Owen’s latest gimmick

Earlier this week, Justice Minister Owen Bonnici explained to the press the measures proposed by the government in order that Parliament will be in a position to examine its political appointees nominated to head various state agencies or institutions as well as those appointed to ambassadorships from outside the civil service.

Naturally, the first reaction to Owen Bonnici’s declaration is that government’s proposal is a positive small first step. However, when the detailed proposal was published, it was clear that this was another gimmick. It is proposed that a Parliamentary Standing Committee will be able to examine potential political appointees through written questions. On the basis of the answers received, and supplementary (written) questions, the Parliamentary Standing Committee will be expected to advise the government on the appointments under consideration.

This is a far cry from what is expected in a modern democracy.

Parliament, either directly or through a standing committee, should not be expected to simply advise. It should decide on the suitability or otherwise of the government nominees. This should be done after the nominees have been examined in a public hearing in the same manner as that of the US Senate Committees or the Parliamentary Committees of various other countries. This can only be done if Parliament reclaims the powers it has ceded to the government over the years.

Parliamentary scrutiny means much more than answering a set of written questions. Examining the nominees to ascertain their suitability for the post they have been nominated goes much further than the superficial examination of their professional competence. It also entails the examination of their past performance in order to ascertain whether they are capable of withstanding political pressure which seeks to sway their judgement in favour of political expediency and consequently influence their behaviour.

Such an exercise cannot be done through written questions but through a viva voce examination where it is not only what is said that matters. Interpreting body language and reactions to unexpected questions or statements is generally more relevant than deciphering boring, long-winded answers that go around in circles and generally avoid providing an answer at all.

During the general election campaign a few months ago, we were told that we needed “Labour-proof institutions”. In reality, government institutions and agencies should be at arms length from the government of the day in all day to day matters. This is done by ensuring that the running of government institutions and agencies is not the prerogative of political cronies but of suitably qualified appointees.

The government proposal is one that ensures that Parliament, through it’s Standing Committees, will not be in a position to carry out any meaningful scrutiny.  Parliament needs to have the authority to block the appointments which it considers to be unsuitable and in order to be able to act in this manner, the government’s proposal needs to be heavily revisited.

It is for this reason that – in the recent general election manifesto (and even in that of the previous general election) – we Greens proposed a much more effective policy: that parliament (or its committees) should have the authority to decide, and not merely advise on, public appointments and that this should be done through a public hearing without limitations.

These are the essential building blocks of a healthy democracy.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 1st October 2017

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Il-ħatriet fil-pajjiż

coatofarms_malta

 

Il-PN qed jgħid li l-ħatriet importanti fil-pajjiż għandhom ikollhom l-approvazzjoni ta’ zewġ terzi tal-Parlament.

Issa din, meta tingħad, tinstema tajba. M’għandix dubju li l-iskop wara l-proposta hu wieħed tajjeb. Bħalissa kemm l-Ombudsman kif ukoll l-Awditur Ġenerali jinħatru b’dan il-mod u s’issa dejjem instabet soluzzjoni raġjonevoli għal dawn il-ħatriet. L-argument allura hu jekk dan il-metodu (taż-żewġ terzi) jagħmilx sens għal ħatriet oħra ukoll.

Issemmew żewġ karigi partikolari: dawk ta’ President tar-Repubblika u ta’ Kummissarju tal-Pulizija.

Ikun tajjeb, kif anke qalet diversi drabi Alternattiva Demokratika, li l-President tar-Repubblika ma jibqax jinħatar mill-Parlament waħdu. Minflok għandu jinħatar minn kulleġġ elettorali li jkun jinkludi ukoll (flimkien mal-Parlament)rappresentanza minn kull Kunsill Lokali.

Dwar il-Kummissarju tal-Pulizija l-problema rejali hi li jkun evitat li l-ħatra tiegħu (jew għaliex le, tagħha) tkun tali li titneħħa l-konsiderazzjoni ta’ politika partiġjana bħala kriterju fl-għażla. Tul is-snin, kellna persuni ta’ eċċellenza li okkupaw il-kariga u kellna oħrajn ta’ inkompetenza grassa. Naħseb li l-għażla issir minn żewġ terzi tal-Parlament ma issolvi xejn. Proposta ta’ din ix-xorta tissogra paraliżi amministrattiva. Forsi jkun iktar għaqli li għal karigi ta’ importanza nazzjonali jkun meħtieġ l-approvazzjoni tal-Parlament, b’maġġoranza sempliċi. Imma approvazzjoni bħal din tkun teħtieg public hearing. Jiġifieri li l-persuna nominat tkun mgħarbla fil-pubbliku minn kumitat parlamentari.

Proposta ta’ din ix-xorta ma għandiex tapplika biss għall-Kummissarju tal-Pulizija imma għandha tapplika ukoll għall-ħatriet kollha ta’ ambaxxaturi u għat-tmexxija ta’ awtoritajiet u Dipartimenti tal-Gvern.

L-emfasi tiegħi mhux daqstant fuq il-ħtieġa tal-approvazzjoni mill-Parlament imma fuq li l-persuna proposta tkun mgħarbla fil-pubbliku. B’hekk tonqos il-possibilità tal-ħatra ta’ persuni inkompetenti kif ukoll ta’ persuni li l-unika kwalifika tagħhom tkun it-tessera tal-partit.

Naħseb li sistema bħal din, għalkemm bla dubju kontroversjali, hi iktar prattika mill-proposta tal-approvazzjoni mill-parlament b’maġġoranza ta’ żewġ terzi.

X’qed jaħbu f’Dar Malta fi Brussels ?

National Representations in Brussels

 

Fi studju mħejji minn ALTER-EU (Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation – grupp ta’ NGOs li jaħdmu favur it-trasparenza) ippubblikat f’Marzu li għadda ma tantx jidher li r-rapprezentanti ta’ Malta fi Brussels jipprattikaw wisq it-trasparenza.

Matul l-2015 ALTER-EU talbet lil diversi rapprezentanti ta’ pajjiżi membri fl-Unjoni Ewropea biex jinfurmawhom permezz tal-proċeduri tal-Freedom of Information Act dwar il-lista ta’ laqgħat li r-rapprezentanti ta’ Malta fi Brussels kellhom ma dawk imsejħa lobbyists – jiġifieri dawk li jfittxu li jinfluwenzaw it-teħid ta’ deċiżjonijiet u l-formolazzjoni ta’ policy fl-istituzzjonijiet ewropej.

Ir-rapprezentanti ta’ Malta fi Brussels (skond ir-rapport) kienu ta’ wieħed minn żewġ pajjiżi li irrifjutaw li jagħtu din l-informazzjoni. L-oħrajn kienu r-rapprezentanti tar-Renju Unit.

X’qed jaħbu f’Dar Malta fi Brussels?

 

Il-ħatra ta’ Joseph Cuschieri bħala ambaxxatur għall-Greċja

Joseph Cuschieri

It-Times online tal-bieraħ ħabbret li hu imminenti li l-Gvern iħabbar il-ħatra tas-Sur Joseph Cuschieri bħala ambaxxatur ta’ Malta għall-Greċja.

Kull Gvern jagħmel ħatriet bħal dawn. Uħud minn dawn il-ħatriet ikunu ta’ benefiċċju għall-pajjiż. L-oħrajn ikunu ta’ benefiċċju biss għall-partit fil-Gvern.

Wasal iż-żmien li l-ambaxxaturi li jkunu ser jinħatru ikunu mgħarbla fil-pubbliku mill-Kumitat għall-Affarijiet Barranin tal-Parlament Malti. Bl-istess mod li jimxi s-Senat Amerikan qabel ma jiddeċiedi jekk jikkonfermax jew le l-ħatriet ta’ ambaxxaturi mill-President tal-Istati Uniti tal-Amerika.

 

Bejn RCC u Olaf Terribile

RCC

 

Tiftakru meta l-Partit Laburista fil-Parlament ressaq mozzjoni ta’ ċensura kontra Richard Cachia Caruana? Il-mozzjoni dakinnhar kienet ġiet approvata għax Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando kien ivvota mal-Opposizzjoni u Jesmond Mugliette kien astjena.

Dakinhar fuq dan il-blog jiena kont ktibt li r-raġunijiet li kienu inġiebu mill-Opposizzjoni Laburista biex jiġi ċċensurat RCC kienu imġebbda. Għax dak li ntqal dakinnhar, kieku kien minnu, ma kienx jiġġustifika ċ-ċensura ta’ RCC imma tal-Gvern!

Li għamel il-grupp Parlamentari Laburista tlett snin ilu kien li ħa posizzjoni illi l-ħatriet fil-korp diplomatiku kellhom ikunu mgħarbla mil-Parlament. Tista’ taqbel jew ma taqbilx mat-tiġbid tal-argumenti imma naħseb li kien pass il-quddiem li f’Ġunju 2012 il-Parlament Malti iddiskuta l-ħidma tal-Ambaxxatur Richard Cachia Caruana.

F’dawn il-ġranet huwa imminenti li l-Gvern iħabbar il-ħatra ta’ ambaxxatur ġdid ta’ Malta għar-Republika tal-Poplu taċ-Ċina. Xniegħat persistenti jindikaw li ser jinħatar Olaf Terribile bħala ambaxxatur. Probabbilment li din il-ħatra tiegħu tidħol fis-seħħ fl-istess jiem meta hu mistenni li jirriżenja t-Tabib George Vella minn Ministru għall-Affarijiet Barranin minħabba raġunijiet ta’ saħħa.

Olaf Terribile għandu passat ikkulurit ħafna fis-servizz pubbliku. Kien Segretarju Privat tal-ex-President George Abela li kien neħħieh għax tilef il-fiduċja fih.

Ikun interessanti kieku l-Kumitat Parlamentari dwar l-Affarijiet Barranin jitħajjar jgħarbel il-ħatra tal-Ambaxxatur il-ġdid Olaf Terribile. Hu xieraq li jkun assigurat li Terribile għandu l-kompetenza biex jirrappreżenta lill-pajjiż li ma jmurx jirreżenja wara ftit inkella jitneħħa kif qed jingħad li ser jiġri dalwaqt lill-ambaxxatriċi preżenti ta’ Malta f’Washington.

Ikun għaqli kieku l-Parlament jibda jgħarbel dawn il-ħatriet tal-ambaxxaturi Maltin. Forsi l-ħatriet li jsiru (kemm dawk politiċi kif ukoll dawk li m’humiex) jibdew ikunu ftit iktar bis-sens.

L-Air Malta u ċ-Ċina

Malta-China

 

Il-futur tal-Air Malta hu imċajpar. Ilna ħafna nafuh dan.

Il-froġa tal-Avro RJ70 nafuha. Qabilha, magħha u warajha kien hemm l-ingaġġ ta’ impjegati bl-addoċċ.

Sakemm il-biljetti tal-linji tal-ajru kienu bil-għoli, dan id-difett kien jinħeba, għax minkejja l-abbuż xorta kien hemm il-qliegħ.

Iżda kollox inġabar meta faqqgħet is-sajjetta tal-linji tal-ajru low cost. Bil-miġja ta’ dawn il-linji tal-ajru l-mudell ekonomiku li fuqha kienet mibnija l-Air Malta ma baqax jagħmel sens.

Konsulenti u esperti kellna kemm trid. L-għajnuna tal-istat ġiet ukoll, imma r-riżultati m’humiex eżattament kif kien mixtieq, almenu s’issa.

Huwa f’dan il-kuntest li jagħmel sens li l-Gvern ifittex u jesplora soluzzjonijiet oħra. Jidher li l-Gvern qiegħed jiddiskuti ma kumpanija tal-ajru Ċiniża dwar dan. X’qed jiddiskuti, s’issa mhux magħruf. Negozjati bħal dawn ma jkunux imperċin fil-pubbliku kif qed jippretendu uħud. Huwa normalissimu fid-dinja kummerċjali li tinżamm kunfidenzjalità stretta u dan minħabba li paroli żejda jistgħu jipperikolaw ftehim.

Id-diffikultà li jiena nara mhux daqstant fin-negozjati infushom daqskemm jekk jagħmilx sens strateġiku li wara li Malta rabtet il-karru tagħha maċ-Ċina fil-qasam tal-enerġija torbtu ukoll fil-qasam tal-linja tal-ajru.

Iċ-Ċina għandha l-interessi ġeostrateġiċi tagħha. Jaqblilha li jkollha saqajha fis-sod fl-Unjoni Ewropeja mhux biss għal raġunijiet kummerċjali, iżda ankè għal raġunijiet politiċi. Trid tnaqqas id-dipendenza tagħha mill-Istati Unit ital-Amerika, fost oħrajn. M’hiex tinvesti f’Malta biss iżda qed iddur l-Unjoni Ewropeja kollha. Imma dawk huma l-interessi taċ-Ċina.

Il-mistoqsija hi jekk Malta jaqblilhiex li tkun tiddependi ż-żejjed miċ-Ċina. Dak li hu fl-interess taċ-Ċina mhux neċessarjament li hu fl-interess ta’ Malta.

Din it-tip ta’ diskussjoni hi nieqsa mid-dibattitu dejjaq u partiġjan li għaddej bħalissa. Għax id-dibattitu partiġjan qed jaħbi l-issues reali li għadna niddiskutu. Bħal dejjem dawn jispiċċaw taħt it-tapit.

ippubblikat fuq iNews: l-Erbgħa 5 t’Awwissu 2015

Reflections from Carthage

Tunisia-Med

 

At the University of Carthage in Tunisia between Thursday and today the international community has been engaging with Tunisian civil society. The Fifth Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy – Decentralisation by Participation exchanged views and experiences with all sectors of Tunisian civil society: young people, women and trade unionists were at the forefront, with very passionate views on the Tunisian roadmap to democracy.

Why has the Arab Spring in Tunisia provided different results from those reaped in Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Syria?

Yahd Ben Anchour, lawyer, former Chairman of the High Commission for the Preservation of the Revolution, and charged with overseeing  constitutional reform in a post Ben Ali Tunisia, emphasised the fact that the roots of this more successful outcome can be traced to a number of policy decisions in the late 1950s. The then Tunisian strongman Habib Bourguiba had championed free access to education, including higher education. He had, moreover, championed gender equality right from the first days of independence.  Tackling these issues made Bourguiba an exception in the Arab world.

From outside Tunisia, Bourguiba’s personality cult, the large scale clientelism over the years as well as the leadership of a one party-state naturally overshadowed his otherwise significant  social achievements, which are considered by many as the essential building blocks of today’s Tunisia civil society.

Even though a number of Tunisian women are still shackled by tradition, the number of them active in public life is impressive. It is this exceptionalism which has given the Arab Spring in Tunisia the edge over neighbouring countries and consequently the reasonable chance of success.

Mohammed Bouazizi’s  self immolation and subsequent death on the 4 January 2011 brought together all those dissatisfied with the Tunisian regime, leading to its downfall and laying the foundations for the first democratic state in the Arabic family of nations.

The debate in the Global Forum focused on the discontinuity of the electoral process in contrast to the permanence of political dialogue and participation. In a society which has rediscovered its hold over its own destiny, it is emphasised that political participation bridges the gaps of political time and goes beyond political monoplies. All Tunisian participants emphasised the fact that direct democracy reinforces – and is complimentary to – representative democracy.

Power originates from the people, who ultimately remain its sole arbitror. This can be done through referenda, not just to delete legislation but also to propose measures which the elected representatives did not consider necessary.

It is an ongoing debate that sees young people, women and trade unionists together with a new generation  of political activists debating the next steps to be taken by a democratic Tunisia.

It is in Malta’s interest to nurture this democratic development on our southern borders. We are not accustomed to having this type of neighbour!   During a recent meeting with Tunisian Premier Habib Essid, Malta’s Foreign Minister George Vella stated that Malta was willing to support Tunisia’s democratic process.  Back in 2012, in the first months after the revolution, Michael Frendo, then Speaker of Malta’s House of Representatives,  had also been in Tunisia, offering Malta’s  hand of friendship and cooperation to our neighbours.

Some positive developments for a change to our south.

Published in The Independent on Sunday : 17 May 2015

Waqt li Joseph jilgħab bis-silġ …………….

 

joseph_muscat_konrad_mizzi_ice_bucket_challenge

Waqt li f’Malta l-Prim Ministru u l-Kabinett tiegħu flimkien ma diversi personalitajiet oħra qed jilgħabu bis-silġ,  fil-Libja, wara biebna hawn ħuġġieġa.

George Vella f’intervista l-ġimgħa l-oħra fisser kemm din il-ħuġġieġa fil-Libja hi ta’ theddida għal Malta. In-newtralita’ ta’ Malta, qal George Vella, kif inhi dikjarata fil-Kostituzzjoni ma tiswiex il-karta li hi miktuba fuqha.

Għandna bżonn naħsbuha sewwa dwar x’ser nagħmlu dwar id-difiża tagħna u dan għax aħna vulnerabbli.

Sa issa kellna skiet komplet dwar l-intervista ta’ George Vella.

“Wasal iż-żmien” qal Vella, “li nirrevedu dak li iddeċidejna dwar id-difiża ta’ Malta. Dak li kien jgħodd fis-snin 80 m’għadux jgħodd illum.”

Ikun ferm aħjar kieku flok mal-Prim Ministru jibqa’ jilgħab bis-silġ jipprova jindirizza din il-materja.

Il-Ministru tal-Affarijiet Barranin qed jgħid lil Muscat li Malta m’għandha l-ebda difiża sura. Imma Muscat jippreferi li joqgħod jilgħab bis-silġ.

Ir-riżenja ta’ Warsi ………… kontradizzjonijiet fil-politika barranija

Baroness-Sayeeda-Warsi

 

Ir-riżenja tal-Barunissa Sayeeda Warsi minn Ministru fl-Uffiċċju tal-Affarijiet Barranin tar-Renju Unit seħħet illum.

Warsi li hi Musulmana ta’ oriġini Pakistana qalet fl-ittra ta’ riżenja tagħha li l-posizzjoni tal-politika tar-Renju Unit dwar Gaża u l-massakru li wettaq l-Iżrael hi waħda li mhiex moralment aċċettabbli.

F’dan l-istadju nagħmel riflessjoni waħda: dak li qed tgħid Warsi japplika ukoll għal diversi pajjiżi, inkluż għal Malta.

Fil-politika barranija tagħna insostnu appoġġ għal soluzzjoni għall-konflitt fil-Lvant Nofsani li għandha tkun ibbażata fuq l-eżistenza ta’ żewġ stati: wieħed Iżraelit u l-ieħor Palestinjan. Min-naħa l-oħra nagħtu appoġġ lir-refuġjati Palestinjani li ġustament isostnu d-dritt li jirritornaw lura f’arthom li minnha ġew miknusa l-barra mill-qawwa militari Lhudija tul is-snin.

Sfortunatament, filwaqt li dawn huma żewġ posizzjonijiet li jdoqqu għall-widna, huma kontradittorji. L-appoġġ għar-refuġjati Palestinjani u għad-dritt tagħhom li jirritornaw lura f’arthom ifisser li għandhom jieħdu lura l-artijiet li minnhom tkeċċew. Dawn l-artijiet li minnhom tkeċċew illum il-ġurnata jiffurmaw l-istat tal-Iżrael.

Ma tistax għaldaqstant tappoġġa fl-istess ħin l-eżistenza tal-istat tal-Iżrael u d-dritt tal-Palestinjani li jirritornaw lura f’arthom. Jew waħda jew l-oħra.

Il-politika barranija Maltija dwar il-Palestina hi bħal dik tar-Renju Unit: sieq waħda l’hawn u oħra l’hemm.

Il-ħtif fi Tripli

galea.muscat.farrugia

 

Qalulna li kien miżmum mit-twajbin.  Minn dawk li huma ħbieb ta’ Malta u allura riedu jipproteġuh.

Imma issa li qrajna l-intervista fuq l-Indpendent l-affarijiet jidhru mod ieħor.

Li l-gazzetti janaliżżaw u jikkritikaw dak li ġara, għaliex ġara u kif ġara nifhmu. Li ma nistax nifhem imma hu għaliex hemm min qiegħed jagħlef il-ħsieb li qiesu ma ġara xejn.

X‘inhu l-ħsieb wara din il-manuvra? M’għandi l-ebda idea.

Fl-intervista tiegħu fuq l-Independent Martin Galea, li jifhem u jitkellem sewwa l-Għarbi, qal li sema’ lil dawk li kienu qed iżommuh jitkellmu dwar kif ser joqluh. Tnejn minnhom, qal, għamlu żmien joqgħodu Malta, f’San Ġiljan.

Naħseb li hu l-mument addattat li nistaqsu: x’hemm iżjed li għadu mhux magħruf?