Fir-Repubblika tal-Banana

Meta l-mexxej Laburista Robert Abela indirizza lill-partitarji fil-Każin Laburista ta’ Birkirkara, nhar il-Ħadd li għadda, kellu raġun jilmenta li s-sentenzi f’kawżi kriminali, bosta drabi jidhru baxxi jew laxki. Xi drabi qed jingħata l-messaġġ li qiesu ma ġara xejn. Il-Prim Ministru għandu bosta postijiet iktar addattati fejn jista’ jwassal il-preokkupazzjoni tiegħu dwar il-ħtieġa ta’ politika iktar addattata dwar is-sentenzi li qed jingħataw mill-Qrati.

Seta ġibed l-attenzjoni tal-President tar-Repubblika biex il-materja tkun ikkunsidrata fil-Kummissjoni għall-Amministrazzjoni tal-Ġustizzja. Seta qajjem il-materja f’laqgħa formali mal-Prim Imħallef. Seta ukoll illeġisla biex inaqqas il-flessibilità li għandha l-Qorti meta tapplika l-pieni li hemm fil-liġi. Fil-fatt kellu għad-disposizzjoni tiegħu bosta għodda jew mezzi biex jasal għall-bidla mixtieqa. Imma li joqgħod ipeċlaq fil-każin laburista ta’ B’Kara bil-prietka ta’ nhar ta’ Ħadd mhux wieħed minnhom.

F’Birkirkara Robert Abela tkellem ukoll dwar il-kunflitt ta’ interess li Membri Parlamentari li jipprattikaw il-liġi kriminali huma esposti għalih. Matul in-nofstanhar ta’ filgħodu b’abbiltà, dawn l-avukati, jiddefendu lill-klijenti tagħhom u jippreżentaw sottomissjonijiet quddiem il-Qrati dwar pieni baxxi jew tnaqqis fil-pieni inkella dwar sentenzi sospiżi.  Imbagħad, waranofsinnhar, emfasizza Robert Abela, dawn l-istess Membri Parlamentari jiġu fil-Parliament jargumentaw b’qawwa fuq il-perikli ta’ żieda fil-kriminalità.

Dwar dan għandu raġun. Imma din il-linja ta’ ħsieb ma tapplikax biss għall-avukati li jipprattikaw il-liġi kriminali.  Tapplika ukoll għal avukati fiċ-ċivil u fil-liġi kummerċjali kif ukoll għal membri parlamentari fi professjonijiet oħra kif kellna l-opportunità li naraw bosta drabi tul is-snin! Din hi esperjenza li diġà għaddejna minnha matul is-snin.

Il-Membri Parlamentari għandhom jiddedikaw il-ħin kollu tagħhom għall-ħidma parlamentari. M’għandux ikun possibli li Membri Parlamentari jibqgħu jagħmlu kwalunkwe xogħol ieħor, kemm jekk dan ikun imħallas kif ukoll jekk le. Bħala partit dan aħna ilna ngħiduh is-snin, għax nemmnu li fil-prattika hu l-uniku mod kif tista’ tindirizza u tnaqqas b’mod effettiv il-kunflitt ta’ interess ovvju li jirriżulta illi Membru tal-Parlament hu espost għalih fis-sistema tagħna kif inhi illum.

Robert Abela qal iktar minn hekk. Irrefera għad-diskursata li kellu ma’ Maġistrat dwar is-sentenzi baxxi li ħerġin mill-Qrati Kriminali. Il-Maġistrat, qal Abela, iddefendiet ruħha billi emfasizzat li s-sentenzi mogħtija qed jitbaxxew mill-Qorti tal-Appell, li fid-dawl ta’ sentenzi oħra ġja mogħtija qed tnaqqas sentenzi li jkunu ngħataw mill-Maġistrati.

Robert Abela żbalja meta ikkomunika direttament mal-Maġistrat. Żbalja iktar meta tkellem dwar dan fil-pubbliku għax b’hekk bagħat messaġġ żbaljat u inkwetanti li l-Qrati qed jirċievu ordnijiet diretti mingħand l-eżekuttiv. Dan fi kliem sempliċi hu ta’ theddida għall-indipendenza tal-ġudikatura.  Bħala avukat, bla dubju, Robert Abela jirrealizza li qabeż il-linja ta’ dak li hu tollerabbli mill-politiku f’soċjetà demokratika.

F’pajjiż demokratiku fejn is-saltna tad-dritt hi realtà mhux ħrafa, Robert Abela kien jirreżenja fi ftit siegħat minn x’ħin pubblikament ammetta  li hu għamel pressjoni fuq il-Maġistrat. Il-Maġistrat li min-naħa tagħha kompliet miegħu fid-diskussjoni s’issa, kienet tkun ġiet identifikata u dixxiplinata.

Imma, kif tafu, minn dan kollu, ma ġara xejn.

Nhar it-Tnejn fi stqarrija għall-istampa, jiena tlabt lill-President tar-Repubblika biex isejjaħ laqgħa urġenti tal-Kummissjoni għall-Amministrazzjoni tal-Ġustizzja biex din tkun tista’ tieħu l-passi neċessarja dwar dak li ġara.

S’issa għad ma ġara xejn. Forsi l-President kien imsiefer, inkella kien imħabbat b’xi attività dwar il-larinġ li nsibu fil-ġonna Presidenzjali ta’ Sant Anton.

Issa forsi jmiss iċ-ċelebrazzjoni tal-ġimgħa tal-banana fl-aġenda Presidenzjali. Bla dubju din tieħu prijorità fuq l-indipendenza tal-ġudikatura fir-Repubblika tal-Banana!

ippubblikat fuq Illum: 4 ta’ Frar 2023

In a Banana Republic

When Labour Leader Robert Abela addressed the party faithful at the Birkirkara Labour Party Club last Sunday, he was right to complain that the sentencing policy currently applied by the judiciary may at times appear as being too lenient. However, as Prime Minister he had other fora through which to convey his preoccupation and to emphasise the need of an up-to-date sentencing policy.

He could have drawn the attention of the President of the Republic in order that he may refer the matter for the consideration of the Commission for the Administration of Justice. He could have legitimately brought up the matter in a formal meeting with the Chief Justice. He could also legislate in order to restrict the current flexibility which the Courts have when applying the law. In fact, he has at his disposal various tools to bring about the change he spoke about: pontificating at the Birkirkara Labour Party Club through a Sunday political sermon is not one of these tools.

At Birkirkara Robert Abela also spoke on the conflict of interest which Members of Parliament who are practising criminal lawyers are continuously exposed to. They ably defend their clients during the morning in Court pleading in favour of minimal sentencing, including the application of suspended sentences. Then, in the afternoon, emphasised Robert Abela, in Parliament, these same Members of Parliament vociferously argue on the dangers of an increasing criminality.

He is definitely right on that. But this line of reasoning does not only apply to criminal lawyers. It is also applicable to MPs who are civil and commercial lawyers as well as to other professionals in their specific area of practice. We have been exposed to this over the years in a number of cases. Is it not about time that parliament is made up of full-timers? No Member of Parliament should carry out any other work (paid or unpaid) except that resulting from his/her parliamentary duties. My party has been emphasising this for a considerable number of years. We believe that it is the only way to effectively address the obvious conflict of interest which abounds in Parliament.

Robert Abela said more. He referred to a tete-a-tete with a sitting Magistrate with whom he discussed the lenient sentencing which the Criminal Law Courts are applying. The Magistrate, said Abela, defensively replied that it is all the fault of the appeals court as they consider themselves bound by precedent when they revise the decisions delivered by the inferior courts, ending up in lighter sentences.

Robert Abela was wrong when he conveyed his views directly to one of the Magistrates currently sitting in judgement at the inferior Courts. Bragging about it in public makes it even worse as it conveys the wrong message that the judiciary is at the beck and call of the Executive. This, in plain language, threatens the independence of the judiciary. As a lawyer, Robert Abela is undoubtedly aware that he has gone far beyond the red line.

In any other democratic country where rule of law is fact, not fiction, Robert Abela would have resigned within a couple of hours after having publicly admitting pressuring a sitting Magistrate. Similarly, the Magistrate who allowed the discussion to proceed would by now have been identified and disciplined.

But, as you are aware, nothing has happened yet.

On Monday in a press statement, I have called on the President of the Republic to convene an urgent meeting of the Commission for the Administration of Justice to take the necessary and required action. So far there has been no reaction whatsoever. Possibly his Excellency the President is currently abroad, or, maybe he is extremely busy with some activity promoting the citrous products of the presidential kitchen garden at the San Anton Presidential Palace!

As things stand banana week would definitely be a future activity in the Presidential agenda: this takes priority over the independence of the judiciary, in this Banana Republic!

published in the Malta Independent on Sunday: 5 February 2023

Spażji miftuħa : 15-il minuta l-bogħod

Li jkollna żieda konsiderevoli ta’ spazji miftuħa, kif ukoll li nassiguraw li dawn l-ispazji miftuħa jkunu aċċessibli għal kulħadd hi politika tajba. Il-fatt li bħalissa għandna nuqqas ta’ spazji miftuħa u aċċessibli huwa riżultat tal-falliment tal-ippjanar tal-użu tal-art kif ipprattikat f’Malta. Sfortunatament dan hu orientat lejn l-ispekulazzjoni flok ma hu ffukat lejn użu aħjar tal-art bħala kontributur għal titjib fil-kwalità tal-ħajja.

Il-Gvern nieda proġett biex jinvesti €700 miljun ħalli jtejjeb l-ispazji miftuħa eżistenti kif ukoll biex joħloq oħrajn inkella biex iħajjar lil min jieħu inizjattivi f’dan is-sens. Ħadd mhu ser joġġezzjona għal proġetta ta’ din ix-xorta sakemm dan ma jkunx skuża li warajha tkun ser tinħeba xi ħaġa oħra li illum mhux dikjarata.

Biex proġett ta’ din ix-xorta jirnexxi jeħtieġ li jkun parti minn viżjoni fit-tul, viżjoni li mhux biss tħares lejn titjib madwarna imma fuq kollox tkun immirata biex in-natura terġa’ tkun integrata mill-ġdid f’ħajjitna u madwarna. Iktar minn investiment finanzjarju neħtieġu bidla fl-attitudni li twassal biex nibdew inqiesu l-ispazji pubbliċi bħala parti essenzjali mill-infrastruttura meħtieġa għal titjib fil-kwalità tal-ħajja tagħna.

Filwaqt li hu oġġettiv tajjeb li noħolqu spazji pubbliċi ġodda, u li ntejbu dawk li għandna, ikun ferm aħjar kieku bħala l-ewwel pass nagħmlu ħilitna biex inħarsu l-ispazji miftuħa li diġa għandna,  nħarsuhom u ma nħalluhomx jinqerdu.  Il-ġonna privati, uħud minnhom kbar, li jiffurmaw parti integrali miż-żoni urbani u mill-qalba tal-irħula tagħna ilhom żmien jinqerdu biex flokhom jinbnew blokki ta’ flattijiet.  Dawn għandhom ikunu minn tal-ewwel  spazji muftuħa li nħarsu jekk verament nemmnu fuq l-importanza tagħhom. Dawn il-ġonna servew bħala l-pulmun tal-komunitajiet lokali tagħna għal ħafna snin. Għalkemm huma propjetà privata dawn taw kontribut kbir għall-ħarsien tal-komunitajiet tagħna. Dan kollu ma jiswiex flus. Jeħtieġ biss ftit konsistenza u rieda tajba.

Imbagħad ikun imiss l-art agrikola li qed tintilef b’rata mgħaġġla. L-art agrikola ukoll hi taħt assedju:  qed tinbela fi kwantitajiet mhux żgħar mill-bini tat-toroq, proġetti ta’ żvilupp inkella minn min irid jirriżervha għalih għad-divertiment għall-BBQ jew picnic fejn jistrieħu ftit il-bogħod minn għajn in-nies.  Dan kollu qed jeqred l-għixien tal-bdiewa u tal-familji tagħhom li għal snin kbar ħadu ħsieb ir-raba’ b’tant dedikazzjoni u ipprovdew l-ikel għall-pajjiż.  Dan ukoll ma jiswiex flus. Jeħtieġ awtoritajiet li jaħdmu sewwa, li m’għandniex!

Ix-xewqa li lkoll għandna għal iktar spazji miftuħa hi rifless tal-ħsieb iberren f’moħħna li nerġgħu nistabilixxu kuntatt sod mal-egħruq tagħna, man-natura. In-natura hi ċentrali f’ħajjitna, u iktar nies, dan qed jirrealizzawħ u japrezzawħ. Dan ifisser li permezz tal-ispazji miftuħa irridu nintroduċu n-natura mill-ġdid fil-lokalitajiet tagħna bis-serjetà, u mhux li jitqegħdu xi erbat iqsari tal-konkos, taparsi sar xi ħaġa! L-ispazji miftuħa huma għan-natura u mhux biex tiżdied id-dominazzjoni tal-konkos fil-forom differenti tiegħu fil-lokalitajiet tagħna! L-anqas m’ghandhom jintużaw għall-parking tal-karozzi!

Ġie emfasizzat li dan il-proġett ta’ investiment fl-ispazji miftuħa għandu l-iskop li jassigura li kull wieħed u waħda minna jkollu aċċess għal spazju pubbliku miftuħ li jkun mhux iktar il-bogħod minn għaxar minuti minn fejn toqgħod. Dan l-oġġettiv jorbot mal-inizjattiva li ttieħdet f’diversi bliet Ewropej imsejħa l-belt ta’ 15-il minuta (15-minute city). Belt ta’ din ix-xorta għandha jkollha dak kollu li teħtieġ, fil-parti l-kbira mhux iktar minn kwarta l-bogħod mid-dar. Għax mhux l-ispazju pubbliku miftuħ biss għandu jkun fil-viċin: imma dak kollu li neħtieġu.

Dan iwassalna biex neżaminaw it-tifsila urbanistika tagħna, meta nirrealizzaw li l-ħwienet iż-żgħar tagħna li servew lill-komunitajiet lokali għal bosta snin, qed jonqsu sewwa. Qed jispiċċaw jinbeżqu mis-suq bħala riżultat tal-bosta supermarkets u stabilimenti kummerċjali kbar li qed jinfetħu.

Din l-idea tal-belt ta’ 15-il minuta (the 15-minute city) bdiet b’inizjattiva ta’ Carlos Moreno, arkitett konsulent tas-sindku ta’ Pariġi imma issa qed tinfirex ma numru ta’ bliet Ewropej. Tfisser tibdil sostanzjali fl-ippjanar għall-użu tal-art biex ikun assigurat li f’kull Belt jew raħal dak li normalment neħtieġu nistgħu nsibuh mhux iktar minn kwarta ‘l bogħodminn fejn noqgħodu.

Carlos Moreno jitkellem dwar il-ħtiġijiet marbuta mal-għixien fi spazju urban imfassla fuq sitt punti essenzjali: żona residenzjali adegwata, xogħol fil-viċin, possibiltà ta’ xiri ta’ oġġetti jew servizzi bla diffikultà, kif ukoll aċċess għall-edukazzjoni, servizz għas-saħħa u esperjenzi kulturali fil-qrib, ilkoll aċċessibli b’mezzi sostenibbli.

Nistgħu neżaminaw u nfasslu l-istil ta’ ħajjitna fl-ibliet u l-irħula tagħna f’dawn il-parametri?

Il-ħwienet żgħar fl-ibliet u l-irħula tagħna jeħtieġu l-għajnuna għax qed jagħtu servizz essenzjali li jagħti l-ħajja lill-komunitajiet tagħna: jagħtu servizz u fl-istess ħin joħolqu x-xogħol fil-lokalità. Meta wieħed jinkoraġixxi l-ħidma tal-ħwienet iż-żgħar fil-ħidma tagħhom ikun qed jagħti kontribut għat-tnaqqis tat-traffiku fil-lokalità f’kull ħin tal-ġurnata għax ikun hemm inqas ħtieġa li wieħed jivvjaġġa. B’hekk jintlaħaq oġgettiv ieħor fil-pjanijiet tal-Gven, jiġifieri t-tnaqqis tal-karozzi mit-toroq tagħna.

L-ippjanar għall-użu tal-art għandu jiffoka fuq in-nies u l-ħtiġijiet tagħhom. Hu biss f’dan il-kuntest li l-iffinanzjar ta’ proġetti ta’ tħaddir fil-komunità jagħmel sens.

ippubblikat fuq Illum: 29 ta’ Jannar 2023

Ma min iktar qed jitkellmu l-maġistrati?

Wara id-diskors tal-bieraħ ta’ Robert Abela li fih infurmana illi kellu diskursata ma’ Maġistrat bil-fors li nistaqsu: imma ma min iktar qed jitkellmu l-Maġistrati? Jitkellmu fuq it-tul tas-sentenzi biss jew fuq affarijiet oħra ukoll? U l-imħallfin ma huma qed jitkellmu ma ħadd?

Huma mistoqsijiet li bil-fors nistaqsu. F’soċjetà demokratika għandna dritt għal tweġiba ċara.

Għax Robert Abela, b’dak li qal saħħaħ l-eżistenza ta’ dubji kbar fil-proċess ġudizzjarju kollu. Diġà hemm id-dubji kbar u bli qal ħoloq dubji ikbar milli diġà hawn.

Il-messaġġ tiegħu hu wieħed ċar li meta jrid jikser ir-regoli u qiesu ma ġara xejn.

Tinħtieġ tweġiba ċara: x’inhu jiġri?

Forsi l-President tar-Repubblika, jekk ma jkunx imsiefer, ikun jista’ jagħtina risposta!

Inkwetanti li Robert Abela jiltaqa’ ma’ Maġistrat

It-Times online u l-Independent online huma u jirrappurtaw id-diskors ta’ dalgħodu ta’ Robert Abela jirreferu għal laqgħa li Robert Abela qal li kellu ma’ Maġistrat.

L-Independent tgħid hekk: He said that he had the occasion to speak to a magistrate, who told him that the legal framework permits them to give low or high punishments. But, the magistrate said that when they give a high punishment, even though the law allows it, “they appeal and the chances are that the Court of Appeal would reduce the punishment as there are policies or past judgements that militate that punishments not be that high.”

It-Times tgħid hekk: He said that over the past few days he met a magistrate who told him that whenever a tough punishment was handed down, the sentence was inevitably watered down on appeal, with the appeals court citing caselaw.

Newsbook min-naħa l-oħra irrapporta hekk: Hu qal li din il-ġimgħa tkellem ma’ Maġistrat li stqarret miegħu li meta jingħataw pieni ħorox, il-Qorti tal-Appell tnaqqas din il-piena.

Dan il-kumment tal-Prim Ministru Robert Abela jeħtieġ spjegazzjoni immedjata għax hu inkwetanti ħafna. Minn meta l-hawn il-Prim Ministru jiltaqa’ ma’ Maġistrat u jitkellem dwar is-sentenzi? L-affarijiet mhumiex ċari u huma inkwetanti ħafna meta politiku jiltaqa’ ma’ membru tal-ġudikatura.

Min hu jew min hi l-Maġistrat ma nafx imma naħseb li l-Prim Imħallef għandu jara daqsxejn x’ġara.

Anke l-President tar-Repubblika li fost l-inkarigi tiegħu imexxi l-Kummissjoni għall-Amministrazzjoni tal-Ġustizzja għandu l-obbligu li jindaga mingħajr dewmien.

Open spaces and the 15-minute city

Having a substantially increased area of open spaces and ensuring that these spaces are accessible for all is good policy. The fact that currently we lack accessible open spaces is a failure of land use planning as practised in Malta, which is unfortunately speculation oriented instead of being focused on optimisation of land use as a contribution towards an improvement in the quality of life for all.

Government is embarking on a €700 million project in order to enhance existing open spaces as well as to create or to encourage the creation of new ones. No one would object to that provided that it is not an excuse for a different and undeclared objective.

In order for such a project to be successful it must be part of a long-term view of enhancing our surroundings such that we bridge the substantial and ever-widening gap which separates us from nature. However, what is really needed is a change in attitude towards the availability of public space as an essential element in the basic infrastructure required for an enhanced healthy quality of life.

While it is definitely an acceptable objective to create new open spaces, we could do much better if, as an essential first step we strive to retain existent open spaces and save them from destruction. Private gardens, some of them of a substantial size, forming an integral part of our urban areas and village cores have for quite some time been making way for the development of blocks of flats. These should be the first obvious open spaces which we should seek to protect if we are serious about the importance of open spaces. Such gardens have served as the lungs of our local communities for ages. They are in private ownership but they still contribute substantially to the wellbeing of our communities. This does not entail any expense. All it requires is a dose of consistency and plenty of goodwill.

Next on the protection list would be agricultural land which is being lost at an ever-accelerating rate. When agricultural land is not being engulfed by road-building or building development it is being taken up by those who want to transform it into BBQ or picnic land, as their private recreational hideout.  In the process they squeeze out farmers who have tilled the land for ages and contributed continuously to the national food production effort. Even this does not entail any expense. All it requires is properly functioning authorities, which we lack!

The urge for more open spaces is a longing to re-establish contacts with our roots, that is with nature. Nature has a role in every aspect of our life. We can only keep ignoring it at our peril. This would primarily signify that open spaces need to reintroduce nature into our localities and not introduce a number of token planters in concrete pots. Open spaces are about nature and not about the increased domination of our localities by concrete in whatever shape or form! Nor should they be used as parking spaces.

It has been emphasised that the current project of investing in open spaces aims to ensure that each and every one of us will have access to a public open space not more than ten minutes away from where he or she resides. This objective ties in with a current initiative in various European towns of developing a 15-minute city: that is a local community which is almost self-sufficient, all needs, or most of them being available not more than 15 minutes away. It is not just public open spaces which ought to be close by: all our basic needs should be within easy reach.

This would necessitate that we examine closely our urban fabric to realise that the small commercial outlets which have served our local communities for ages are heading towards extinction. They are being squeezed out of the market through the ever-increasing number of supermarkets and large commercial establishments.

The idea of ‘the 15-minute city’ initially put forward by Carlos Moreno, an architect advising the Paris mayor, but adopted by an ever-increasing number of cities entails turning current urban planning on its head to ensure that all our needs are available not more than 15 minutes away.

Carlos Moreno speaks of a social circularity for living in our urban spaces based on six essential functions: to live in good housing, to work close by, to reach supplies and services easily, to access education, healthcare and cultural entitlement locally by low-carbon means.

Can we reassess the nature and quality of our urban lifestyles within these parameters?

Small commercial outlets in our towns and villages require support as they are an essential help to make our communities vibrant: being of service and creating local employment in the process. Encouraging the local commercial outlets also reduces traffic at all times of the day as there will be less need to travel. It would also directly help in achieving that other objective of reducing cars from our roads.

Land use planning is for people. It is about time that this is put into practice. It is only within this context that the funding of community greening projects makes any sense.

published in The Independent on Sunday 29 January 2023

Iż-żiemel ta’ Trojja

Il-mitoloġija Griega tgħallimna ħafna: tajjeb li kultant nagħtu ftit każ. Waħda minn dawn it-tagħlimiet  hi dwar ir-rigali: kuntant dawn ikunu rigali finta għax, xi drabi, warajhom jinħbew motivi li xejn ma jkunu sbieħ!  Tagħlima partikolari toħroġ fl-Ilijade, ir-rakkont ta’ Omeru dwar il-gwerra ta’ Trojja, rakkuntata ukoll fl-Anejadi, kapulavur tal-poeta Ruman Virgilju. 

Virgilju jagħtina l-parir biex noqgħodu attenti mill-Griegi meta dawn b’ħafna ħlewwa jiġu joffru r-rigali. L-osservazzjoni ta’  Virgilju hi referenza għaż-żiemel ta’ Trojja, żiemel tal-injam li s-suldati Griegi ħallew barra s-swar tal-Belt assedjata ta’ Trojja.

Kif nafu, moħbija f’dan iż-żiemel/rigal kien hemm suldati armati Griegi li matul il-lejl, meta fi tmiem l-assedju ta’ Trojja iddaħħal fil-belt b’ċelbrazzjoni, issarraf f’ħerba għax minnu ħargu s-suldati armati.  Dan hu t-tifsira taż-żiemel ta’ Trojja!

In-nomina xi xhur ilu ta’ George Hyzler minn Robert Abela, għan-nom tal-Gvern, biex Hyzler ikun membru tal-Qorti Ewropeja tal-Awdituri hu rigal minn dawn. Bħaż-żiemel ta’ Trojja dan kien rigal li l-Opposizzjoni kellha toqgħod attentat minnu: kien intenzjonat li jkollu effetti oħra li mal-ewwel daqqa t’għajn ma jidhrux.

Kważi kulħadd jaqbel li George Hyzler ħadem sewwa bħala Kummissarju dwar l-iStandards fil-Ħajja Pubblika. Anke l-Gvern jaqbel! Tant qabel li offrielu promozzjoni: karrotta tad-deheb li kien diffiċli li jirrifjuta. Hyzler ingħata promozzjoni biex ikun jista’ jitwarrab minn fejn kien u riżultat ta’ hekk ikun hemm xewka inqas tiġri mas-saqajn. Fil-fehma tiegħi ma hemm l-ebda mod ieħor kif tista’ tinterpreta dak li ġara.  

In-nomina ta’ Hyzler bħala membru tal-Qorti Ewropeja tal-Awdituri hi parti mill-logħba ta’ manuvri politiċi ta’ Abela. Ħafna drabi jimmanuvra b’ta’ madwaru. Permezz tan-nomina ta’ Hyzler, imma, irnexxielu jpoġġi lill-Oppożizzjoni f’posizzjoni ta’ diffikultà li Bernard Grech ma rnexxielux jinduna biha minn kmieni u allura ma rnexxielux jevita.  

L-Oppożizzjoni messa ġibdet l-attenzjoni ta’ Hyzler li kien mistenni li hu jservi t-terminu kollu li għalih inħatar bħala Kummissarju għall-Istandards fil-Ħajja Pubblika. Fiċ-ċirkustanzi politiċi tal-lum Hyzler qatt ma messu aċċetta n-nomina bħala membru tal-Qorti Ewropeja tal-Awdituri. L-iskop tan-nomina messu kien ċar anke għal min għadu jibda fil-politika! Sfortunatament donnu li kulħadd induna x’kien qed jiġri, ħlief l-Opposizzjoni.

Dan hu l-kuntest għad-dibattitu parlamentari kurrenti dwar l-emendi proposti għall-liġi dwar l-iStandards fil-Ħajja Pubblika.

Uffiċjalment l-emendi proposti kellhom l-iskop li jħollu l-problema f’każ li ż-żewġ terzi ma jintlaħqux (anti-deadlock mechanism). Meta ż-żewġ terzi meħtieġa biex jinħatar il-Kummissarju għall-Istandards fil-Ħajja Pubblika ma jintlaħqux f’żewġ votazzjonijiet konsekuttivi,  b’ġimgħa bejniethom, hu propost li minn hemm il-quddiem tkun meħtieġa  maġġoranza sempliċi biss biex tkun approvata l-ħatra.

L-emendi proposti qed ifittxu li jeliminaw oġġettiv ewlieni tal-liġi eżistenti. Dan hu li, għalkemm il-Kummissarju tal-Istandards fil-Hajja Pubblika hu approvat mill-Parlament, hu għandu jgawdi ukoll il-fiduċja tal-Opposizzjoni.  (Jeżistu liġijiet oħra li jipprovdu posizzjoni ċentrali garantita għall-Opposizzjoni: fost dawn hemm il-Presidenza tal-Kumitat Parlamentari dwar il-Kontijiet Pubbliċi kif ukoll ir-rwol ta’ Deputat Speaker.)

Li l-persuna nominata tkun persuna ta’ integrità bħalma hu Joe Azzopardi l-Prim Imħallef Emeritu, mhux biżżejjed. Il-fatt li mhux aċċettabbli għall-Opposizzjoni hu minnu innifsu raġuni suffiċjenti u valida biex ma jkunx addattat għall-ħatra, sakemm hemm raġuni valida għal din l-opposizzjoni.  Ma hemmx ħtieġa li jkun nominat mill-Opposizzjoni, imma għandu jkun persuna aċċettabbli għaliha.

Il-Gvern qal li Bernard Grech l-ewwel qabel man-nomina u mbagħad bidel fehemtu. Anke kieku dan kien minnu, dan hu irrelevanti, għax il-persuna nominata għandha tkun aċċettabbli għall-Opposizzjoni kollha u mhux biss għall-Kap tal-Opposizzjoni. Il-Grupp Parlamentari għandu kull dritt li ma jaqbilx mal-Kap tiegħu kull meta jħoss il-ħtieġa għal dan. F’partiti politiċi demokratiċi, din mhiex xi ħaġa rari li issir.

L-iskop kollu li l-ħatra tikseb l-approvazzjoni ta’ żewġ terzi hu li jinħoloq l-iktar kunsens wiesa’ possibli meta jinħatar Kummissarju għall-iStandards fil-Ħajja Pubblika. Li titneħħa din il-ħtieġa għall-kunsens iwassal biex ikun imminat il-proċess kollu.

Riżultat tal-ħtieġa ta’ żewġ terzi biex tkun approvata l-ħatra, l-Opposizzjoni m’għandiex biss is-saħħa li tkun determinanti fid-deċiżjoni: għandha ukoll l-obbligu li taġixxi b’mod responsabbli. Jiġifieri għandha l-obbligu li iġgib il-quddiem raġunijiet validi biex issostni l-posizzjoni tagħha.  Anke l-Opposizzjoni hi soġġetta għall-kontabilità.

Id-dibattitu parlamentari sadanittant qed idur mal-lewża. L-Gvern irid jikkontrolla l-proċess kollu waħdu. Dan minkejja li diġa fil-prattika jikkontrolla d-deċiżjoni finali dwar kull investigazzjoni: kemm riżultat tal-maġġoranza parlamentari kif ukoll in vista tal-komposizzjoni tal-Kumitat Parlamentari dwar l-iStandards fil-Ħajja Pubblika. Il-Partit Laburista fil-Gvern  donnu ddeċieda li m’għadux essenzjali li min jinħatar tkun persuna aċċettabbli għall-Opposizzjoni Parlamentari. Il-ħtieġa li jkun hemm kunsens qiegħed jitwarrab. Dan jimmina  l-integrità tal-proċess kollu li bih huma regolati l-iStandards fil-Ħajja Pubblika.  L-Opposizzjoni, s’issa, għadha ma spjegatx  il-għala qed topponi n-nomina tal-ħatra tal-Prim Imħallef Emeritu Joe Azzopardi. Għandha obbligu politiku li dan tagħmlu.

Kemm il-Partit Laburista kif ukoll il-PN ħadu posizzjoni intransiġenti: jew kif ngħid jien, inkella insa kollox, qed jgħidu. Flimkien qed iżarmaw dak li ħa ħafna żmien biex inbena.

Dan hu li kapaċi tagħtina sistema Parlamentari ta’ żewġ partiti!

ippubblikat fuq Illum: 22 ta’ Jannar 2023

The Trojan gift

photo:The Procession of the Trojan horse into Troy: Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo(1727-1804)

Greek mythology conveys a multitude of lessons which we could do well to ponder on. One of them refers to gifts that mask a hidden, and generally destructive, agenda. One such lesson results from the account of the Trojan war in Homer’s Iliad and its retelling in Virgil’s masterpiece Aeneid.

Virgil advises us that we should beware of Greeks bearing gifts. Virgil’s observation is with reference to the “gift” of a wooden horse left by the Greek warriors outside the walls of the besieged city of Troy! As we know the actual hidden element attached to the Greek gift was the armed soldiers hidden within the wooden horse!

The Trojan horse was pulled within the city of Troy as part of the celebrations for the lifting of the city’s siege. When the celebrations had subsided, during the night, out came the surprise from within the wooden horse, armed Greek soldiers which devastated the city. This is the proverbial Trojan horse!

The nomination by Robert Abela of George Hyzler some months ago as a member of the European Court of Auditors is precisely one such gift of the Labour leader to the Opposition.

Most would agree that George Hyzler performed well as Commissioner for Standards in Public Life. Even government shares this view. As a result, it has gone out of its way to offer him a gilded carrot which he could not easily refuse. Hyzler was kicked upstairs as a result of his performance. In my opinion there is no other realistic way of interpreting the nomination.

Hyzler’s nomination to the European Court of Auditors is part of the Abela chess game of political manoeuvring. Generally, he moves about Labour pawns along the political chessboard. Through Hyzler’s nomination he has also succeeded in placing the Opposition in an awkward corner which, so far, Bernard Grech has proved to be incapable of avoiding.

The Opposition should have advised Hyzler that he ought to serve his full term as Commissioner for Standards in Public Life. Given the prevailing political circumstances, Hyzler should have never accepted the nomination to the European Court of Auditors. Its Trojan purpose should have been clear enough even to the most junior of political novices. Unfortunately, everyone was aware of this except, apparently, the Opposition, which was once more outmanoeuvred by Labour.

This is the essential and basic background to the current parliamentary debate on the proposed amendments to the legislation relative to the regulation of Standards in Public Life.

Officially the proposed amendments seek to introduce an anti-deadlock mechanism. Whenever the two-thirds majority required to approve the appointment of a Standards in Public Life Commissioner is not attained in two consecutive ballots, a week apart, it is being proposed that thereafter, the required threshold would be reduced to that of a simple majority.

The proposed amendments seek to eliminate a basic objective of the existing legislation, this being that the Standards Commissioner, though approved by Parliament, must enjoy the confidence of the Parliamentary Opposition. (Our laws provide other instances where the Opposition is guaranteed a central role: the Chairmanship of the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee and the role of Deputy Speaker come to mind.)

Having a nominee of integrity, such as former Chief Justice Joseph Azzopardi, is not sufficient. The fact that he is not acceptable to the Opposition is in itself a sufficient (and valid) reason justifying his non-suitability to the post, provided a valid reason for such an objection exists. It is not required that the person be an Opposition nominee: he or she should however be a person whom the Opposition accepts.

The point made by government that Bernard Grech first accepted the nomination and then changed his view, even if correct, is irrelevant, as the proposed candidate needs to be acceptable to the Opposition as a whole and not just to its Leader. His Parliamentary Group is within its rights in over-ruling him whenever it considers that this is necessary. This is not a rare occurrence in democratic political parties!

The whole purpose of the two-thirds requirement is to have as wide a consensus as possible when appointing a Commissioner for Standards in Public Life. Removal of the broad consensus requirement undermines the whole process.

As a result of the two-thirds requirement the Opposition does not just have a major determining say: it also has the duty to act in a responsible manner. It must as a consequence have valid reasons justifying its decision. Even the Opposition is accountable.

The parliamentary debate is currently going round in circles. Government wants to control the whole process on its own. It already enjoys the final say on deciding on each and every investigation, through its parliamentary majority as well as a direct result of the composition of the parliamentary committee on Standards in Public Life. Labour has apparently decided that it is no longer essential to ensure that the eventual appointee is acceptable to the Parliamentary Opposition. It has decided to discard the consensus requirement. This will undermine the integrity of the oversight required on the regulation of Standards in Public Life. The Opposition, has, so far, not explained why it is opposing the nomination of former Chief Justice Joseph Azzopardi.

Both Labour and the PN have taken an intransigent position: my way or no way. Together they are demolishing what has been slowly developed over the years. This is what a two party system is capable of producing!

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday: 22 January 2023

Impjant nuklejari fi Sqallija?

Matul il-kampanja elettorali riċenti tal-2022, fl-Italja, fid-dibattitu politiku, reġgħet infetħet id-diskussjoni dwar il-ġenerazzjoni tal-enerġija nuklejari.

Matteo Salvini, presentement Ministru għall-Infrastruttura u t-Transport, apparti li hu ukoll Deputat Prim Ministru fil-Gvern ta’ koalizzjoni Taljan, emfasizza, li, fl-isfond tal-kriżi enerġetika kurrenti l-Italja għandha tikkunsidra mill-ġdid il-politika tagħha dwar l-impjanti nuklejari.

Il-votanti Taljani darbtejn esprimew ruħhom b’mod ċar dwar ir-rejatturi nuklejari fuq art Taljana. L-aħħar darba li għamlu dan kien f’referendum li sar f’Ġunju 2011, ftit wara d-diżastru nuklejari li seħħ f’Fukushima l-Ġappun f’Marzu 2011. Dakinnhar, 94 fil-mija ta’ dawk li vvutaw għażlu projibizzjoni totali ta’ kostruzzjoni ta’ impjanti nuklejari fl-Italja.

Il-kriżi kurrenti tal-enerġija qed isservi ta’ pressjoni fuq kulħadd biex jinstabu sorsi alternattivi ta’ enerġija bi prezz li nifilħuħ. L-enerġija nuklejari hemm marbuta magħha spejjes moħbija li rari ħafna jittieħdu in konsiderazzjoni kull meta l-materja tkun soġġett ta’ dibattitu politiku: l-iskart nuklejari ġġenerat kif ukoll ir-riskji inerenti, marbuta ma’ ħsara jew funzjonament ħażin  tal-impjanti nuklejari.  L-impatt tal-inċidenti nuklejari fi Three Mile Island (Pennsylvania Stati Uniti – 28 ta’ Marzu 1979), Chernobyl (Ukrajina – 26 t’April 1986) u Fukushima (Ġappun – 11 ta’ Marzu 2011) huma xhieda biżżejjed tal-konsegwenzi li jista’ jkollna niffaċċjaw meta tkun ikkunsidrata l-għażla ta’ enerġija nuklejari.

Il-mod kif niddisponu mill-iskart nuklejari hu suġġett għal dibattitu kontinwu fuq livell globali. L-ispiża biex dan isir hi waħda sostanzjali, u dan b’referenza kemm għall-ispiża ambjentali kif ukoll għal dik finanzjarja.  Fil-passat riċenti, viċin tagħna, l- eko-mafja irmiet kull xorta ta’ skart, inkluż skart nuklejari, fil-Baħar Mediterranean. Dan għamlitu fi 42 vapur differenti, kollha mgħarrqa f’partijiet differenti tal-Mediterran. Il-kaz speċifiku tal-vapur Kunsky mgħarraq ftit il-barra mill-kosta tal-Kalabrija, kien ġie żvelat mill-pentiti tal- ‘Ndrangheta/Camorra, Francesco Fonti u Carmine Schiavone, snin ilu fix-xhieda tagħhom lill-awtoritajiet Taljani.

Bosta mir-riskji tekniċi tal-impjanti nuklejari illum il-ġurnata kważi nstab tarf tagħhom u dan minħabba l-avvanżi kontinwi fit-teknoloġija. Hemm iżda eċċezzjoni waħda! Kif ġie żvelat bħala riżultat tad-diżastru ta’ Fukushima, il-forzi naturali jibqgħu kontinwament bit-tmun f’idejhom!  F’Fukushima, għal darba oħra ġie ikkonfermat li r-riskji marbuta mat-terrimoti mhux la kemm insibu tarf tagħhom! Dan kollu  għandu relevanza kbira għad-dibattitu dwar il-kostruzzjoni ta’ impjanti nuklejari wara biebna, f’teritorju Taljan.

Fl-2011 l-awtoritajiet Taljani kienu indikaw li s-sit fi Sqallija li probabbilment jintuża biex fuqu jinbena impjant nuklejari qiegħed mal-kosta tan-nofsinnhar ħdejn il-lokalità ta’ Palma di Montechiaro. Dan ikun madwar 100 kilometru fil-Majjistral ta’ Għawdex.

Kif nafu, Sqallija hi zona fejn it-terrimoti huma frekwenti. Apparti t-terrimoti frekwenti “żgħar” li  nisimgħu dwarhom u li xi kultant nindunaw bihom matul is-sena, fi Sqallija seħħew tnejn mill-agħar terrimoti li qatt laqgħtu lill-Ewropa. Fl-1693 terrimot fix-Xlokk ta’ Sqallija kellu qawwa ta’ 7.4 filwaqt li f’Messina fl-1908 terrimot ieħor laħaq qawwa ta’ 7.1 fuq l-iskala Mercalli. Dawn iż-żewġ terrimoti ħolqu ħerba u wasslu għat-telfien ta’ bosta ħajjiet. L-infrastruttura ukoll sofriet danni kbar!

Id-deċiżjoni dwar jekk il-Gvern Taljan jerġax jipprova jmur lejn in-nuklejari biex jiġġenera l-elettriku fl-Italja mhux ser tittieħed f’data fil-qrib. Imma, meta jibdew jinġabru l-firem għal referendum fuq is-suġġett ma tantx ikun baqa’ żmien biex għal darba’oħra nqiesu sewwa x’nistgħu nagħmlu.

F’Malta, l-interess tagħna hu dwar l-impatt  fuqna ta’ impjant nuklejari mal-kosta ta’ Sqallija viċin ta’ Palma di Montechiaro f’kaz li dan l-impjant jiżviluppa l-ħsara jew għal xi raġuni jibda jaħdem b’mod erratiku.  

Tajjeb li nżommu f’moħħna li minħabba l-emissjonijiet radjuattivi riżultat tad-diżastru ta’ Fukushima kellha sseħħ evakwazzjoni sħiħa f’distanza ta’ 200 kilometru mill-impjant nuklejari. Għawdex, kif tafu, hu inqas minn 100 kilometru mill-kosta ta’ Sqallija. Daqshekk huma ċari l-konsegwenzi għalina ta’ impjant nuklejari mal-kosta ta’ Sqallija!

ippubblikat fuq Illum: 15 ta’ Jannar 2023

A nuclear reactor in Sicily?

During the recent 2022 electoral campaign, the issue of nuclear energy in neighbouring Italy has resurfaced in the political debate.

Matteo Salvini, currently Minister for the Infrastructure and Transport, in addition to being Deputy Prime Minister of the ruling Italian coalition government, is on record as emphasising that, given the current energy crisis, he considers that it would be expedient to resurrect the nuclear proposal.

Italian voters have expressed themselves clearly on the matter twice. The last time was in a referendum in June 2011 in the aftermath of the Fukushima March 2011 nuclear disaster. Then, 94 per cent of those voting, opted in favour of a total ban on the construction of nuclear reactors on Italian soil.

The current energy crisis is pressuring all to find alternative energy supplies at affordable cost. Nuclear energy, however, comes with two hidden costs which are rarely ever factored into the costings presented for public debate: the disposal of nuclear waste and the inherent risks linked to the failure of the nuclear plants. The impacts of the nuclear accidents at Three Mile Island (Pennsylvania USA – 28 March 1979), Chernobyl (Ukraine – 26 April 1986) and Fukushima (Japan – 11 March 2011) are clear enough testimony of what is at stake, when considering the option of nuclear energy.

The disposal of nuclear waste is the subject of an ongoing debate all over the world. It is costly both environmentally as well as financially. In the recent past, closer to home, the eco-mafia dumped various types of waste including nuclear waste in the Mediterranean Sea in 42 different ships sunk in different parts of the Mediterranean. The specific case of the sunken ship Kunsky off the Calabrian coast was revealed by ‘Ndrangheta/Camorra turncoats Francesco Fonti and Carmine Schiavone many years ago in their testimony to the Italian authorities.

Most of the technical risks of nuclear plants have become more manageable with the technical developments over the years. There is however one exception! As revealed by the Fukushima disaster, natural forces are not always predictable. In Fukushima the risks resulting from earthquakes in the end proved once more to be unmanageable. This is of extreme relevance to the debate on the possible eventual siting of nuclear reactors on the Italian mainland.

The site which in 2011 was indicated by the Italian authorities as the most probable candidate to host a nuclear reactor in Sicily was along the southern coastline in the vicinity of Palma de Montechiaro. That would be less than 100 kilometres to the North West of Gozo.

As we are aware Sicily is an earthquake prone zone. In addition to the multitude of small earthquakes we hear about and occasionally are aware of throughout the year, the Sicilian mainland was exposed to the two most intensive earthquakes ever to hit the European mainland. The 1693 earthquake centred in South East Sicily had a magnitude of 7.4 while the Messina 1908 earthquake had a magnitude of 7.1 on the Mercalli scale. Both created havoc and had a high cost in human life! In addition, the physical infrastructure was in shambles.

A decision on whether the Italian government will once more attempt to consider the generation of nuclear energy on Italian soil is not due anytime soon. However, once the collection of signatures for a referendum on the matter gathers steam it will only be a question of time when we will have to consider facing the music one more time.

Our interest in Malta is in the transboundary impacts generated from a nuclear reactor sited along the southern Sicilian coast close to Palma di Montechiaro, should the proposed nuclear reactor malfunction.

It would be pertinent to keep in mind that the radioactivity emitted as a result of the Fukushima disaster led to a complete evacuation within a 200 km radius of the nuclear plant. Gozo being less than 100 km away from the Sicilian mainland should trigger the alarm bells of one and all as to what is ultimately at stake.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday: 15 January 2023