Crocodile tears and the assassination of Daphne

Countless articles and opinions have been written about Daphne’s assassination last Monday, when the car she was driving was blown to smithereens.

Many theories have been woven as to the possible identity and motivation of those who planned and/or executed her assassination. I will not add to the speculation.

Like many others, I followed her writings through the years and found most of them informative. In the Maltese journalist community, her investigative skills were second to none. Her arguments were always very forceful even though a bias was always clearly present. She could alternate between well-written, clearly thought out and investigative articles and pure invective aimed at those she despised.

Her underlying political views were always clear and she promoted them mercilessly. Until June 2017, she ignored most of the sins of the PN and focused relentlessly on those of the PL. After June 2017 she practically lumped them both together in one basket, as they deserved, lending credence to the statement that there is nothing to distinguish the PN from the PL.

As for AD, it was one of her punching bags when it suited her, in particular at those critical political junctures where AD’s views and positions contrasted sharply with those of the PN. At other times, when she found AD’s views useful, she used them to buttress her own.

Her assassination is a direct blow against freedom of expression in Malta.

Various other attempts have been made to shut her up through the countless actions in court for civil damages. An attempt was made to cripple her financially with a legal mechanism, insisting that the claimed civil damages be deposited in Court when legal action is initiated. This was an attempt at intimidation which, unfortunately, the Law Courts did not see through. The attempt was only thwarted through the initiative of David Thake who organised crowd funding of the sums requested, thus short-circuiting the bully-boy tactics of Minister Cardona and his lawyers.

The Leader of the Opposition, Adrian Delia, having been under her spotlight for the past four months is now apparently out to milk her assassination for his party’s political gain, as is evidenced by his speeches earlier this week. He seems to want us to forget that he too was a contributor to the pile of actions for libel submitted against her. Their withdrawal this week smells of crass hypocrisy.

This is essentially the background to the crocodile tears being shed by some of those who say that they are “shocked” at her assassination.

Police investigations have commenced. Requesting help from foreign experts may ensure that all leads are followed. The investigation was almost torpedoed in its first seconds when Magistrate Consuelo Scerri Herrera failed to realise that this was a definite no-go area for her. That she took hours to realise this, is testimony to the fact that some members of the bench still need to master much more than the law.

The Magistrate’s presence shocked all as soon as she arrived on site at Bidnija. Soon after, that shock was to be compounded by the comments posted on Facebook by a Police Sergeant from the police investigating team on his being overjoyed at the day’s happenings. The fact that he was suspended pending disciplinary action is not sufficient. It still needs to be explained by the Commissioner of Police why some members of the police force have still not realised that they should stay away from the social media as it may seriously jeopardise not only their integrity and impartiality but also that of the whole Police Corps.

Apparently, it was not only the Police Sergeant who was overjoyed on Monday afternoon. What about the few carcades which were organised? Anybody cares to assume responsibility?

The Prime Minister is very anxious to get to the bottom of all this. We all are. The sooner this is done the better. However, when this is done and dusted it would be appropriate to examine the extent to which it was avoidable. As indeed it was.

 

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 22 October 2017

Kliem Deborah Schembri tal-biki.

 

Deborah Schembri ġiet rappurtata li qalet li hemm min jiddejjaq b’dak li jinkiteb. Hemm min iweġġa’. Dak, qalet Deborah hu abbuż u mhux libertà tal-espressjoni. Iffaċċjati b’din is-sitwazzjoni u b’mod partikolari meta r-rimedji legali ma jkunux ċari, uħud, qalet Deborah Schembri jikkunsidraw li għandhom jieħdu l-liġi b’idejhom.

Imbagħad hawn min jistkanta kif jitnaqqru d-drittijiet demokratiċi.

Qatt ma hu gustifikat li xi ħadd jieħu l-liġi b’idejh. Imma meta persuna attiva fil-ħajja pubblika bħal Deborah Schembri tasal biex titkellem b’dan il-mod jintwera bic-car l-istat li fih qiegħed il-pajjiż.

Kliem Deborah Schembri m’huwiex biss perikoluz għax jista’ jkun ikkunsidrat minn uħud bħala li jiġġustifika jew jiskuża l-użu tal-vjolenza, imma hu fuq kollox irresponsabbli għax tagħti dan il-messaġġ ċar u bla tlaqlieq.

Il-libertà tal-espressjoni hi dritt fundamentali. Għandna dritt li nkunu kritiċi ta’ kollox u ta’ kulħadd. Hu ovvju li meta tikkritika ser ikun hemm min jiddarras, min jieħu għalih. Min ma jridx li jkun ikkritikat, jimxi sewwa u ftit li xejn ikun ikkritikat! Imma kulħadd hu soġġett għall-liġi kemm min joffendi kif ukoll min ikun offiż. Għax iva id-dritt tal-espressjoni tfisser ukoll id-dritt li toffendi, imma imbagħad trid terfa’ l-konsegwenzi legali ta’ egħmilek.

Ma hemmx bżonn dritt tal-espressjoni għal min ifaħħar. Għax it-tifħir ma jweġġa’ lil ħadd. Il-ħarsien tad-dritt tal-espressjoni qiegħed hemm għal min hu kritiku, b’mod partikolari kritiku ta’ dawk fil-poter kif ukoll ta’ dawk li jinċensawhom. Il-kritika bil-fors tweġġa’, ġieli ftit u ġieli ħafna. Ħafna drabi tweġġa’ għax dak magħruf minn ftit isir magħruf minn ħafna.

Id-diffikulta ta’ min jikteb, ħafna drabi, hi fejn taqta’ linja bejn dak li hu privat u dak li mhux. Mhux kull ġurnalist hu tal-istess opinjoni. Jiddependi ukoll mis-suġġett li jkun qed jiġi eżaminat.

Imma politiku li jdeffes lill-uliedu żgħar kontinwament għall-attenzjoni pubblika m’għandu l-ebda dritt li jilmenta jekk dawn jitfaċċaw ukoll taħt il-lenti, għax il-biċċa jkun ġiebha b’idejh.

L-istil ta’ min jikteb ivarja. Hemm min jikteb b’mod dirett u jsemmi l-ismijiet ta’ dak, dik u l-oħra. Hemm imbagħad min jikteb b’mod sarkastiku u jikkritika billi jgħaddi biż-żmien. Jikteb b’nofs ċajta u juża’ l-umoriżmu bħala arma li taqta’. Huma stili li jikkuntrastaw u li jogħġbu jew idejqu persuni differenti.

Din hi d-demokrazija li kontinwament qed tiżviluppa quddiemna. Ma togħġobx lil kulħadd. Tirrikjedi ġurnalisti b’kuraġġ u politiċi b’ġilda ħoxna li ma jieħdux għalihom għal kull ħaga ta’ xejn. Imma fuq kollox hi l-bażi tad-demokrazija tagħna għax bla ġurnaliżmu serju m’aħna xejn.

Il-libertà tal-espressjoni irridu ngħożżuha kuljum. L-ebda politiku li jiddubita minn dan ma jixraqlu li jissejjaħ demokratiku.

Kemm aħna iffurtunati li għandna lil Adrian Delia

 

Għadni kif smajt id-diskors fil-Parlament ta’ Adrian Delia. Kien kompletament jistona fiċ-ċirkustanzi tal-lum, il-qtil b’bomba ta’ Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Daphne ma kixfitx biss kif membri tal-Gvern kellhom x’jaqsmu mal-iskandlu tal-Panama imma kixfet ukoll l-iskandlu tal-bridel u kif dan kellu x’jaqsam mal-uffiċċju legali ta’ Adrian Delia innifsu! U bosta affarijiet oħra.

Imma l-ikbar waħda hi li issa aħna iffurtunati għax għandna lil Adrian Delia li ser jiddefendi l-istituzzjonijiet. Ħasra li ma kienx hawn qabel. Għax l-istituzzjonijiet ilhom jitmermru ħafna iktar minn ħames snin.

Kieku ħares ħarsa madwaru kien jara uħud minn dawk responsabbli.

Il-bomba li qatlet lil Daphne

Il-karozza bomba li splodiet fil-Bidnija u li l-pulizija qed jikkonfermaw li fiha kien hemm u mietet Daphne Caruana Galizia tqabbad lil pajjiż fit-triq tal-biża’.

Ser jingħadu ħafna stejjer u tejoriji dwar min jista’ jkun hemm wara dan il-qtil.

L-aħħar darba li ktibt dwarha kien fi Frar li għadda f’post intitolata Il-Mannara ta’ Cardona kontra l-pinna ta’ Daphne.

Dak li għidt dakinnhar nirrepetieh illum:
“Caruana Galizia ma tibza’ minn ħadd. Ħalfet li ma jmejjilha ħadd u tagħmel sewwa li fejn hi konvinta tibqa’ għaddejja. Għandi kull rispett lejn din l-attitudni anke jekk mhux neċessarjament li naqbel ma kull ma tgħid jew kif fil-fatt tgħidu.”

Hi ħasra li ħajjitha kellha tintemm b’dan il-mod brutali. Azzjoni li għalkemm hi ta’ min għamilha tirrifletti ruħha fuq il-pajjiż kollu. Dawn huma azzjonijiet li jseħħu f’pajjiżi fejn tirrenja l-Mafja.

Il-Mafja ma titkellimx bil-fjuri.

Nistennew u naraw x’ser isir u kemm jinqabad min għamel dan l-att faħxi.

A financial surplus, yet an environmental deficit

As was expected, last Monday’s budget speech solemnly announced a budget surplus for the first time in many years. However, the environmental deficit was, as usual, hidden between the lines.

The budget is aptly titled Preparing for the Future (Inlestu għall-Futur). In dealing with environmental issues, the budget speech does not lay down clearly the path the government will be following. At times, it postpones matters – proposing studies and consultations on subjects that have been in the public domain for ages.

On the subject of vacant properties, the government prefers the carrot to the stick. In order to get dilapidated and empty properties in village centres back on the rental market, it is offering a €25,000 grant to renovate such properties, but then rightly insists that, once renovated these should be made available for social housing for a minimum of 10 years. In previous budgets, various other fiscal incentives have been offered to encourage such properties being placed back on the market.

After offering so many carrots, it would also make sense to use the stick by way of taxing vacant properties in situations where the owner is continuously ignoring the signals sent regarding the social, economic and environmental impacts of empty properties.

The budget speech announced improvements to rental subsidies. However, it then opted to postpone the regulation of the rental market. It announced a White Paper on the subject which, when published, will propose ways of regulating the market without in any way regulating the subject of rents. In view of the currently abnormal situation of sky-high rents, this is sheer madness.

It is fine to ensure that the duties and responsibilities of landlords and tenants are clearly spelt out. Does anyone argue with that in 2017? It should have been done years ago. Instead of a White Paper a Legal Notice defining clear-cut duties and responsibilities would suffice: there is no need to wait.

It is, however, too much to bear when a “social democrat” Finance Minister declares  that he will not even consider rent control. There are ways and means of ensuring that the market acts fairly. Other countries have done it and are still doing it, as rental greed has no preferred nationality. Ignoring this possibility is not a good omen. The market should not be glorified by the Finance Minister; it should be tamed rather than further encouraged to keep running wild with the resulting social havoc it has created.

This brings us to transport and roads. The Finance Minister sends a clear message when he stated (on page 44 of the budget speech) that no one should be under the illusion that upgrading the road infrastructure will, on its own, resolve the traffic (congestion) problem. Edward Scicluna hints on the following page of his speech that he is not too happy with the current situation. He laments that the more developed countries encourage active mobility through walking, cycling and the use of motorbikes, as well as various means of public transport, simultaneously discouraging the use of the private car. However, he does not then proceed to the logical conclusion of his statement: scrapping large-scale road infrastructural projects such as the proposed Marsa flyover or the proposed tunnels below the Santa Luċija roundabout announced recently by Minister Ian Borg.

These projects, like the Kappara flyover currently in its final stages, will only serve to increase the capacity of our roads. And this means only one thing: more cars on our roads. It is certified madness.

While the Government’s policy of increasing the capacity of existing roads through the construction of flyovers and tunnels will address congestion in the short term, it will lead to increased traffic on our roads. This moves the problem to the future, when it will be worse and more difficult to tackle. The government is acting like an overweight individual who ‘solves’ the problem of his expanding wasteline by changing his wardrobe instead of going on a painful but necessary diet.

This cancels out the positive impact of other policies announced in the budget speech such as free public transport to young people aged between 16 and 20, free (collective) transport to all schools, incentives for car-pooling, grants encouraging the purchase of bicycles, pedelec bicycles and scooters, reduction in the VAT charged when hiring bicycles as well as the introduction of bicycle lanes, as well as encouraging the purchase of electric or hybrid vehicles.

All this contributes to the current environmental deficit. And I have not even mentioned issues of land use planning once.

Published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 15 October 2017

Min hu ikbar mill-partit?

 

Bħalissa spiss qed nisimgħu min jgħidilna li ħadd m’hu ikbar mill-partit.

Dan il-kliem qed jingħad bl-iskop li jkun ġustifikat li dawk illi jsegwu u jappoġġaw partit politiku għandhom jbaxxu rashom meta t-tmexxija tal-partit tieħu deċiżjoni. Għax il-partit tkellem. Mela tbaxxi rasek.

Id-deċiżjonijiet li jittieħdu b’mod demokratiku għandhom ikun rispettati u implimentati. Imma anke hawn hemm l-obbligu li nirrispettaw lil min hu f’minoranza, irrispettivament kemm din tkun żgħira jew kbira.

Id-deċiżjonijiet li jittieħdu b’mod unanimu nibża’ minnhom, għax mhiex xi ħaġa rari li l-unanimità tkun faċċata li warajha jistaħbew ħafna affarijiet.

L-ebda partit politiku m’hu omoġenju u f’kull deċiżjoni li tittieħed ikun hemm min jaħsibha differenti u xi drabi dan mhux sempliċiment fuq id-dettall. Dan ma jitlobx biss tolleranza iżda ħafna drabi koeżistenza ta’ ideat li jikkuntrastaw. Dan mhux dejjem faċli, imma ċertament li hu possibli. Hekk jiġri f’soċjetà verament demokratika.

Ovvjament l-ebda partit politiku ma jista’ jiffunzjona jekk fuq l-ideat fundamentali li jirrappreżenta ma jkunx hemm qbil dwarhom fost dawk li jappoġġawh. Imma lil hinn mill-prinċipji fundamentali li partit politiku jirrappreżenta hemm lok għal ideat li jikkuntrastaw.

F’dan is-sens partit politiku hu ġabra ta’ ideat, kultant differenti, kultant kuntrastanti: ħafna drabi ftit, imma xi drabi kuntrastanti ħafna. Partit politiku hu kbir skond kemm hu kapaċi jirrispetta l-ideat differenti fi ħdanu. Għax ħafna drabi hi din id-differenza ta’ ideat, kultant dettall, imma xi drabi iktar minn hekk ukoll, li toħolq dibattitu fil-partiti politiċi liema dibattitu jwassal għal żviluppi interessanti fil-ħsieb politiku.

Il-partit politiku, għaldaqstant, jirrappreżenta lid-diversità ta’ ħsieb fi ħdanu fit-totalità tiegħu. Jagħmel żball partit politiku li joħnoq il-vuċijiet differenti fi ħdanu. Dawn dejjem qegħdin hemm: kultant jinstemgħu ħafna u drabi oħra kemm kemm jinstemgħu: skond l-importanza tad-differenzi. Imma dejjem hemm qegħdin.

Ma hemm l-ebda mertu li tirrispetta lil min jaqbel miegħek: m’għandek ħtieġa ta’ l-ebda sforz biex tagħmel dan. Il-mertu, u l-isforz, qiegħed biex tirrispetta lil min ma jaqbilx miegħek. Naċċetta li mhux dejjem faċli. Imma dan mhux biss hu possibli imma hu essenzjali.

Partit politiku li mhux kapaċi jirrispetta d-dissens fi ħdanu ma jistax jispira fiduċja. Għax jekk m’intix kapaċi tirrispetta lil min hu ħdejk u ma jaqbilx għal kollox miegħek, kif tippretendi li titwemmen meta tgħid li qed tiftaħ il-bibien għal min qiegħed barra? Tkun qed tissogra li flok il-bieb miftuħ iservi biex jidħlu minnu, jispiċċa jkun il-punt tal-ħruġ!

Mhux għaldaqstant kaz ta’ min hu ikbar jew iżgħar mill-partit imma ta’ kemm aħna kapaċi nirrispettaw lil xulxin b’mod partikolari meta ma naqblux.

Min jipprova jagħlaq id-diskussjoni billi jgħid li ħadd m’hu ikbar mill-partit qed jibgħat messaġġ wieħed: li jirrispettak biss sakemm taqbel miegħu.

Din xi triq ġdida hi?

Il-PN fis-sqaq tal-fundamentaliżmu

Adrian Delia appunta lilu nnifsu l-gwardjan tal-morali tal-pajjiż. Għalhekk, qal, li l-PN fil-Parlament ser jopponi l-avviż legali li jintroduċi 100 siegħa leave bi ħlas għal dawk li jfittxu trattament tal-IVF barra minn Malta (nisa infertili u lesbjani).

Billi l-liġi tal-IVF presentment fis-seħħ dan ma tippermettieħx Delia qed tniggżu l-kuxjenza u jidhirlu li għal din ir-raġuni għandu jopponi.

Adrian Delia għadu kif ħa ġurament ta’ lealtà lejn il-Kostituzzjoni. Fl-aħħar leġislatura din il-kostituzzjoni ġiet emendat biex anke id-diskriminazzjoni a bażi tal-ġeneru u l-orientazzjoni sesswali tkun ipprojibita.

Fit-triq li qabad favur il-fundamentaliżmu Delia mhuwiex jirrealizza li qiegħed ikasbar il-Kostituzzjoni ta’ pajjiżna li tobbliga anke lilu li jitbiegħed minn kwalunkwe diskriminazzjoni: f’dan il-kuntest id-diskriminazzjoni a bażi tal-ġeneru u l-orientazzjoni sesswali.

Fil-Parlament ftit ġimgħat ilu kellna d-dmugħ tal-kukkudrilli ta’ dawk li iddispjaċihom li kienu astjenew fil-vot dwar id-drittijiet LGBTIQ fil-leġislatura l-oħra fosthom Mario de Marco u Claudette Buttigieg. Nistennew u naraw jekk bidlux il-fehma tagħhom.

S’issa fil-PN qiegħed jinstema leħen wieħed biss favur ir-raġuni : dak ta’ Norman Vella.

Sadanittant il-PN jibqa’ dieħel il-ġewwa fis-sqaq tal-fundamentaliżmu, u minn hemm ser ikunlu diffiċli li joħroġ.

Arvid Pardo : 50 years on

Going by the Prime Minister’s address to the EU Conference held in Malta this week on the protection of the oceans. it would be reasonable to assume that, as a maritime nation, Malta’s commitment is second to none.

Searching through the website of the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) reveals a number of reports required by the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) from EU member states. However, perusal of the relative EU website reveals that Malta’s reports were not presented within the timeframes established by the Directive.

Clearly, notwithstanding what the Prime Minister says, we still need to pull our socks up.

As an island state, it is essential that we lead rather than follow in maritime matters. There was a time when Malta was the leader, when Malta’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Arvid Pardo, presented the ground-breaking initiative to consider the seabed resources as the common heritage of mankind. That was 50 years ago, in November 1967, at a session of the United Nations General Assembly.

Arvid Pardo’s initiative on behalf of Malta was, for a considerable time, pushed to the sidelines by a Labour-led government, permitting other countries to take the lead instead. In fact, when push came to shove, Jamaica squeezed Malta out and was selected to host the International Seabed Authority in Kingston. Malta had, for some time, indicated that it was no longer interested in pursuing its own initiative.

Malta has a maritime vocation. As an island nation, it needs to consider maritime politics as both a duty as well as an opportunity. The implications of all this is explained in some detail in a marine economic and social analysis report commissioned by the ERA in terms of article 8 of the MSFD and available on its website.

Sub-titled “an initial assessment”, the 133 page report concludes that 15.4 per cent of the Maltese economy makes use of the marine environment either as a provider of resources, as an input in the product or service provided or as a sink function. This enormous importance of the marine environment to the Maltese economy is further increased when one bears in mind that in other European Union member states this same statistic varies between three per cent and five per cent.

The report further states that the 15.4 per cent contribution of the marine environment to the economy does not include the use of bathing areas as well as the use of the sea as the primary source of potable water in Malta.

Over the years, I do not recall other political parties giving any weight to the significance of the marine environment in their political discourse. It is about time that this changed, because it is imperative that we realise the central importance of the marine environment.

Malta should follow in Arvid Pardo’s footsteps and take the lead in maritime issues: there is so much to do. The fact that the Marine Framework Strategy Directive is still in its infancy offers a unique opportunity that was not sufficiently highlighted during the six month presidency of the EU held by Malta earlier this year.

In Arvid Pardo’s own words at the UN General Assembly on the 1st November 1967: we are naturally vitally interested in the sea which surrounds us and through which we live and breathe.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 8 October 2017

Inti ukoll għandek dritt tiekol

Qed jintqal li l-Prim Imħallef Silvio Camilleri fid-diskors tiegħu iktar kmieni din il-ġimgħa ta’ ħasla papali lill-Gvern. Jiena naħseb li dan mhux korrett.

Fil-fehma tiegħi il-Prim Imħallef emfasizza li r-responsabbiltà biex ħadd ma jkun il-fuq mill-liġi mhiex biss tal-Qrati imma ukoll tal-Pulizija u tal-Avukat Ġenerali. Fi ftit kliem il-poter fil-pajjiż hu mifrux u biex ikollna s-saltna tad-dritt jeħtieġ li kulħadd jagħmel xogħolu.

Il-mistoqsija li allura teħtieġ tweġiba hi jekk l-uffiċjali pubbliċi humiex jagħmlu dmirhom, bla biża’ jew favuri. Għalhekk hu importanti li l-ħatriet isiru sewwa. Li jinħatru persuni kapaċi u integri li fl-aħħar mill-aħħar ikunu it-tarka tal-pajjiz kollu. Għax kulħadd għandu dritt jiekol, mhux il-bulijiet biss.

Wara l-battibekk bejn Michael Briguglio u Marlene Farrugia

Il-battibekk bejn Michael Briguglio u Marlene Farrugia dwar il-byelection għas-siġġu Parlamentari ta’ Jean Pierre Debono jixħed dawl fuq il-forma (jew aħjar in-nuqqas ta’ forma) li għandha l-koalizzjoni imsejħa Forza Nazzjonali.

L-ideat tiegħi dwar din il-koalizzjoni dejjem kienu ċari. Koalizzjoni iva, imma mhux a kwalunkwe kost.

Sfortunatament il-koalizzjoni li iffurmaw bejniethom il-PN u l-PD hi sempliċiment alleanza aritmetika li ġiet iffurmata a bażi ta’ analiżi żbaljata tal-fehmiet tal-elettorat, għax kien hemm min ħaseb li kien viċin meta kien il-bogħod ħafna.

Hi koalizzjoni li saret bil-għaġġla u bla wisq ħsieb. Suppost kienet koalizzjoni favur il-governanza tajba u kontra l-korruzzjoni. Imma min mexa ħażin xorta kellu post prominenti fil-koalizzjoni. La ġie iċċensurat u wisq inqas kien hemm min ipprova jfisser x’tgħallem minn dawn l-iżbalji biex forsi tonqos il-possibilità li jkunu repetuti.

Id-deċiżjoni tal-Partit Demokratiku li jagħti direttiva lill-kandidati tiegħu biex jikkontestaw il-byelection għas-siġġu ta’ Jean Pierre Debono ma tistax tkun injorata għax hi rifless ta’ kif il-Partit Demokratiku jħares lejn il-koalizzjoni. Għax jekk l-imsieħba fil-koalizzjoni mhumiex kapaċi jaslu għal ftehim fuq xi ħaġa daqshekk sempliċi bħall-byelection, kif nistgħu nemmnu li jista’ jkun hemm qbil (fil-koalizzjoni) fuq issues ta’ politika ferm iktar ikkumplikati u li xi drabi jirrikjedu kompromessi mhux żgħar?

Il-pedamenti tal-koalizzjoni huma dgħajfa ħafna. Mhux kulħadd jaf x’inhu jagħmel.