrera to recuse herself because she had featured heavily in Daphne’s blog. At court, they came face to face with Keith Schembri, who has now been implicated with the murder. Scerri Herrera recused herself.
A year later, they won another court case, this time to remove deputy Police Commissioner Silvio Valletta from the murder investigation on the grounds of his marriage to the Gozo Minister.
And another year later, after imposing pressure through the Council of Europe, they won the right for a public inquiry to be held into the murder, after the government had resisted these attempts for several months.
Over the past months and years, the Caruana Galizias witnessed complete and absolute impunity.
They saw a police officer publicly celebrate the assassination and only get suspended on half-pay.
They were emotionally blackmailed by the Prime Minister, who said he will only drop a libel suit against Daphne if they publicly denounce her Egrant story as a lie.
They saw the Opposition turn its guns on the activists who supported their cause, refusing to give them coverage because of their criticism of Adrian Delia.
They witnessed a European Parliament election campaign during which the Opposition cared more about fear-mongering on abortion than calling for justice for their mother.
They were brutally mocked and sneered at, accused of being pompous and elitist by the very people who form the establishment. They were accused of being traitors who hated Malta and who didn’t care about achieving justice, only about seeking vengeance on Joseph Muscat and the Labour Party.
They read opinion piece after opinion piece which focused more on who Daphne was as a journalist and a human being than on the more important question – why was she killed?
They witnessed reports trying to pin the assassination on fuel smugglers, something Saviour Balzan has now said was a lie spun by Keith Schembri to deflect attention from himself.
They saw a powerful movement rise up to demand justice for their mother and they witnessed the movement slowly shrivel. They saw seeds of doubt take root within the minds of people who stood on the front line, they saw activists engaging in petty squabbles and losing sight of the greater cause, they saw journalists distancing themselves in the delusion that they were being balanced or strategic.
They were denied the right to place a protest memorial outside the law courts and had to endure government cleaners sweeping it away every night.
They had to endure jeers, taunts and sometimes even physical assaults as they sought to keep the memorial alive, and they must have known that no one in power would condemn those attacks.
And the cherry on the cake? Matthew Caruana Galizia was accused time and time again, even from people who work at Castille, that he was to blame for his mother’s assassination because he hadn’t given the police his mother’s laptop and because he had parked the car outside the house the night before the murder.
No one with political influence within the government or the Labour Party ever publicly denounced those vile conspiracy theories, not until yesterday at least, when PL CEO Randolph De Battista called the suggestions shocking.
And yet the Caruana Galizias fought on. They made damn sure that Malta and the world would not forget what happened and pledged not to rest until full justice was assured.
It wasn’t easy. This is what Daphne’s son had to say a few months ago, when looking back at the Archbishop’s homily at their mother’s funeral.
“In his homily, the Archbishop of Malta told journalists ‘never to grow weary in your mission to be the eyes, the ears and the mouth of the people’. He then turned to my brothers and me, and said:”
“As you know, whenever your mother was abroad, she had a habit of lighting a candle in church for each one of you: the silent prayer of a mother for her children… Your beloved mother died a cruel death by the hidden hand of someone that valued darkness over the light, for his actions are evil. See that you will always be the children of the light.”
“We lit three candles and Matthew read Ecclesiastes 3, which my mother once wrote was ‘engraved in my heart’. Wickedness in the place of justice. There is a time for everything, a season for every activity under the heavens. A time to be born and a time to die, to kill and to heal, to mourn and to dance. I don’t know when that time will come. And I don’t know that we’ll always be children of the light in what, at times, feels like complete darkness.”
The darkness is now starting to clear away.
Yorgen Fenech has been arraigned, Keith Schembri has resigned and has been implicated in the murder, Konrad Mizzi has resigned and now even Joseph Muscat, the most popular Prime Minister in Malta’s history, has had to admit that his position is no longer tenable. Even some of Daphne Caruana Galizia’s harshest critics are now speaking about her in positive terms.
Despite everything, despite the powers that be standing in their way, full justice is nearer at hand than it has ever been.
And that is an example of true patriotism. Patriotism isn’t about attacking the most vulnerable in society, it’s about defending your country to the hilt, even against its own government if needs be.
The Ġieħ ir-Repubblika for services to the nation is the absolute least these heroes deserve; Malta is truly in their debt.