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

Ir-raba’ qed isejħilna

Diversi tefgħu għajnejhom fuq art agrikola biex jixtruha. Ma jriduhiex għax għandhom xi interess fl-agrikultura iżda għal diversi raġunijiet oħra. Hemm min iridha għal investiment u hemm min iridha biex fiha jqatta’ l-ħin liberu tiegħu, għall-kwiet, il-bogħod mill-istorbju madwar l-inħawi fejn noqgħodu jew naħdmu.

Dawn, għax jifilħu jħallsu qed jgħollu l-prezz li qed joffru u bi prezz għoli qed jispiċċaw jixtru bosta tmiem raba’ f’diversi partijiet ta’ Malta u Għawdex.

Billi bħalissa din it-tip ta’ domanda qed tikber qed jinħoloq suq li fih il-prezz offrut għal art agrikola hu għoli, għax hemm min jiflaħ u jrid iħallas. Dan qed iħajjar sewwa lil min ibiegħ.

Ma hemmx għalfejn ngħidilkom li bosta sidien tar-raba’ jippreferu somma tajba milli l-ftit ċekċik ta’ euro li bħalissa qed idaħħlu mill-qbiela.

Fin-nofs, imma, hemm il-bidwi li l-qbiela li illum iħallas hi baxxa wisq, ftit euro fis-sena. Bla dubju l-qbiela trid tiżdied. Id-diffikultà hi dwar kemm għandha tkun din iż-żieda. Għax ir-raba’ anke jekk fgata bil-kimika, prinċipalment fil-forma ta’ pestiċidi, ftit tista’ tikkompetti ma dawk li għandhom but fond ħafna. Dan apparti l-fatt li l-kimika fir-raba’ teħtieġ li tonqos sewwa, u preferibilment ma tintużax iktar!

Il-biedja ma tirrendix qliegħ biżżejjed biex tagħmel tajjeb għal dawn il-prezzijiet li qed jintalbu. Għal uħud dan ifisser li l-biedja allura għandha tagħmel il-wisa’ għal min jiflaħ iħallas. Il-bdiewa allura, x’ser jiġri minnhom? L-ikel meħtieġ minn artna, min ser jieħu ħsiebu? Ma nistgħux niddependu biss minn ikel impurtat.

Sa ftit ġranet ilu dan kien l-argument li f’każ wara l-ieħor il-Qrati tagħna kienu qed jaċċettaw. Il-każijiet kienu qed jinqatgħu wieħed wara l-ieħor a bażi ta’ din il-liġi tal-ġungla: li min jiflaħ għall-prezz tas-suq għandu d-dritt li jħawwel lil min ma jiflaħx għalih.

Iżda din il-ġimgħa kellna każ interessanti li poġġa l-argumenti li smajna s’issa rashom l-isfel.

F’sentenza mogħtija nhar it-Tlieta li għaddew l-Imħallef Wenzu Mintoff għamel l-argument favur il-biedja. Argument li rari, jekk qatt, instema’ fl-awli tal-Qrati tagħna. Il-pajjiż, qal l-Imħallef, għandu jħares il-biedja u japprezza iktar dak li tirrendi. Jekk ma nħarsux il-biedja, x’ser nieklu? Il-kummerċ ma’ barra mhux dejjem jipprovdi, biżżejjed jew fil-ħin.  Ma nistgħux nistrieħu fuq il-kummerċ ma’ barra biss. L-art tagħna, jekk tinħadem tista’ tipprovdi, kif ipprovdiet iktar minn biżżejjed fil-passat. Imma jeħtieġ li l-art inħarsuha.

L-imħallef Mintoff għamel tlett osservazzjonijiet importanti.

Fl-1967 il-Parlament Malti, osserva l-Imħallef, approva liġi dwar il-qbiela. Dan għamlu biex iħares l-użu tal-art agrikola, għax anke dakinnhar kien ikkunsidrat li kien hemm il-ħtieġa għal dan il-ħarsien. Dan kien skop leġittimu tal-Parlament Malti.

L-Imħallef kompla josserva li l-istat għandu r-responsabbiltà li jassigura li pajjiż ikollu biżżejjed prodotti tal-ikel għall-ħtiġijiet tal-pajjiż. Dan kien rifess tal-qagħda ekonomika u finanzjarja tal-pajjiż.

Ikompli josserva li minkejja l-liberalizzazzjoni tal-kummerċ u l-importazzjoni tal-ikel minn barra, l-istat xorta jibqalu l-obbligu li jassigura ruħu li l-pajjiż ma jkunx jiddependi iżżejjed fuq l-importazzjoni. Jekk dan ma jsirx, l-agrikultura, ftit ftit tispiċċa, darba għal dejjem.

Dan kollu għandu jseħħ f’kuntest ta’ rispett sħih tad-drittijiet fundamentali ta’ kulħadd.

Huwa fid-dawl ta’ dan kollu li jridu nfasslu u niddeċiedu t-triq il-quddiem.

Fid-deċiżjoni tiegħu l-Imħallef Wenzu Mintoff jemfasizza li l-valur reali tar-raba’ jrid ikun rifless ta’ dak li l-art verament tirrendi. L-argumenti legali li tagħmel il-Qorti huma kumplessi ħafna iktar minn hekk, imma essenzjalment il-Qorti qed tgħid li l-biedja għandha valur fih innifsu u huwa f’dan il-valur li wieħed irid isib is-soluzzjoni għall-problema li għandna quddiemna.

Il-kobba hi mħabbla sewwa u każ wieħed mhux ser isolvi l-biżibilju kawżi li bħalissa deħlin fil-Qrati biex ikunu żgumbrati l-bdiewa minn raba’ li ġieb prezz tajjeb fis-suq tal-propjetà. Apparti dan, hu fatt li l-messaġġ ċar u etiku tal-Imħallef Mintoff idarras lil bosta li l-unika valur li jafu bih u japprezzaw hu il-valur tal-flus.

Din hi l-problema reali li minħabba fiha r-raba’ qed isejħilna. Qed jgħajjat u jokrob, imma ħafna mhux qed jagħtu każ.

Ippubblikat fuq Illum: il-Ħadd 26 ta’ Diċembru 2021

Meħtieġa: politika dwar id-droga b’wiċċ uman

Id-dibattitu ta’ bħalissa fil-Parlament dwar riforma fil-qasam tad-droga messu ilu li sar.

Il-manifest elettorali tal-partit tiegħi għall-elezzjoni ġenerali tal- 2017 kien l-unika wieħed li tkellem b’mod ċar dwar il-ħtieġa li nintroduċu politika dwar id-droga b’wiċċ uman. Il-politika dwar id-droga illum tikkastiga lill-vulnerabbli billi tikkriminalizza l-użu tad-droga. Id-dikriminalizzazzjoni tal-użu tad-droga għandha tkun parti minn viżjoni iktar wiesa’, fit-tul,  bl-iskop li tgħin u mhux li tikkastiga lil min hu vulnerabbli. Dan m’ghandux ikun limitat għall-kannabis, imma għandu japplika għal kull xorta ta’ droga.

Id-dokument konsultattiv ippubblikat f’Marzu li għadda dwar it-tisħiħ tal-qafas legali għall-użu responsabbli tal-kannabis flimkien mad-dibattitu parlamentari li għaddej bħalissa huma pass sinifikanti l-quddiem.

Għandna nifhmu, li, kif ippruvat tul is-snin, il-kriminalizzazzjoni tal-użu tad-droga ma solva xejn! Kien fl-2011 li l-Kummissjoni Globali dwar il-politika għad-droga, immexxija minn Kofi Anan, ex-Segretarju Ġenerali tal-Ġnus Maghquda, kienet iddikjarat li l-ġlieda globali kontra d-droga kienet falliet u dan b’konsegwenzi diżastrużi kemm individwalment kif ukoll għas-soċjetà.

Ewlenija fost ir-rakkomandazzjonijiet tal-Kummissjoni globali hemm it-tmiem tal-kriminalizzazzjoni, tal-marġinalizzazzjoni u tal-istigmatizzazzjoni ta’ dawk li jagħmlu użu personali mid-droga mingħajr ma jagħmlu l-ebda ħsara lill-ħaddieħor.

In-numru ta’ vittmi hu wieħed sostanzjali. Numru mhux żgħir ta’ ħajjiet intilfu jew ġew irvinati ħtija ta’ din il-gwerra kontra d-droga.   Isem partikolari li jiġi quddiem għajnejja hu dak ta’  Daniel Holmes li dabbar sentenza sostanzjali ta’ ħabs f’Malta għax kabbar il-pjanti tal-kannabis għall-użu tiegħu.  Ma għamel ħsara lil ħadd, imma spiċċa jerfa’ fuq spallejh sentenza twila ta’ ħabs. Din hi l-agħar forma ta’ inġustizzja kriminali.

Il-proposti li presentement hemm quddiem il-Parlament huma limitati għall-kannabis, avolja fost ir-responsabbiltajiet tal-Awtorità dwar l-Użu Responsabbli tal-Kannabis hu emfasizzat li din l-Awtorità tkun tista’ “tipparteċipa fil-proċess nazzjonali tal-ippjanar dwar il-politika soċjali u l-politika dwar il-mediċini perikolużi”. Hu possibli li l-leġislatur għandu pjani oħra f’moħħu għall-futur, imma dawn, s’issa għadhom mhux magħrufa.

Il-proposta għad-dikriminalizzazzjoni tal-użu tal-kannabis tagħmel sens f’kuntest ta’ politika olistika dwar id-droga li ma tibqax tikkonsidra l-użu tad-droga f’kuntest kriminali imma f’kuntest soċjo-mediku. Dan jirrikjedi iktar ħsieb, analiżi kif ukoll studji dwar impatti kemm f’Malta kif ukoll barra. Id-dikriminalizzazzjoni tal-użu tal-kannabis għandha tkun  ikkunsidrata bħala parti minn politika dwar id-droga koerenti, b’wiċċ uman li tiddikriminalizza l-użu tad-drogi kollha.  

Min jagħmel użu okkażjonali tad-droga m’għandux ikun ikkunsidrata bħala kriminal. Il-vittmi u dawk dipendenti mid-droga għandhom bżonn l-għajnuna permezz ta’ esperti mħarrġa inkluż l-għajnuna medika kemm u kif meħtieġ.  

Il-Portugall mexa f’din it-triq u tul is-snin kellu success konsiderevoli li bħala riżultat tiegħu naqas l-użu ta’ kull tip ta’ droga kif ukoll naqset l-inċidenza tal-HIV.  Irridu nfasslu l-mixja tagħna biex nindirizzaw sewwa b’mod koerenti l-użu tad-droga f’pajjiżna.  

Il-kriminalizzazzjoni tal-użu tad-droga għamlet ħsara ferm iżjed mid-droga innifisha. Ir-riżorsi tal-istat għandhom jintużaw biex intejbu l-ħajjiet tan-nies u mhux biex ikunu ikkastigati dawk li jeħtieġu l-għajnuna tagħna!  Id-dikriminalizzazzjoni u r-regolamentazzjoni tal-kannabis għandha tkun l-ewwel pass f’dan il-proċess.  

ippubblikat fuq Illum : il-Ħadd 21 ta’ Novembru 2021

Wanted: a drug policy with a human face

The current debate on drug reform, in parliament, is long overdue.

My party’s electoral platform for the 2017 general election was the only one which clearly and unequivocally spoke in favour of introducing a drug policy with a human face. Current drug policy punishes the vulnerable through the criminalisation of the use of drugs. Decriminalisation of drug use should be part of a long-term vision that aims to help and not punish the vulnerable.  This should not be limited to cannabis but should encompass all drug use.

The White Paper published last March on the strengthening of the legal framework relative to the responsible use of cannabis together with the parliamentary debate currently in progress are welcome first steps in this direction.

It is about time that we realise that, as proven over the years, considering drug use as a crime has not led to any significant result. It was in 2011 that the seminal Global Commission on Drug Policy led by former UN Secretary General Kofi Anan declared that the global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world.

Foremost among the recommendations of the Global Commission was the end of criminalisation, marginalisation and stigmatisation of people who use drugs but who do no harm to others.

The number of victims is substantial. Many lives have been lost or ruined as a result of this war on drugs. A specific person which comes to mind is Daniel Holmes who was sentenced to a substantial prison term in Malta for growing his own cannabis plants. He harmed no one, yet he was made to shoulder a heavy prison sentence. This is criminal injustice at its worst.

The proposals currently before Parliament are limited to the consideration of cannabis, even though amongst the functions of the proposed Authority on the Responsible Use of Cannabis one finds that it may “participate in the national planning process relating to social policy and dangerous drugs policy”. Possibly the legislator has some other plans which, however, are so far not known.

The proposed decriminalisation of cannabis use makes sense within the context of an holistic drugs policy which would shift the emphasis on addressing drug use from one based on criminal law to a socio-medical model. This requires much more thought, analysis and consideration of studies and impact assessments carried out both in Malta and abroad. It cannot remain on its own but needs to form part of a coherent drugs policy with a human face which decriminalises all drug use.

Those who occasionally make use of drugs should not be considered as criminals. Victims and those who become addicted as a result of more than an occasional use of drugs should be offered adequate support, through the assistance of trained social workers as well as medical assistance whenever this is required.

Portugal has followed this path and over the years has had a considerable success in reducing use of heavy drugs and HIV.  We have to design our own path towards addressing the uptake of drugs.

The criminalisation of drug use has ruined more lives than drug use itself. It is about time that we use the resources of the state to improve lives and not to punish those who need our help!  The decriminalisation and regulation of cannabis should be just the first step in such a process.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 21 November 2021

Il-jott tal-Imħallef Giovanni Grixti

Diġa ntqal ħafna fuq il-jott tal-Imħallef Giovanni Grixti.

L-aħbar ixxokkjat lil ħafna.

Għaliex l-imħallef ma qal xejn? Għaliex l-imħallef ma poġġiex il-karti fuq il-mejda u astjena? Hu biss jista’ jagħti tweġiba dwar dan.

Min-naħa l-oħra, l-aħbar għax ħarġet tard? Ma setgħetx tħabbret fl-awla, f’wiċċ l-imħallef, biex irid jew ma jridx ikollu jwieġeb u jirreaġixxi?

L-avukati ta’ Yorgen Fenech qalu li l-fatt li snin ilu, meta l-Imħallef Grixti kien għadu Magistrat xtara l-jott mingħand missier l-akkużat ma jfissirx li hemm raġuni għal rikuża jew astensjoni, għax din bħala raġuni ma tissemmiex fost il-lista ta’ raġunijiet li minħabba fihom ġudikant għandu jastjeni jew inkella jista’ jkun rikużat.

Il-każ quddiem l-Imħallef Grixti dwar il-pleġġ għal Yorgen Fenech kien wieħed ta’ sensittività kbira. Kien essenzjali li jkun assigurat li l-ġustizzja mhux biss qed issir iżda tidher li qed issir. Għal waqtiet twal dan ma kienx ċar. Għal waqtiet twal kien hemm dubju kbir dwar x’kien ser jiġri. Il-jott tal-imħallef nissel ħafna dubji.

Id-deċiżjoni issa ittieħdet u mad-daqqa t’għajn (għalina li m’aħniex avukati) tidher tajba. Imma tibqa’ t-togħma morra: kien hemm waqtiet kbar ta’ dubju. Dubju li ma jagħmilx ġid la lill-ġustizzja u l-anqas lill-Qrati.

Hemm ħtieġa li jkunu investigati ċ-ċirkustanzi kollha li wasslu għal dak li ġara. Biex mhux biss jiġu ndirizzati d-dubji tal-lum imma fuq kollox biex jonqsu d-dubji għada.

Dak li ġara f’dawn l-aħħar siegħat ma żiedx il-fiduċja tal-Maltin fil-Qrati. Il-każ ma jistax jieqaf hawn. Il-mistoqsijiet li jeħtieġu tweġiba huma bosta. Huma ukoll inkrepattivi għax ġaladarba l-Imħallef s’issa baqa’ sieket għandu ikun obbligat jitkellem, u jitkellem ċar. L-imħallef jaf x’għamel u bla dubju hu konxju li l-mod kif ġieb ruħu mhux aċċettabbli.

Il-Prim Imħallef għandu l-obbligu li jara li l-Kummissjoni għall-Amministrazzjoni tal-Ġustizzja tistħarreg sew il-kaz u tieħu l-passi meħtieġa, mingħajr dewmien.

It-taħwid fl-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar

Qatt ħsibt ftit dwar kif inhu possibli li r-regolatur tal-ippjanar tal-użu tal-art f’Malta jinsab fl-istat ta’ taħwid li qiegħed? Ħarsu ftit lejn il-proċeduri kriminali li għaddejjin bħalissa dwar il-ħasil tal-flus. Wieħed mill-akkużati hu Matthew Pace li sa ftit ilu kien membru tal-Bord tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar. Spettur tal-Pulizija li kien qed jixhed fil-każ iddeskrivieh bħala professjonist tal-ħasil tal-flus:  a professional money launderer.

Ftit jiftakru li f’Ġunju 2018 kellna aħbar li l-FIAU (Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit) kienet immultat lil  Matthew Pace is-somma ta’ €38,750 minħabba li ma segwiex il-liġijiet kontra l-ħasil tal-flus meta kien qed jieħu ħsieb l-investimenti tal-klijent tiegħu Keith Schembri. Dan kien fatt magħruf. Mid-dehra l-Gvern kien kuntent bih, għax ma għamel xejn dwaru. Qiesu ma ġara xejn.

Ikun interessanti nkunu nafu jekk il-konsulent legali tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar, ċertu Dr Robert Abela, ġibitx l-attenzjoni tal-Awtorità dwar il-ħtieġa li taġixxi dwar dan. Jekk le, forsi l-istess Dr Robert Abela bħala l-konsulent legali ta’ Joseph Muscat ġibidlu l-attenzjoni dwar dan? Ma smajna xejn dwar dan kollu.  ilkoll kompromessi. Governanza tajba? U mhux hekk tgħid.

Matthew Pace għamel snin membru tal-Bord tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar. Kien biss wara l-każ ċar ta’ kunflitt ta’interess tiegħu  fil-każ tal-applikazzjoni ta’żvilupp mill-Grupp dB f’Pembroke li kien sfurzat jirreżenja u dan wara pressjoni pubblika minn ambjentalisti. Ngħid li kien “sfurzat” għax wara li l-Qorti annullat il-permess mogħti lill-Grupp dB fuq il-kunflitt ta’ interess ta’ Matthew Pace hu kien għall-ewwel irrifjuta li jwarrab. Kien ippruvat li huwa ħa sehem fil-laqgħat li wasslu għal deċiżjoni dwar il-permess tad-dB f’Pembroke, u ivvota favur din l-applikazzjoni.  Fl-istess ħin kellu interess f’aġenzija tal-propjetà li kienet qed tbiegħ  partijiet minn dan l-iżvilupp sa minn qabel mal-Bord tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar, bil-vot tiegħu stess favur, approva din l-applikazzjoni! Dik governanza tajba. Dik imġieba korretta!

Din hi l-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar. Sfortunatament il-membri l-oħra tal-Bord huma ukoll effettwati minħabba l-assoċjazzjoni tagħhom miegħu.  Iridu jgħaddu snin kbar qabel mar-regulatur jirkupra minn dan.

Imma hemm iktar minn hekk.

Ambjentalisti skoprew, kważi b’kumbinazzjoni, li c-Chairman attwali tat-Tribunal ta’ Reviżjoni dwar l-Ambjent u l-Ippjanar  (EPRT) li jisma’ appelli dwar każijiet ta’ ippjanar tal-użu tal-art u oħrajn dwar l-ambjent huwa ukoll impjegat tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar.  Presentement qiegħed b’leave bla ħlas mill-impjieg normali tiegħu mal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar bid-dritt li jmur lura għall-impieg normali tiegħu hekk kif tintemm il-ħatra tiegħu bħala Chairperson tat-Tribunal.  

Kif jista’ impjegat tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar jikkunsidra appelli minn deċiżjonijiet li jieħu min jimpjegah? Dan imma hu dak li jagħmel kuljum ic-Chairman tal-EPRT.  L-anqas jekk jipprova ma qatt jista’ jkun imparzjali. Imma meta inġibditlu l-attenzjoni dwar dan ma qabilx li s-sitwazzjoni partikolari tiegħu titfa dell fuq l-imparzjalità tiegħu meta jiddeċiedi dwar kazijiet tal-ippjanar dwar l-użu tal-art. Fl-aħħar ser tkun il-Qorti li jkollha tiddeċiedi u l-ħsara li tkun saret sadanittant ser tkun waħda kbira.

It-taħwid, kif qed taraw, hu kbir. B’dawn in-nuqqasijiet etiċi ħadd m’għandu jiskanta li l-proċess dwar l-użu ta’ l-art tilef kull kredibilità.  

A mess by design

Did you ever wonder why it is possible for the land use planning regulator in Malta to be in such a mess? Just take a look at the criminal proceedings currently under way on money laundering. A former Planning Authority Board member, Matthew Pace, is one of the accused. A police inspector, explaining the investigation results has described him as a professional money launderer.

Few may remember that, way back in June 2018, an item in the news had announced that the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU) had fined Matthew Pace the sum of €38,750 for breaching a number of anti-money laundering laws when dealing with investments held by a client of his named Keith Schembri. It was public knowledge and government was apparently happy as it did not act about it.

It would be interesting to know if the then legal advisor of the Planning Authority, a certain Dr Robert Abela, had flagged the issue and drawn the attention of the Authority on the need to take action. If not, could the legal advisor to Joseph Muscat, the same Dr Robert Abela, have drawn attention of his then boss to the matter? We have heard nothing about it. As we are by now aware, they are all compromised. Good governance my foot!

Mr Matthew Pace spent years as a member of the Planning Authority Board and it was only after his blatant case of conflict of interest in the dB Pembroke case that he was forced to resign as a result of public pressures by environmentalists. I say he was “forced to resign” as, when the Court annulled the dB Pembroke permit on the basis of Matthew Pace’s conflict of interest, he initially refused to make way. It was proven that he sat in judgement and participated in the decision on the dB Pembroke permit, voting in favour of its approval. Simultaneously he had an interest in an estate agency which was already “selling” units forming part of the dB Pembroke development even before the development permit was approved by the Planning Board with Matthew Pace’s vote in favour! Governance at its best!

This is the Planning Authority. Unfortunately, the other members of the Board are impacted by association. It will be many years before this regulator recovers.

There is more.

Environmentalists have discovered, almost by accident, that the current Chairman of the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal (EPRT) while sitting in judgement on appeal cases concerning planning and environmental issues is still an employee of the Planning Authority. He is currently on leave without pay having the right to return to his employment with the Planning Authority when his current term as Chairman of the EPRT expires.

How can an employee of the Planning Authority sit in judgement on the decisions of his employer? Yet this is what the Chairman of the EPRT does every day. He cannot by any stretch of the imagination be impartial even if he tries his very best. Yet whenever he was challenged, he has refused to accept that his specific circumstances render him unsuitable to Chair the EPRT in all cases concerning the Planning Authority. This matter will eventually have to be decided by the Courts with possible considerable consequences.

The mess gets worse every day.

With these ethical failures it is no wonder that the credibility of the land use planning process has gone to the dogs.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday: 28 March 2021

Għaliex issa?

Għaliex il-Pulizija aġixxiet issa? L-apoloġisti tal-Labour ilhom is-siegħat jeqirdu li dan hu prova ta’ kemm l-istituzzjonijiet jaħdmu. Fir-realtà hu propju prova bil-maqlub. Prova ta’ kemm l-istiutuzzjonijiet ma ħadmux meta kellhom. Kemm kellhom ikunu sfurzati biex jiċċaqilqu u jaħdmu.

L-istituzzjonijiet iċċaqilqu illum. Iċċaqilqu għax ħareġ rapport (anzi tnejn) minn Maġistrat u dan fuq talba ta’ Simon Busuttil li 4 snin ilu ġibed l-attenzjoni tal-Qorti għall-provi li kellu (dawk li kienu fil-kaxxi “vojta”). U l-Qorti ħadet 4 snin.

Dan xogħol li messha għamlitu l-Pulizija 4 snin ilu. Imma ma għamlitux.

Messha għamlitu l-FIAU u m’għamlitux.

Messu iċċaqlaq l-Avukat Ġenerali. Imma baqa’ sieket.

Kellna dawn kollha li m’għamlux dmirhom. Uħud dawru wiċċhom. Oħrajn għalqu għajnejhom. Kellna min ipprefera jirreżenja flok jiffaċċja r-realtà u jagħmel dmiru.

Issa l-Pulizja iċċaqilqet. Għax sfurzata mir-rapporti tal-Maġistrat.

Għax mhux biżżejjed li għandna l-istituzzjonijiet. Jekk jimtlew b’irġiel u nisa dgħajfa, qegħdin hemm għalxejn, kif kienu hemm għalxejn għal bosta snin.

Some reflections on the Mafia State

Reading through the terms of reference for the Public Inquiry into the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, it is amply clear to all as to what the inquiry should be aiming at.

The inquiry’s objective is to determine whether the machinery of government functioned as it should. Did it function in the public interest, or did it function in another manner, in the interest of the few, thereby creating a culture of impunity for the said few?

Some may justifiably argue that the machinery of government, in Malta, never functioned properly. It is further argued that the post 2013 administration made use of a defective machinery of government more efficiently than previous administrations, fine tuning and intensifying political controls in the process, as a result of which the stultification of the functions of the democratic state was accelerated.

The terms of reference agreed to in December 2019 speak of the development of a “de facto state of impunity” and seek to determine whether this could have been avoided through effective criminal law provisions, if such provisions exist.

Do we have a Mafia State? We would definitely have a Mafia State if the machinery of government is tied with organised crime to the extent that state officials become part of a criminal partnership or organisation.

The testimony heard so far in open session during the proceedings of the public inquiry reveals the reluctance of the authorities to investigate thereby paving the way for the development of a culture of impunity. Money-laundering investigations moved at snail’s pace until there was a change in leadership at the Economic Crimes Unit of the Malta Police Force. However, as yet we do not know what was revealed in the testimony behind closed doors. Matters could be considerably worse than what is known so far.

The revelations at the public inquiry must not be seen in isolation. They must be viewed in context of the testimony in the Magistrates Court relative to the criminal proceedings against those accused of carrying out the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, or of masterminding it.

We have learnt that the alleged master-mind has pleaded with the police that he was carrying out the instructions of the Chief of Staff at the Office of the Prime Minister, Keith Schembri, who categorically denied this. The definite truth is not known yet. So far, we are only sure that the assassination planners were too close to the political nerve centre: just like in a Mafia State. It is at the Office of the Prime Minister that the middleman was offered a government job, one which delivered pay for no work. Part payment for his endeavours as a middleman!

The Ministers testifying at the public inquiry were continuously seeking to pass the buck from the Cabinet to the kitchen cabinet. On the other hand, those forming part of this kitchen cabinet feigned ignorance of their role in circumventing the role of the real cabinet. This is the worrying state of play in which those having responsibility take a step backwards as a result of which their authority ends being wielded by those appointed in lieu of those elected. Collective responsibility has been thrown to the winds.

The latest revelations crown it all. Government’s thinly veiled threats in the past days to the members of the judiciary directing the public inquiry reveal a government in panic mode.

Robert Abela’s unease at this point in time is understandable. After all he was former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s legal advisor. How many skeletons in the cupboard is he aware of?

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday: 20 December 2020

Loyalty and integrity

“Without a fundamental commitment to the truth – especially in our public institutions and those who lead them – we are lost. As a legal principle, if people don’t tell the truth, our justice system cannot function and a society based on the rule of law begins to dissolve.”

This was written by James Comey in 2018 in his book A Higher Loyalty. Truth, Lies and Leadership.

Comey, was fired as FBI director by Donald Trump. At a bizarre dinner at the White House, Trump had demanded Comey’s personal loyalty, putting aside his duties as FBI Director. Trump pressured Comey to let go of Michael Flynn – his National Security Advisor for 22 days – then under investigation by the FBI. Comey reflects on Trump’s demands for personal loyalty and emphasises that there is a higher loyalty in all of our lives “………….. not to a person, not to a party not to a group. The higher loyalty is to lasting values, most important the truth.”

All this came to mind when reading through Ivan Martin’s encounter with Yorgen Fenech’s lawyer earlier this week. Unfortunately, some know the price of everything but they do not have an inkling on the value of anything.

When the chips are down, our true values emerge. If the real values have been carefully camouflaged, the impact when they emerge in such circumstances may be shocking. What has been carefully hidden from view, all of a sudden emerges in full public view.

Offering money to an investigative journalist to “remunerate him for his services” has switched on many red lights. The attempt at bribing the journalist is bad enough. It also raises the inevitable suspicions that bundles of €500 notes could also possibly be used to influence the judicial process. Only time will tell whether the possible becomes a probable.  Most of us would remember when, in 2002, the then Chief Justice together with another Judge, were bribed to reduce a prison sentence at appeal stage. The then accused who directed the bribery of the judiciary had insignificant wealth when compared to today’s accused.

We must be vigilant. It has happened and it can happen once more.

There is a common thread running through most of the bits of information forming the developing jigsaw puzzle linking all those mentioned in the Caruana Galizia assassination: money and loads of it. It is becoming clearer that Daphne Caruana Galizia’s investigation of the corrupt power station contracts is what led to her assassination. Tainted money was used to purchase access to influence and people that matter. The indications arising are too numerous to be ignored. This is nothing new, however, in the present scenario it is of the utmost significance.

Kudos to Ivan Martin who had the presence of mind not to accept a wad of €500 banknotes. His loyalty to his values as an investigative journalist was automatic. He did not pause to consider whether it was worth sticking his neck out. All of us should be proud of him.

Ivan’s integrity will be remembered for many years to come. His loyalty to his values will undoubtedly reinforce Maltese journalism in these testing times.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 8 November 2020