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

L-assassinju: meta jkollok il-ħbieb fis-suq

Ix-xhieda fil-Qorti ta’ Melvyn Theuma iktar kmieni din il-ġimgħa fil-proċeduri kriminali ta’ Yorgen Fenech, in-negozjant akkużat bħala l-moħħ wara l-assassinazzjoni ta’ Daphne Caruana Galizia, hi tat-tkexkix. Huwa faċli li tinjora din ix-xhieda u twarrabha bħala bla ebda utilità minħabba li hu stess kien involut fil-preparazzjoni neċessarja biex il-qtil taħt investigazzjoni jseħħ. Xi drabi, sfortunatament, l-istat ikollu jaqa’ għal din it-tip ta’ kollaborazzjoni biex jipprova jsolvi delitti ppjanati sewwa. Hu l-unika mod kif kultant id-dinja kriminali tista’ tiġi megħluba.

Isem Chris Cardona, Deputat Mexxej tal-Partit Laburista, reġa tfaċċa f’dawn il-proċeduri kriminali. Diġa kien issemma’ waqt li Yorgen Fenech kien qed ikun interrogat u irċieva ittri fiċ-ċella fid-Depot tal-Pulizija li kienu jissuġġerulu biex jitfa l-ħtija fuq Cardona.

Fid-dinja demokratika mhiex xi ħaġa ta’ kuljum li isem politiku anzjan jissemma’ f’investigazzjoni dwar qtil. Mhux magħruf kemm il-Pulizija investigaw it-truf li kellhom dwar Cardona. Kien ikun raġjonevolI li nagħtu lill-Pulizija l-benefiċċju tad-dubju kieku ma kienx għal punt wieħed importanti: il-ħbiberija mill-viċin bejn l-akkużat Yorgen Fenech ma’ dak li kien id-Deputat Kummissarju tal-Pulizija Silvio Valletta li, fl-iktar mumenti kruċjali kien qed imexxi l-investigazzjoni dwar l-assassinju ta’ Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Il-ħbiberija bejn l-akkużat Yorgen Fenech u Silvio Valletta kienet b’saħħitha tant li quddiem it-tfal kien jirreferi għalih bħala iz-ziju Silvio. Li jivvjaġġaw flimkien biex jaraw logħob taċ-Champions League fi Stamford Bridge, Kiev u bnadi oħra, inkella ikla fir-razzett ta’ Fenech kienu affarijiet normali.

Ix-xhieda ta’ Melvyn Theuma ma tantx poġġiet l-investiġazzjoni f’dawl tajjeb. Il-kamra li l-pulizija jużaw għall-interrogazzjoni qiesha passatur bl-informazzjoni toħroġ permezz ta’ Silvio Valletta inkella permezz tal-uffiċċju tal-Prim Ministru: Joseph Muscat, dakinnhar Prim Ministru jkun aġġornat u b’Keith Schembri ħdejh attent jixrob l-informazzjoni. Ix-xhieda ta’ Theuma indikat li dan wassal biex ċirku limitat barra mill-korp tal-pulizija jkun konxju ta’ numru ta’ dettalji importanti dwar l-investigazzjoni, bħad-data tar-raid fit-tinda tal-patata fejn dawk ikkuntrattati biex iwettqu l-assassinju kienu eventwalment arrestati.

Hemm tlett talbiet oħra għall-proklama. Tħajru minn Melvyn Theuma. It-tlieta ddikjaraw li jistgħu jagħtu biżżejjed informazzjoni li biha jkunu identifikati dawk realment wara l-assassinju. Imma jekk dan iseħħx ħadd ma jista’ jgħid għalissa. Ħaġa waħda biss hi ċara s’issa: li Yorgen Fenech qiegħed jidher għal ħaddieħor. Min hemm warajh? Hemm numru ta’ ismijiet ta’ persuni assoċjati mal-uffiċċju tal-Prim Ministru li ssemmew fi stadji differenti tal-proċeduri kriminali li għaddejjin bħalissa.

Iktar ma qiegħed jgħaddi żmien, iktar qed titħabbel il-kobba!

Il-fatt li Robert Abela, Prim Ministru attwali, kien il-konsulent tal-predeċessur tiegħu ma tantx jagħmilha faċli biex tifhem eżattament x’inhu għaddej. Chris Cardona tneħħa mill-Kabinett imma ma jidhirx li l-Partit Laburista hu b’xi mod ippreokkupat li għandu lid-deputat mexxej kontinwament fl-aħbarijiet għal raġunijiet żbaljati. Iktar ma nisimgħu dwar dan l-assassinju iktar jikkumplikaw ruħhom l-affarijiet. Ma naħsibx li jiċċaraw wisq meta jixhdu iktar persuni fosthom Keith Schembri u Joseph Muscat.

L-impunità li gawdew uħud sal-lum hi dipendenti fuq il-ħbieb proverbjali fis-suq. It-tibdil fit-tmexxija fil-bidu tas-sena setgħet bidlet kollox. Imma jidher li kullma inbidlu huma l-uċuħ: il-bqija kollox baqa’ għaddej. Iż-żmien biss jista’ jwassalna lejn soluzzjoni.

Ippubblikat fuq Illum : Il-Ħadd 7 ta’ Ġunju 2020

The assassination: having friends in the right places

The testimony delivered in Court this week by Melvyn Theuma in the criminal case of Yorgen Fenech, the businessman accused with masterminding the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, is numbing. It is very easy to dismiss his testimony as being useless as a result of his participation in the preparation required for executing the crime being investigated. Unfortunately, the state must seek this type of collaboration in order to try and solve carefully planned crime. It is the only way in which the criminal brotherhood can at times be outfoxed.

The name of Chris Cardona, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, has resurfaced in the criminal proceedings. His name had already made the headlines when Yorgen Fenech was under interrogation, having letters delivered to his police HQ cell suggesting that he pins the blame on Cardona.

In the democratic world It is not an everyday occurrence that a senior politician’s name crops up in a murder investigation. So far, the level of investigation carried out by the police into Cardona, remains unknown. It would be reasonable to give the police the benefit of the doubt, were it not for one very important point: the close friendship of the accused Yorgen Fenech with former Deputy Commissioner of Police Silvio Valletta, who was in charge of leading the investigation into the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia at its most crucial stages.

The bond of friendship of the accused Yorgen Fenech with Silvio Valletta was so strong that he is known to have referred to him as Uncle Silvio in front of younger members of his family. Travelling to Champion’s League matches at Stamford Bridge, Kiev or elsewhere, and enjoying lunch at Fenech’s ranch was not an out of the normal occurrence.

The testimony of Melvyn Theuma has so far painted a very grim picture of the investigations. The police interrogation room was leaking like a sieve. Theuma’s testimony has indicated that this had resulted in a small circle outside the police HQ being aware of important investigation details, such as the date of the raid at the Marsa potato shed, where those contracted to carry out the assassination were eventually arrested.

There are three pending requests for turning state evidence, joining Melvyn Theuma. All three have declared that they can provide information which could nail those really responsible for contracting the assassination. Whether this can materialise is anybody’s guess. There is however one thing which by now is becoming very clear: Yorgen Fenech may be standing-in for somebody else. Who is it? Various names of persons linked with the Office of the Prime Minister have been mentioned during the different stages of the criminal proceedings currently under way.

The plot thickens by the minute.

The fact that Robert Abela, current Prime Minister, was legal advisor to the former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, does not make it easier to decipher the links and the at times cryptic messages flying around. Cardona was kicked out of Cabinet but it seems that the Labour Party is not perturbed in having a Deputy Leader who is continuously in the news for the wrong reasons.

The more we hear about the assassination the more confusing it gets. Things may not necessarily get clearer when more witnesses take the stand, possibly including both Keith Schembri and his boss former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.

The impunity enjoyed to date by some is dependent on having friends in the right place at the right time. The changing of the guard earlier this year could have ended the game. Unfortunately, it seems that nothing has changed. Only time and determination can solve the riddle.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 7 June 2020

L-għanqbuta

Ir-riżenja tal-avukat żagħżugħ Charles Mercieca mill-uffiċċju tal-Avukat Ġenerali, malajr, biex immedjatament jassumni d-difiża ta’ Yorgen Fenech mhiex riżenja komuni.

F’ċirkustanzi differenti ma kienet tfisser xejn.

Tassumi sinifikat fil-kuntest li saret u fid-dawl tal-ismijiet diġà magħrufa. Fil-kuntest tal-investigazzjonijiet li għadhom għaddejjin dwar il-qtil ta’ Daphne Caruana Galizia tfisser ħafna.

Edward Zammit Lewis, Ministru tal-Ġustizzja, ddeskriva r-riżenja bħala insensittiva. Għal min insensittiva?

Naħseb li ż-żmien għad juri li hi agħar minn hekk.

Qed tifforma għanqbuta minsuġa bi kważi perfezzjoni u b’finanzi bla limitu. Uħud li qed jissemmew rari jidhru fil-pubbliku. Anzi jevitaw li jidhru bħal donnhom jistħu jidhru. Imma donnhom jippjanaw sew u rari jfallilhom.

Żelqilhom wieħed Melvyn Theuma. Jidher li għadhom qed jippruvaw jirrimedjaw il-konsegwenzi.

Kif ser tinħatar il-ġudikatura?

Qalulna dan l-aħħar li ftehmu. Il-Ministru tal-Ġustizzja Edward Zammit Lewis qal li mal-PN ftiehem. Li l-PN u l-PL ftehmu bejniethom u li soġġett għall-approvazzjoni tal-Kummissjoni Venezja tal-Kunsill tal-Ewropa l-kaz hu prattikament magħluq.

Jiġifieri ftehmu bil-biebien magħluqa. Dan mhux sewwa u huwa inaċċettabbli anke jekk ġew ispirati mill-Kummissjoni Venezja innifisha, kif qal Zammit Lewis.

Ilkoll kemm aħna jinteressana li nikkontribwixxu għad-diskussjoni dwar kif għandhom jinħatru l-membri tal-ġudikatur. Allura għalfejn dawn id-diskussjonijiet isiru bil-bibien magħluqin?

Dawn affarijiet li jiġru f’repubblika tal-banana.

L-istituzzjonijiet qed jaħdmu, qalilna Owen Bonnici

Wara l-laqgħa tal-Kabinett tal-Ħamis fil-għaxija, li baqgħet għaddejja sa sbieħ il-Gimgħa, żewġ Ministri tkellmu dwar dak li kien għaddej.

Il-Ministri kienu imnixxfa jisimgħu lill-Avukat Ġenerali u lill-Kummissarju tal-Pulizija jispjegaw dak li kien għaddej. “We were shocked” qalu lill-gazzetti.

Il-Ministri ma setgħux jifhmu kif u għaliex Keith Schembri nħeles mill-arrest, u dan wara li semgħu rapport dettaljat. Il-Ministri talbu iktar spjegazzjonijiet. Imma mir-rabja kbira li tidher fir-rapporti ma jidhirx li kienu sodisfatti mill-ispjegazzjonijiet li nagħtaw.

Imbagħad jiġi Owen Bonnici jgħid li l-istituzzjonijiet qed jaħdmu!

Il-Korruzzjoni m’għandhiex kulur

Id-dibattitu dwar il-korruzzjoni fil-gżejjer Maltin ma jispiċċa qatt. Il-korruzzjoni m’għandhiex kulur u tiddependi ħafna fuq kultura ta’ klijenteliżmu u fuq istituzzjonijiet dgħajfa jew imdgħajfa. Sfortunatament, ma teżisti l-ebda rieda politika biex dan ikun indirizzat.

Ma tidher l-ebda azzjoni ċara u konkreta li tikkorrispondi mad-diskors pubbliku u ma jaqta’ xejn dwar tolleranza żero għall-korruzzjoni.

Ir-resistenza tal-Ministri Edward Scicluna, Konrad Mizzi u Chris Cardona biex tinfetaħ inkjesta kriminali minn maġistrat dwar l-allegazzjonijiet tal-kompliċità kriminali tagħhom in konnessjoni mal-ftehim tal-Vitals Global Healthcare dwar l-isptarijiet ma tinftiehemx. Prim Ministru b’tolleranza żero għall-korruzzjoni kien jitlob l-inkjesta hu stess. Inkella kien ikun minn ta’ quddiem biex jappoġġja t-talba li saret.

Kieku l-Partit Laburista kellu tolleranza żero għall-korruzzjoni ilu li bagħat lil Konrad Mizzi u lil Keith Schembri jixxejru. Il-fatt li l-mexxej Laburista Joseph Muscat ma aġixxiex b’dan il-mod ifisser li hu dispost li jagħlaq għajnejh għall-irregolaritajiet li jagħmlu ta’ madwaru. F’dawn iċ-ċirkustanzi, Partit Laburista b’tolleranza żero għall-korruzzjoni kien jiġbed widnejn il-mexxej tiegħu u jwissieh li jiemu magħduda jekk ma jibdilx triqtu. Il-fatt li l-Partit Laburista ma għamel xejn minn dan ifisser ħaġa waħda: li korruzzjoni hi tollerata.

Ikun għaqli jekk niftakru illi fl-istadji inizzjali tal-iskandlu magħruf bħala Panama Papers diversi membri tal-Grupp Parlamentari tal-Partit Laburista irreaġixxew għal dan kollu bil-bibien magħluqa.

F’April u Mejju tal-2016 kienet ħarġet l-istorja li mhux il-Partit Laburista kollu hu illuppjata dwar allegazzjonijiet ta’ korruzzjoni. Id-dibattitu intern, kif irrappurtat fil-medja, kien imqanqal, imma ma wassal għall-ebda azzjoni konkreta.

Il-Partit Nazzjonalista, għalkemm fl-Opposizzjoni, ma jistax ikun alternattiva għal dan għax minkejja li l-kritika tiegħu hi korretta mhuwiex kredibbli.

Il-Partit Nazzjonalista eleġġa mexxej li ftit li xejn jispira fiduċja fost il-pubbliku. Primarjament dan hu minħabba l-informazzjoni li toħroġ minn rapporti investigattivi dwaru ppubblikati minn Daphne Caruana Galizia, informazzjoni li turi kif diversi drabi ma aġixxiex b’mod korrett. Il-politku ma’ għandux il-possibilità li jagħżel meta jixgħel is-switch tal-imġieba etika. L-imġieba tal-politiku meta ma jkunx taħt il-lenti tal-opinjoni pubblika hi l-iktar indikattiva dwar x’isarraf. Il-kaz ta’ klijenti tal-uffiċju legali ta’ Adrian Delia li bbenefikaw minn dħul minn briedel f’Londra huwa eżempju prattiku ta’ dan. Meta l-informazzjoni kienet ippubblikata Delia fetaħ libell imma wara mhux biss irtirah imma ma ħa l-ebda passi alternattivi biex jisganċa ruħu minn dak li ntqal bl-iswed fuq l-abjad dwaru.

L-istess għandu jingħad dwar ix-xhieda ġuramentata tad-Deputat Nazzjonalista Claudio Grech dwar l-iskandlu taż-żejt liema xhieda ngħatat quddiem il-Kumitat Parlamentari għall-Kontijiet Pubbliċi. Dakinnhar Grech qal li ma kienx jiftakar jekk qatt iltaqa’ ma’ George Farrugia, il-moħħ wara l-iskandlu u li wara ngħata l-maħfra biex jikxef kollox. Il-Kap tal-PN ta’ dakinnhar, Simon Busuttil, bl-ebda mod ma rreaġixxa għal din l-imġieba. Ma ttieħdu l-ebda passi kontra Claudio Grech mill-PN f’dan il-kaz li bosta jqisuh bħala li pprova jevita li jikxef informazzjoni ta’ relevanza għal għarfien aħjar ta’ fatti tal-iskandlu.

Fid-dawl ta’ nuqqas ta’ kredibilità, meta l-Opposizzjoni Parlamentari (kif kostitwita illum) titkellem, l-impatt ta’ dak li tgħid bi kritika tal-Gvern ftit hu effetttiv.

Dan nistgħu narawh ukoll fid-dawl ta’ każi ta’ governanza ħażina li jikkomunikaw messaġġ wieħed: il-PL u l-PN huma pezza waħda. Eżempju ċar ta’ dan hu l-kaz tal-involviment ta’ Mario Demarco fin-negozjati kuntrattwali tad-dB fil-kwalità tiegħu ta’ konsulent legali tal-Grupp dB, meta fl-istess ħin kien Viċi Kap tal-Opposizzjoni u kelliemi għall-Finanzi. Għalkemm Mario Demarco għamel apoloġija pubblika dwar dan meta l-qiegħa kienet saħnet, il-ħsara li seħħet kienet sostanzjali. Il-messaġġ ċar li ġie kkomunikat dakinnhar kien li l-aħjar elementi tal-Opposizzjoni Parlamentari ma kinux kapaċi jiddistingwu bejn l-obbligi pubbliċi u l-interessi privati tagħhom.

Ikun opportun ukoll li niftakru fid-diversi rapporti tal-Awditur Ġenerali dwar abbuż minn propjetà pubblika meta din kienet responsabbiltà politika tad-deputat Jason Azzopardi. Il-PN fl-ebda ħin ma esiġa li Azzopardi jerfa’ r-responsabbiltà politika għall-frejjeġ li ħalla warajh.

Il-governanza ħażina u l-korruzzjoni huma kuġini. Waħda twassal għall-oħra. Xi minn daqqiet hemm min jitfixkel waħda mal-oħra.

Alternattiva Demokratika dejjem kienet ċara. Dejjem kellna tolleranza żero kemm għall-korruzzjoni kif ukoll għall-governanza ħażina. Sfortunatament, la l-PN u l-anqas il-PL ma jistgħu jgħidu l-istess.

ippubblikat fuq Illum : Il-Ħadd 17 ta’ Novembru 2019

 

 

 

Corruption is colour-blind

The debate on local corruption is never-ending. Corruption is colour-blind and is heavily dependent upon a clientelist culture, as well as on the existence of weak or weakened institutions. In addition, unfortunately, there is currently no political will to address either.

The never-ending public utterances on zero-tolerance to corruption are not matched with clear-cut action.

The resistance by Cabinet Ministers Edward Scicluna, Konrad Mizzi and Chris Cardona to the initiation of a magisterial criminal inquiry into the allegation concerning their criminal complicity in the Vitals Global Healthcare Hospitals deal is mind-boggling. A Prime Minister with a zero-tolerance to corruption would have requested the inquiry himself. Alternatively, he should have been the first to support the NGO-requested investigation.

A Labour Party which has a zero-tolerance to corruption would have sent Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri packing ages ago. The fact that Labour leader Joseph Muscat did not so act signifies that he is willing to turn a Nelson eye to his colleagues’ misdemeanours. In these circumstances a corruption zero-tolerant Labour Party would have given notice to its leader that his days are numbered if he does not change his ways. The fact that the Labour Party did not so act gives one clear message: it is corruption-tolerant.

It would be pertinent to point out that, in the initial stages of the Panama Papers debate, various members of the Labour Party Parliamentary group reacted behind closed doors. Way back in April and May of 2016, leaks in the media had indicated that not all of the Labour Party is anesthetised in its reactions to allegations of corruption. The internal debate, as then reported, was fierce, but it did not lead to concrete action.

The Nationalist Party, although in opposition, is no alternative to all this, as its criticism, though correct, is not credible.

The Nationalist Party has elected a leader who does not inspire much confidence in the public, primarily as a result of the investigative reports published by Daphne Caruana Galizia which unearthed information that illustrated the various instances in which he acted unethically. Holders of political office have no choice as to when to switch on to an ethical behaviour mode. Their behaviour when they were not under the glaring spotlight of public opinion is most indicative of their ethical worth. A case in point is Adrian Delia’s legal representation of clients benefitting from earnings from London-based brothels in respect of which published information he instituted legal action that he later withdrew. Subsequently he took no action which disproves anything that was published about this brothel business.

Likewise, no action was taken in respect of the sworn testimony of senior PN Member of Parliament Claudio Grech when giving witness in front of the Public Accounts Committee in its inquiry on the oil scandal. Grech had then stated that he did not recollect if he had ever met George Farrugia, the prime mover in the oil scandal, who was eventually pardoned to reveal all. The then PN leader, Simon Busuttil, had not reacted to this behaviour and no action whatsoever was initiated against Claudio Grech by the PN in what most consider a case of avoiding spilling information of relevance.

In view of its lack of credibility, whenever the Parliamentary Opposition – as presently constituted- speaks up, the impact of what has been revealed about Government’s dubious practices is severely diluted.

This could be viewed also with reference to serious issues of bad governance which communicate one clear message: they are cut from the same cloth. A case in point is Mario Demarco’s involvement in the dB contract negotiations as legal advisor to the dB Group, at a time when he was Deputy Leader of the Opposition and its spokesperson on Finance. Though Mario Demarco issued a public apology when the matter made headlines, the damage done was substantial. The clear message conveyed was that the better elements of the Parliamentary Opposition are incapable of drawing a line between their public duties and their private interests.

We may also deem it fit to remember the various reports issued by the Auditor-General on the mis-management of government property. At the time, this was the political responsibility of the Hon Jason Azzopardi but at no time was he asked by his party to shoulder political responsibility for the mess that he left behind.

Bad governance and corruption are cousins; one leads to the other and at times one is easily mistaken for the other.

At Alternattiva Demokratika we have always been clear: we are zero-tolerant in respect of both corruption and bad governance. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the PN and the PL.

published on The Malta Independent on Sunday: 17 November 2019

Il-Kostituzzjoni tagħna: ir-riforma meħtieġa

Hawn min iqis li l-kostituzzjoni ta’ Malta hi tajba kif inhi u li għaldaqstant, jaħseb, li ma hemm l-ebda ħtieġa li nduruha dawra sew. Kien ikun sewwa kieku din kienet is-sitwazzjoni. Imma sfortunatament l-affarijiet huma ferm differenti minn hekk. Il-kostituzzjoni teħtieġ ferm iktar minn ftit irtokki ‘l hawn u ‘l-hemm.

lkoll nafu li l-kostituzzjoni ma titħaddimx biss minn persuni ta’ rieda tajba. Nistgħu ngħidu li xi minn daqqiet din ir-rieda tajba tkun ftit skarsa f’dawk li jmexxu u f’dawk li niddependu fuqhom għat-tħaddim tal-kostituzzjoni. Xi drabi dawn ifittxu t-toqob minn fejn jgħaddu u b’hekk jagħmlu ħilithom biex jevitaw milli jwettqu dmirhom.

Ilkoll nixtiequ li dan ma kienx hekk, imma l-esperjenzi tagħna lkoll, kontinwament, juru mod ieħor. Huma esperjenzi li l-ħin kollu juru li hemm ħtieġa illi l-kostituzzjoni tkun ħafna iktar ċara milli hi illum biex tilqa’ iktar għall-kontra l-abbużi u tonqos il-possibilità tal-misinterpretazzjoni tagħha.

Malta qed tinbidel u jeħtieġ li l-kostituzzjoni tagħna tirrifletti din il-bidla. Hu meħtieġ li l-Kostituzzjoni illum tirrifletti l-valuri ta’ Malta tas-seklu 21.

Tul is-snin, Alternattiva Demokratika tkellmet dwar diversi aspetti tal-kostituzzjoni li jeħtieġ li jkunu ikkunsidrati mill-ġdid, inkella li hemm bżonn li jiżdiedu ma’ dak li tipprovdi għalihom il-kostituzzjoni attwali. Dan jeħtieġ li jsir mhux biss fid-dawl tal-esperjenzi tal-pajjiż tul is-snin imma ukoll għax il-pajjiż għaddej minn metamorfosi kontinwa.

Ewlenija fost dawn l-esperjenzi hemm ir-rwol sekondarju li fih, tul is-snin, ġie mqiegħed il-Parlament fil-konfront tal-Kabinett. Ma’ dan trid iżżid ukoll id-drawwa tal-Parlament li kontinwament jgħaddi poteri sostanzjali lill-Kabinett kif ukoll lill-Ministri individwali mingħajr l-iċken sorveljanza inkella b’sorveljanza irriżorja. Hemm ukoll il-korpi regolatorji li l-persuni li jmexxuhom mhux biss jinħatru, ġeneralment, mingħajr referenza lill-Parlament, imma li wkoll, b’mod konsistenti, ftit li xejn isir skrutinju tagħhom, la qabel ma jinħatru u wisq inqas wara.

Din kienet is-sitwazzjoni sal-emendi riċenti għall-Att dwar l-Amministrazzjoni Pubblika liema emendi ħolqu l-Kumitat Permanenti dwar il-Ħatriet Pubbliċi biex ikunu skrutinati mill-Parlament xi ħatriet politiċi li jsiru minn żmien għal żmien. Minn dak li rajna s’issa, l-iskrutinju li qiegħed isir hu wieħed superfiċjali ħafna, lil hinn minn dak li hu mistenni.

Ir-rapport riċenti tal-Kummissjoni Venezja tal-Kunsill tal-Ewropa, li jiffoka fuq is-saltna tad-dritt, l-indipendenza tal-ġudikatura u tal-korpi bl-inkarigu li jinfurzaw il-liġi, jiftaħ id-diskussjoni beraħ dwar kif għandhom isiru dawn il-ħatriet u dwar jekk il-Gvern u/jew il-Parlament għandux fil-fatt ikollhom xi rwol f’dan il-proċess.

Fil-fehma ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika mhux aċċettabbli li l-Parlament jibqa’ jagħti blank cheque lill-Kabinett, lill-Ministri u lill-awtoritajiet regolatorji. Il-Parlament għandu jżomm il-kontroll effettiv f’idejh: huwa l-Parlament li għandu jmexxi u mhux il-Kabinett għax, kif iħobbu jfakkruna wħud ta’ kulltant, il-Parlament hu l-ogħla istituzzjoni tal-pajjiż.

Mill-Indipendenza l-pajjiż dejjem tmexxa mill-Kabinett li kontinwament ta’ struzzjonijiet lill-Parlament, li, għall-formalità, bi ftit eċċezzjonijiet, approva dawn l-istruzzjonijiet u mexa magħhom.

Dan ovvjament kien possibli minħabba l-polarizzazzjoni tal-pajjiż f’żewġ sferi politiċi li ttrasformaw dak li fuq il-karta hi demokrazija parlamentari f’sistema ta’ ċentraliżmu demokratiku, immexxija mill-Kabinett.

Spiċċajna biex flok il-Kabinett hu qaddej tal-Parlament l-affarijiet huma kważi kompletament bil-maqlub.

Din, fil-fehma ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika, hi waħda mir-raġunijiet ewlenin għaliex kontinwament hemm resistenza għal sistema elettorali aħjar li tagħti spażju lill-ilħna oħrajn, lil hinn mill-ilħna tradizzjonali.

Għax l-effett prattiku tad-dħul ta’ partiti politiċi addizzjonali fil-Parlament, eventwalment, ikun ifisser rifondazzjoni tad-demokrazija parlamentari bid-deċiżjonijiet jittieħdu fil-Parlament stess u l-Kabinett ikun relegat għal postu: jirrapporta lill-Parlament, jieħu l-istruzzjonijiet mingħandu u jwettaqhom!

Fi ftit kliem, dan ifisser il-ħtieġa li jkun hemm separazzjoni effettiva bejn l-eżekuttiv u l-leġislattiv, punt fundamentali meta qed nitħaddtu dwar il-kostituzzjoni ta’ demokrazija parlamentari. Din is-separazzjoni illum teżisti fuq il-karta biss.

Il-Kostituzzjoni teħtieġ li tirrifletti ukoll il-ħtieġa għal trasparenza u l-kontabilità. Dan hu meħtieġ mhux biss min-naħa tal-politiċi imma wkoll mingħand dawk kollha li jirċievu kwalunkwe delega ta’ xi forma ta’ awtorità eżekuttiva, anke l-iżjed waħda ċkejkna.

Ma’ dan kollu trid iżżid is-sistema elettorali, li teħtieġ tibdil sostanzjali. Dan hu meħtieġ prinċipalment minħabba li r-regoli kostituzzjonali dwar il-proporzjonalità huma limitati u diskriminatorji fl-applikazzjoni tagħhom.

Dawn japplikaw biss f’sitwazzjoni fejn fil-Parlament ikun hemm żewġ partiti politiċi u u allura, b’mod prattiku, japplikaw favur il-Partit Laburista u l-Partit Nazzjonalista, li fassluhom favur tagħhom.

Imma l-proċess elettorali jeħtieġ li jkun eżaminat mill-ġdid ukoll, għax illum, iktar minn qatt qabel, hawn il-ħtieġa ta’ intervent leġislattiv biex ikun indirizzat in-nuqqas tal-presenza adegwata tal-ġeneri differenti fil-fora politiċi Maltin, ewlieni fosthom fil-Parlament Malti.

Pajjiżna qed jinbidel kontinwament. Kultant din il-bidla isseħħ b’ritmu kajman. Drabi oħra din issir b’għaġġla kbira, kif qed iseħħ fil-mument. Huma bidliet li l-poplu Malti qed iħaddan kontinwament.

Bidliet li żdiedu fir-ritmu hekk kif Malta issieħbet fl-Unjoni Ewropea u bdiet dieħla fis-seklu wieħed u għoxrin, u b’mod iktar qawwi minn meta seħħ l-approvazzjoni tar-referendum dwar id-divorzju fl-2011.

Malta tal-lum hi differenti minn Malta tal-1964. F’numru ta’ aspetti hi wkoll Malta aħjar. Hi Malta li mxiet ‘il-quddiem u addattat ruħha ġeneralment b’suċċess għal dak li seħħ madwarha. F’dan il-proċess mifrux fuq kważi 60 sena, minn stat prattikament konfessjonali Malta żviluppat fi stat lajk b’koeżistenza ta’ valuri li jikkuntrastaw.

F’Malta illum isaltan pluraliżmu etiku. Hija din il-pluralità ta’ valuri ta’ Malta tal-lum li għandna nżommu quddiem għajnejna aħna u niddibattu dwar x’forma għandu jkollha kostituzzjoni emendata jew mibdula fil-ġimgħat u fix-xhur li ġejjin.

 

Ippubblikat fuq Illum : Il-Ħadd 10 ta’ Novembru 2019

Our Constitution: the reform ahead

Some may consider that Malta’s Constitution is fine in its present state but, unfortunately, much more than a couple of tweaks are required. We are all aware that constitutional mechanics are not only subject to the workings of people of good faith: some excel in seeking the most devious of ways to justify the avoidance of their Constitutional responsibilities.

Most of us wish that this was not the case but, unfortunately, it is the reality. Experience has taught us that a number of our Constitutional provisions need to be clearer to be able to withstand abuse and misinterpretation. Malta is in a continuous state of change, which must be reflected in our Constitution. The Constitution should be a reflection of today’s values: it should reflect a 21st century Malta.

Over the years, Maltese Greens have spoken up on various aspects of the existing Constitution which need revisiting or new elements that need to be introduced. This is essential – not only in order to apply the lessons learnt from our experiences but also to reflect the continuous metamorphosis through which the country is going.

Topping the list of considerations is the need to address the secondary role in which Parliament has been placed over the years with the Cabinet, effectively, taking over. In this context, it is very relevant to focus on Parliament’s handing over substantial responsibilities to the Cabinet or directly to individual Ministers without the minimum oversight. This also applies to regulatory bodies or institutions which are generally appointed and entrusted with substantial responsibilities without even a basic referral to Parliament.

This situation prevailed up until the recent amendments to the Public Administration Act, which created a Parliamentary Permanent Committee to examine political appointments in the public service. From what has been seen so far, the operations of this Committee leave much to be desired.

The recent report of the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe, which has a focus on the state of play of the rule of law in Malta, judicial independence – as well as the autonomy of those entrusted to enforce the law – encourages debating reconsideration of the manner in which these appointments are made and whether, and to what extent, the Government and/or Parliament have any role to play in the process.

It is not acceptable in this day and age that Parliament hands over a number of blank cheques to the Cabinet, Ministers and regulatory bodies. Parliament should retain ultimate oversight and control, currently a function usurped by the Cabinet. Since 1964, the Cabinet has always taken the lead – issuing ‘instructions’ to Parliament, which has generally rubber-stamped these instructions and followed them through.

This has been made possible by the prevalent intensive political polarisation that has transformed what – on paper – is a parliamentary democracy to one where democratic centralism, led by Cabinet, prevails. We have ended up with Parliament serving the Cabinet, when it should be the other way around. In my view, this is one of the basic reasons for the continuous resistance to the reform of the electoral system which would give adequate democratic space to political formations outside the traditional ones. The practical impact of the entry of new political parties into Parliament would be a re-foundation of parliamentary democracy, with Parliament standing on its own two feet and issuing instructions to Cabinet, not the other way around. This would signify an effective separation of executive and legislative powers: a fundamental issue in the Constitution of any parliamentary democracy and one which, so far in Malta, exists only on paper.

Our Constitution needs to reflect the basic need for transparency and accountability. This should be applicable not just to those elected to political office but also to those having a delegated authority on any matter, however small.

The electoral system requires substantial change. This is primarily due to the fact that the constitutional rules on proportionality are defective and discriminatory. They only apply in a Parliament composed of two political parties: in practice they thus apply only in favour of the Labour Party and the Nationalist Party who designed them to suit their needs. The electoral process also needs revisiting to address the gender imbalance in our parliamentary representation.

Malta is continuously changing. This change is proceeding at a varying rate that has been accelerating since we joined the European Union, but more so since the positive divorce referendum of 2011.

Malta in the 21st century is substantially different to the Malta of 1964. In many aspects it is also a better Malta that has generally successfully adapted to change. In this context, in a 60-year timeframe Malta has developed from a confessional state to a lay one with the co-existence of contrasting values.

In Malta today one can speak of ethical pluralism and it is this plurality of values of today’s Malta that should be the basic foundation stone of the constitutional reform process on which we will be embarking in the coming weeks and months.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday 10 November 2019