Id-dmugħ tal-kukkudrill u l-qtil ta’ Daphne

Inkitbu numru kbir ta’ artikli dwar il-qtil ta’ Daphne nhar it-Tnejn li għadda, meta l-karozza li kienet qed issuq ġiet sploduta f’elf biċċa. Tfasslu bosta tejoriji dwar l-identità u l-motiv ta’ dawk li ppjanaw u/jew esegwew dan il-qtil. Mhux ħa nżid mal-ispekulazzjoni.

Bħal bosta oħrajn, tul is-snin jiena ukoll kelli l-possibiltà li nsegwi l-kitbiet tagħha. Bosta minnhom sibthom mill-iktar informattivi. Il-kapaċitajiet investigattivi tagħha kienu fost l-aqwa fil-ġurnaliżmu Malti. L-argumenti tagħha kienu dejjem qawwija, għalkemm il-preġudizzji tagħha dejjem kienu ċari. Kienet kapaċi talterna bejn artikli investigattivi ta’ l-għola livell ma oħrajn li jivvilifikaw lil dawk fil-mira tagħha.

L-opinjonijiet politiċi tagħha kienu dejjem ċari u hi dejjem mexxiethom ‘il quddiem b’qawwa kbira. Sa’ Ġunju 2017 injorat il-parti l-kbira tad-dnubiet tal-PN u iffukat bla ħniena fuq dawk tal-PL. Wara Ġunju 2017, kif kien jixirqilhom, poġġiethom flimkien f’qoffa waħda u b’hekk tat iktar kredibilità lil min jgħid li m’hemmx x’tagħżel bejn il-PN u l-PL.

Dwar Alternattiva Demokratika kitbet bosta drabi: kritika f’mumenti delikati fejn il-posizzjoni politika ta’ AD kienet f’kuntrast ma dik tal-PN. Drabi oħra, meta dehrilha, għamlet użu mill-fehmiet ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika kif kien jaqbel biex issaħħaħ l-argumenti tagħha.

Il-qtil tagħha hu daqqa ta’ ħarta għal-libertà tal-espressjoni f’Malta.

Kien hemm bosta opportunitajiet oħra fejn kien hemm min jipprova jagħlqiha ħalqa permezz ta’ numru esaġerat ta’ kawżi ta’ libel. Reċentement sar attentat biex permezz ta’ mekkaniżmu legali eżistenti ġew iffriżati l-kontijiet bankarji tagħha bħala garanzija għad-danni li kienu qed jintalbu. Sfortunatament il-Qrati ma irrealizzawx in-natura reali ta’ din l-azzjoni intimidatorja. L-impatt ta’ din l-azzjoni kien imxejjen biss wara li irnexxiet l-inizzjattiva ta’ crowd funding organizzata minn David Thake. B’hekk l-azzjoni intimidatorja tal-Ministru Cardona u l-konsulenti legali tiegħu kważi sfatt fix-xejn.

Adrian Delia, l-Kap tal-Opposizzjoni, li ukoll kien taħt il-lenti tagħha għal dawn l-aħħar erba’ xhur, kif jidher minn l-aħħar diskors tiegħu, qed ifittex x’vantaġġ politiku jista’ jakkwista l-partit tiegħu minn dan il-qtil. Jidher li jixtieq li ninsew li hu ukoll ta kontibut biex inġemgħu t-turrun libelli fil-konfront tagħha. Li iritirhom iktar kmieni din il-ġimgħa mhu xejn għajr ipokrezija grassa.

Dan hu essenzjalment dak li hemm mistoħbi wara t-tixrid tad-dmugħ tal-kukkudrilli ta’ uħud minn dawk li qed jgħidu li huma maħsudin b’dan il-qtil.

Il-Pulizija bdew l-investigazzjonijiet tagħhom. It-talba li saret għall-għajnuna ta’ esperti barranin hi utli għax tista’ tkun l-assigurazzjoni meħtieġa biex kull indikazzjoni tkun esplorata u investigata. Imma l-investigazzjoni għal ftit ma bdietx bil-banda għax il-Maġistrat Consuelo Scerri Herrera damet ma ndunat li hemm ma kienx postha. Il-fatt li damet is-siegħat biex irrealizzat dan juri li uħud mill-membri tal-ġudikatura għad għandhom ħafna x’jitgħallmu.

Il-presenza tal-Maġistrat Scerri Herrera fil-Bidnija ħasdet lil kulħadd hekk kif waslet. Ftit wara l-ħasda kibret minħabba l-kummenti fuq Facebook ta’ surgent mit-tim investigattiv tal-Pulizja li ried jiċċelebra l-avvenimenti li kien qed jara. Il-fatt li ġie sospiż u ser jgħaddi passi dixxiplinari mhux biżżejjed. Għad hemm ħtieġa ta’ spjegazzjoni mingħand il-Kummissarju tal-Pulizja dwar il-għala xi membri tal-Korp għadhom ma rrealizzawx li l-presenza tagħhom fuq il-media soċjali hi ta’ ħsara għall-kredibilità u l-imparzjalità tagħhom u tal-Korp tal-Pulizija kollu.

Imma mid-dehra mhux is-surġent tal-Pulizija biss ħass li kellu bżonn jiċċelebra nhar it-Tnejn waranofsinnhar. X’ser jgħidulna dwar il-carcades li saru, anke jekk kienu ftit? Min ser jassumi r-responsabbiltà għalihom?

Il-Prim Ministru hu anzjuż biex il-każ jissolva malajr kemm jista’ jkun. Ilkoll għandna l-istess xewqa u iktar ma dan iseħħ malajr, aħjar għal kulħadd. Imma, meta l-każ jingħalaq ikun il-waqt li nstaqsu jekk dan kollu setax ikun evitat. Għax bla dubju seta kien evitat.

 

 

 

ippubblikat f’Illum – 22 t’Ottubru 2017

Advertisements

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.

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.

Pluraliżmu anke fil-valuri

Wieħed mill-argumenti qawwija li lewnu d-dibattitu dwar id-dħul ta’ Malta fl-Unjoni Ewropeja kien li Malta ħtieġilha tidħol fis-seklu għoxrin qabel ma taħseb biex tissieħeb fl-Unjoni. Kien argumentat li kien hemm il-ħtieġa ta’ progress fuq ħafna fronti qabel ma Malta setgħet tissieħeb fl-UE. In-naħa l-oħra tal-argument, ovvjament, dejjem kien li s-sħubija minnha innifisha setgħet tkun il-katalist għat-tibdil tant meħtieġ fis-soċjetá Maltija. Għax il-bidla tista’ ddum biex isseħħ, imma fl-aħħar mhux possibli li tkun evitata. Kif jgħidu, tardare sí, scappare no!

Malta ssieħbet fl-UE fl-2004. Il-bidla fis-soċjetá Maltija għadha għaddejja, kultant b’ritmu mgħaġġel ħafna. Ir-referendum dwar id-divorzju li sar f’Mejju 2011 ħoloq terrimot, li, nistgħu ngħidu illi għadu għaddej.

Il-liġi dwar l-ugwaljanza fiż-żwieġ li l-Parliament approva iktar kmieni din il-ġimgħa kienet pass ieħor f’din id-direzzjoni. Kienet deskritta bħala “immorali” (Edwin Vassallo), “Marxista” (Clyde Puli), “kommunista” (Herman Schiavone) kif ukoll “tal-Korea ta’ Fuq ” (Tonio Fenech).

Dawn it-tikketti juru kif jaħdem moħħ dawk li qed jirreżistu din il-bidla. Mid-dehra ħadd minn dawn il-kritiċi tal-leġislazzjoni dwar l-ugwaljanza fiż-żwieg ma fehem li dan il-pass kien ukoll il-konsegwenza loġika tal-emenda kostituzzjonali, approvata mill-Parlament fil-leġislatura l-oħra liema emenda kienet iċċarat li d-diskriminazzjoni minħabba l-ġeneru kienet ipprojibita ukoll. L-intolleranti fost l-Insara fostna jgħidu li dawk li jappoġġaw l-ugwaljanza fiż-żwieġ huma “bla valuri”. Dawn għadhom ma irrealizzawx li l-valuri tagħhom m’humiex l-unika valuri. Qed ngħixu f’soċjetá bi pluralitá ta’ valuri. Ħadd m’għandu monopolju, la dwar il-valuri u l-anqas dwar dak li hu tajjeb jew ħażin.

Uħud mill-kelliema ewlenin tal-Opposizzjoni, minkejja li ddikjaraw l-appoġġ għal-liġi taħt konsiderazzjoni, xorta dehrilhom li kellhom jużaw il-ħin ta’ diskorshom bi kliem dispreġġattiv dwar dak propost. Dan il-lingwaġġ mimli insulti użat fid-dibattitu parlamentari sfortunatament jirrifletti fuq l-Opposizzjoni Nazzjonalista kollha, anke fuq dawk li għamlu sforz ġenwin u qagħdu attenti li jużaw  lingwaġġ konċiljattiv biex jikkomunikaw ħsiebijiethom.

L-opposizzjoni konservattiva qegħda fir-rokna. Min-naħa l-waħda riedet tħabbar mal-erbat irjieħ tal-pajjiż li issa kkonvertiet u ser tkun fuq quddiem biex tiddefendi d-drittijiet tal-komunitá LGBTIQ. Min-naħa l-oħra iżda, l-Opposizzjoni ma setgħetx tinjora l-fatt li għad għandha dipendenza qawwija fuq appoġġ minn l-agħar elementi ta’ intolleranza reliġjuża fil-pajjiż, dawk jiġifieri li għadhom iqiesu d-drittijiet LGBTIQ bħal materja ta’ “immoralitá pubblika”.  Edwin Vassallo kien l-iktar wieħed ċar fi kliemu meta iddikjara li l-kuxjenza tiegħu ma tippermettilux li jivvota favur dak li huwa ddeskriva bħala proposta leġislattiva “immorali”.

Fi ftit sekondi Vassallo (u oħrajn) ħarbat dak li kien ilu jippjana Simon Busuttil sa minn meta kien elett Kap tal-PN.  Dan wassal lil uħud biex jispekulaw dwar jekk l-Insara intolleranti, id-demokristjani u l-liberali fil-PN jistgħux jibqgħu jikkoabitaw wisq iktar.

Dan kollu jikkuntrasta mal-mod kif ġiebu ruħhom il-konservattivi fil-Partit Laburista. Dawn, minħabba kalkuli politiċi, ippreferew li jew jibqgħu ħalqhom magħluq inkella qagħdu attenti ħafna dwar dak li qalu. Jidher li tgħallmu xi ħaġa mid-dibattitu dwar id-divorzju!

L-approvazzjoni mill-Parliament tal-liġi dwar l-ugwaljanza fiż-żwieġ huwa pass ieħor il-quddiem favur il-pluraliżmu tal-valuri. Il-Parlament aċċetta l-pluraliżmu tal-valuri u iddeċieda li kulħadd jixraqlu r-rispett. Għandna bżonn nifhmu, lkoll kemm aħna, li qed ngħixu f’soċjetá bi pluralitá ta’ valuri li lkoll jixirqilhom ir-rispett. Hu possibli li ma naqblux, imma li ninsulentaw lil xulxin minħabba li nħaddnu valuri differenti ma jagħmilx sens. Xejn m’hu ser jibdel il-fatt li ħadd ma għandu monoplju fuq il-valuri li f’numru ta’ każi jikkontrastaw.

Malta illum introduċiet l-ugwaljanza fiż-żwieġ. M’aħniex ser indumu biex nindunaw li dan ser jagħmel lis-soċjetá tagħna waħda aħjar, għal kulħadd.

ippubblikat fuq Illum : il-Ħadd 16 ta’ Lulju 2017

Value Pluralism

One of the arguments made during the debate prior to Malta joining the European Union was that before it did so, Malta should open its doors to the 21st century. It was argued that much progress needed to be made before Malta could join the EU. The flip side of this argument was that EU membership could be the right catalyst for change that Maltese society needed, because change can be obstructed and delayed but, in the long term, it cannot be stopped.

Malta did join the EU in 2004 and the opening of the doors (and windows) of change is currently work-in-progress. The divorce referendum held in May 2011 opened the floodgates to a recognition of the fact that Maltese society was in a state of rapid change, making up for lost time.

The Marriage Equality Reform legislation approved in Parliament earlier this week was another step. It was described as “immoral” (Edwin Vassallo), “Marxist” (Clyde Puli), “communist” (Herman Schiavone) or even “North Korean” (Tonio Fenech).

These labels identify the frame of mind of those resisting change. Apparently, none of these critics of marriage equality legislation has yet realised that this step is the direct legal consequence of the Constitutional amendment, approved by Parliament some years back, which spelled out in unequivocal terms the prohibition of discrimination based on gender.

The intolerant Christian right argues that legislation proposing marriage equality is the result of a society which has lost its values. They have not realised that their “values” are not the only ones around: we live in a society where a plurality of values is a fact. The Christian right has no monopoly: either on values or on what is right or wrong.

A number of leading Opposition spokespersons, notwithstanding their declaration of support for the proposed legislation, deemed it fit to hurl never-ending insults against the proposals being debated and all that these represented. This insulting language used during the parliamentary debate is a sad reflection on the whole of the PN Opposition, even on those who sought to apply the brakes and in fact used more conciliatory language to convey their thoughts.

The conservative opposition is in a tight corner. On the one hand it wanted to announce in unequivocal terms its recent “conversion” to championing LGBTIQ rights. At the same time the Opposition could not ignore the fact that it is still chained to an intolerant Christian right which labels LGBTIQ rights as morally reprehensible. Edwin Vassallo was the most unequivocal when he declared that his conscience would not permit him to vote in favour of what he described as an “immoral” legislative proposal.

In a couple of seconds, Vassallo and others blew up what had been carefully constructed by Simon Busuttil since assuming the PN leadership, causing some to speculate whether the cohabitation of the conservative Christian right, Christian Democrats and liberals in the PN can last much longer.

In contrast, even if for political expediency, the conservatives in the Labour Party parliamentary group have either kept their mouth shut or else watched their language. It seems that they have learnt some lessons from the divorce referendum debate.

Parliament’s approval last Wednesday of the Marriage Equality Legislation is another step in entrenching the acceptance of value pluralism. Parliament has accepted value pluralism and decided that it was time to respect everyone.

We need to realise that we form part of a society with a plurality of values, all of which deserve the utmost respect. It is possible to disagree, but insulting people because they have different values than one’s own is not on. A society with a plurality of values is a fact and nobody will or can change that.

Malta has now introduced marriage equality. As a result, our society will show a marked improvement that will have a positive impact on all of us.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 16 July 2017

Is-siġġijiet tal-PN u l-proporzjonalitá

constitution-article-521

Il-Qorti Kostituzzjonali tat deċiżjoni dwar l-ilment kostituzzjonali tal-PN u iddeċidiet illi l-PN għandu jingħata żewġ siġġijiet addizzjonali fil-Parlament. Din hi d-deċiżjoni finali tal-Qrati Maltin dwar il-każ, u allura issa ser tkun implimentata.

Hi deċiżjoni li jixirqiha kull rispett, imma dan ir-rispett ma jfissirx li hi deċiżjoni tajba, għax fil-fatt hi deċiżjoni żbaljata. Għax ma kellhomx jiżdiedu s-siġġijiet, imma kellhom jitnaqqsu! Il-calculator tal-Prim Imħallef ħa żball. Kulħadd jista jiżbalja, mhux hekk?

Ovvjament il-Partit Nazzjonalista bħalissa qiegħed jippontifika dwar il-proporzjonalitá bejn voti miksuba u siġġijiet mirbuħa fil-Parlament. Peró l-proporzjonalitá li jemmen fiha l-PN hi dik bejn il-PN u l-Labour. Din wasslet biex għal żball ta’ ħamsin vot il-PN jippretendi żewġ siġġijiet Parlamentari, imma fl-istess ħin il-5506 vot fl-ewwel għadd ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika fl-aħħar elezzjoni ġenerali huma injorati.

Sewwa, 50 vot, skond il-PN, jixirqilhom rappresentanza imma 5506 vot għandhom ikunu injorati.

Ser ikun hemm min iwieġibni u jgħidli: jekk Alternattiva Demokratika jidhriha xi ħaġa messha tmur il-Qorti hi ukoll. It-tweġiba tiegħi hi waħda ċara: Alternattiva Demokratika diġá għandha parir legali li meta l-Kostituzzjoni ta’ Malta tipprovdi għal proporzjonalitá unikament għal żewġ partiti u tinjora lil bqija din qegħda tiddiskrimina.

Nafu li għandna raġun.

Il-problema hi biss li l-establishment jaħsibha mod ieħor. Meta jidhrilna li jkun il-mument opportun, nieħdu l-passi neċessarji.

Taking care of tax evaders

HSBC Geneve

 

Joseph Muscat and the Labour Party pride themselves with emphasising that this Government has removed the statutory limitation (prescription) relative to corruption when holders of political office are criminally prosecuted.

It certainly was a step in the right direction. It still however requires the test of time to verify whether it is compatible with the human rights provisions of our Constitution and the European Convention of Human Rights as was explained by former Strasbourg Judge Giovanni Bonello in his article Bribery and Genocide : the same? (Times of Malta April 20, 2013)

Such a clear stand against corruption contrasts with the provisions of Legal Notice 256 of 2014 entitled Investment Registration Scheme Regulations 2014 which launched the latest amnesty that can be utilised by Maltese citizens who evaded payment of income tax. Camouflaged through the use of Orwellian terminology as an “Investment Registration Scheme”, this amnesty, as others before it, did not treat holders of political office any differently from other tax evaders. It afforded them the same opportunities to be able to “regularise” their position absolving them from having committed an economic crime.

Apparently, this government considers tax evasion to be a crime which is substantially inferior to corruption. In fact, the recent cases brought to light by Swiss Leaks have revealed the ease with which former Cabinet Ministers have wriggled out of their tax evasion crimes that they had successfully concealed for around 40 years, including when in office.

During all these years, most of the funds which were accumulated in various bank accounts until they ended in an HSBC Genève account, reaped interest at varying rates depending on market conditions, which, as a result, increased the quantum of the undeclared funds. Had both the funds originally invested as well as the accumulated interests  been appropriately declared to the tax authorities in Malta , they would have been subject to between 35 per cent and 65 per cent  taxation in terms of Income Tax legislation. Yet the Investment Registration Scheme of 2014 allows self-confessed tax evaders off the hook subject to a  maximum 7.5 per cent registration fee! They even get a discount if they repatriate the funds! Apparently it pays to be a tax evader.

There are, however, some matters  which are not at all clear, yet.

Before insisting on his imaginary “right” not to be pestered by the press, former Minister Ninu Zammit had informed The Malta Independent on Sunday  that all his affairs were now “regularised”, having  made use of the 2014 amnesty to reap the benefits of his hoard stacked in Genève. He was also reported as having stated that the sources of his hoard was income derived from his professional activity  as well as various deals in landed property.

It is public knowledge that Zammit’s land deals were negotiated through the Malta registered limited liability company by the name of LENI Enterprises Limited of which he was both a shareholder and a director.  It is logical that any income from land deals would not only have a bearing on Ninu Zammit’s tax status but also on the reported performance and possible tax liabilities of LENI Enterprises Limited. In this respect, the  company’s financial reporting would certainly make very interesting reading.  Have its audited accounts been submitted to the Malta Financial Services Authority or its predecessors in terms of law?  Who has certified these accounts? What about the role of the auditors of LENI Enterprises Limited?  Is there the need to revisit the audited accounts of LENI Enterprises Limited due to the fact that at least one of its directors has benefited from the latest tax evasion amnesty?

As far as I am aware,  Legal Notice 256 of 2014 only absolves self-declared tax-evaders resident in Malta from their non-observance of income tax legislation. Other crimes could still be actionable .

Such other crimes would include false declarations to Cabinet in terms of the Ministerial Code of Ethics. There may also be other issues should these result from the investigations which the Commissioner of Inland Revenue is currently carrying out on the basis of the information which is now known.

There is however one important thing which we should never underestimate. The benevolence of the state towards tax evaders has no limits. It knows how to take care of these small details too.

 

published in the Malta Independent on Sunday – 1st March 2015

Il-gimmick ta’ Simon Busuttil

Busuttil-Muscat

Il-ħsara lir-reputazzjoni ta’ Malta bl-iskema tal-bejgħ taċ-ċittadinanza imfassla minn Joseph Muscat u l-konsulenti tiegħu Henley and Partners hi waħda kbira.

Il-bieraħ Simon Busuttil kompla żied ma din il-ħsara billi ddikjara li ser imur il-Qorti u jippreżenta protest ġudizzjarju kontra l-Gvern u kontra Henley and Partners. F’dan il-protest ġudizzjarju Busuttil fi ħsiebu jibqa’ jemfasizza illi meta l-PN ikun fil-Gvern hu determinat illi lil dawk li jkunu xtraw iċ-ċittadinanza jeħodilhom lura.  Dikjarazzjoni ta’ din ix-xorta minn Simon Busuttil tfisser li l-PN taħt Simon Busuttil jiġi jaqa’ u jqum mid-drittijiet tal-bniedem. Simon Busuttil jaf li dak li qed jgħid ma jistax jagħmlu. Jaf li ma jistax b’daqqa ta’ pinna jħassar id-drittijiet akkwistati anke jekk għandu raġunijiet validi li minħabba fihom ma jaqbilx mal-liġi li ħolqot dawk id-drittijiet.

Din id-dikjarazzjoni ta’ Simon Busuttil hi tebgħa kerha fuq il-PN. Busuttil fil-ġimgħat li għaddew iġġustifika dan billi qal li għandu parir legali f’dan is-sens. Busuttil imissu jippubblika l-parir li qed jgħid li għandu kif diġa għamel il-Gvern meta ippubblika l-parir tal-Avukat tar-Repubblika.

Li Simon Busuttil jinsisti li l-Gvern ta’ Muscat jibdel drastikament l-iskema hu tajjeb. Li jikkompeti miegħu dwar min minnhom jagħmel l-iktar ħsara hu tal-biki.

Subsidiarity and loyalty

malta passport

The Prime Minister has a generational transformation in sight which he wants to bankroll with the monies generated by his sale of citizenship scheme. His supporters see traitors everywhere as they cannot stomach any form of criticism.

Does any EU member state have the right to introduce and implement a sale of citizenship scheme?  Government spokesmen have repeatedly stated that the Malta Government has been advised that it is in line with EU legislation. In line with the subsidiarity principle, nationality issues, we were told, are the sole and exclusive competence of EU member states.

No one is contesting that nationality issues are a national competence. In fact even Commissioner Viviene Reding made this amply clear. There is however much more to it than state competence. There is the duty to be loyal to the Union and other member states. Article 4.3 of the European Union Treaty explains this as the principle of sincere cooperation, also referred to as the loyalty principle: loyalty, that is, towards the other European Union member states.

Government has opted to milk citizenship in order to generate finance so as to be in a position to implement its electoral programme. It has excluded taxation as an option. Moreover it has reduced income tax as part of its electoral strategy in order to outwit the former government, knowing full well that this necessitated alternative financial avenues. Never did it place its plans to put citizenship on sale before the electorate for its consideration. Ethically the Labour Party cannot claim to have an electoral mandate on the matter.

The local political debate has revealed diametrically opposed positions. Government’s position is dictated by its strategy of requiring cash in order to finance its political initiatives. Time is of essence in its strategy. It cannot afford to wait for would-be investors to take initiatives of their choice. There is no direct link between the prospective citizen and the manner in which the monies he pays are “invested”. It is in fact an exercise of selling citizenship with a commitment to use the proceeds in a specific manner. The funds generated are hypothecated. A residential criterion has so far been ruled out, most probably,  as this would only serve as a delaying factor. It would delay the flow of the monies required depending on how long the residential criterion runs.

The warning shot fired by the EU Parliament is not to be discarded as the EU Parliament is the only democratically elected EU institution. Nor is Commissioner Reding’s statement  one that could be ignored. Reding has stated that:

While I am not calling for the Commission to receive legal power to determine what constitutes nationality or the rules granting it, the Commission nevertheless expects that Member States act in full awareness of the consequences of their decisions.

Our debate today shows the growing importance of these questions in a European Union where national decisions are in many instances not neutral vis-à-vis other Member States and the EU as a whole. It is a fact that the principle of sincere cooperation, which is inscribed in the EU Treaties (Article 4.3 of the Treaty on European Union), should lead Member States to take account of the impact of decisions in the field of nationality on other Member States and the Union as a whole.”

Clearly the competence of member states on issues of citizenship is not absolute. Given its impacts on all the other members of the Union in areas of national security, freedom of movement in the Schengen Area, rights to residence and employment, it stands to reason that both the EU as well as member states require consultation which apparently was not carried out.

The capping of the citizenship scheme at 1,800 passports for sale is certainly not enough. A residential condition of reasonable length is also  required as an additional and essential element. This would however be a sticking point as whilst it could render the proposed scheme less un-acceptable and in line with some of the practices elsewhere, it may fail to deliver what the Maltese Government requires on time.

It is with this in mind that the Greens in Malta have time and again called on Government to suspend the implementation of the scheme and concurrently to initiate a dialogue with Brussels. The problem at an EU level may eventually be resolved around the negotiating table. This would result in less reputational damage for Malta. A meeting called between the EU Commision and the Malta Government seems to be imminent. Hopefully matters will take a positive turn.

That would leave the political issue to be solved locally, either in Parliament or at the ballot box through a public consultation. The Prime Minister has already indicated that he is willing to submit the issue to a national consultation.  It is the decent way forward, part of our learning curve as a nation.

published in The Times of Malta, Saturday January 25, 2014