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Egrant’s flat-earthers - Martin Scicluna

Last week, we learnt from Magistrate Aaron Bugeja’s authoritative investigation into the accusation by the late Daphne Caruana Galizia that the Prime Minister’s wife was the owner of a €1 million secret offshore Panama company – the so-called Egrant account – was completely unfounded.

But also last week, Malta’s equivalent of “flat-earthers” (those who, despite all the evidence to the contrary, still believe the earth is flat) were out in force spinning any conspiracy theory they could devise – no matter how far-fetched – to try to undermine the validity of the inquiry. They attempted to sow doubts to sustain a belief in Caruana Galizia’s Egrant accusations of 15 months ago as their only means of competing with the body of evidence adduced by the magisterial inquiry.

The irony is that, for the most part, those performing these mental gyrations consisted of that pseudo-political grouping calling for what they define as “truth and justice” following the assassination of Caruana Galizia.

Instead of seeking truth and justice by accepting without demur the clear-cut findings of this comprehensive inquiry, like all flat-earthers they convinced themselves that no one could possibly question anything that she had said. The magistrate’s painstaking and reasoned inquiry, based on concrete evidence, extensively collected factual data and logical, evidence-based deductive reasoning stood as nought in their eyes.

People are of course allowed their own opinions. But they are not entitled to create their own facts. We can all choose to believe whatever we like (including that the earth is flat), but if we deny and ignore well-established, scientifically verified evidence, then we are simply believing fake information.

These flat-earthers have ended up believing what they want to believe, even if it happens not to be true. Facts, evidence and truth exist independently of whether or not people believe them. Their disregard for the evidence – the displacement of reason by emotion and the corrosion of language – has diminished the very value of truth.

Malta is still a vibrant functioning democracy, answerable to an independent judiciary under the rule of law

This pseudo-political grouping has engaged in an inordinate degree of cherry-picking of elements presented in the magistrate’s inquiry conclusions and a disgraceful combination of selective reasoning, avoidance of stated facts and sheer misrepresentation.

These activists, with their deep sense of entitlement, are helping to tear apart the Nationalist Party in support of a former leader (Simon Busuttil) who, despite being warned last year by independent commentators, swallowed hook, line and sinker every uncorroborated suspicion and false conclusion fed to him during last year’s electoral campaign in that now notorious blog post of April 4. His downfall and the consequent state of the PN today are an abject lesson in what happens when truth is despised.        

The rule of law is fundamental to a civilised society. It cannot be distorted by seeking to undermine the conclusions of an inquiry which had at its core the legitimacy and probity of the Prime Minister of this country.  The fair and efficient administration of justice is central to any successful democracy. Although our administration of justice is slow, Malta has been well served by systems and individual judges and magistrates who have been independent-minded and independent of the State.

The flat-earthers’ closed minds and their self-serving arguments to undermine the conclusions of an inquiry they do not like are a disgrace to Malta’s democracy. It is on these occasions that I let out a howl of despair and ask myself what kind of a people are we? What are our values?

Western civilisation is defined by history and is the sum total of our values, our institutions, our habits of mind. It is the result of a slow and faltering invention of a set of rules for life which we have inherited – the best we have managed over many centuries. We like to see ourselves as holding western values of behaviour and conduct.

Malta in its own way aspires to the same rules as other Europeans, but still fails lamentably to achieve them as the reaction by an unrepresentative faction in our society has shown. They are worth proclaiming, if only to expose how woefully short a sizeable part of our nation has fallen.

There is a core of ideas, practices and values that provide a bedrock. Most would agree broadly on what they are. In no particular order, most Europeans would say tolerance, largely an invention of the 18th century. However, as the Egrant inquiry has shown, tolerance is utterly unknown among a sizeable faction in Malta.

Next, rationality and the scientific method, also largely emanating from thinkers in the 17th and 18th centuries, but with a link to ancient Greece. As recent debates on IVF and abortion have shown, however, rationality and the scientific method are largely absent.

Europeans would probably also highlight human dignity and human rights, justice, freedom, equality of opportunity, fairness and equality before the law. The magisterial inquiry is a vindication of all of these values.

And deep in the foundations are Judeo-Christian principles: charity, love, peace, forgiveness. As Egrant has demonstrated, the Maltese – nominally ardent Catholics – practice these more in the breach than the observance. Greed, hypocrisy, envy, defamation and perjury: these are their gods.

We have also heard a lot about “the rule of law”, which derives from the ancient world and the Middle Ages. Busuttil, David Casa and this pseudo political grouping of activists have sought – but, as Egrant has shown, have failed – to make this their battle cry.

We would surely also say “democracy”, although this is only a 19th and even 20th century development, with distant links to the Greek and Roman republics. The picture here has been vindicated by the magistrate’s inquiry which has found fraud, forgery, libel and much else was committed by the principal exponents of this tragic saga.

As Magistrate Bugeja has shown, Malta is still a vibrant functioning democracy, answerable to an independent judiciary under the rule of law. It is unacceptable that the posturing zealotry of an unrepresentative group continues to try to poison gullible minds by not respecting the outcome of the magisterial inquiry and instead engaging in a mendacious conspiracy with their pseudo-political flat-earth activists.

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