Is the abrogative referendum under threat ?

article 14. Referenda Act

 

Until Alternattiva Demokratika announced the abrogative referendum campaign  on spring hunting almost two years ago, few Maltese citizens were aware that they had such a right.  Now that this right has been used for the first time since it has been placed on the statute book, it is apparently under threat.

The hunters’ lobby is now aiming at curtailing the right to an abrogative referendum. The hunters maintain that when the Referenda Act was applied in trying to abrogate the regulations permitting spring hunting it was aiming at their rights – “minority rights” they said.

Hunters had presented these same arguments though their representatives for the consideration of the Constitutional Court, which shot them down last January. In fact the Constitutional Court in paragraphs 51 to 54 of its 24-page decision, considers this very point. The hunters, said the Constitutional Court, claim that their rights are minority rights. However no potential breach of a provision of the Constitution of Malta or of the European Convention of Human Rights have been indicated in their submissions. The Constitutional Court goes on to say the following :

“It is right to emphasise that in implementing majority rule the rights of the minority should be respected. However this respect is not attained, as suggested by the Federation [FKNK] by obstructing people from expressing themselves through a referendum.”  [Tassew illi d-dritt tal-maġġoranza għandu jitwettaq b’rispett lejn id-dritt tal-minoranza, iżda dan ir-rispett ma jinkisibx billi, kif trid il-Federazzjoni, il-poplu ma jitħalliex isemma’ leħnu f’referendum.]

This same argument  was also the subject of a petition to Parliament organised by the hunters’ lobby and presented in Parliament by Parliamentary Secretary Michael Falzon some months ago.  In recent days, comments have been made indicating that shortly we may be hearing of the government’s reactions to this petition. These reactions will most probably be in the form of proposals for amendments to the Referenda Act of 1973, in particular amendments to the provisions regulating the holding of an abrogative referendum – provisions which were originally approved by Parliament in 1996 and brought in force in 1998.

The provisions of  the Referenda Act in Malta providing for the holding of an abrogative referendum are already very restrictive.  From what has been stated, hunters want such provisions to be even more restrictive.  In this sense they have already made public a proposal that a definite time window within which signatures for an abrogative referendum have to be collected has to be established.  In Italian legislation, for example, there exists a 90-day window within which the collection of signatures has to be carried out. Such a time window may be a reasonable proposal within the Italian legal system, but then in Italy the number of voter signatures required to trigger the abrogative referendum process is proportionately much lower than that required in Malta.

The number of signatures required to kick-start the abrogative referendum process in Malta is 10 per cent of the registered voters. This currently stands at slightly under 34,000 signatures. In Italy, by contrast, half-a-million signatures – or the consent of five regional councils – is required. The number  of signatures required in Italy amount to approximately one per cent of the electorate, meaning that the corresponding requirement in Malta is ten times as much!

I will not speculate over how the government will seek to translate the hunters’ petition into legislation. I have limited myself to one specific proposal.

It is still unclear as to what type of amendments to the Referenda Act will be submitted by government. One thing is, however, very clear:  we need to keep our eyes wide open to ensure that our rights are not reduced.

The abrogative referendum is an important tool in our democratic society, even though it has been made use of only once in its 19-year existence.  Let us hope that government will not succumb to pressures to have it diluted or removed.

published in The Malta Indpendent on Sunday : 19 April 2015

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Real and imaginary referenda

Kacca + Vot

 

The abrogative referendum which was given the green light by Malta’s Constitutional Court earlier this month is the first of its kind. It is a referendum which, if successful, will delete from Malta’s statute book regulations which permit spring hunting on quail and turtledove.

In its efforts to  build up support in favour of the retention of spring hunting, the hunting lobby has been repeatedly sending out the message that if this referendum were to succeed, it would pave the way for a multitude of other referenda which, in their words, would threaten various hobbies which they label as minorities. They mention a few of these hobbies  among which pigeon racing.  Obviously, they fail to state that the only real threat to racing pigeon enthusiasts here are those who shoot at anything that flies. And it is not just a one-off incident.

The hunting lobby is not enthusiastic  about the referendum process enhancing democracy in our islands by granting the possibility to voters to demand that a specific legislative instrument is subjected to a  popular vote. They would rather that such a right did not exist.  As witnessed throughout recent years, the hunting lobby prefers the option to acquire concessions through back room deals and agreements with political parties arrived at through a process of bartering votes for concessions.  The statement “NO Kaċċa, NO vote” has been all too familiar in public manifestations organised by the hunting lobby throughout the years.

The abrogative referendum in Malta was introduced through amendments to the Referendum Act approved by Parliament in 1996. Going through the transcripts of the Parliamentary Debate of the 15th and  16th January 1996 reveals an interesting contrast between the speeches of Eddie Fenech Adami, then Prime Minister, and Alfred Sant, then Leader of the Opposition, in the second reading stage of the debate.

Dr Fenech Adami  spoke in favour of a limited right of referendum – limited in the sense that a set of identified legislative instruments could not be subjected to an abrogative referendum.  On the other hand, Dr Sant wanted to extend the limitations. In fact, he emphasised that once a political proposal was part of a political party’s electoral manifesto it should not be possible to subject it to the abrogative referendum process.  Fenech Adami and Sant had also disagreed on whether  it was the appropriate time to introduce a citizens’ initiative through which rather than using the referendum as a negative instrument to cancel a legislative instrument, it would be utilised to submit a proposal to popular vote.  This could take the form of a proposal that Parliament should legislate on a specific matter, or even possibly that policies be drafted relative to neglected issues.

The conclusions of the 1996 debate are with us today, being applied for the first time: Parliament decided to introduce the right to petition for the deletion of legislation. It did not opt to introduce the right to propose new initiatives.

When Parliament decided on the parameters within which the abrogative referendum was to operate, it specifically excluded a number of laws – the Constitution, the European Convention Act and all fiscal legislation; also, all matters required in  implementing any international treaty to which Malta is party cannot be subjected to an abrogative referendum. Likewise, the legislative measures introducing the right to an abrogative referendum as well as electoral legislation cannot be the subject of a petition leading to an abrogative referendum.

When identifying the subject matter for a referendum, the petitioners, with the help of their advisors, examine the different legislative instruments  which deal with the issues under consideration.  Care must be exercised such that the legislation selected as the subject of the referendum does not go beyond what is strictly required. For the 11 April referendum the Coalition for the Abolition of Spring Hunting opted for a 2010 Legal Notice  entitled Framework for Allowing a Derogation Opening a Spring Hunting Season for Turtle Dove and Quail Regulations as the legislative instrument to be voted upon. In so doing, the Coalition’s referendum petition differentiated between the general regulatory legislation on wild birds and the legislation which defined the exceptions which are being permitted during spring. The target of the abrogative referendum being the exception to the rule.

As a result the referendum petition is clear and specific and leads to one conclusion: the abolition or otherwise of spring hunting in Malta. This is the only referendum on the national agenda .

 

published on The Malta Independent on Sunday – 25 January 2015

Protecting the birds, reclaiming the countryside

 

turtle doves just shot

The abolition of spring hunting will lead to the protection of birds when they most need it. All birds will be protected, not just the quail and turtle dove.  Birds need our protection during the spring as it is the time of the year when they breed or are preparing to breed. Every bird which is shot during spring signifies that there will be one less nest and consequently there will be fewer birds in the following seasons.

The Birds  Directive of the European Union is an integral part of Maltese law since, and as a result of, Malta’s EU  accession in 2004. The Directive expressly states that EU Member States along migratory bird routes have a far greater responsibility regarding bird protection. This responsibility is spelled out in article 7(4) of the Directive where it is very clearly stated that : “In the case of migratory species, [member states] shall see in particular that the species to which hunting regulations apply are not hunted during their period of reproduction or during their return to their rearing grounds.” This applies to all bird migratory routes throughout EU territory without exception.

The Birds Directive is not a Directive about hunting but about the protection of birds. It does, however, recognise that circumstances may arise as a result of which it may be necessary to permit an exception, which exception is called “a derogation”. Exceptions are very well defined in article 9(1) of the Birds Directive (vide box) and these are the only circumstances in respect of which an EU member state may derogate from its obligations under the Birds Directive. It follows that whilst EU members have the authority to permit an exception, such an exception, or derogation,  must be within the three general parameters determined by the Directive. It is not a right but a tool for addressing the specific situations mentioned in the Directive. Readers will very easily notice that the permissible derogations make no reference to the killing of birds for fun – commonly referred to as “hunting”.

Member states permit thousands of derogations in their territory every year. Derogations in respect of birds that are considered agricultural pests or a potential threat to the safety of aeroplanes are the most frequent cases where derogations are permitted. I am informed that the list of these thousands of derogations all over EU territory does not contain one single case which refers to a derogation for the purpose of sports during spring. Malta is the only exception.

Being on a migratory bird route means that Malta has an international responsibility to protect all birds returning to their rearing grounds to reproduce. This return occurs annually during spring, hence the need to abolish spring hunting. It is a duty we have towards the international community in respect of all the birds migrating through Maltese airspace.

The abrogative referendum, in respect of which Malta’s Constitutional Court decided that no valid objections had been filed, will ask voters whether or not they agree with the regulations that permit a spring hunting derogation for two specific species: turtle dove and quail. These regulations are contained in the Framework for Allowing a Derogation Opening a Spring Hunting Season for Turtle Dove and Quail Regulations, originally published in 2010.

Voting NO on the 11 April  will protect  birds migrating over Malta during spring as well as restore back to the public access to the countryside at that time of the year. It will also eliminate the negative impact (through the sound of gunfire and the trampling all over the countryside) which will further help to attract and allow other breeding birds (not just quail and turtle dove) to nest in our country.

Currently, Malta’s countryside is practically inaccessible during the spring hunting season as one runs the risk of being showered with hunters’ pellets. Maltese families have very little access to the countryside when hunters are enjoying their spring derogation- and a number of them shooting at anything that flies.

This means that Maltese families and their children are being deprived of enjoying nature in all its splendour. We are all entitled to enjoy the countryside, which belongs to us all and not just to a select few. This enjoyment is currently being obstructed by the spring hunting derogation which the Parliamentary parties have been defending continuously.  It is about time that we reclaimed our right to fully enjoy nature in spring, while simultaneously allowing birds to continue breeding.

A total of 41,494 citizens signed a petition which has resulted in the abrogative referendum that will be held on 11 April 2015. This is a unique opportunity to protect the birds and help re-establish our families’ links with nature during the spring.  Let us use this opportunity well by voting NO, thereby rejecting the regulations contained in the spring hunting derogation and consigning spring hunting in Malta to the dustbin of history.

article 9. derogation

 

published in the Independent – Sunday 18 January 2015

X’qalu l-kaċċaturi: kif wieġbet il-Qorti Kostituzzjonali (6)

spring huntng

6.M’hemm l-ebda dritt għall-kaċċa

Is-sitt oġġezzjoni li kkunsidrat il-Qorti Kostituzzjonali hi spjegata fil-paragrafi 51 u 52 tas-sentenza li jgħidu hekk:

Fl-aħħar oġġezzjoni tagħha l-Federazzjoni [FKNK] tgħid illi l-qorti għandha tqis id-drittijiet tal-kaċċaturi bħala “grupp ta’ minoranza” u għandha tqis ukoll illi:

“ filwaqt illi huwa minnu li l-prinċipji tad-demokrazija jistipolaw li hija l-maġġoranza li tiggverna, mill-banda l-oħra tali governanza millmaġġoranza għandha dejjem issir b’rispett lejn il-minoranzi.”

Il-Federazzjoni [FKNK] tkompli tgħid illi taħt l-art. 16(1) tal-Kap. 237[Att dwar ir-Referendi] , il-L.S. 504.94 [Legislazzjoni Sussidjarja, ċjoe r-regolamenti li jippermettu d-deroga tal-kaċċa fir-rebbiegħa] ma tistax tintlaqat b’referendum abrogativ għax, jekk ma tibqax fis-seħħ, il-liġi “tkun inkompatibbli ma’ xi waħda mid-disposizzjonijiet tal-Kostituzzjoni jew tal-Att dwar il-Konvenzjoni Europea”.

Il-Qorti Kostituzzjonali twieġeb b’mod ċar fil-paragrafi 53 u 54 tas-sentenza b’dan il-mod :

Il-Federazzjoni iżda ma ssemmi ebda disposizzjoni tal-Kostituzzjoni ta’ Malta jew tal-Konvenzjoni Ewropea li tgħid illi hemm dritt fondamentali għall-kaċċa, jew liema minn dawk id-disposizzjonijiet tista’ tinkiser jekk titħassar il-L.S.504.94 [Legislazzjoni Sussidjarja, ċjoe r-regolamenti li jippermettu d-deroga tal-kaċċa fir-rebbiegħa]. Tassew illi d-dritt tal-maġġoranza għandu jitwettaq b’rispett lejn id-dritt tal-minoranza, iżda dan ir-rispett ma jinkisibx billi, kif trid il-Federazzjoni, il-poplu ma jitħalliex isemma’ leħnu f’referendum. Kif ġa ingħad aktar ’il fuq, iċ-ċirkostanzi fejn referendum ma jistax isir huma previsti mil-liġi bħala eċċezzjoni għar-regola li referendum jista’ jsir u bħal kull eċċezzjoni huma ta’ interpretazzjoni stretta.

Din l-aħħar oġġezzjoni hija għalhekk miċħuda.

X’qalu l-kaċċaturi: kif wieġbet il-Qorti Kostituzzjonali (4)

euros floating in space

4. Il-ħlas ta’ liċenzja ma jagħmilx liġi waħda fiskali

Ir-raba’ oġġezzjoni li kkunsidrat il-Qorti Kostituzzjonali hi spjegata fil-paragrafu 29 tas-sentenza li jgħid hekk:

“Fir-raba’ oġġezzjoni l-Federazzjoni [FKNK] tgħid illi l-L.S. 504.94 [Legislazzjoni Sussidjarja, ċjoe r-regolamenti li jippermettu d-deroga tal-kaċċa fir-rebbiegħa] hija leġislazzjoni fiskali u għalhekk hija mħarsa taħt l-art. 16(1)(f) tal-Kap. 237 [Att dwar ir-Referendi]  . Tgħid illi hija leġislazzjoni fiskali għax min imur għall-kaċċa għandu jkollu liċenza li biex jiksibha jrid iħallas.”

Għal din ir-raba’  oġġezzjoni l-Qorti Kostituzzjonali twieġeb hekk fil-paragrafi  30, u 31 tas-sentenza:

“Leġislazzjoni fiskali hija dik, bħall-Att dwar it-Taxxa fuq l-Income jew l-Att dwar it-Taxxa fuq il-Valur Miżjud, illi l-għan ewlieni tagħha huwa l-ġbir ta’ flus għall-erarju. Liġi ma titqiesx leġislazzjoni fiskali għar-raġuni biss illi taħseb għal ħlas ta’ dritt talli jingħata servizz speċifiku bħal ma hu l-ħruġ ta’ liċenza. L-għan ewlieni tal-L.S. 504.04 [Legislazzjoni Sussidjarja, ċjoe r-regolamenti li jippermettu d-deroga tal-kaċċa fir-rebbiegħa] ma huwiex il-ġbir ta’ flus iżda r-regolamentazzjoni meħtieġa biex tista’ ssir deroga taħt id-Direttiva 2009/147/KE. [Direttiva dwar l-Għasafar]

Billi għalhekk il-L.S. 504.04 [Legislazzjoni Sussidjarja, ċjoe r-regolamenti li jippermettu d-deroga tal-kaċċa fir-rebbiegħa] ma tistax titqies leġislazzjoni fiskali, ir-raba’ oġġezzjoni wkoll hija miċħuda.”

Celebrating democracy

 

turtle dove

Last Friday the Constitutional Court gave the abrogative referendum on spring hunting the green light. In a 24-page decision it threw out each and every objection which the hunters’ organisations submitted for the Court’s consideration.

The nit-picking strategy of the hunters’ lobby has failed, with the Constitutional Court declaring in clear terms that the objections listed by the hunters’ organisations do not constitute valid reasons for halting the abrogative referendum. In particular, the Constitutional Court underlined the fact that the hunters had not in any way attempted to prove their claim that some minority right was in danger of being trampled upon as a result of the proposed abrogative referendum. The Constitutional Court pointed out that the FKNK had failed to identify any provision of the Constitution – or of the European Convention – that spells out a “fundamental right to hunt”. Nor, added the Constitutional Court, had the FKNK specified which of the provisions of the Constitution or of the European Convention would be infringed by the proposed abrogative referendum.

The voice of 41,494 electors is now being heard loud and clear. These electors triggered the call for an abrogative referendum to abolish spring hunting by removing from the statute book the regulations which permit it. These regulations are contained in Legal Notice 221 of 2010 entitled Framework for Allowing a Derogation Opening a Spring Hunting Season for Turtledove and Quail.

This is the third referendum to be held in Malta during the last 12 years. The abrogative referendum authorised by the Constitutional Court on Friday is, however, of a completely different nature from the other two.

Both the 2003 European Union referendum and the 2011 divorce referendum were consultative in nature. In 2003, the government consulted the electorate on Malta’s accession to the EU. It had no legal obligation to do so but it did, however, have a political commitment which it honoured by putting the question of Malta’s accession to the popular vote.

In 2011 Parliament asked the electorate for political direction as to whether or not divorce legislation should be approved by Parliament. It was the political way out for both the Nationalist Party and the Labour Party when faced with the private member’s Bill on the introduction of divorce. Both had then hoped for a no, yet they got a resounding yes.

The referendum this time is not consultative in nature. This time, the referendum will deliver a decision as to whether regulations permitting spring hunting are to be deleted from the statute book. This initiative originated outside Parliament on the initiative of the Coalition for the Abolition of Spring Hunting, made up of 13 environmental NGOs together with Alternattiva Demokratika, the Green Party in Malta. It is the first time that the provisions of the Referenda Act on abrogative referenda are being made use of.

This is the direct result of the backroom dealings practised by the parliamentary parties and the hunting lobby over the years. The hunting lobby has managed to cling on to a spring hunting season through lobbying the parliamentary parties and trading votes for concessions on hunting issues. Public opinion, consistently contrary to the agreements reached by the hunters’ organisations with both the Nationalist Party and the Labour Party, was ignored. Faced with this attitude, the only remaining option was to use the provisions of the Referenda Act, which have been left idle since being enacted in 1996.

Contrary to what some may think, it is not possible to hold an abrogative referendum on any matter whatsoever on merely a whim. The areas that can be subjected to an abrogative referendum are limited by a number of provisions of the law. A basic limitation is the number of signatories required to initiate the process. Ten per cent of the registered electorate is a substantial number of signatures. But then this is a necessary safeguard in order to ensure that the proposal being placed before the electorate is supported by a reasonable number of voters.

Fiscal measures, the Constitution, international treaties, electoral legislation, referendum legislation and issues of human rights are matters that cannot be subjected to a referendum.

Friday’s decision by the Constitutional Court means that the issue of spring hunting will now be decided by the electorate itself. While the specific issue being addressed by the abrogative referendum is spring hunting, the significance of the process is much more than that. It is an empowerment of the electorate, an exercise in direct democracy. The realisation will soon sink in that, on a number of matters, we voters have the right to recall the decision-making process from Parliament. It is a right that has been available but left idle for the past 19 years.

The abrogative referendum – which will be held between mid-April and mid-July – is a celebration of democracy. It strengthens democracy at its roots as it gives each and every one of us the right to participate in specific decisions. To be effective, however, it requires the participation of the largest possible number of voters.

That is the next challenge.

published in The Independent – Sunday 11 January 2015

X’qalu l-kaċċaturi: kif wieġbet il-Qorti Kostituzzjonali (3)

referendum

3. Is-suspetti tal-Federazzjoni ma jistgħux ma jitqisux fiergħa

It-tielet oġġezzjoni li kkunsidrat il-Qorti Kostituzzjonali hi spjegata fil-paragrafu 25 tas-sentenza li jgħid hekk:

Fit-tielet oġġezzjoni l-Federazzjoni [FKNK] tgħid illi l-Kummissjoni Elettorali ma għamlitx il-verifiki meħtieġa biex tara illi tassew fuq id-Dikjarazzjoni hemm numru biżżejjed ta’ firem validi. Tgħid illi “bl-eżerċizzju mwettaq mill-Kummissjoni Elettorali ċertament …. din ma setgħetx tiddikjara fiż-żgur l-għadd ta’ firem validi li jinqraw mid-dikjarazzjoni u konsegwentement qatt ma setgħet tiżgura jekk l-għadd ta’ persuni meħtieġa iffirmawx jew le d-dikjarazzjoni.” Tgħid ukoll illi l-Kummissjoni Elettorali ma ivverifikatx l-awtentiċità tal-firem. Il-Federazzjoni għalhekk talbet illi tingħata “kopja tal-informazzjoni kollha li ġiet inputted fis-sistema kompjuterizzata mill-istess Kummissjoni Elettorali sabiex b’hekk l-esponenti jkunu jistgħu jqabblu tali informazzjoni mad-data li għandhom huma.

Għal din t-tielet  oġġezzjoni l-Qorti Kostituzzjonali twieġbet hekk fil-paragrafi  26, 27 u 28 tas-sentenza:

“Fl-art. 14(3) u (4) tal-Kap. 237 jingħad hekk:

≫14. (3) Il-Kummissjoni Elettorali għandha fi żmien ħmistax-il jum mill-konsenja tad-dikjarazzjonijiet imsemmija fis-subartikolu (1) tiżgura xi jkun l-għadd ta’ persuni, kwalifikati skont ma hemm fis-subartikolu (1), li jkunu ffirmaw id-dikjarazzjoni, u għandha matul iż-żmien imsemmi ta’ ħmistax-il jum tiddepożita dawk id-dikjarazzjonijiet permezz ta’ nota fir-reġistru tal-Qorti Kostituzzjonali, li biha tiddikjara x’ikun l-għadd ta’ firem validi li jinqraw mid-dikjarazzjoni, kif ukoll l-għadd ta’ firem invalidi u għaliex dawn ikunu invalidi, flimkien ma’ dikjarazzjoni li tkun tindika jekk l-għadd ta’ persuni meħtieġa skont is-subartikolu (1) ikunx iffirma d-dikjarazzjoni.

≫(4) Id-deċiżjoni tal-Kummissjoni Elettorali dwar l-għadd ta’ persuni li jkunu ffirmaw validament id-dikjarazzjoni għandha tkun waħda finali u konklużiva.≪

Il-Kummissjoni Elettorali ippreżentat in-nota li jrid l-art. 14(3) fit-2 ta’ Lulju 2014. F’dik in-nota fissret kif għamlet il-verifika tal-firem u qalet kemm huma l-firem validi u dawk invalidi. L-art. 14(4) igħid illi d-deċiżjoni tal-Kummissjoni Elettorali dwar il-għadd tal-firem validi għandha tkun finali u konklużiva u din il-qorti ma tarax illi s-suspetti ġeneriċi mressqa mill-Federazzjoni, imsaħħa b’ebda prova jew argument konvinċenti, huma biżżejjed biex tiġi serjament kontestata d-deċiżjoni tal-kummissjoni. Il-metodu ta’ verifika tal-firem adottat mill-Kummissjoni Elettorali, kif imfisser fin-nota tagħha tat-2 ta’ Lulju 2014, huwa wieħed raġonevoli; verifika ta’ kull firma minn espert tal-kitba, kif trid il-Federazzjoni, la tkun prattika u lanqas fattibbli. Barra minn hekk, meta tqis ukoll illi l-għadd meħtieġ ta’ firem kien tlieta u tletin elf, erba’ mija u tmintax (33,418) u l-Kummissjoni Elettorali għaddet wieħed u erbgħin elf, erba’ mija u erbgħa u disgħin (41,494) firma valida, b’mod illi, ukoll jekk dsatax fil-mija (19%) tal-firem maħsuba validi huma ħżiena, xorta jifdal aktar minn biżżejjed biex id-dikjarazzjoni tintlaqa’, is-suspetti tal-Federazzjoni ma jistgħux ma jitqisux fiergħa.

Il-qorti għalhekk tiċħad it-tielet oġġezzjoni u tiċħad ukoll it-talba tal-Federazzjoni biex tingħata d-data fil-pussess tal-Kummissjoni Elettorali.”

X’qalu l-kaċċaturi: kif wieġbet il-Qorti Kostituzzjonali (2)

submission of referendum signature requests

2. Oġġezzjoni fattwalment ħażina

It-tieni oġġezzjoni li kkunsidrat il-Qorti hi spjegata fil-paragrafu 21 tas-sentenza li jgħid hekk:

“It-tieni oġġezzjoni tgħid illi d-Dikjarazzjoni ma tgħidx min huma l-persuni li qegħdin jagħmluha, u għalhekk ma tħarisx dak li jgħid u jrid l-art. 15(2) tal-Kap 237 [Att dwar ir-Referendi] :

“15(2) Dawk li jipproponu r-referendum, li ma jkunux inqas minn ħamsa u mhux iktar minn għaxra, għandhom jiffirmaw id-dikjarazzjoni qabel il-persuni l-oħra kollha filwaqt li jindikaw li jkunu qegħdin jiffirmaw bħala proponent.”

Għal din t-tieni  oġġezzjoni l-Qorti Kostituzzjonali wieġbet hekk fil-paragrafi  22, 23 u 24 tas-sentenza:

“ Din l-oġġezzjoni hija fattwalment ħażina. Id-Dikjarazzjoni saret fil-forma murija fl-Ewwel Skeda tal-Kap.237 li trid li d-dikjarazzjoni tibda hekk :

“Aħna hawn taħt iffirmati li aħna persuni rreġistrati bħala eletturi għall-elezzjoni ta’ membri fil-Kamra tad-Deputati (li minna l-ewwel għadd ta’ *(1) …………………….. persuni hawn taħt iffirmati huma l-proponenti) qegħdin nitolbu li l-mistoqsija dwar jekk dawn id-disposizzjonijiet tal-liġi li ġejjin, jiġifieri ……………..”

Imbagħad fil-parti fejn fl-Ewwel Skeda jitħalla vojt – fejn hemm l-istilla (*) u n-numru wieħed (1) – biex jitniżżel in-numru ta’ proponeti tniżżel in-numru “għaxra”, li jfisser illi l-ewwel għaxar ismijiet huma tal-proponeti u l-bqija huma l-ismijiet ta’ dawk illi ffirmaw id-dikjarazzjoni biex jintlaħaq in-numru li jrid l-art. 14(1) biex id-dikjarazzjoni tkun tista’ validament tintbagħat lill-Kummissjoni Elettorali.

It-tieni oġġezzjoni hi għalhekk miċħuda.”

X’qalu kaċċaturi: kif wieġbet il-Qorti Kostituzzjonali (1)

Constitutional Court.Hall

1.distinzjoni artifiċjali

L-ewwel oġġezzjoni li kkunsidrat il-Qorti hi spjegata fil-paragrafu 18 tas-sentenza li jgħid hekk:

“L-ewwel raġuni imressqa mill-Federazzjoni [FKNK] għala r-referendum m’għandux isir hija li l-art.14 tal-Kap 237 [Att dwar ir-Referendi] iħalli illi jissejjaħ referendum biex ma jibqax iseħħ “xi disposizzjoni jew għadd ta’ disposizzjonijiet ta’ xi liġi” u mhux biex ma tibqax isseħħ liġi sħiħa, kif inhi l-mistoqsija taħt ir-referendum li trid il-Koalizzjoni.”

Għal din l-ewwel oġġezzjoni tal-FKNK il-Qorti Kostituzzjonali twieġbet hekk fil-paragrafi 19 u 20 tas-sentenza:

“ Fi-fehma ta’ din il-Qorti d-distinzjoni li qiegħda tagħmel il-Federazzjoni bejn “disposizzjoni jew disposizzjonijiet” ta’ “liġi” u “liġi sħiħa” hija waħda artifiċjali. L-art. 14(1) ma jagħmel ebda limitu fuq il-għadd ta’ disposizzjonijiet ta’ liġi li jistgħu jintlaqtu b’referendum abrogattiv, bħallikieku ma tistax issir talba biex ma tibqax fis-seħħ liġi b’għoxrin disposizzjoni iżda tista’ ssir talba biex ma jibqgħux fis-seħħ dsatax minn dawk l-għoxrin disposizzjoni u titħalla waħda biss fis-seħħ. Fil-fatt, l-art 13(1) igħid illi l-proċedura tar-referendum abrogattiv tolqot “kull disposizzjoni” ta’ liġi li ma tkunx waħda minn dawk elenkata tassattivament fl-art.13(2), u l-effett tagħha ma hux limitat għal kull disposizzjoni li tkun biss parti minn liġi u mhux liġi sħiħa.

L-ewwel oġġezzjoni tal-Federazzjoni hija għalhekk miċħuda.”

Ir-referendum dwar il-kaċċa fir-rebbiegħa: x’inhu jiġri fil-Qorti?

rikors replika KSUseduta

Kelli l-opportunità diversi drabi f’dan il-blog li nfisser x’inhu għaddej bħalissa fil-Qorti in konnessjoni mar-referendum dwar il-kaċċa fir-rebbiegħa.

Nhar it-3 ta’ Lulju 2014 il-Kummissjoni Elettorali ppreżentat nota fir-reġistru tal-Qorti Kostituzzjonali li fiha intqal illi 41,494 persuna kienu iffirmaw dikjarazzjoni skond kif jitlob l-Att dwar ir-Referenda li permezz tagħha talbu li jsir referendum ħalli jitħassru r-Regolamenti dwar deroga għal staġun tal-kaċċa fir-Rebbiegħa għall-gamiem u s-summien.

Hekk kif l-għada ġie ppubblikat avviż fil-Gazzetta tal-Gvern li ħabbar il-prezentazzjoni ta’ din in-nota beda għaddej it-terminu ta’ tlett xhur li fihom kull votant seta jippreżenta oġġezzjoni li fiha jispjega għaliex fil-fehma tiegħu dan ir-referendum ma kellux isir.

Hekk fil-fatt għamlu żewġ għaqdiet tal-kaċċaturi, il-Kaċċaturi San Umbertu (KSU) u l-Federazzjoni Kaċċaturi Nassaba u Konservazzjonisti (FKNK).

Il-pass li kien imiss kien perjodu ta’ xahar li fih dawk li kienu qed jorganizzaw it-talba għar-referendum [jiġifieri rapprezentanti ta’ għaqdiet ambjentali diversi u Alternattiva Demokratika], l-Kummissjoni Elettorali, il-Prim Ministru u l-Kap tal-Opposizzjoni bdew wieħed wieħed jippreżentaw it-tweġibiet għall-argumenti tal-kaċċaturi u l-għaqdiet tagħhom.

Imma l-Kap tal-Opposizzjoni ippreżenta t-tweġiba tiegħu tard. U l-kaċċaturi talbu li t-tweġiba tal-Kap tal-Opposizzjoni titneħħa mill-proċess. Il-Qorti qablet ma dak li qalu l-kaċċaturi u ordnat li t-tweġiba tal-Kap tal-Opposizzjoni, għax daħlet tard, qiesha qatt ma daħlet.

Imma l-kaċċaturi mhux dan biss talbu. Billi dejquhom is-sottomissjonijiet tal-Kummissjoni Elettorali talbu lil Qorti biex ankè dawn is-sottomissjonijiet kellhom jitneħħew mill-proċess. Imma hawnhekk il-Qorti ma qablitx u ċaħdet it-talba tal-kaċċaturi.

Hemm iktar.

Il-Qorti wara li rat id-dokumenti kollha li ġew ippresentati quddiema iddeċidiet li ma kienx hemm ħtieġa li issejjaħ seduta pubblika li fih l-avukati tal-partijiet jippreżentaw l-argumenti tagħhom. Dan għaliex l-argumenti kollha kienu diġa ċari ħafna. Fil-fatt il-Qorti iddeċidiet   li nhar il-Ġimgħa 9 ta’ Jannar 2015 fid-9 ta’ fil-għodu kienet ser tagħti deċiżjoni.

L-aħħar aħbar li għandi hi propju din. Il-kaċċaturi ma qablux mal-Qorti u talbu li tħassar id-deċiżjoni tagħha u qabel ma tiddeċiedi tisma’ iktar dak li għandhom xi jgħidu.

Nhar is-26 ta’ Diċembru 2014 il-Qorti ċaħdet it-talba tal-kaċċaturi u b’hekk issa huwa ikkonfermat illi d-deċiżjoni ser tingħata nhar il-Ġimgħa 9 ta’ Jannar 2015 fid-9 ta’ fil-għodu.

Huwa tajjeb li l-Qorti ħadet deċiżjoni li biha ma tippermettix li jkun hemm min itawwal. Dan seta jsir għax il-liġi dwar ir-Referenda tipprovdi dati preċiżi u tagħti gwida u awtorita lill-Qorti Kostituzzjonali biex tkun hi li tiddeċiedi bla dewmien.

Mela ġimgħa oħra jkollna deċiżjoni.