Mat-tfal, Sant’ Anton, għand il-President tar-Repubblika

 

Nhar il-Ġimgħa 18 ta’ Jannar, flimkien ma 12-il kandidat ieħor għall-Parlament Ewropew, ħadt sehem f’laqgħa ma numru ta’ tfal u żgħażagħ organizzata mill-Fondazzjoni tal-President.

It-tfal ippreżentawlna u ddiskutew magħna dokument bil-ħsibijiet tagħhom fuq diversi suġġetti.

Kellmuna dwar l-immigrazzjoni u emfasizzaw il-ħtieġa li jkunu mħarsa l-immigranti mill-għarqa. L-argumenti dwar x’għandu jsir għandhom jiġu wara li tittieħed azzjoni. (act first, discuss after) Kellmuna ukoll dwar l-iżvilupp bla rażan li għaddej madwarna, dwar is-siġar li qed jinqerdu, dwar il-plastik li jintuża darba u jintrema, dwar il-ħtieġa li jonqsu l-karozzi mit-toroq tagħna, dwar l-enerġija mix-xemx u dwar il-ħarsien tal-annimali.

It-tfal u ż-żgħażagħ kellmuna ukoll dwar bosta temi soċjali: dwar il-vjolenza u l-bullying, is-saħħa, l-edukazzjoni, l-ugwaljanza, l-faqar u l-esklużjoni soċjali.

It-tfal tkellmu b’konvinzjoni u kienu jidhru li ilhom jiddiskutu bejniethom.

Tkellmu ukoll dwar il-politika u dwar iż-żgħażagħ li kienu ser jivvutaw l-ewwel darba mas-16-il sena. Emfasizzaw kemm kien meħtieġ li minn kmieni l-edukazzjoni li jirċievu tgħinhom jerfgħu ir-responsabbiltajiet tagħhom ta’ ċittadini.

Impressjonawna mhux biss biċ-ċarezza tal-ħsieb tagħhom imma iktar bil-kapaċità li wrew li jippreżentaw kritika kostruttiva dwar dak li qed josservaw jiġri madwarhom.

Dan kien eżerċizzju tajjeb mill-Fondazzjoni tal-President. It-tfal ukoll għandhom jiddiskutu l-politika, għax din għandha tkun għas-servizz tagħhom ukoll.

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Abbuż ta’ tfal fl-istituzzjonijiet fl-Awstralja

Fl-Awstralja għandha kif ġiet konkluża inkjesta dwar l-abbuż sesswali ta’ tfal fl-istituzzjonijiet. L-inkjesta damet għaddejja ħames snin u r-rapport li ġie ippubblikat f’dawn il-ġranet fih 17-il volum li ma jispiċċaw qatt. Ir-rapport jittratta “institutional responses into child sexual abuse“. Dan apparti diversi dokumenti oħra, prinċipalment ta’ natura konsultattiva li ġew ippubblikati matul il-ħames snin li ilha għaddejja l-inkjesta.

Ir-rapport fih 189 rakkomandazzjoni kif ukoll kritika qawwija lill-Knisja Kattolika fl-Awstralja.

Ir-rapport fih referenzi ukoll għal Malta u ċjoe għat-tfal li kienu mibgħuta bħala emigranti (sfurzati) prinċipalment fis-snin ħamsin. Dwar dawn, is-Senat Awstraljan fis-sena 2001 kien diġa ikkonkluda rapport intitolat Lost Innocents: Righting the Record. Report on Child Migration. liema rapport kien fih 33 rakkomadazzjoni oħra.

Kważi 7 snin ilu, fil-Parlament Malti, Lawrence Gonzi u Joseph Muscat kienu għamlu apoloġija lil dawn it-tfal Maltin għat-tbatija li sofrew. Kien hemm 315 tfal li uħud spiċċaw jagħmlu xogħol sfurzat u li hemm minnhom li sofrew abbuż kemm fiżiku kif ukoll sesswali.

Xi snin qabel il-Gvern kien kixef monument dedikat lil dawn it-tfal ix-Xatt ta’ Pinto, il-Valletta Waterfront.

Id-dibattitu dwar l-aħħar rapport Awstraljan ser ikun wieħed qawwi għax fost affarijiet oħra jattakka kemm iċ-ċelibat kif ukoll is-sigriet tal-qrar. Materji ta’ sensittivita kbira fil-Knisja Kattolika.

Huwa dibattitu li jista’ jaqbad xi ftit f’pajjiżna ukoll kemm minħabba l-kaz għad-danni li għadu pendenti quddiem il-Qrati Maltin in konnessjoni ma każ ta’ abbuż ta’ tfal minn żewġ membri tal-kleru, kif ukoll minħabba xi każijiet oħra li jistgħu jerġgħu joħorġu għad-dawl.

After Wednesday’s earthquake: civil defence

 

 

On Wednesday an earthquake of 4.4 magnitude on the Richter scale was reported in the Maltese islands. As far as we are aware no damage was caused, yet it would be appropriate to consider a number of relevant issues.

Are we prepared for the consequences of a much stronger earthquake which would cause considerable damage including the potential death of a substantial number of persons?

Around two years ago, the Civil Protection Department (CPD) in conjunction with the Sicilian counterparts carried out an earthquake simulation exercise in Gozo which, undoubtedly, provided CPD personnel with valuable experience. It is not known if the department has been involved in any subsequent exercises, either locally or abroad, nor is it known if any specific operational changes were implemented by the CPD as a result of the lessons learned in the 2015 exercise.

It is, however, pertinent to point out that it is not only the CPD, the Police, the AFM and the Health Authorities that need adequate and continuous training to cope with the aftermath of a strong earthquake in the Maltese Islands. In addition to the operators of the different sectors of the infrastructure (energy, water, transport) the civilian population should also receive training for this unlikely eventuality.

Simulation exercises involving the civilian population are necessary as they would develop at local level an ability to manage a disaster. We need to start from scratch in building up a civil defence corps worthy of the name, coordinated and trained by the CPD but based in each locality in Malta and Gozo.

It is a responsibility which, together with adequate resources, should be assigned to local councils under the watchful eye of the CPD.

This would be the appropriate way to build up an adequate general level of preparedness for disaster management. The involvement of the local councils would also ensure that the needs of the most vulnerable members of our communities are addressed. Specific protocols need to be developed and tested in conjunction with local councils regarding the assistance required by children and those who are bedridden or disabled. Catering for all disabilities is an indispensible prerequisite and this requires trained personnel to which the CPD currently has little if any access. It is an easily identifiable deficiency that needs to be addressed forthwith.

Those in charge of disaster management in time of need require the ability to communicate with people having impaired hearing. Is anyone at the CPD, the Police, the AFM or the Health Authorities able to communicate in sign language? Addressing this communication deficiency on the part of the authorities is required not just to ensure that Malta is adequately prepared for disaster management, it is also an everyday deficiency that every authority in Malta that offers a direct service to the population at large needs to address. With around 500 known Maltese with impaired hearing and a number of others who could have remained below the radar, this is an issue that is manageable primarily at local level.

The CPD is one of the youngest departments and to date it has given sterling service in fire-fighting, managing pollution and providing assistance required as a result of flooding after heavy storms. We look forward to the next step in its development: ensuring that training in disaster management is an integral part of the services of local authorities.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 27 August 2017

Ignoring residents and their local councils

strait street valletta 2

 

Government has published a consultation document dealing with the use of open public spaces by catering establishments, entitled Guidelines on Outdoor Catering Areas on Open Public Space : a holistic approach to creating an environment of comfort and safety.

This document was launched earlier this week at a press conference addressed by the Minister for Tourism Edward Zammit Lewis and the Parliamentary Secretary responsible for planning and simplification of administrative processes Michael Falzon.

The inter-Ministerial committee set up by government to draft the policy document was limited to representatives of the Ministry of the Interior, MEPA, Transport Malta, the Government Property Division, the Malta Tourism Authority and the Association of Hotels and Restaurants (MHRA). Representatives of the local councils were excluded from participating.

It seems that when the matter was being considered by Cabinet, the Minister for Local Councils Owen Bonnici was fast asleep as otherwise he would undoubtedly have drawn the attention of his colleagues that the Local Councils Act, in article 33, deems it a function of local councils “to advise and, where applicable, be consulted by, any authority empowered to take any decisions directly or indirectly affecting the Council and the residents it is responsible for”.

Surely the use of public open spaces by catering establishments is a matter which is of considerable interest to local councils as it affects both the councils and the residents they represent. Yet the government has a different opinion as representatives of local councils were not invited at the drawing board where the guidelines on the use of public open spaces by catering establishments were being drafted.

The guidelines introduce a one stop shop at MEPA, thereby eliminating the need to apply for around four other permits for the placing of tables and chairs in public open spaces. This would be a positive development if MEPA can take on board all the considerations which are normally an integral part of the four other application processes.

If the utilisation of public open spaces was limited to the squares in our towns and villages, I do not think that there would be any issue. There is sufficient space in such areas and using part of it for open air catering activities there would not be cause for concern.

However, problems will definitely arise in areas of mixed use, that is, areas where the ground floor is used commercially and the overlying areas are used as residences. This is a common occurrence in many of the localities where there is a high demand by the catering business for the utilisation of public open space. The guidelines, however, ignore the impacts which placing chairs and tables at street level could have on the residents in such areas, in particular those living in the floors immediately above ground level. Such impacts would primarily be the exposure of residents to secondary cigarette/tobacco smoke as well as noise and odours. The issue of noise will undoubtedly arise, in particular during siesta time, as well as late into the evenings while secondary smoke from cigarettes/tobacco as well as odours will be an ever present nuisance. Maybe if the local councils were not excluded from the inter-Ministerial Committee, these matters would have been taken into consideration.

In such instances it would be necessary to limit the placing of tables and chairs at such a distance from residences where impacts on residents from secondary smoke, noise and odours are insignificant: that is if there is sufficient space.

The guidelines establish that a passageway of 1.50 metres on pavements is to be reserved for pedestrians. In addition they establish that where a permit is requested to place chairs and tables outside third-party property, specific clearance in front of doors and windows is to be observed. Isn’t that thoughtful of the inter-Ministerial Committee? Instead of categorically excluding the placing of chairs and tables along the property of third parties it seeks to facilitate the creation of what would inevitably be a nuisance to the users of such a property. This, too, is the result of the lop-sided composition of the inter-Ministerial Committee.

Nor are parking spaces spared. The inter-Ministerial Committee makes provision in the proposed guidelines for the possibility that catering establishments can also make use of parking spaces for the placing of tables and chairs when other space is insufficient. The guidelines leave no stone unturned in ensuring that tables and chairs get priority, even though this is worded in terms that make it appear that it would be an exception.

Enforcement, as usual, will be another headache. We already have quite a number of cases in various localities where passageways are minimal or inexistent and pedestrians, excluded from walking along the pavement have to move along with the traffic, right in the middle of the road. At times this may prove quite difficult and dangerous, in particular for wheelchair users or in the case of parents with small children. Enforcement to date is practically inexistent and I do not think that matters will change much in this respect.

Unfortunately, MEPA is a repeat offender in ignoring the interests of the residential community when faced with all types of development. The guidelines on the use of public open space by catering establishments are thus more of the same.

While cars have taken over our roads, catering establishments will now be guided on how to take over our pavements and open spaces, parking included!

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 13 September 2015  

Next Thursday’s earthquake

earthquake

 

This will be a simulation exercise coordinated by Malta’s Civil Protection Department at 4pm next Thursday in Gozo and three hundred people will be involved.

It will be carried out with EU assistance and in conjunction with the Civil Protection Authorities in Sicily who are partners with the Maltese Civil Protection Department (CPD) in establishing a network within the region that is able to manage seismological disasters.

This exercise signals the coming of age of Malta’s CPD. It has to date delivered sterling service in the areas of fire-fighting, managing pollution and providing assistance required as a result of flooding after heavy storms. Training its staff, and subjecting them to a gruelling simulation exercise, is a gigantic step forward for the CPD. It is the first step of a long journey that is dependent on the dedication of the CPD staff  – which is unlimited – as well as the resources allocated by the state. Such resources, although limited over the years, seem to be slowly trickling down, for a change.

Developing the CPD’s ability to handle disasters will be a major challenge. For a start it will identify its capability to develop effective coordination with the Police Force, with the AFM (Armed Forces) and the health authorities as well as with local councils.

At the end of the day the CPD’s proficiency in disaster management will be measured in terms of its response time as well as the number of lives it saves in such situations. This will generally depend on the severity of the disaster with which it is faced.

This will not only translate into a general level of preparedness. It will also require focusing on the needs of the most vulnerable in our communities and in this respect the role of local councils is indispensable. Specific protocols need to be developed and tested in conjunction with local councils regarding the assistance required by children and those who are bedridded or disabled. Catering for all disabilities is an indispensible prerequisite and it requires trained personnel to which the CPD currently has no access. It is an easily identifiable deficiency which needs to be addressed forthwith.

One small example would suffice: how would the CPD personnel, the police, the AFM – or the health authorities for that matter – communicate with persons with  impaired hearing in the absence of staff able to communicate in sign language? Addressing this deficiency is required not just to ensure that Malta is adequately prepared for disaster management. It is also an everyday deficiency that every authority in Malta that offers a direct service to the population at large needs to address. With around five hundred known Maltese with impaired hearing and a number of others who may have remained below the radar, this is an issue which is manageable primarily at a local level. Yet to date it has not been adequately prioritised.

In this context, one would also need to query the level of preparedness of institutions such as Mount Carmel Hospital and id-Dar tal-Providenza. I am informed that even when it comes to fire drills in residential homes for the elderly, the results were not impressive, to put it mildly.

Prompt and effective coordination between the different authorities is crucial in ensuring disaster management. There is a need to test how the different types of equipment used by the CPD, the Police and the AFM interact. Are they compatible? The planned simulation exercise is an opportunity to identify whether, in an actual practice run, matters will work out as planned. Lessons learned in this area will have to be translated into better procurement procedures in the future to ensure smooth interaction between the CPD, the police and the Army.

This will translate into compatible communication equipment as well as adequately maintained vehicles, sea craft and aeroplanes/helicopters which can be used in difficult circumstances. Knowing that maintenance of equipment has never been our forte, this could be quite a challenge!

The simulation exercise on Gozo on 3 September will necessarily lead to a number of lessons learnt which will have to be acted upon in order that Malta’s capability in disaster management is enhanced. This is definitely a bold step in the right direction.

I look forward to the next steps which require the involvement of local authorities.

Published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 30 August 2015

Id-Divorzju : ħawwadni forsi nifhem (5)

 

Il-kobba tkompli titħabbel : l-effett fuq it-tfal.

Il-kobba kompliet titħabbel. Issa kulħadd qed taħarqu qalbu għat-tfal. Qed jgħidulna li l-iktar li ser ibagħtu huma t-tfal jekk ser jiġi introdott id-divorzju.

Ħa naraw ftit x’inhu propost.

Ir-referendum qed jipproponi li jkun introdott divorzju f’kaz ta’ koppji li jkunu ilhom separati ta’ l-inqas 4 snin u li dwarhom medjazzjoni ma tkunx tat riżultat posittiv.

Id-divorzju, kif propost, hu applikabbli biss jekk ikun hemm separazzjoni li tkun ilha 4 snin (ta’ l-inqas). It-tbatija tal-ulied fil-konfront ta’ nuqqas ta’ familja stabbli għaldaqstant m’hiex ser tibda bid-divorzju. Ser tkun ilha li bdiet.  U la l-medjazzjoni ma tkunx tat riżultat il-bieb għal rimedju għat-tbatija tal-uliedu u l-ġenituri ikun ilu magħluq żmien.  

Is-soluzzjonijiet possibli għal din it-tbatija huma diversi. Waħda mis-soluzzjonijiet hi d-divorzju għax tista’ twassal għall-ħolqien ta’ familja ġdida li tnaqqas din it-tbatija. Tista’ tnaqqasha ftit imma tista’ tnaqqasha ħafna ukoll. Jiddependi miċ-ċirkustanzi partikolari ta’ kull każ, li kif nafu l-ebda wieħed m’hu bħall-ieħor.

Min ma jaqbilx mad-divorzju minħabba t-tbatija tat-tfal għandu jkun onest u jgħid li jekk każ jieqaf mas-separazzjoni (jiġifieri l-koppja tibqa’ separata) t-tbatija tat-tfal mhiex ser tkun inqas.

Jekk xi waħda mill-partjiet tikseb annullament jew tiddeċiedi li tikkoabita t-tbatija xorta tibqa’ hemm.

Mela ejja jkollna diskussjoni iktar onesta u ngħidu l-fatti kif inhuma. Li d-disintegrazzjoni ta’ familja ser iġġib it-tbatija fuq kull wieħed mill-membri tagħha. U m’hemmx differenza jekk din insejħulhiex separazzjoni, annullament, koabitazzjoni jew divorzju. M’humiex l-istess : imma l-effetti ta’ tbatija li joħolqu fuq il-membri tal-familja huma kważi xorta.

Fl-opinjoni tiegħi l-issue hi waħda: iż-żwieġ hu rabta għal dejjem, jew hemm xi ċirkustanzi li jippermettu li dan jinħall?

L-introduzzjoni ta’ liġi tad-divorzju f’Malta tippermetti lil kull wieħed u waħda minnha li jieħu d-deċizjoni tiegħu jew tagħha u dan minflok ma jkun meħtieġ li issiefer inkella tbaxxi rasek għad-deċiżjoni li jieħu għalik l-istat.

Għalhekk il-vot IVA. Biex kull wieħed u kull waħda minna niddeċiedu aħna u mhux jiddeċiedi għalina ħaddieħor.

ara ukoll fuq dan il-blog

Id-Divorzju : ħawwadni forsi nifhem (1) : Il-mandat.

Id-Divorzju : ħawwadni forsi nifhem (2) : Referendum; meta ?

Id-Divorzju : ħawwadni forsi nifhem (3) : Bejn kalkoli u realta’

Id-Divorzju : ħawwadni forsi nifhem (4) : Il-Partit Progressiv fejn hu ?

Politika dwar id-divorzju tal-Partit Laburista Malti.

The politics of divorce