Open Government : A Green Choice

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Open government : A Green choice

Saturday’s election will determine the composition of Parliament and subsequently a government which enjoys the confidence of the elected MPs who will be entrusted with overseeing the workings of government and ensuring its accountability.Since 1966, members of Parliament in Malta have belonged to just two political parties. The only exception resulted from the expulsion of Wenzu Mintoff from the MLP Parliamentary Group in the late 1980s, which led to the formation of Alternattiva Demokratika – the Green party in Malta.In my view, MPs on the government side have throughout the years had considerable difficulty in holding their colleagues to account for the simple reason that loyalty to party assumed priority over loyalty to country. If this were not so Parliament would have forced the hand of many a Prime Minister over the past 42 years.The Maltese Greens are once more proposing three initiatives which will lay the foundations for an open government in Malta thereby making it easier for Parliament to act and hold the government continuously to account. These are the introduction of a Freedom of Information Act, a Whistleblowers Act and legislation to regulate the financing of political parties. (Prior to implementing these proposals, a reform of Mepa cannot be carried out adequately.)Other parties have also taken up these proposals. This is more than welcome as it may eventually be part of the policy overlap on the basis of which a coalition agreement can be negotiated next week when the first Green MPs make it to Malta’s Parliament.As a general rule, information on the activities of the state and its organs should be freely available. Active disclosure of information without awaiting a demand for its release should be the norm. Exceptions should be limited and well defined. These would include matters impinging on the security of the state and the privacy of individual citizens. Accountability of the government towards Parliament as well as towards the electorate can only be ensured if information on its activities flows immediately, freely and constantly.

The enactment of a Whistleblower Act will ensure that “the conspiracy of silence” which shores up pockets of irregular activity, mismanagement, corruption as well as general abuse of authority is spotlighted through the granting of immunity from criminal and civil action to those who reveal information that would otherwise remain secret.

Regulating the funding of political parties would ensure that reasonable donations would be registered and made public whilst substantial donations (even under the guise of loans as the recent Blair experience in the UK has indicated) would be outlawed. This would reduce the possibility that donors would pay their way through thereby enriching themselves at the taxpayers’ expense.

One-party government has failed to introduce these measures and thereby has done this country a disservice. Election of the first Green MPs on Saturday will reverse this and lay the foundations for an open government.

It is the only realistic choice. It is available if you vote for it on Saturday.

Mr Cacopardo will be contesting Saturday’s general election on a Green ticket on the third and 11th electoral districts.

cacopardocarm@euroweb.net.mt

This article is published in The Times today Thursday 6th March 2008

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