Prime Minister Robert Abela has said that he is against the ‘concept’ of public inquiries on the basis that they send the message that the country’s institutions are not working.
Abela was asked by The Malta Independent why the government had not backed a motion presented by the Opposition for the setting up of a public inquiry into the Electrogas power station deal.
To this, Abela said that the National Audit Office had already investigated the Electrogas deal. The NAO in that case had flagged shortcomings in the power station’s due diligence process and said that the interconnector would have been a cheaper option to the power station.
He said that when the Opposition leader Bernard Grech had asked for the setting up of a public inquiry the first time, he had told him that he was 24 hours late for going to the police to file a report or to go to the magistrates to ask for an inquiry to be opened.
Now, he is some 240 hours late, Abela said, noting that the Opposition leader has done nothing yet.
“If the Opposition believes that there are allegations or proof or suspicions of corruption, then it has the duty to go to the Police Commissioner to start his own investigation, or to go to the duty magistrate and ask for a magisterial inquiry to be opened”, he said.
Asked whether for the benefit of full transparency, it would be better if the government were to open an inquiry itself in order to deal with any doubts, Abela said that he has complete faith in the country’s institutions, the police commissioner, and the whole judiciary.
“When you call a public inquiry […] you are sending the message that the country’s institutions are not working. That’s why I am against the concept of public inquiries.”
He said that he is against any inquiry when its work is not intended to complement the work of the institutions trusted with the administration of justice in this country, but when it is there to substitute the work of traditional institutions tasked with the administration of justice in the country.
He added that he has blind trust in the country’s institutions and police, noting that these are the institutions which should be carrying out an investigation like this.
Fielding another question related to the same subject, Abela reiterated: “I am against a public inquiry on any subject – that is why I made sure that our institutions work robustly and independently.”
He said that anyone in favour of rule of law cannot accept that an inquiry under the Inquiries Act replaces the work of the judiciary.
“The Opposition’s call for a public inquiry means two things: either that they want to make a show, or – and I think it’s a combination of the two – that they do not have faith in the country’s institutions, in our courts, in our magistrate, and in our police.”
The first ever public inquiry was set up last year in order to look into the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia and whether the state could have prevented.
It has been subject to criticism, especially in recent weeks, by government figures, who say that the inquiry is going beyond its terms of reference.
Upon his election as PN leader, Bernard Grech said that he would be asking for a second public inquiry to be set up – this time to look into the circumstances surrounding the Electrogas power station deal, which continues to be mired in allegations of corruption.
A motion for the inquiry to be set up was presented in Parliament on Thursday, but was met with government opposition.
Video: Giuseppe Attard