Human Rights are not disposables

foam_disposables_cups

Human Rights are an essential cornerstone of democratic society. They are an integral and indispensable element of our democratic landscape. They are not disposable. We cannot do without them.

Being a savage blow struck against human rights, Joseph Muscat’s pushback of immigrants to Libya hence strikes at the very core of our democratic credentials.

During Malta’s short 50 year history as a democratic state we have had more than our fair share of political bullies who considered that human rights were shackling their political manoeuvres. We surely do not need any more.

The migration problem is certainly much greater than Malta can possibly handle on its own. Financial assistance from the EU has always been welcome but this can only be a small part of the solution. There are other  essential elements which have to be tackled.

Many EU member states have been reluctant to assist in the resettlement of these refugees. The EU institutions have not been forceful enough in translating solidarity declarations into practical initiatives. Pilot projects, now discontinued, are certainly not enough.

The root causes of the displacement of hundreds of thousands must be appropriately addressed. These include political instability, dictatorial governments and Climate Change impacts. The EU, on its own as well as in conjunction with regional and global institutions could do much more than has been done to date.

On a local level we need to move on from rhetoric to practical political action to tackle this issue of national importance. There is room for close political cooperation between the three political parties. This however must be based on an unconditional respect of human rights. It is the only way to combat the spectre of racism in Malta.

Common sense, solidarity and an end to the culture of indifference should be the foundation stones of a national strategy on immigration. It is the only way forward.

Jum iswed għal Malta

black_page

Il-bieraħ kien jum iswed għal Malta. Il-bieraħ il-Gvern immexxi minn Joseph Muscat wera li d-drittijiet tal-bniedem għalih huma materja sekondarja. Il-push-back tal-immigranti lura lejn il-Libja li Joseph Muscat ried jagħmel kien żball kbir.

Anke jekk kienet gimmick ikkalkulata biex triegħed l-istituzzjonijiet din il-mossa ta’ Joseph Muscat wriet li ma hemmx apprezzament  tad-drittijiet tal-bniedem fost il-membri tal-Gvern immexxi minn Joseph Muscat, bih b’kollox.

Id-drittijiet tal-bniedem ma tiċċajtax bihom. Id-drittijiet tal-bniedem huma ta’ kull bniedem lil hinn minn razza jew kulur tal-ġilda u Joseph Muscat u l-Gvern tiegħu m’għandhomx dritt jilgħabu bihom. Imma hekk għamlu.

Fl-ewwel okkazjoni serja li kellu, Joseph Muscat wera li hu bniedem li l-valuri ta’ soċjeta’ demokratika, għalih u għall-Gvern tiegħu m’għandhomx daqstant relevanza.

Kien jum li fih il-Gvern ta’ Joseph Muscat rema’ l-baħar ir-reputazzjoni ta’ Malta bħala pajjiż fejn nirrispettaw il-liġijiet u d-doveri internazzjonali tagħna.

Joseph Muscat qal li hu jerfa’ r-responsabbilta’ kollha. Hu żbaljat, għax ir-responsabbilta’ ser tintrefa miċ-ċittadini kollha ta’ dan il-pajjiż għax pajjiżna (sfortunatament) minn issa l-quddiem ser ikun meqjus bħal wieħed li ma tistax tafdah. Pajjiż li ma tafx fejn inti miegħu. Pajjiż li fih id-drittijiet tiegħek ma jirriżultawx mil-liġi iżda mill-burdata tal-Gvern.

Għad irridu nħallsu biz-zalza għal dan il-jum u l-iżball kbir li għamel Joseph Muscat. Żball li m’hux ser jitħassar b’gomma.

Skiet li jtarrax

auberge_de_castille_fullsize

Il-Gvern, qal Joseph Muscat, qed iqis l-options kollha fil-każ tal-immigranti li daħlu illum mil-Libja.

Dan jinkludi l-option tal-push-back.

Il-fatt biss li ikkonsidra l-option tal-push-back, jiġifieri li jibagħat lill-emigranti lura fil-Libja ifisser li l-Gvern ikkunsidra li jikser l-obbligi internazzjonali li għandha Malta.

Dan jitfa dell kbira fuq il-kredenzjali demokratiċi ta’ Joseph Muscat u l-Partit tiegħu.

Qed insemmi lill-Partit tiegħu apposta. Għax ħadd mill-partit tiegħu ma qam f’din is-siegħa tal-prova. Ħadd ma qam u iddisassoċja ruħu minn Joseph Muscat. Ħadd ma qam u qal li Muscat hu żbaljat.

Jgħaddu s-snin u forsi xi ħadd jikteb biex jgħidilna li hu ma kienx jaqbel, iżda baqa’ sieket. Is-skiet tal-Membri Parlamentari u tal-Uffiċjali tal-Partit Laburista hu wieħed li jtarrax.

Il-ħtija hi kbira u mhix ta’ Muscat biss. Hi ukoll ħtija ta’ dawk kollha ta’ madwaru li jinkinawlu.

Reflections from Lampedusa: the indifference in our midst

pope-visits-lampedusa

Extracts from the sermon delivered by Pope Francis in Lampedusa, today Monday 8 July 2013

“Immigrants dying at sea, in boats which were vehicles of hope and became vehicles of death. Since I first heard of this tragedy a few weeks ago, and realised that it happens too frequently, it has constantly come back to me like a painful thorn in my heart. So, I felt that I had to come here today, to pray and to offer a sign of my closeness, but also to challenge our consciences lest this tragedy be repeated. Please, let it not be repeated!”

The Pope thanked the inhabitants and the authorities of Lampedusa for their solidarity with the immigrants and greeted the Muslims among them who today begin the fast of Ramadan, and added, “The Church is at your side as you seek a more dignified life for yourselves and your families”.

“This morning, in the light of God’s Word which has just been proclaimed, I wish to offer some thoughts to challenge people’s consciences, to lead them to reflection and a concrete change of heart”.

“’Adam, where are you?’ This is the first question God poses to man after his sin. Adam lost his bearings, his place in creation because he thought he could be powerful, able to control everything, to be God. Harmony was lost, man errs and this error occurs over and over again also in relationships with others. The ‘other’ who is no longer a brother or sister to be loved, but simply another person who disturbs our lives and our comfort. God asks a second question, ‘Cain, where is your brother?’. The illusion of being powerful, of being as great as God, even of being God Himself, leads to a whole series of errors, a chain of death, even to the spilling of a brother’s blood! God’s two questions echo even today, as forcefully as ever. How many of us, myself included, have lost our bearings; we are no longer attentive to the world in which we live … we do not take care of that which God created for all of us, and we are no longer capable even of looking after each other. And when humanity as a whole loses its bearings, it results in tragedies like the one we have witnessed.

“’Where is your brother?’ His blood cries out to me, says the Lord. This is not a question directed to others, it is a question directed to me, to you, to each of us. These brothers and sisters of ours were trying to escape difficult situations to find some serenity and peace; they sought a better place for themselves and their families, but instead they found only death. How often do such people fail to find understanding, fail to find acceptance, fail to find solidarity. And their cry rises up to God! I recently listened to one of these brothers of ours. Before arriving here, he and the others were at the mercy of traffickers, people who exploit the poverty of others, people who live off the misery of others. How much these people have suffered! Some of them never made it here.

“’Where is your brother?’ Who is responsible for this blood? In Spanish literature there is a work by Lope de Vega which narrates how the inhabitants of the city of Fuente Ovejuna kill their tyrannical governor, and they do so in a way that no-one knows who carried out the execution. And when the king’s judge asks, ‘Who killed the governor?’, they all answer, “Fuente Ovejuna, my lord”. Everybody and nobody! Today too, this question emerges forcefully: who is responsible for the blood of these, our brothers and sisters? Nobody! That is our answer: it isn’t me, I don’t have anything to do with it; it must be someone else, but certainly not me. Yet God is asking each of us: ‘Where is the blood of your brother which cries out to me?’. Today no-one in our world feels responsible; we have lost a sense of responsibility for our brothers and sisters; we have fallen into the hypocrisy of the priest and the Levite whom Jesus described in the parable of the Good Samaritan: we see our brother half dead on the side of the road, perhaps we say to ourselves: ‘poor soul…!’, and then go on our way; it’s not our responsibility, and with that we feel reassured. The culture of comfort, which makes us think only of ourselves, makes us insensitive to the cries of other people, makes us live in soap bubbles which, however lovely, are insubstantial; they offer a fleeting and empty illusion which results in indifference to others; indeed, it even leads to the globalisation of indifference. We have become used to the suffering of others, it doesn’t affect me; it doesn’t concern me; it is none of my business. The globalisation of indifference makes us all ‘unnamed’, responsible yet nameless and faceless.

“’Adam, where are you?’ ‘Where is your brother?’ These are the two questions which God asks at the dawn of human history, and which he also asks each man and woman in our own day, which he also asks us. But I would like us to ask a third question: ‘Has any one of us wept because of this situation and others like it?’ Has any one of us grieved for the death of these brothers and sisters? Has any one of us wept for these persons who were on the boat? For the young mothers carrying their babies? For these men who were looking for a means of supporting their families? We are a society which has forgotten how to weep, how to experience compassion – ‘suffering with’ others: the globalization of indifference has taken from us the ability to weep! In the Gospel we have heard the crying, the wailing, the great lamentation: ‘Rachel weeps for her children… because they are no more’. Herod sowed death to protect his own comfort, his own soap bubble. And so it continues… Let us ask the Lord to remove the part of Herod that lurks in our hearts; let us ask the Lord for the grace to weep over our indifference, to weep over the cruelty of our world, of our own hearts, and of all those who in anonymity make social and economic decisions which open the door to tragic situations like this.

“In this liturgy, a penitential liturgy, we beg forgiveness for our indifference to so many of our brothers and sisters. Father, we ask your pardon for those who are complacent and closed amid comforts which have deadened their hearts; we beg your forgiveness for those who by their decisions on the global level have created situations that lead to these tragedies”.

The Malta push-back to Eritrea

Flag-Pins-Malta-Eritrea

Well Malta did carry out a push-back. Once upon a time way back in 2002.

Being very eager to be populist the EFA government repatriated 220 Eritrean citizens. These ended up imprisoned and tortured.

You may wish to read through the correspondence between Amnesty International and the then Minister Tonio Borg at the following link:

http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/EUR33/002/2004/en/7d3d5d34-d5c5-11dd-bb24-1fb85fe8fa05/eur330022004en.pdf

These are the consequences.

X’inhu jiġri l-Qammiegħ limiti tal-Mellieħa (illum)

Illum wara nofsinnhar jidher li żviluppat xi ħsara fl-impjant tat-tisfija tad-drenaġġ fil-Qammiegħ limiti tal-Mellieħa. Impjant li sewa l-miljuni biex l-ilma tad-drenaġġ li jintefa’ l-baħar ma jħammiġx.

Hawn taħt qed nippubblika xi ritratti li ittieħdu illum għall-ħabta tal-5.00pm imwassla lili minn qarrej ta’ dan il-blog. Għandi iktar ritratti. Għal distanza twila l-ilma tal-baħar fl-inħawi jidher ħadrani.

X’ġara? Min ser jerfa’ responsabbilta?

photo1 Qammiegh        (1)

photo2 Il-Qammiegh      (2)

Immigration : an ethical compass

immigration05

Joseph Muscat’s recent outburst on his immigration push-back policy show’s what the man is really worth.

In a time of relative crises he has thrown overboard his ethical compass. He advocates a push-back policy: pushing back immigrants to their place of departure, that is Libya.

Apart from the fact that he does not have the means to carry out his threat, he has succumbed to the worst possible in politics. He has forgotten all about his principles which some time ago seemed to have been standing four square with the downtrodden.  All sweet words on solidarity have now found their way down the drain.

There is an ethical compass which shows the way in politics. This points towards doing the right thing, always, even if it signifies being unpopular.

It is not just a matter of principle.

It is also a right which enjoys protection in terms of the European Convention of Human Rights.

It would be pertinent to remember the Strasbourg decision delivered in February 2012 in the case of Hirsii Jamaa and others versus Italy.

Hirsii Jamaa had contested the validity of Silvio Berlusconi’s push-back policy. The European Court of Human Rights sitting as a Grand Chamber [with Maltese judge Vincent A. De Gaetano as one of its members] held that when Italy (then led by Silvio Berlusconi) returned migrants which it intercepted in the Mediterranean Sea to Libya it violated the migrants human rights.

It is about time that Joseph Muscat comes to his senses and gets his bearings right. Before more damage is caused to Malta’s reputation.

Vacant properties and solar rights

solar rights

Parliamentary Secretary Michael Farrugia has announced that MEPA  will be launching the process which ought to lead to a revision of all seven Local Plans.

The Environment and Development Planning Act 2010 provides for such a revision which in the view of many is long overdue. The difference of opinion will arise when the nature of the revisions to be put in place are announced.

It is obvious that the proposals for revision will result from the process of consultation just launched. But it is also pretty obvious that the direction which government would like such revisions to take  is one which encourages the construction industry. This is where we part company.

Any environmentalist worth his salt is aware that the unbridled development encouraged during the past years has resulted in a large stock of vacant residential properties. It is estimated that this is well in excess of 70,000 and still rising, even though at a reduced rate.

This glut of vacant residential properties should be the primary motivation directing those seeking the way forward for the seven Local Plans.

It is in view of Malta’s small size that as a Nation we cannot afford to take up more land for building development. We should rather seek to maximize the use of the building stock already in hand. This signifies that revised Local Plans should restrict additional development of virgin land. This can be done by reversing the rationalisation exercise carried out in 2006, by declaring a moratorium on large scale residential development and by reducing permissible heights to what they were in 2006.

The revised Local Plans should focus on the utilisiation of the existing building stock, with an emphasis on rehabilitation and redevelopment where necessary.

The revised Local Plans must also protect solar rights. This aim can be achieved through discarding the increased permissible building heights introduced  in 2006 as well as by subjecting the possible  development of penthouses to the solar rights of residents in the same residential block.

Reducing the potential for development means that the building construction industry would reduce its activity to a sustainable level. It will require help to pursue such a road. This would be the first step which should not be postponed. The revision of the Local Plans is the optimum time for such a step: to commence the restructuring of the building industry.

Is-Servizz tas-Sigurta’ f’Malta u l-politika partiġjana

interception

Il-Kap tal-Opposizzjoni għamel sewwa li talab li jiltaqa’ l-Kumitat ta’ Sigurta’ imwaqqaf taħt l-Att dwar is-Servizz tas-Sigurta’ .  Kif għamel tajjeb ukoll il-Prim Ministru li aċċetta t-talba u ser ilaqqa’ l-Kumitat tas-Sigurta għada.

Il-Kap tal-Opposizzjoni hu ġustament ippreokkupat bil-presenza tal-Ministru tal-Intern għal intervisti dwar l-ingaġġ ta’ rekluti ġodda fis-Servizz tas-Sigurta. Il-preokkupazzjoni ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika tmur lil hinn minn hekk għax jidhrilha li l-Ministru l-anqas rwol fl-approvazzjoni ta’ ħatriet ġodda m’għandu jkollu. Huwa preokkupanti ukoll kif il-permess lis-Servizz tas-Sigurta’ li jissemmgħu t-telefonati jingħataw mill-Ministru u mhux mill-Qorti kif jiġri fil-parti l-kbira tal-pajjiżi demokratiċi.

Għandu jingħad li dan ma sarx issa, iżda meta ġiet imfassla l-liġi  li flok ma tat is-setgħa lill-Maġistrat tal-Għassa biex jawtorizza lis-Servizz tas-Sigurta’ li jissemma’ daret fuq il-Ministru u tat l-awtorita’ lilu. Dan tefa’ dell ta’ kontroll politiku li jista’ jiġi użat mill-Gvern tal-ġurnata kif kien fil-fatt allegat li sar f’ta’ l-inqas żewġ ċirkustanzi fil-passat.

Ma nafx jekk tiftakrux meta Franco Debono ma kienx mar jivvota l-Parlament. U wara ftit tfaċċa. Dakinnhar kien intqal li l-presenza ta’ Franco Debono biex jivvota fil-Parlament waqt is-seduta tat-Tnejn 14 ta’ Diċembru 2009 kienet riżultat ta’ intervent tas-Servizzi tas-Sigurta’. Kien intqal li kien intuża apparat tas-Servizzi tas-Sigurta’ biex instab.  Allegazzjoni li kienet ġiet miċħuda. Ċaħda li bosta ma emmnux.

L-istess kien ġie allegat minn Evarist Bartolo u Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando dwar min kien qiegħed jissemma’ t-telefonati ta’ bejniethom.

Alternattiva Demokratika hi ppreokkupata ukoll dwar l-ispjunaġġ elettroniku li għaddej bħalissa mill-Istati Uniti tal-Amerika fuq l-istituzzjonijiet Ewropej u l-istati membri, kif żvelat minn Der Spiegel fi tmiem il-gimgħa. Ma nafux jekk Malta u l-ambaxxati tagħha humiex effettwati. Ikun għaqli jekk fil-laqgħa ta’ għada tal-Kumitat tas-Sigurta’ ikun iċċarat jekk Is-Servizz tas-Sigurta’ huwiex ippreparat biex jiddefendi l-interessi Maltin f’dan ir-rigward.

Filwaqt li Alternattiva Demokratika m’għandha l-ebda rwol fil-Kumitat dwar is-Sigurta’ nittama li mil-laqgħa ta’ għada joħroġ ċar kif dan is-servizz jista’ jitmexxa lil hinn mill-politika partiġjana.