Ethical pluralism: the next steps

Malta’s divorce referendum in 2011 has reinforced ethical pluralism in the Maltese islands.

The intensive debate on civil rights, IVF and abortion are a direct result of the divorce referendum. All this would not have been possible without the positive 2011 divorce referendum result. Prejudices and inhibitions are being slowly overcome.

The debate on civil rights is substantially settled, even though there is always room for improvement. The IVF debate is works in progress: with the PN having buckled under pressure as a result of Bernard Grech’s U-turn in Parliament on Wednesday, even this debate seems to be on track towards a possible satisfactory conclusion. In particular Bernard Grech rightly discarded the reaction of his health spokesperson Stephen Spiteri.

The next steps relate to the abortion debate.

ADPD – The Green Party is only one of two political parties in Malta to support the decriminalisation of abortion and the introduction of abortion in limited circumstances, that is to say when the pregnant woman’s life is in manifest danger, in respect of a pregnancy which is the result of violence (rape and incest) and in respect of a non-viable pregnancy.

Early this week the Women’s Rights Foundation (WRF) has gone a step further. Through a judicial protest it has taken the State Advocate as well as the Health and the Equality Ministers to task on abortion legislation arguing that current abortion legislation discriminated against all persons who can get pregnant and obstructed them from making choices in their private lives. The judicial protest submitted on behalf of more than 188 potential mothers is the first shot in what promises to be a long drawn up legal battle, right up to Strasbourg’s European Court of Human Rights, should this be necessary.

The abortion debate has been and will remain highly emotional. To date Malta’s predominantly conservative institutions have been intolerant and have done their utmost to obstruct this debate from developing. This situation cannot and will not last much longer as it is inconceivable in this day and age to further obstruct the co-existence of contrasting values: ethical pluralism is here to stay.

The decriminalisation of abortion and its possible legalisation, irrespective whether limited or otherwise, signifies one basic and important decision. It means that that the state no longer takes the decision on your behalf but rather that you will be able to take your own decision, subject to a regulatory framework which sets reasonable limits.  

It is estimated that around 400 Maltese women every year opt for an abortion. Some go abroad, others take pills, without medical supervision, which pills they receive through the post. Others resort to backstreet abortions. Prohibiting and criminalising abortion only drives it underground, away from the medical services, as a result exposing women to death or serious medical repercussions.

Therapeutic abortion is already permissible in the Maltese islands although this is not that clear in Maltese legislation. The way forward in the debate is to realise that abortion legislation in Malta, first enacted over 160 years ago, is not fit for purpose and needs a complete overhaul. It requires to be brought in line with medical and scientific progress over the years.

Decriminalisation and legalisation of abortion in limited circumstances should be the way forward. No woman who opts for an abortion for whatever reason should be subject to criminal law. Any woman in such circumstances needs help, empathy and not state prosecution. This is the way forward.

published in Malta Independent on Sunday : 19 June 2022

Beyond 26 March

Increasing our vote tally by almost doubling it between general elections is no mean feat. That is what has been achieved by ADPD-The Green Party on 26 March. Notwithstanding the small numbers involved, the achievement is substantial, getting close to the best green result achieved in the 2013 general election. 

The 26 March electoral result, however, once more, exposes an electoral system which does not deliver proportional results when it really matters: results that is, supporting minority views. Political parties representing the PLPN establishment, have continuously benefitted from various adjustments to the electoral system, from which they obtain one proportional result after the other: proportionality which they benefit from but simultaneously, continuously and consistently deny to others.

Fair treatment would possibly have seen us achieve much better results than we have achieved so far. Unfortunately, the electoral system is designed to be discriminatory. This includes the setup of the Electoral Commission itself as well as the manner in which it operates under the continuous remote control of the PLPN. Even simple access to the individual district provisional results, which I requested, was continuously obstructed and objected to by the Electoral Commission late on Sunday 27 March when the counting process was still in progress.

Furthermore, PLPN have normal access to electronic counting data held by the Electoral Commission in order to be able to vet the validity of the final results. Repeated requests to extend such access to the green monitoring team in the counting hall were ignored. Even the OSCE election observation team present in the counting hall found this very strange and queried our monitoring team continuously on the matter.

Tomorrow, we will start the long process in court which could deliver some form of justice: the restitution of the parliamentary seats which our party has been robbed of by the PLPN political establishment throughout the years.

Normally, after elections, we waste a lot of time engaged in soul searching discussing whether taking the PLPN establishment head-on, one election after another, is worth the effort. This time we are immediately taking the plunge to ensure once and for all that each vote cast in Maltese general elections, irrespective of whom it is cast for, has an equal value. It is a long journey which may possibly take us to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, if this is considered essential, in order to settle the issue of electoral justice in these islands once and for all.

We have had to take this line of action as parliament in Malta has been consistently incapable of acting fairly. Parliament is, since 1966 under the complete control of the establishment political parties: PLPN.

By next Tuesday all bye-election results will be known. Subsequently the constitutional gender balance mechanism will be applied in favour of the establishment PLPN. This will be limited in implementation, similarly to the proportionality mechanism: limited in favour of the PLPN

The PLPN duopoly which has completely hijacked the institutions wants to be sure that its control is adequately embedded such that it can withstand any future shocks.

It is unacceptable that electoral legislation treats us in this despicable manner: differently from the manner in which it treats the establishment political parties. Unfortunately, the PLPN duopoly have not been able to deliver any semblance of fairness in our electoral system. The Courts, consequently, are our only remaining hope to address and start removing discrimination from electoral legislation, which is why tomorrow we will embark on our long overdue Court case.

The team we have built in the past months at ADPD has functioned quite well in achieving one of our best electoral results. It is now making the necessary preparations to ensure a better Green presence in our towns and villages in the months ahead. As a result of the excellent teamwork developed, we have starting preparing plans for the future which should lead to an organic growth of the party. This will make it possible for us to achieve even better results in the next political cycle.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 10 April 2022

Sharing our responsibilities


The Lampedusa tragedy was a tragedy waiting to happen. .

Human persons in need of help have been on our doorstep, Europe’s doorstep. The help they sought was not available.

Malta has a government which belongs to that family of political parties, the socialist family, which describes itself as being the champion of the vulnerable and the downtrodden. In migration policy, in just seven months, the Labour Party led government in Malta has failed miserably in living up to its core values.

At this point in time none are more vulnerable than migrants fleeing persecution: in particular Somalis and Eritreans who account for the vast majority of migrants at this doorstep of Europe. The Labour Party in Government is not interested in their plight. It is more interested in a populist discourse to impress its hangers-on. Labour’s populism has diluted its core values  beyond recognition.

Labour’s push-back policy was not implemented due to the timely intervention of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Those who think that  Joseph Muscat’s pushback policy was an exercise in bluff would do well to remember that  when still Leader of the Opposition Joseph Muscat had made statements on the need to suspend Malta’s international obligations if faced with large numbers of boat-people.

Many crocodile tears are currently being shed by those who in the past weeks advocated a hard-line inhumane attitude. Those who advocated push-backs are apparently shocked by what has happened.

Are they?

When we criticise the European Union for tackling immigration inappropriately we are also criticising ourselves as since May 2004 Malta and the Maltese are an integral part of the European Union. Malta forms part of each and every decision-taking structure within the European Union. Together with all the other member states Malta participates whenever a decision is taken.

The European Union needs a common migration policy which recognises that each and every refugee within its borders is its responsibility. The border states like Malta, Italy, Spain, Greece and Cyprus are shouldering a disproportionate responsibility which must be shared by all  members states.

So far, in the struggle between life and death the European Union (Malta included) has not opted to give adequate assistance to the living. As a result we are collectively responsible for the Lampedusa deaths. It is useless shedding tears for the dead if we did not respect them when they were still alive.

The Lampedusa tragedy was no accident. It is the direct consequence of the fact that on migration there is still a free for all in the European Union. A common policy is required to give flesh to practical solidarity and bury once and for all the culture of indifference.

The Greens in Europe are all in favour of responsibility sharing. That is, the recognition by European Union institutions that once a migrant crosses the EU borders he is its responsibility. Common borders are not just a tool for the payment of customs duties. A humanitarian migration policy is a must in every corner of the European Union. Crossing the border into the European Union should mean moving into an area which respects every human person, with no exceptions being permitted.

A first step would be amending what is known as the Dublin Convention such that the arrival of a migrant within any of the member states would not signify any more that he is restricted to remain in the country of arrival. Such an amendment to the Dublin Convention would facilitate the movement of migrants within the European Union and, consequently, their applying for refugee status, if this is applicable,  within any one of the member states.

This is the official policy of the European Green Party to which policy Alternattiva Demokratika has contributed considerably through constructive engagement with our European partners. The Greens in Europe are the only European Political Party which has fully appreciated the situation which EU border states are facing. Without any stamping of feet or smelling “pushover” coffee the European Green Party is the foremost proposer and supporter of an EU which shoulders its responsibilities through a policy of migration responsibility sharing.

The others just stamp their feet and indulge in inconsequential rhetoric interspaced with crocodile tears.

It is about time that the Nationalist Party and the Labour Party accept that their approach to migration has failed. They should take a leaf from the policy book of the European Greens and seek to convince their partners in the European Union of the need to share responsibility for migration with the border states.

Whether the Lampedusa tragedy will serve as a wake-up call is still to be seen. The comments from Jose Barroso and Cecilia Malmström at Lampedusa on Wednesday are good indications.

Well Muscat can smell that coffee now.

As published in The Times of Malta, Saturday 12 October 2013

L-interess nazzjonali hu li nwaqqgħu l-ħitan



Għandna bżonn inwaqqgħu l-ħitan li jifirduna u nibnu l-pontijiet.

L-iktar materja ovvja u ċara fejn dan hu meħtieġ illum hu dwar l-immigrazzjoni. Diġa hi problema kbira u ilha hekk għal diversi snin. Mhux biss ser tibqa’ iżda wisq nibża’ li ser issir problema ikbar milli hi illum.

In-nuqqas ta’ qbil huwa jekk għandiex dritt li nibgħatu lill-immigranti lura. Punt li jidher li ġie riżolt meta l-Gvern Laburista aċċetta l-ordni tal-Qorti Ewropeja tad-Drittijiet tal-Bniedem fi Strasbourg.

Jekk nitilqu minn dan il-punt u li dwaru issa naqblu lkoll ma naħsibx li baqa’ differenzi għax jidher li ilkoll naqblu fuq diversi affarijiet.

Naqblu li Malta hi vulnerabbli minħabba l-posizzjoni ġeografika tagħha.

Naqblu li m’għandniex riżorsi biex nilqgħu biżżejjed għall-impatti ta’ mewġa kontinwa ta’ immigrazzjoni mil-Libja, mhux biss kif inhi, iżda iktar u iktar jekk tiżdied.

Naqblu li l-għajnuna li ġiet mill-Unjoni Ewropeja matul is-snin, għalkemm m’hiex żgħira, m’hiex biżżejjed u li hemm ħtieġa li tiżdied biex tkun solidarjeta iktar effettiva u li tinħass verament li hi hekk.

Naqblu li wieħed mill-modi l-iktar effettivi ta’ għajnuna li neħtieġu hi li iktar pajjiżi mill-Unjoni Ewropeja jerfgħu l-piż magħna – responsibility sharing – billi jilqgħu f’pajjiżhom numru ikbar milli għamlu sal-lum tal-immigranti li jiġu f’pajjiżna.

Naħseb li naqblu ukoll li l-għajnuna li tista’ tagħti l-Unjoni Ewropeja lill-pajjiżi minn fejn qed joriġinaw l-immigranti tkun l-iktar għajnuna li tħalli effetti fit-tul għax tindirizza l-problema at source.

Nittama li nifhmu li dan kollu ma jiddependix biss mill-kapaċita tal-Gvern li jinnegozja ftehim tajjeb. Jiddependi ukoll mill-pressjonijiet soċjali fis-27 pajjiżi oħra li flimkien magħna jiffurmaw l-Unjoni Ewropeja. Għax l-Unjoni Ewropeja mhix dik jew dawk, hi aħna ukoll.

Nafu li f’diversi pajjiżi tal-Unjoni Ewropeja, anke’ dawk b’politika żviluppata tul is-snin li tilqa’ b’idejha miftuħa r-refuġjati ta’ kull nazzjon u kulur hemm problemi mhux żgħar.  F’uħud minn dawn il-pajjiżi hemm ukoll partiti politiċi li għandhom bħala skop ewlieni tagħhom it-tixrid tal-mibgħeda razzjali.

Għalkemm sforz tal-irjus sħan qed tingħata stampa ħażina tal-qagħda f’Malta nemmen li l-mibgħeda razzjali f’Malta m’għandhiex egħruq fondi.  Il-partiti politiċi għandna l-obbligu li ma nħallux dawn l-egħruq jissaħħu.

Għalhekk li issa iktar minn qatt qabel hu meħtieg li nwaqqgħu l-ħitan u nibnu l-pontijiet. Hemm ħafna oqsma ta’ qbil. Fuqhom nistgħu  nibnu flimkien strateġija nazzjonali dwar l-immigrazzjoni. Pontijiet li jinbnew bid-djalogu u li jwasslu għal kooperazzjoni wiesa’.

Dan hu l-interess nazzjonali.

Immigration : an ethical compass


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

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

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

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

It is not just a matter of principle.

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

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

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

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

ILLUM : nuqqas ta’ spazju ?


Fil-gazzetta Illum, ippubblikata illum il-Ħadd 12 ta’ Mejju 2013 ippubblikat kummenti għal mistoqsijiet li staqsiet lil diversi persuni dwar Joseph Muscat u Simon Busuttil.

Il-mistoqsijiet kienu dawn:

  1. Kif tħares lejn l-ewwel 50 jum ta’ Joseph Muscat?
  2. X’taħseb fuq l-għażla ta’ Simon Busuttil?

Jiena ġejt mitlub il-kummenti tiegħi li tajthom imma ma ġewx ippubblikati kif ippreżentajthom jiena.

Ma nafx jekk hux minħabba nuqqas ta’ spazju.

For the record il-kummenti tiegħi huma dawk riprodotti hawn taħt. Il-parti bl-aħmar tħalliet barra mill-pubblikazzjoni:

Dwar l-għażla ta’ Simon Busuttil bħala Kap tal-PN:

“Huwa biss iż-żmien li jagħtina parir dwar jekk l-elezzjoni ta’ Dr Simon Busuttil bħala Kap tal-PN iġibx bidla, kif ukoll x’tip ta’ bidla, fil-PN. Il-bidliet fil-PN għadhom għaddejjin u mhux magħruf x’ser tkun il-forma finali tagħhom.

Alternattiva Demokratika m’hiex ser toqgħod tispekula dwar x’jista’ jiġri.”

Dwar l-ewwel ħamsin jum tal-Gvern immexxi minn Joseph Muscat :

Fl-ewwel ħamsin jum il-Gvern ta’ Muscat għadu qiegħed jipprova jaġixxi ta’ Gvern, diversi drabi aġixxa ta’ partit politiku. F’ ta’ l-inqas erba’ sitwazzjonijiet aġixxa b’mod diviżiv meta kellu soluzzjonijiet alternattivi li long term kienu jagħtuh riżultati aħjar.

L-ewwel: il-grad ta’ Segretarju Permanenti fil-Ministeri jeżisti biex jassigura kontinwita’ b’mod partikolari meta jkun hemm bidla tal-Gvern. It-tneħħija tal-parti l-kbira tas-Segretarji Permanenti kien żball fl-ewwel ġranet tal-Gvern li seta ġie evitat. Il-parti l-kbira minnhom kienu ser jispiċċaw xorta matul it-18-il xahar li ġejjin, bl-eta. Li stenna ftit kienu jinbidlu xorta bil-kwiet probabilment fi żmien sena.

It-tieni : id-diskors li l-Gvern ħejja għall-President tar-Repubblika kien wieħed partiġġjan u ma għamel l-ebda ġid lill-kariga.

It-tielet: inevitabilment f’dawn il-ħamsin ġurnata saru ħafna ħatriet. Kien hemm diversi minnhom li kienu ta’ natura partiġjana, fl-istess stil tal-gvernijiet immexxija mill-PN.

Ir-raba’: il-ħatra ta’ Franco Debono bħala koordinatur tal-Konvenzjoni Kostituzzjonali kienet waħda diviżiva. Tali ħatra kella issir b’konsultazzjoni mas-socjeta ċivili.

Fost il-miżuri posittivi tal-Gvern hemm il-bidu tal-implementazzjoni tal-proposti elettorali dwar id-drittijiet tal-persuni LGBT  kif ukoll il-ftehim dwar il-kawża fil-Qorti Ewropea tad-Drittijiet tal-Bniedem minn Joanne Cassar liema ftehim ser iwassal għat-dritt ta’ persuna transgender li tiżżewweġ.  AD giet mistiedna u aċċettat li tipparteċipa fil-Kumitat Konsultattiv li qed iħejji l-proposti konkreti għad-drittijiet tal-persuni LGBT. Ġew nominati u diġa qed jieħdu sehem Angele Deguara u Collette Farrugia Bennett biex jirrapprezentaw lill-AD.

Fost il-miżuri negattivi hemm l-inkoraġġiment tal-kaċċa fir-rebbiegħa  u issa jidher li l-Gvern qed jikkunsidra li jesperimenta ukoll bl-insib minkejja li din hu pprojibit mid-Direttivi tal-Unjoni Ewropea kif ukoll skada il-perjodu transitorju stabilit mit-trattat ta’ adezjoni.