On April 15, 2023, the well-known Maltese NGO Repubblika released its book on corruption in Malta. The 750-page folio contains information about the infamous Pilatus Bank investigation. The book includes documents, screenshots, and correspondence that have not been officially confirmed. What is the reliability of “evidence” without clear proof, and what is the reliability of Repubblika in its entirety? For years, the organization has poured most of its energy into one bank case, almost completely ignoring other egregious corruption cases in Malta. What is the reason? Let’s find out.
Who is Repubblika?
Public campaigns and loud statements, like those led by Robert Aquilina on social networks, can seem impressive. Aquilina’s Facebook page looks like that of someone who spends all day and all night at work. It’s amazing to see such zeal, but let’s examine what drives it.
Firstly, a review of what Repubblika’s website says about them to understand who they are:
“Repubblika is a civil society movement that aims to strengthen human rights and democracy in Malta. Repubblika seeks to promote civil rights, democratic life, the rule of law, free speech, personal freedoms, social inclusion, environmental conservation, economic sustainability and equality of access, by means of active participation in the national discourse and related educational, social and charitable initiatives.”
Sounds great since Malta doesn’t lack reasons to protect all these things. We need an organization that protects our rights and freedoms, especially since we fund it. Repubblika runs on the contributions and donations of Maltese who want the best for their country. At least, that’s what’s been said officially. This topic will be elaborated on in this article.
The NGO claims to be independent journalism, but it’s just words. Repubblika might be politically motivated and aimed to achieve hidden agendas.
There’s a connection between Repubblika and the Nationalist Party. Six out of 12 members of the Repubblika board are related to the NP. For an organization that declares its intentions are honest, it seems a bit suspicious, doesn’t it? But that’s not all. Manuel Delia, an executive officer, has served in the NP in various capacities since he was a student.
The second thing, which should be as transparent as possible in the activities of a non-governmental and non-profitable organization, is also hidden in Repubblika. Most of the funds come to its accounts not from Malta, but from other countries. However, the financial data of this organization is closed to the public.
In 2021 the Commission of Voluntary Organisations accused Repubblika of breaching NGO law.
Political connections of the Repubblika’s management
Let’s start with Robert Aquilina, who is Malta’s loudest critic of corruption.
Notary Public Robert Aquilina graduated with a doctorate in law from the University of Malta in 2005. In October 2017, after Daphne Caruana Galizia’s death, he started activism.
Aquilina co-founded Repubblika and served as its first secretary general. Since October 2020, he is the President of Repubblika.
He’s connected to the Nationalist Party through his brother, Karol Aquilina, who’s an MP; PN member.
Second, Repubblika’s Vice-President, Alessandra Crespo.
Dee Crespo’s the first woman and the first layperson to graduate from the university course usually taken by priests preparing for the priesthood. Like Aquilina, she got into activism after the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia in October 2017. Repubblika was formed in January 2019, and she joined right away. In October 2019, she was elected to its Executive Committee. Later, she was elected as vice president and is expected to be nominated for president in March 2023.
She also writes for The Times of Malta and occasional blogs for Truth Be Told.
The Church, however, criticized her activity.
Blog post by Rev. Father David Muscat
“Alessandra Dee Crespo has become President of the liberal-secularist NGO Repubblika. For those who are uninformed, she also holds the post of Chancellor at the Maltese Church’s Regional Tribunal of Second Instance. In the former capacity, she will be the one who holds the banner signifying the struggle against cheating and corruption, regardless of where they emerge. In the other role, her work covers the hearing of ex novo integro marital cases designed to rectify any errors decided by the Church tribunal in the first instance.
I am unable to state whether a conflict of interest arises here. Saint Thomas More, however, teaches us that any Christian who occupies a public non-ecclesiastical role may not, under any circumstances deviate from the teachings of Holy Mother Church. One must be always a Christian and to serve the earthly power, one cannot renounce the King of Heaven and Earth.”
Next, Repubblika’s executive officer, Manuel Delia.
Delia is a blogger in Malta who focuses on anti-corruption and good governance journalism. With a focus on mafia crime, migration and human trafficking, corruption and bribery, and the erosion of democracy, he runs Truth Be Told (manueldelia.com).
His connection to NP is very interesting.
Since 1999, he’s been involved in PN politics and government. From 2008 to 2013, he served as Head, Minister’s Secretariat, Ministry for Infrastructure, Transport, and Communications. In 2011, he declared himself a new prospective candidate for the 5th electoral district without the party’s permission. As a result, he was declared invalid.
Funding for Repubblika
Sources of the Repubblika’s funding aren’t entirely clear, which has raised criticism. There’s a lot of money coming from organizations outside of Malta, mostly from Europe. These include the MFRR, the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) and the European Commission.
Additionally, Manuel Delia got personal support from these organizations after he announced he was leaving Malta because of threats.
In 2021 the Commission of Voluntary Organisations accused Repubblika of breaching NGO law, a charge strongly denied by the organization.
One of the articles on the Repubblika’s activities and funding and support for Delia:
“Manuel Delia is always asking who is financing me, going so far as to suggest that Yorgen Fenech is financing me! A few days ago, a similar accusation was made by Andrew Borg Cardona who also asked the University of Malta to investigate my affairs. Yesterday, Jason Azzopardi made a judicial protest wherein he referred to those criticizing him and Manuel Delia as Yorgen Fenech’s mercenaries.
Since it is now fashionable to use any means to attempt to sully others forgetting how sullied one is, it is time that I start asking questions to Manuel Delia about his source of financing.
Therefore, I am publicly asking Manuel Delia about his source of income. Manuel Delia appears on the website of Repubblika as its Executive Officer. Repubblika has never explained whether this is a paid post or not. It is time that one asks the question whether it is true or not that Repubblika is paying Manuel Delia 30,000 euros a year for this job.
And if this is true, wherefrom is Repubblika getting its finances? In other words, is it getting the money from the collections and donations that are made during the vigils in commemoration of Daphne Caruana Galizia? Or does it have other sources of income?
Finally, is it true that Repubblika is renting an old office in Mqabba which belongs to Manuel Delia’s wife? And if this is true, what rent is being paid by Repubblika for this office? Can Repubblika publish the lease agreement in the name of transparency that it always preaches? Is it true that this office is being rented out at commercial rates?”
Repubblika’s connections with PN talk about politically motivated reporting. Repubblika demands transparency from others while hiding sensitive information about themselves. Repubblika receives most of its funding outside Malta, which looks like foreign interference in domestic affairs. Delia’s previous public office is deliberately ignored.
All these aspects undermine Repubblika’s credibility. Due to this, we must be highly critical of everything they say.