Spring Hunting Referendum (3) What is an abrogative referendum?


An abrogative referendum is one which cancels a specific piece of legislation. It could be a law or a set of regulations. Both are examples of legislation.

However not all legislation can be subjected to a referendum. The Constitution (including its provisions on human rights), fiscal legislation (including laws on taxation), The European Convention Act, and laws implementing international treaties are examples of laws which cannot be subjected to an abrogative referendum in Malta.

Legal Notice 210 of 2010 has been identified by the Coalition as the ideal candidate for the abrogative referendum. It is entitled: Framework for allowing a derogation opening a Spring Hunting Season for Turtledove and Quail Regulations.

These regulations establish the parameters within which the Maltese State permits Spring Hunting.

Your vote will consign these regulations to history.

Spring Hunting Referendum (2) collecting the signatures


Not less than 34,000 signatures need to be collected.

The organisations forming part of the Coalition to Abolish Spring Hunting are currently organising their teams to commence the collection of the signatures.

Some have already commenced.

Your help would be appreciated.

Contact Alternattiva Demokratika, Birdlife Malta, Coalition for Animal Rights, Din l-Art Helwa, Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar, Friends of the Earth Malta, Gaia Foundation, Moviment Graffiti, Greenhouse Malta, Nature Trust (Malta) and the Ramblers Association of Malta. Your help will make a difference.

Spring Hunting Referendum (1) signing the petition

hunting in Malta 02

The signature collection is in hand, organised by the organisations forming part of the Coalition, that is to say Alternattiva Demokratika, Birdlife Malta, Coalition for Animal Rights, Din l-Art Helwa, Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar, Friends of the Earth Malta, Gaia Foundation, Moviment Graffiti, Greenhouse Malta, Nature Trust (Malta) and the Ramblers Association of Malta.

If you have any difficulty in contacting any one of these organisations contact the Coalition on cashmalta2013@gmail.com and you will be put in touch with the appropriate persons.

Alternattiva Demokratika Position Paper on Reform in Drug Policy


Paper Presented to the Justice Reform Commission by Robert Callus

AD Spokesman on Social Policy

All countries in the world use a combination of 4 measures to tackle the even increasing drug problem. These are: Prevention, treatment, harm reduction and punishment.

Unfortunately most countries (including Malta) have so far focused too much on punishment at the expense of the other three. The biggest problem with punishing drug users is not only that it uses financial and human resources that could have been used for the other three measures but also that it directly interferes in their success rate.

The Portuguese model is so successful mostly for this reason. Hard drug use, crime and transmitted diseases would not have significantly decreased if it just decriminalized personal use (remove punishment.) What Portugal did was take this opportunity to strengthen the other three more successful measures in combating this problem.


Most drug users start at a young age, mostly in their early and mid-teens.

There is a surmounting amount of research on why some young people take drugs (and/or become addicted on them) and some don’t. For instance self esteem, vulnerability to peer pressure, stability in the family are the most common of variables that indicate whether a person is at more risk than others.

However, as simple as this may seem, there is one common reason that comes out clear from  any research available or even from a short conversation with a drug user: These people use drugs because they believe they need them. (The only possible exception to this rule of thumb is in the case of people who have used drugs occasionally due to peer pressure only. However these people are the least likely to become drug addicts and one should be more concerned about the rest)

Be it to overcome shyness, depression, anxiety, or tiredness, drug users – especially the ones who go on to become addicts – feel, at that point in time that the pros of overcoming that negative feeling are higher than the cons of using the drugs.

On the other hand, as is made clear in the Global Commission Report on Drug Policy, http://www.globalcommissionondrugs.org/reports/ fear of the law (unlike fear of addiction) is not a common deterrent for young people not to take drugs.

Thus in order to prevent as many people as possible from commencing drug use society needs to focus on our children’s coping mechanisms because if that fails, they
are very likely to try to cope with drugs, irrespective of whether they legal or not.


According to Hazelden’s drug treatment organization  www.hazelden.org   (whose extensive work on the 12 step model is widely used with very successful results today including in our own OASI rehabilitation centre), drug addiction is a disease and should be treated as a disease by policy makers.

And like HIV or cancer won’t go away if you threaten the afflicted with punishment, neither will drug addiction.

Thus, our first goal is to get as many addicts as possible realize that they actually need to be treated. Once again this is what Portugal managed to do with successful results.

Since decriminalization, if a person is caught with drugs for personal use in Portugal, all he is obliged to do is one thing: Be interviewed by a Commission for the Dissuasion of Drug Addiction which consists of a social worker, a psychiatrist and an attorney. Though the Commission does have limited powers (including giving a fine of up to 150 Euro if a person refuses treatment) its main aim is to give advice and if need be invite people to seek further help. http://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/drug-decriminalization-policy-pays

The rationale behind this is that while society has literally “lost” every person arrested for drug possession by placing him on the wrong side of the law, through this system, a substantial amount of these people realize that they do need help and that society is offering it.

Instead of burning bridges with drug addicts, it works on building them.

Once again, the increase in demand for treatment services, is financed by money that would have otherwise been spent on prosecuting drug addicts.

Harm Reduction

Some addicts, either just can’t quit (once again this depends on numerous variables such as age of onset of drug use, social support networks, childhood traumas etc) or do not consider it the right time to do so.

While complete abstinence should always be the ideal to be reached, the concept of harm reduction is that “if you’re still going to use, at least do it in the least harmful manner, for yourself and others”.

Malta already practices harm reduction such as through free syringe distribution and methadone maintenance programmes.

More could be done especially if more resources are allocated. The possibility of prescribed heroin for long-term addicts as practiced in the UK and Switzerland should also be explored (the substances added to street heroin are usually more harmful than the heroin itself).

Aside from the financial aspect, criminalizing drug addicts is also working against harm reduction in a psychological sense. If that same society that’s telling you that you’re a criminal and should be punished is the same one telling you on the need for clean syringes or that many diseases can be also transmitted from the spoon (on which the heroin is cooked) apart from the syringe, you’re less likely to take that advice.


I hope that in this brief position paper I have provided enough arguments to show we need to move towards a more humane policy towards drug use and addiction. Not only because it’s morally the right thing to do but also because it is more successful.

We should not fool ourselves that the day will come when we win the war on drugs. Drugs are here to stay. But if we do move away from a more populist policy that may provide a feel good factor by temporarily removing people from the streets to behind bars but has so miserably failed, towards one that an abundant amount of research shows to actually reduce drug addiction and the problems they create we can make a significant step forward in tackling this serious and escalating problem.

26 July 2013

The solidarity challenge

New Deal for Somalia

The boats and dinghies departing from the Libyan coast are a stiff challenge to the solidarity which Malta has traditionally  shown towards all those who required it.

The departures from the Libyan coast are controlled by criminal gangs who are cashing in on the suffering of men, women and children fleeing  from their countries for a multitude of reasons, seeking a better quality of life and fleeing persecution.

The boats and dinghies represent their future hopes. For some it has meant death. Battered by the rough seas some make it to their destination, the Italian mainland. Others end up on our shores.

The number of arrivals is on the rise. There is a limit to what this country can take. But the limit is a physical one as the duty to put solidarity in practice has no limits.

Malta always offered practical solidarity to those in distress as we have always felt that it is our duty to uphold the dignity of all human beings irrespective of their country of origin or race. Offering hospitality is not and should never be conditional on whether others help us in shouldering our responsibilities. We do it as a nation because it is the right thing to do.

There is so much more that Malta could do if we are assisted by our EU partners. So far there has been substantial assistance in monetary terms. This has been utilised to improve Malta’s rescue capabilities as well as in providing decent places where immigrants are housed. But this is certainly not enough.

There has been talk of looking towards the South.  Last Monday Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has also been involved in talks with the Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta as the challenge we face is not just ours, it is a regional one.

The involvement of Libya is not without its problems. Libya, as also emphasisied by Prime Minister Letta on Monday, is not yet a signatory of the Geneva Convention  on the status of refugees. Human Rights, in addition, are not an area with which the Libyan state is familiar yet. Having secure Libyan borders just shifts the problem from the Mediterranean to Libyan soil.

The real solution lies much further south then Libya. It lies in the countries of origin of the boat people whom Malta and Italy have saved from the perils of the sea. Some are Somali, others are from Ethiopia, Eritreia or other countries.

65% of the 1890  boat people arriving in Malta in 2012 were Somali.

The European Union is in fact already acting in this direction. In collaboration with the government of Somalia the EU will shortly be convening an international conference to endorse a New Deal with Somalia that aims to develop a set of key priorities and support the reconstruction of Somalia over the next three years. It is the way that the international community makes good on its promises of support to the Somali people. The healing of the scars resulting from a long civil war takes considerable time.

Through the New Deal for Somalia the EU is assisting the reconstruction of Somalia, an essential prerequisite in creating the infrastructure which is necessary to ensure that all Somali citizens are protected and can partake of an adequate quality of life in their own country. Once the reconstruction of Somalia with EU assistance is in place there will be no further reason for large numbers of Somalis to flee their own country. Some will undoubtedly want to consider returning to take part in the transformation of Somalia, getting it ready to participate as an equal partner in the international family of nations.

Helping Somalia to help herself. This is EU solidarity at its best.

The EU has already helped in training Somali soldiers. It has also invested heavily in maritime security off the Somali coast contributing to a substantial reduction of piracy which has been of international concern for years.

The next steps will necessitate Somalia doing a deal with its global partners to clear its huge financial arrears and put in place international aid programmes to help establish the Somali government’s legitimacy.

The EU has been looking at long term solutions. Unfortunately it did not give sufficient attention to the short term problems which primarily Malta and Italy have been facing. The human suffering generated needs to be addressed immediately.

Malta and Italy should not be left on their own to manage  the impacts which have been generated by migration.  A common strategy to manage the extreme pressures caused by the seasonal increase in the arrival of asylum seekers in Southern Europe is essential  until such time that the long term measures which the EU has initiated in Somalia have the desired effect.

This is the solidarity challenge which the EU is facing. And the EU is not them. It is us as well.

Published in The Times of Malta, 20 July 2013 

One size fits all


I have heard from reliable sources that government through MEPA is considering doing away with all seven Local Plans and substituting them with just three.

The Local Plans currently in effect are the following : Marsaxlokk Bay (1995), Grand Harbour (2002), North West (2006), Central Malta (2006), North Harbour (2006), South Malta (2006),  Gozo and Comino (2006).

The Structure Plan had envisaged the preparation of 24 Local Plans as well as Plans covering Rural Conservation Areas.

The Local Plans mentioned in the Structure Plan were the following :

1. Valletta/Floriana

2. The Three Cities of Vittoriosa, Senglea, and Cospicua

3. Sliema, Gzira, and Ta’ Xbiex

4. St. Julians, San Gwann, and Pembroke

5. Msida, Pieta, and Gwardamangia

6. Marsa, Qormi, Hamrun, and Santa Venera

7. Birkirkara and the Three Villages of Lija, Balzan, and Attard

8. Paola, Tarxien, and Santa Lucia

9. Kalkara, Rinella, and Xghajra

10. Zabbar and Fgura

11. Luqa, Gudja, Ghaxaq, Mqabba, Kirkop, and Qrendi

12. Marsaxlokk Bay and its vicinity including Marsaxlokk and Birzebbugia

13. Zejtun, Marsascala, and St. Thomas Bay

14. Zurrieq and Safi

15. Siggiewi and Zebbug

16. Rabat, Mdina, and Dingli

17. Mosta, Naxxar, Gharghur, and Burmarrad

18. St. Paul’s Bay, Bugibba, Qawra, and Mellieha

19. Victoria and Fontana

20. Qala, Ghajnsielem, and Mgarr

21. Xaghra and Nadur

22. Xewkija and Sannat

23. Kercem, San Lawrenz, Munxar, and Xlendi

24. Gharb, Ghasri, Zebbug, and Marsalforn

It is clear that the proposal in the Structure Plan, which was not adhered to, intended the micro-managing of development through having the proposed Local Plans focusing on a relatively small area. The resulting policies would have been site specific and not of a general nature. Unfortunately this was not done as the only Local Plan which covers a small area is that related to Marsaxlokk Bay.

It defeats the purpose for which Local Plans are intended if they cover a large area.  By their very nature Local Plans are intended to cover a small area and consequently to address the potential development in such areas through appropriate policies which may need to be and generally are specific to the area. The policies adopted for one area are not necessarily applicable to another. Hence the need for “local” plans

The revision of the Local Plans is the ideal opportunity to get things done right.

But will they?

When to resign

Ombudsman. Joseph Said Pullicino

Jean-Claude Juncker Prime Minister of Luxembourg has just submitted his resignation after accepting political responsibility for a spying scandal.

In Malta Magistrate Francesco Depasquale ruled that the Ombudsman was not right to claim immunity when his statement on Judge Lino Farrugia Sacco was subjected to libel proceedings. Moreover, ruled the Magistrate, the Ombudsman was not even authorised in terms of law to comment on the judiciary.

Would it be right if the Ombudsman Dr Joseph Said Pullicino resigns? I think that it would be the decent thing to do.

Looking towards the South

map. central mediterranean

The Prime Minister’s declaration that he is looking towards the South searching for a solution to the immigration problem is a very valid proposition. Emphasising that Libya should be looked at as being part of the solution is welcome news.

Understandably Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has not put his cards on the table yet, except to announce that he will be meeting with Prime Minister Enrico Letta of Italy on Monday.

Whilst looking forward to a tri-partite solution may I point out that Libya’s signing of the Geneva Convention of 1951 on the status of refugees would be a positive step forward.

L-interess nazzjonali hu li nwaqqgħu l-ħitan



Għandna bżonn inwaqqgħu l-ħitan li jifirduna u nibnu l-pontijiet.

L-iktar materja ovvja u ċara fejn dan hu meħtieġ illum hu dwar l-immigrazzjoni. Diġa hi problema kbira u ilha hekk għal diversi snin. Mhux biss ser tibqa’ iżda wisq nibża’ li ser issir problema ikbar milli hi illum.

In-nuqqas ta’ qbil huwa jekk għandiex dritt li nibgħatu lill-immigranti lura. Punt li jidher li ġie riżolt meta l-Gvern Laburista aċċetta l-ordni tal-Qorti Ewropeja tad-Drittijiet tal-Bniedem fi Strasbourg.

Jekk nitilqu minn dan il-punt u li dwaru issa naqblu lkoll ma naħsibx li baqa’ differenzi għax jidher li ilkoll naqblu fuq diversi affarijiet.

Naqblu li Malta hi vulnerabbli minħabba l-posizzjoni ġeografika tagħha.

Naqblu li m’għandniex riżorsi biex nilqgħu biżżejjed għall-impatti ta’ mewġa kontinwa ta’ immigrazzjoni mil-Libja, mhux biss kif inhi, iżda iktar u iktar jekk tiżdied.

Naqblu li l-għajnuna li ġiet mill-Unjoni Ewropeja matul is-snin, għalkemm m’hiex żgħira, m’hiex biżżejjed u li hemm ħtieġa li tiżdied biex tkun solidarjeta iktar effettiva u li tinħass verament li hi hekk.

Naqblu li wieħed mill-modi l-iktar effettivi ta’ għajnuna li neħtieġu hi li iktar pajjiżi mill-Unjoni Ewropeja jerfgħu l-piż magħna – responsibility sharing – billi jilqgħu f’pajjiżhom numru ikbar milli għamlu sal-lum tal-immigranti li jiġu f’pajjiżna.

Naħseb li naqblu ukoll li l-għajnuna li tista’ tagħti l-Unjoni Ewropeja lill-pajjiżi minn fejn qed joriġinaw l-immigranti tkun l-iktar għajnuna li tħalli effetti fit-tul għax tindirizza l-problema at source.

Nittama li nifhmu li dan kollu ma jiddependix biss mill-kapaċita tal-Gvern li jinnegozja ftehim tajjeb. Jiddependi ukoll mill-pressjonijiet soċjali fis-27 pajjiżi oħra li flimkien magħna jiffurmaw l-Unjoni Ewropeja. Għax l-Unjoni Ewropeja mhix dik jew dawk, hi aħna ukoll.

Nafu li f’diversi pajjiżi tal-Unjoni Ewropeja, anke’ dawk b’politika żviluppata tul is-snin li tilqa’ b’idejha miftuħa r-refuġjati ta’ kull nazzjon u kulur hemm problemi mhux żgħar.  F’uħud minn dawn il-pajjiżi hemm ukoll partiti politiċi li għandhom bħala skop ewlieni tagħhom it-tixrid tal-mibgħeda razzjali.

Għalkemm sforz tal-irjus sħan qed tingħata stampa ħażina tal-qagħda f’Malta nemmen li l-mibgħeda razzjali f’Malta m’għandhiex egħruq fondi.  Il-partiti politiċi għandna l-obbligu li ma nħallux dawn l-egħruq jissaħħu.

Għalhekk li issa iktar minn qatt qabel hu meħtieg li nwaqqgħu l-ħitan u nibnu l-pontijiet. Hemm ħafna oqsma ta’ qbil. Fuqhom nistgħu  nibnu flimkien strateġija nazzjonali dwar l-immigrazzjoni. Pontijiet li jinbnew bid-djalogu u li jwasslu għal kooperazzjoni wiesa’.

Dan hu l-interess nazzjonali.