Fil-PN: Lawrence Gonzi l-medjatur

 

Adrian Delia, Kap tal-Opposizzjoni, huwa u jistkenn bejn attakk u ieħor li huwa soġġett għalihom bħalissa, diversi drabi ġie rappurtat jgħid li ħadd mhu ikbar mill-partit. Naħseb li jemminha din id-dikjarazzjoni għax jidher li jgħidha b’ċerta konvinzjoni. Fir-realtá l-affarijiet huma ħafna differenti minn hekk. Għax ilu li spiċċa ż-żmien li l-mexxej jordna u l-bqija jimxu warajh b’għajnejhom magħluqa.

Partit politiku hu kbir jew żgħir skond kemm jirrispetta lil dawk fi ħdanu. Għax jekk ma jirrispettax lilhom, kif qatt jista’ jirrispetta lil dawk barra minnu?

Il-Partit Nazzjonalista jidher li għadu ma tgħallem xejn mill-esperjenzi tal-konfront li kellu ma’ Franco Debono li l-enerġija tiegħu, flok ma ġiet utilizzata favur inizjattivi kostruttivi spiċċat intużat biex toħloq ħerba. Kien hemm mumenti fis-saga Franco Debono li l-PN seta’ jevita din il-ħerba, jew tal-inqas inaqqas il-konsegwenzi negattivi, imma minflok, il-Kap tal-PN ta’ dakinnhar Lawrence Gonzi għamel żbalji wieħed wara l-ieħor: ipprova jpoġġi lil Franco Debono f’rokna u minflok spiċċa fir-rokna huwa.

Il-Parlament, dakinnhar, fl-2012, kellu quddiemu żewġ mozzjonijiet. Waħda kienet imressqa mill-membri parlamentari Josè Herrera u Michael Falzon għall-Opposizzjoni Laburista, liema mozzjoni kienet kritika tal-politika tal-Gvern immexxi mill-Partit Nazzjonalista fil-qasam tal-ġustizzja u l-intern u kienet tikkonkludi b’dikjarazzjoni ta’ sfiduċja f’Carm Mifsud Bonnici, dakinnhar Ministru. Il-mozzjoni l-oħra kienet imressqa minn Franco Debono u filwaqt li kienet ukoll kritika tal-politika tal-Gvern fil-qasam tal-ġustizzja u l-intern ma kienet titlob l-ebda sfiduċja iżda kienet titlob diskussjoni fuq numru ta’ inizjattivi f’dawn l-oqsma.

Is-sens komun iwasslek biex tikkonkludi li jekk kellek tagħżel bejn iż-żewġ mozzjonijiet kont tagħżel dik ta’ Franco Debono bl-intenzjoni li tnaqqas kemm tista’ l-konsegwenzi kif ukoll bit-tama li tiffoka fuq titjib fil-qasam taħt diskussjoni u forsi tikkontribwixxi biex tikkalma xi ftit is-sitwazzjoni. Nafu li Lawrence Gonzi poġġa fuq l-aġenda tal-Parlament il-mozzjoni ta’ sfiduċja mressqa mill-Opposizzjoni u dan, b’mod ċar, biex jisfida lil Debono. Iffaċċjat b’dan l-atteġġjament ta’ Lawrence Gonzi, Franco Debono ma kellux għażla, irvella u daħal għall-isfida bir-ras nhar it-30 ta’ Mejju 2012 meta ivvota favur il-mozzjoni mressqa mill-Opposizzjoni.

Dan l-iżball tattiku ta’ Lawrence Gonzi wassal għal konsegwenzi gravi fuq il-Partit Nazzjonalista fil-Gvern. Nafu kif is-seduti Parlamentari bejn Mejju 2012 u l-aħħar ta’ dik is-sena kienu battalja kontinwa li spiċċaw bin-nuqqas ta’ approvazzjoni tal-budget.

Jidher li l-PN ma tgħallem xejn minn dak l-iżball: forsi għalhekk Lawrence Gonzi jrid jagħmilha tal-medjatur biex jiggwida ftit lil Adrian Delia ‘l bogħod mill-periklu li jidher li daħal għalih meta stieden lil Simon Busuttil biex jissospendi ruħu mill-Grupp Parlamentari!

Lawrence Gonzi kellu Franco Debono wieħed. Wara żdiedlu Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando u mbagħad ingħaqad magħom ukoll Jesmond Mugliette. Kien hemm bosta oħrajn fil-grupp parlamentari li dakinnhar kienu kritiċi tat-tmexxija ta’ Lawrence Gonzi imma qatt, safejn naf jien, ma ippreżentaw front wieħed biex jikkontestaw l-arroganza fit-tmexxija tal-Partit. In parti dan kien minħabba li ma kellhomx uniformitá ta’ ħsieb u/jew viżjoni.

Jidher li l-affarijiet qed jinbidlu. Il-front komuni li qed jippreżenta parti mill-grupp parlamentari nazzjonalista, illum b’solidarjetá ma’ Simon Busuttil jista’ jwassal lill-PN biex jiġi f’sensieh u tal-inqas jibda jirrispetta lil dawk fi ħdanu.

Bla dubju hemm x’tgħid favur kif ukoll kontra dak li qed jinsisti dwaru Adrian Delia. Pero żgur li m’humiex deċiżjonijiet li l-ewwel tħabbarhom f’konferenza tal-aħbarijiet (ftit wara li jkun jħabbarhom Joseph Muscat) u mbagħad, iffaċċjat b’reazzjoni kuntrarja iddur fuq ta’ madwarek għall-appoġġ. Id-deċiżjonijiet li qiegħed jiffaċċja l-Partit Nazzjonalista jirrikjedu diskussjoni serja li minna ħadd ma għandu jkun eskluż. Forsi l-medjatur jgħallimhom, mill-esperjenza tal-iżbalji tiegħu.

Ippubblikat fuq Illum : il-Ħadd 29 ta’ Lulju 2018

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Lawrence Gonzi the PN mediator

 

Adrian Delia, Leader of the Opposition, has many a time been reported as stating that “no one is greater than the Party”. It seems a basic article of his political faith. Unfortunately for him, nowadays reality is quite different. Gone are the days when the leader issues orders and everyone follows blindly because the party has spoken.

The greatness of a political party is not measured in such terms but more in terms of to what extent it is capable of respecting its own. If it is not capable of doing this, how on earth can it ever respect diverging and contrasting opinions out there?

Six years down the line, the PN, apparently, has not yet drawn any lessons from the Franco Debono debacle, whose energy and enthusiasm – instead of being used positively –  ended up causing extreme havoc. There were specific instances when the PN could have avoided most of the damage caused, if the then PN party leader, Lawrence Gonzi, had not embarked on a series of tactical errors: he tried to corner Franco Debono into submission but instead triggered an over-reaction which he was not capable of handling.

Two specific motions were pending on Parliament’s agenda in 2012. One of these motions, submitted on behalf of the Opposition by its MPs Josè Herrera and Michael Falzon, was critical of government policy in the areas of justice and home affairs and ended by requesting a vote of no confidence in then Minister Carm Mifsud Bonnici. Another motion, presented by Franco Debono himself, while being equally critical of the same policy areas, was limited to requesting a detailed discussion of deficiencies in these policy areas.

Common sense would have led anyone in a position to choose which of the motions was to be discussed to opt for the Franco Debono motion, as it was clearly the one that could cause the least collateral damage. It was also possible that the Franco Debono motion could develop into a serious discussion and consequently the situation could calm down.

Lawrence Gonzi then proceeded to place on the Parliamentary agenda the no confidence motion presented by the Opposition, consequently calling Franco Debono’s perceived bluff. Faced with Gonzi’s challenge Franco Debono bit the bullet and, on the 30 May 2012, voted in favour of the no confidence motion moved by the Opposition.

It was a tactical error by Lawrence Gonzi and led to very serious consequences for the PN in government. We remember that parliamentary sittings between May and December 2012 were a continuous battle that led to the government being defeated when it presented its budgetary estimates.

Apparently, the PN has not learned anything from these blunders: maybe this is why Lawrence Gonzi is offering his “mediation skills” to guide Adrian Delia away from the dangers that he has created for the PN with his invitation to Simon Busuttil to auto-suspend himself from the PN Parlamentary Group!

Lawrence Gonzi had one Franco Debono, who was subsequently joined by Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando and Jesmond Mugliette and there were various other members of the then PN parliamentary group who were very critical of Lawrence Gonzi’s leadership. However, as far as I am aware, they never presented a coordinated front to stand up to the leadership’s arrogance. This, most probably, was the direct consequence of the fact that there was a lack of a uniform vision among those dissenting.

Well, times are changing. The common front of the PN parliamentary dissidents supporting Simon Busuttil may bring the PN to its senses in order that it may start respecting its own.

There is, without any doubt, much to say – both in favour and against Adrian Delia’s invitation to Simon Busuttil. These matters are, however, not normally announced in a PN press conference (after being prompted by Joseph Muscat) and then, faced with opposition, being rubber-stamped by a party structure. The decisions faced by the PN require a serious internal debate from which no-one should be excluded. The mediator may, as a result of his experience, guide the PN to avoid the pitfalls ahead. Otherwise, interesting times lie beyond the horizon.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 29 July 2018

L-ostaklu tal-aċċess għall-informazzjoni hu delitt kontra d-demokrazija

Ir-rapport Annwali tal-Ombudsman għall-2017 li kien ippubblikat iktar kmieni din il-ġimgħa hu inkwetanti. F’partijiet minnu, nazzarda ngħid li hu ukoll tal-biża’. L-Ombudsman jikkummenta fit-tul dwar “in-nuqqas tal-amministrazzjoni li tipprovdi informazzjoni”.

Josserva żewġ tendenzi ġenerali.

L-ewwel tendenza hi li diversi Dipartimenti tal-Gvern u Ministeri qed isibuha bi tqil biex jiżvelaw informazzjoni importanti. Il-kliem li l-Ombudsman juża’: “Sfortunatament l-amministrazzjoni pubblika – u dan jinkludi ukoll awtoritajiet pubbliċi – jidher li addottaw attitudni ġeneralment negattiva dwar l-obbligu li tkun żvelata informazzjoni u d-dritt taċ-ċittadin li jinżamm infurmat. Uħud marru fl-estrem li anke qed jirrifjutaw li jipprovdu kemm informazzjoni importanti kif ukoll imformazzjoni vitali li l-pubbliku hu ntitolat għaliha minħabba li din tikkonċerna setturi importanti tal-ħajja ekonomika u soċjali tal-pajjiż.”

It-tieni tendenza hi agħar: diversi ftehimiet li daħal għalihom il-Gvern fihom klawsola li tobbliga li jinżamm is-skiet dwar il-kontenut tal-ftehim. Dak li hu magħruf bħala “non-disclosure clause”. L-Ombudsman jgħidilna li issa hawn “żvilupp riċenti u Inkwetanti permezz ta’ attentat biex jiġi assigurat skiet totali hi l-prattika li torbot lil dawk li magħhom l-amministrazzjoni pubblika jkollha rabta kuntrattwali biex ma tiżvelax informazzjoni fil-kuntratti infushom mingħajr l-approvazzjoni tal-awtoritá pubblika.”

Issa fir-realtá, din il-prattika ma ġietx addottata f’daqqa waħda fl-2017. Kien hemm okkazjonijiet fil-passat meta l-Gvern rabat lil oħrajn inkella aċċetta li jintrabat hu stess li ma tkunx żvelata informazzjoni. Jidher imma li din il-prattika qed iżżid fil-frekwenza. Mhux biss il-kuntratt ta’ Henley and Partners dwar il-bejgħ taċ-ċittadinanza li fih dawn il-provedimenti imma ukoll il-kuntratt dwar il-privatizzazzjoni tal-lotteriji pubbliċi mal-Maltco kif ukoll il-ftehim dwar il-privatizzazzjoni parzjali tas-sistema tas-saħħa mal-Vitals Healthcare inkella l-ftehim mal-Electrogas dwar il-qalba għall-gass tal-impjant tal-ġenerazzjoni tal-elettriku f’Delimara.

Kif jista’ jkun li gvern jippretendi li jkun trasparenti u kontabbli meta juża’ jew jippermetti l-użu ta’ strateġiji bħal dawn li jostakolaw li tkun żvelata l-informazzjoni?

L-Ombudsman hu korrett li jipponta subgħajh lejn dan in-nuqqas bażiku ta’ servizz pubbliku li jridha ta’ wieħed ġust, effiċjenti, trasparenti u kontabbli. Jiena naħseb li dan hu daqstant importanti li jimmerita diskussjoni fil-Konvenzjoni Kostituzzjonali – jekk din xi darba issir. Forsi wasal iż-żmien li tkun il-Kostituzzjoni innifisha li tillimita b’mod strett lill-amministrazzjoni pubblika milli tibqa’ tillimita l-aċċess għall-informazzjoni b’dan il-mod.

Hu meħtieġ li jkollna s-salvagwardji kontra dan l-abbuż sfaċċat li qiegħed jostakola l-aċċess għall-informazzjoni li għandha f’idejha l-amministrazzjoni pubblika. Is-salvagwardji jistgħu jinkludu l-possibilitá ta’ reviżjoni amministrattiva immedjata li tikkanċella l-ostaklu għall-aċċess kif ukoll passi biex dawk responsabbli biex jostakolaw dan l-aċċess għall-informazzjoni mingħajr raġuni valida ma jitħallewx iktar jeżerċitaw il-funzjonijiet ta’ uffiċċju pubbliku.

L-Ombudsman jispjega fir-rapport tiegħu li l-liġi tagħti lill-uffiċċju tiegħu l-għodda meħtieġa biex ikollu aċċess għall-informazzjoni li jeħtieġ ħalli “jmexxi l-investigazzjonijiet dwar l-ilmenti li jkunu waslu” avolja din l-informazzjoni xi drabi tingħata b’mod imqanżaħ. Iżda l-Ombudsman iqis li għandu jiġbed l-attenzjoni għal tlett ċirkustanzi partikolari “li juru kif ir-rispons negattiv tal-awtoritajiet pubbliċi meta dawn jintalbu informazzjoni qed ixekkel l-Ombudsman u lill-Kummissarji fl-uffiċċju tiegħu fil-qadi ta’ dmirijiethom”.

L-ewwel kaz jirrigwarda l-Armata. Ir-rifjut tal-Ministeru għall-Intern u s-Sigurtá Nazzjonali li jgħaddi l-files kollha dwar l-eżerċizzji ta’ promozzjonijiet għall-għola gradi fl-Armata issolva biss wara d-deċiżjoni finali tal-Qorti tal-Appell f’Ottubru 2016 liema deċiżjoni ikkonfermat li Ombudsman kellu l-obbligu li jinvestiga l-ilmenti li rċieva.

It-tieni kaz jirrigwarda ir-rifjut tal-Ministeru tas-Saħħa li jipprovdi l-informazzjoni mitluba mill-Kummissarju għas-Saħħa biex dan jipprovdi il-ftehim sħiħ ma’ Vitals Healthcare dwar il-privatizzazzjoni ta’ sptarijiet f’Malta u Għawdex li kien meħtieġ fl-investigazzjoni dwar jekk l-interessi tal-pazjenti u l-istaff (mediku) kienux adegwatament imħarsa.

It-tielet kaz hu dwar l-ilmenti kontinwa tal-Kummissarji fl-uffiċċju tal-Ombudsman (Saħħa, Ippjanar/Ambjent u Edukazzjoni) dwar id-dewmien li qed jirriżulta f’investigazzjonijiet li jkunu jeħtieġu konklużjoni immedjata. Dan minħabba n-nuqqas tas-settur pubbliku li jagħti tweġiba għat-talbiet diversi għal informazzjoni.

L-obbligu tal-amministrazzjoni pubblika li tiffaċilita l-aċċess għall-informazzjoni u d-dritt taċ-ċittadin li jkun infurmat huma bażiċi f’soċjetá demokratika. Attentati biex dan l-aċċess taċ-ċittadin għall-informazzjoni jkun imblukkat b’dan il-mod jimmina l-proċess demokratiku u dan billi ċ-ċittadin qed ikun ostakolat milli jifforma opinjoni fuq kif qed ikun amministrat l-istat. Dan qiegħed ukoll jostakola lil dawk l-istituzzjonijiet fid-dmir li jiddefendu ċ-ċittadin komuni milli jagħmlu xogħolhom.

F’isem Alternattiva Demokratika jiena nirringrazzja lill- Ombudsman talli qed ikun daqstant ċar fid-difiża tiegħu ta’ dak li hu bażiku f’soċjetá demokratika kif ukoll talli qed isemma’ leħnu b’vuċi ċara kontra dan l-abbuż ta’ poter.

Ippubblikat f’Illum Il-Ħadd : 10 ta’ Ġunju 2018

Obstructing access to information is a crime against democracy

The Ombudsman’s 2017 Annual Report, published earlier this week, is very worrying. At times it makes scary reading. The Ombudsman comments at length on “the failure by the administration to provide information” and points at two general trends.

The first of these is the reluctance of various Government Departments and Ministries to disclose important information. The exact words  from the Ombudsman’s report,  which I quote verbatim, are: “Regrettably the public administration – and this includes public authorities – appears to have adopted a generally negative approach towards its duty to disclose information and the citizen’s right to be informed. Some have gone to extremes by even refusing to provide important and even vital information to which the public was obviously entitled since it concerned important segments of the economic and social life of the country.”

The second trend is even worse: various agreements entered into by government are containing a non-disclosure clause. The Ombudsman states “An even more worrying, recent development that has come to light in an attempt to ensure a total blackout of silence is the practice of binding parties with whom the public administration enters into contractual agreements not to disclose information on the contracts themselves without prior approval from the public authority.”

Now, in fairness, this practice has not been adopted suddenly in 2017. There have been a number of instances in the past where the government bound others, or else accepted to be bound, not to disclose information. Apparently this is now increasing in frequency. It is not just the contract with Henley and Partners on the sale of Maltese citizenship which contains such provisions but also the contract concerning the privatisation of the public lottery system with Maltco, as well as the agreements on the partial privatisation of the Health service with Vitals Healthcare as well as the Electrogas agreements in relation to the Delimara power station changeover to gas.

How can a government claim to be transparent and accountable when it uses or permits the use of the non-disclosure weapon?

The Ombudsman is right to point out this basic deficiency of a public service which pretends that it is fair, efficient, transparent and accountable. I consider that it is also of such importance that it merits discussion in the Constitutional Convention, if this is ever convened. Maybe it is about time that the Constitution should limit very strictly the use by the public administration of non-disclosure as a tool to obstruct the public’s access to information.

Safeguards are required against the abusive use of the non-disclosure of information held by the public administration. Such safeguards could include access to fast track administrative review as well as both publication of the suppressed information and the prohibition from holding public office of those found guilty of blocking the public’s access to information without valid reason.

The Ombudsman explains in his report that the law provides his office with the tools to ensure that it has access to the information it requires “to conduct its investigations into complaints received”, even though this information is at times made available very reluctantly. However, the Ombudsman considers it appropriate to underline three specific instances “that show how the negative response of public authorities to provide information hindered the Ombudsman and his Commissioners in the exercise of their functions”.

The first instance is that concerning the Armed Forces of Malta. The refusal by the Ministry for Home Affairs and National Security to provide all files relating to promotion exercises in the top echelons of the AFM was only resolved after a definite decision of the Court of Appeal in October 2016, which confirmed that the Ombudsman had a duty to investigate the complaints received.

The second instance is that concerning the refusal of the Ministry of Health to comply with the request of the Commissioner of Health to supply “clean copies” of the agreements with Vitals Healthcare on the privatisation of hospitals in Malta and Gozo which were required in the investigation into whether the interests of patients and staff were being adequately protected.

The third instance is that of repeated complaints in all the reports of the Commissioners attached to the Ombudsman’s office [Health, Planning/Environment and Education] on the resulting delay in investigations which, by their very nature, require an immediate response. These delays are the direct result of the failure of various sectors in the public administration to submitting an expedient reply to requests for information.

The duty of the public administration to disclose information, and the right of the citizen  to be informed, is basic in a democratic society. Attempts to block the essential flow of information to the citizen through non-disclosure tools undermines the democratic process, as it blocks the essential elements required by the citizen in order to form a clear and unbiased opinion on the way in which the state is being administered. Moreover, it obstructs those institutions entrusted with defending the common citizen from carrying out their duty.

On behalf of Alternattiva Demokratika-The Green Party, I thank the Ombudsman for taking such a clear and unequivocal stand in favour of the basic tenets of democratic rule and against such blatant abuse of authority.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 10 June 2018

Ir-Responsabbilta Politika dwar is-Sigurta’ Nazzjonali

Home Affairs & National Security

 

Fil-kaz tal-isparatura mix-xufier tal-Ministru Mallia, s’issa ġew ippubblikati sitt telefonati li għaddew mill-Control Room tal-Pulizija. Jinvolvu prinċipalment lill-Kummissarju tal-Pulizija.

Mhux l-iskop tiegħi li nikkritika lill-mezzi ġurnalistiċi li ippubblikawhom għax dawn it-telefonati jservu biex jitfgħu dawl fuq dak kollu li ġara. Mingħajr dawn it-telefonati ħafna minn dak li ntqal kien possibilment jibqa’ mistur bejn l-erba’ ħitan tad-Depot inkella fil-files tal-Kummissjoni ta’ Inkjesta li hu mistenni aħbarha fis-siegħat li ġejjin.

Imma l-pubblikazzjoni ta’ dawn it-telefonati twassal ukoll għal problema oħra ta’ serjeta’ kbira.

Is-Sigurta’ tal-Istat Malti qegħda f’idejn id-dilettanti biex hemm kważi aċċess liberu għat-telefonati tal-Kummissarju tal-Pulizija. Għax bħalma kellhom aċċess il-ġurnalisti jista’ xi ħadd jagħti garanzija li ma kellhomx aċċess ukoll il-kriminali  jew sorsi ta’ spjunaġġ ta’ pajjizi barranin? Din hi issue serja oħra li dwarha l-Ministru Manwel Mallia għandu jerfa’ r-responsabbilta’ politika.