Supporting Bill 28

The amendment to the Criminal Code forming part of Bill 28 which Parliament started discussing on Monday 28 November codifies the existing practice at the state hospital. It defines the necessary legal framework for therapeutic abortion. It does not introduce the practice of therapeutic abortion: this has been the practice for quite some time.

The Bill avoids use of the term “abortion”, using instead the term “termination of a pregnancy”, which as we are all aware has exactly the same meaning!

Legislation to date relative to therapeutic abortion is not clear at this point in time. On this basis ADPD-The Green Party was the only political party which tackled the matter during the March 2022 electoral campaign, including a whole section on sexual health and reproductive rights in the electoral manifesto. We went much further than that, emphasising the need for the decriminalisation of abortion too.

The Labour Party in Government, which has been practically silent on the matter during the electoral campaign, has now decided to act, taking a minimalist approach. It has limited itself to ensuring that current practice is protected at law. While this is definitely not enough it is a welcome first step and deserves our full support, even though there is still room for improvement in the proposed text of the proposal.

The Labour Party is right in saying that it is not introducing abortion through Bill 28: therapeutic abortion has been here and practised for some time even in the state hospital. Consequently, the approval of Bill 28 as presented will, in practice, not change anything, it will merely recognise the current state of affairs. As a result, it will give peace of mind to medical practitioners in state hospitals as their current modus operandi would be clearly spelt out in the law, as it should be.

In a sense the current fierce and at times emotional debate on abortion is much ado about nothing. It has however resulted in the local conservative forces speaking from the same hymn book. The opposition to the Bill is primarily twofold. On one hand there is the PN official stand which, together with Archbishop Scicluna has adopted the position paper published by a group of academics. In practice they seek to limit permissible medical interventions to cases of a threat to the life of the pregnant woman, eliminating health issues as justification. On the other hand, exponents of the fundamentalist Christian right, including a minority in the PN rank and file oppose the Bill in principle.

Put simply, the debate identifies three different proposals. The first, proposed by the Labour government in Bill 28, enshrines in law the current practice and places the onus on the medical profession to decide each case on its own merits. The second, supported by the PN opposition and the Church hierarchy seeks to substantially limit the discretion of the medical profession in Bill 28 primarily by eliminating health and mental health considerations. The third position brought forward by the fundamentalist Christian faction is in total opposition to all that is being proposed.

During the Parliamentary debate held this week I took note of the various positive contributions, in particular those of Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne, Parliamentary Secretary Rebecca Buttigieg and Opposition spokespersons Joe Giglio and Mario Demarco. Of particular note, in my view, is Fearne’s reference to the hospital’s standard operating procedures. It is being emphasised that these procedures do in fact address important aspects of the criticism aired during the debate, in particular that decisions taken by the medical profession relative to therapeutic abortion procedures should be taken by two or more professionals in order to ensure that no professional shoulders the decision alone. This, I understand is already standard practice!

There is always room for improvement in the proposed text of the Bill as indicated in the level-headed approach of Joe Giglio during the Parliamentary debate on Wednesday. As I emphasised in my article last week it would have been much better if Government had embarked on an exercise of public consultation before presenting the Bill. There would definitely have been more time to listen to and digest the different views. A valid point which was also emphasised by Mario Demarco.

In this scenario, even though viewing it as just a first step, which can be improved: without any shadow of doubt, ADPD supports the proposal put forward by Bill 28 in principle.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday: 4 December 2022

It-taħwida l-kbira dwar l-abort

Id-diskussjoni li qed tiżviluppa dwar l-abort hi taħwida waħda kbira. Taħwida li sfortunatament qed jikkontribwixxu għaliha kemm il-Knisja kif ukoll il-Partit Nazzjonalista.

L-abbozz ta’ liġi li ressaq il-Gvern hu dwar kif u meta, b’mod eċċeżżjonali, jista’ jkun hemm intervent mediku biex tintemm tqala. It-tmiem ta’ tqala hu definittivament abort: imma l-proposta hi dwar il-każijiet eċċezzjonali meta dan jista’ jsir u mhux kif qed jiġi kontinwament implikat b’mod malizzjuz.

Fir-realtà, anke dawk li qed jippontifikaw kontra l-abort qed jaċċettaw li hemm ċirkustanzi fejn dan hu permissibli. Id-dibattitu rejali għalhekk hu dwar liema huma dawn iċ-ċirkustanzi eċċezzjonali li fihom abort hu ġustifikat.

Il-Gvern qed jargumenta li apparti meta l-ħajja tal-mara tqila tkun fil-periklu jista’ jkun meħtieġ intervent meta is-saħħa tal-mara tqila tkun fil-periklu: is-saħħa hi ikkunsidrata fit-totalità tagħha jiġifieri tinkludi ukoll is-saħħa mentali. Dan hu tajjeb.

Ir-raġuni għall-inklużjoni fil-proposta tal-Gvern tad-deterjorament tas-saħħa tal-mara tqila bħala raġuni għat-tmiem ta’ tqala hi li m’għandekx toqgħod tistenna sakemm is-saħħa tkun ideterjorat tant li dan iwassal biex tpoġġi anke l-ħajja tal-mara f’periklu.

Il-kontro-argument għal dan kollu hu li dan jista’ jwassal għal abbuż.  Hu argumentat li l-parametri mfassla mill-Gvern huma wisgħin wisq u jistgħu jagħtu lok għal abbuż. Irridu nirrikonoxxu li dan hu dejjem possibli li jsir anke jekk dan ma naħsibx li hu intenzjonat.

Dan kollu għandu jwassal biex niddiskutu bi ftit iktar serjetà dwar x’miżuri għandhom jittieħdu biex ikun evitat dan il-possibli abbuż.

Wieħed mill-argumenti fid-discussion paper dwar il-proposta tal-Gvern li ġiet ippubblikata minn grupp ta’ akkademiċi hu li d-deċiżjoni dwar jekk għandux isir intervent biex tintemm tqala m’għandiex tittieħed minn persuna waħda iżda minn numru ta’ speċjalisti mediċi flimkien. Din il-proposta tista’ tkun soluzzjoni biex biha jkun hemm kontroll adegwat li bih ikun assigurat li ma jkunx hemm abbuż. Proposta li fil-fatt nisslet kummenti favorevoli mid-Deputat Prim Ministru Chris Fearne huwa u jressaq il-liġi fil-Parlament nhar it-Tnejn li għaddew.

Hemm bżonn ftit iktar serjetà fid-diskussjoni. Sfortunatament din hi nieqsa bil-kbir. Il-proposta tal-Gvern hi tajba: jeħtieġ iżda li jkun assigurat li d-dettalji tagħha jassiguraw li tista’ titħaddem b’mod li ma jsirux abbużi.

Din hi id-diskussjoni reali li għandna bżonn! Sfortunatament hi nieqsa.

Proposta nejja tal-Labour dwar l-abort

Nhar it-Tnejn, il-Parlament approva fl-istadju tal-ewwel qari, l-abbozz ta’ liġi numru 28. Dan l-abbozz hu intenzjonat biex jikkjarifika l-provedimenti tal-Kodiċi Kriminali dwar l-abort terrapewtiku. B’mod speċifiku l-għanijiet u r-raġunijiet tal-abbozz huma biex “jipprovdu kjarifika dwar il-parametri fil-Kodiċi Kriminali li għandhom japplikaw għal cirkostanzi ta’ neċessità fejn ikun meħtieġ intervent mediku biex tkun protetta l-ħajja u s-saħħa ta’ mara tqila li tkun qiegħda tbati minn kumplikazzjoni medika.”

Uħud jikkunsidraw li l-abbozz numru 28 hu pass żgħir il-quddiem f’pajjiż li kontinwament ipprova jevita li jiddibatti l-abort. Sfortunatament, imma, l-proposta li ġiet ippreżentata hi waħda nejja.  

Wara snin jevita dibattitu nazzjonali, kien ikun ferm iktar għaqli għall-Gvern li jippubblika White Paper fejn jispjega b’mod ċar u dettaljat dak li jrid jagħmel dwar l-abort kif ukoll dwar dak kollu relatat miegħu. Tajjeb li nirrealizzaw li l-leġislazzjoni dwar l-abort tal-pajjiż ma hi tal-ebda siwi. Wara li ġiet injorata għal 160 sena l-liġi teħtieġ li tkun aġġornata għaż-żminijiet u li tkun tirrifletti l-avvanzi fix-xjenza u l-mediċina tul dawn is-snin kollha. Hemm bżonn li tinkiteb mill-ġdid u dan fid-dawl tal-fatt li tul dawn l-aħħar għaxar sninil-pajjiż ħaddan il-plurliżmu etiku.

Hu ċar li l-Gvern qed jipprova jindirizza l-impatt politiku li rriżulta mill-kaz riċenti tat-turista Amerikana Andrea Prudente, f’liema każ Malta naqset milli tipprovdi l-kura medika li kienet mistennija.

M’għandniex ħtieġa ta’ proposta rejattiva, proposta nejja: imma għandna bżonn proposta li tindirizza ir-realtà tas-seklu wieħed u għoxrin.  L-abort hu parti integrali mill-ħajja Maltija, rridu jew ma irridux! L-indikazzjonijiet huma ta’ medja ta’ 400 abort li jsiru kull sena fost il-Maltin. Il-parti l-kbira jseħħu bl-użu ta’ pilloli li jinkisbu bil-posta.  Oħrajn iseħħu f’pajjiżi oħra, primarjament fir-Renju Unit kif jidher fir-rapporti mediċi annwali ippubblikati.

Il-Partit Laburista jidher li hu xott mill-ideat għax naqas ukoll milli jindirizza l-abort fil-manifest elettorali tiegħu għall-elezzjoni ġenerali ta’ Marzu 2022.

Dan it-tkaxkir tas-saqajn mill-Partit Laburista jikkuntrasta mal-proposti tal-partit immexxi minni li tul ix-xhur li għaddew ippreżentajna proposti diversi biex apparti iktar ċarezza fil-liġi nimxu lejn id-dikriminalizzazzjoni kif ukoll lejn l-introduzzjoni speċifika tal-abort limitat għal tlett ċirkustanzi partikolari u straordinarji. Il-proposta tagħna hi li l-abort ikun permissibli meta l-ħajja jew is-saħħa tal-mara tqila tkun mhedda, fil-kaz ta’ tqala li isseħħ riżultat ta’ vjolenza (stupru u incest) kif ukoll fil-kaz ta’ tqala li ma tkunx vijabbli.

Uħud jikkunsidraw li dak proposta hu ftit wisq, oħrajn li hu wisq. Fil-fehma tagħna il-proposta hi addattata għaċ-ċirkustanzi partikolari lokali. Hi proposta li mhux biss hi ferm aħjar mill-proposta nejja tal-Gvern, imma twassal ukoll biex il-liġi tkun aġġornata għal dak mistenni fi żmienna!

Hemm ukoll materji oħra li huma relatati u li jeħtieġ li jkunu diskussi. Matul din il-ġimgħa grupp ta’ akkademiċi lokali u oħrajn ippubblikaw dokument għad-diskussjoni in konnessjoni mal-proposta tal-Gvern dwar l-abort.

Il-proposti fid-dokument ippubblikat għad-diskussjoni jfittxu li jissikkaw id-definizzjonijiet dwar iċ-ċirkustanzi li fihom ikun ġġustifikat l-intervent mediku biex ikun possibli li tkun protetta l-ħajja u s-saħħa tal-mara tqila. Jeskludi ukoll kull xorta ta’ abort.

Il-punti mqajjma f’dan id-dokument hu dejjem utlili li jkunu diskussi. Għalhekk ilna ngħidu li hemm ħtieġa għal diskussjoni pubblika matura, diskussjoni li l-Gvern ilu żmien jevita.  Imma nistenna ukoll li jkun hemm akkademiċi oħra b’veduti u opinjonijiet differenti li anke huma jsemmgħu leħinhom. Għandhom bżonn joħorġu mill-friża.

Irridu nħarsu lil hinn mill-proposti restrittivi li dan id-dokument għad-diskussjoni jippreżenta. Sa mill-2011, meta kien approvat ir-referendum dwar id-divorzju, Malta għażlet it-triq tal-pluraliżmu etiku: rispett lejn il-pluralità ta’ opinjonijiet u valuri etiċi. Id-dokument li qed nirreferi għalih hu negazzjoni ta’ dan u effettivament hu proposta biex naqbdu triq oħra u differenti. Għandna nirreżistu dan l-attentat.

Fl-aħħar għandu jkun ċar li din mhiex diskussjoni dwar x’inhu tajjeb jew ħażin imma dwar min għandu jieħu d-deċiżjoni kif ukoll dwar il-parametri li jiddeterminaw kif u safejn nistgħu naġixxu. M’aħniex qed ngħixu f’teokrazija: hu dritt li naffermaw illi hu possibli li jeżistu veduti u valuri differenti.

B’hekk beda d-dibattitu li ilu żmien maħnuq.

Ippubblikat fuq Illum: 27 ta’ Novembru 2022

Labour’s half-baked abortion proposal

On Monday Parliament approved at first reading stage Bill number 28 which Bill seeks to clarify the provisions of the Criminal Code relative to therapeutic abortion. Specifically, the objects and reasons of the Bill seek to “provide clarification on the parameters that shall apply in the Criminal Code to circumstances of necessity in which a medical intervention is required in order to protect the life and health of a pregnant woman suffering from a medical complication”.

Some may consider that Bill 28 is a good first step in a country which has continuously avoided debating abortion. Unfortunately, government’s proposal is half-baked.

After years of avoiding a national debate, it would have been much better if government published a detailed White Paper explaining its views on abortion and the related issues and principles. It is about time that we recognise that the country’s abortion legislation is not fit for purpose. After being ignored for 160 years Maltese abortion legislation requires to be brought in line with medical and scientific progress over the years. It also requires a substantial redrafting in view of the fact that for over a decade Malta has embraced ethical pluralism.

It is clear that government has limited itself to addressing the political fallout resulting from the recent case of the American tourist Andrea Prudente as a result of which Malta failed in the provision of the expected medical care.

We do not require a half-baked reactive proposal but rather a proposal which addresses twenty-first century reality. Whether we like it or not, abortion is a regular occurrence among Maltese too! Indications point towards an average 400 abortions which are carried out annually, a substantial portion of which through the use of abortion pills acquired through the post. Others are carried out through abortion tourism, primarily in the United Kingdom as is evidenced by annual published medical returns for England and Wales.

Apparently, the Labour Party is short on ideas as it has even failed to address abortion in its electoral manifesto for the March 2022 general election.

In contrast to the reluctance of the Labour Party to come forward with proposals, the Maltese Greens, which I lead, have, over the past months presented proposals which in addition to the required clarifications in our legislation seek decriminalisation as well as the specific introduction of abortion in three extraordinary circumstances: namely when the pregnant female’s health or life is under threat, in cases of a pregnancy brought about violently (rape and incest) as well as in the case of non-viable pregnancies.

Some have considered our above proposals as being too little, others as being too much. We consider that in view of the prevailing local circumstances our proposals are just right, a substantial improvement over government’s half-baked proposals and an overhaul of the current mid-nineteen century legislation, which is out of tune with what is expected in this day and age.

There are other related issues which we should also discuss. During this week a group of local academics and some hangers-on have published a discussion paper which discusses government’s abortion proposal.

The proposals in the said discussion paper seek to tightly define the circumstances which justify a medical intervention to protect the life and health of a pregnant woman. It also seeks to exclude all forms of abortion by tightly defining the applicable parameters.

It is a point of view which should be considered and discussed. This is what a mature public debate should be about and what government has been continuously avoiding. I would however expect other academics having different views to come out of the deep freeze and speak up.

We should look beyond the restrictive proposals presented in the discussion paper. Since the 2011 divorce referendum Malta has embarked on a journey of ethical pluralism which respects a plurality of views and ethical norms. The discussion paper is a negation of this journey and an attempt to change course, which attempt should be resisted.

At the end of the day the debate is not about what is right and wrong but on who should take the decision and the parameters within which it is permissible to act. We are not living in a theocracy. Differing views and values can definitely co-exist.

Let the debate, at last, begin.

published on Malta Independent on Sunday : 27 November 2022

L-abort : l-emenda proposta mill-Gvern

Il-Gvern ħa pass tajjeb meta qed jipproponi emenda għall-Kodiċi Kriminali biex tkun protetta “is-saħħa ta’ mara tqila li tkun qiegħda tbati minn komplikazzjoni medika li tkun tista’ tqegħdilha ħajjitha f’riskju jew saħħitha f’periklu gravi” billi l-liġi dwar it-terminazzjoni ta’ tqala f’dawn iċ-ċirkustanzi tkun ċara, għax s’issa mhiex.

Dan hu pass il-quddiem. Imma mhux biżżejjed.

Kien ikun għaqli kieku l-Partit Laburista kellu l-kuraġġ li jitkellem dwar dan kollu fil-manifest elettorali tiegħu għall-elezzjoni ta’ Marzu li għadda. Dakinnhar, sfortunatament, beza’ jagħmel hekk.

L-ADPD kien ħafna iktar ċar milli kien il-Labour fuq dan kollu. Hemm ċirkustanzi oħra li jiggustifikaw abort li għandhom ikunu kkunsidrati ukoll. Aħna tkellimna spiss dwar il-ħtieġa ta’ abort terrapewtiku li għandu jinkludi l-possibilità ta’ abort meta tqala tkun riżultat ta’ vjolenza. Ukoll meta t-tqala ma tkunx waħda vijabbli.

L-ewwel pass issa sar. Anke jekk hu pass żgħir, id-dibattitu dwar l-abort issa infetaħ u ma tantx hemm ċans li jingħalaq malajr.

Bla dubju jkollna opportunita li nitkellmu iktar fit-tul.

Fuq dan il-blog tista’ tara ukoll is-segwenti, dwar l-abort:

Malta: exporting abortion | Blog ta’ Carmel Cacopardo (wordpress.com)

The abortion debate | Blog ta’ Carmel Cacopardo (wordpress.com)

Ethical pluralism: the next steps | Blog ta’ Carmel Cacopardo (wordpress.com)

An invitation: keep the doors open | Blog ta’ Carmel Cacopardo (wordpress.com)

Is-saħħa ta’ kull vot: għodda għall-bidla

Il-vot li għandu kull wieħed minna hu b’saħħtu ħafna: ferm iktar milli naħsbu. Fis-sistema elettorali tagħna il-vot hu trasferibbli: jgħaddi mingħand kandidat għall-ieħor. Dan minħabba li aħna nagħmlu użu minn sistema ta’ preferenzi, waħda wara l-oħra. Is-sistema elettorali tagħna fil-fatt tissejjaħ single transferable vote (STV), vot singlu transferibbli.

Dan ifisser li aħna nibdew billi nagħtu l-ewwel preferenza lill-kandidat li nippreferu. Wara nkomplu nagħtu iktar preferenzi lil kandidati l-oħra. B’hekk il-vot tagħna, jekk ikun hemm waqt li ma jkunx qed jintuża mill-kandidat preferut tagħna, jkun jista’ jgħaddi fuq il-kandidat li jkollu it-tieni preferenza. Jekk ikun hemm bżonn imbagħad il-vot jibqa’ jintiret minn min ikollu preferenza iktar l-isfel ukoll. Hekk jiġri fl-elezzjonijiet kollha li jsiru f’dan il-pajjiż.

Imma mhux kulħadd jagħmel użu mill-preferenzi wara l-unu bl-istess mod. Hemm min jagħti preferenzi lil kandidati ta’ partit wieħed biss u jinjoraw lill-bqija. Hemm min jinjora anke parti mil-lista tal-partit li jappoġġa. Hi għażla li issir minn kull votant: għażla li jagħmlu bi dritt.

Hemm min, min-naħa l-oħra, ma jagħtix preferenzi lill-kandidati ta’ partit wieħed biss, iżda, wara li jagħżel il-kandidat jew kandidati preferuti tiegħu jagħżel ukoll lil dawk li jidhirlu li huma l-aħjar fost il-bqija u jagħtihom preferenza ukoll, skond kif jidhirlu li hu xieraq. Billi l-vot jgħaddi mingħand kandidat/i ta’ partit għal għand kandidat/i ta’ partit ieħor insejħulu “cross-party voting”.

Il-partiti l-kbar ma jaqblux mal-“cross-party voting” għax dan il-mod ta’ kif tivvota idgħajjef is-saħħa tagħhom. Fil-fatt huma jiskuraġixxu lil dawk li jappoġġawhom biex jevitaw il-“cross party voting”. F’kull elezzjoni l-partiti l-kbar u l-kandidati tagħhom ifesfsu u jgħidu fil-widnejn li jekk il-vot iħallat kandidati minn partiti differenti, ikun ħażin u ma jgħoddx. Jagħmlu dan biex inaqqsu t-telf possibli ta’ voti tagħhom bejn għadd u ieħor. Aħna bħala ADPD min-naħa l-oħra dejjem inkoraġġejna lill-votanti li possibilment jivvutaw u jagħtu valur lil kull kandidat li jkollhom quddiemhom. Għax hu b’dan il-mod li nistgħu bħala pajjiż ikollna l-aħjar rappresentanti.

Fil-fatt hemm numru mhux żgħir minn dawk li jivvutaw lill-ADPD li jkomplu l-vot tagħhom fuq partiti oħra. Il-persentaġġ ta’ dan ivarja minn elezzjoni għall-oħra. Ivarja anke bejn distrett u ieħor jew lokalità u oħra. Għalkemm hu persentaġġ li jvarja pero ġeneralment ikun madwar it-33 fil-mija: jiġifieri wieħed minn kull tlett votanti li jagħtu l-vot tagħhom lill-ADPD, wara, jkomplu fuq kandidati ta’ partiti oħra. Mhux l-ewwel darba, f’elezzjoni akkanita, li dawn il-voti iddeterminaw min jitla’.

Dan hu tajjeb u juri kemm hu b’saħħtu l-vot individwali. Hu mod matur kif tintuża s-saħħa tal-vot u kif ikun assigurat li l-vot jibqa’ effettiv l-iktar possibli tul il-proċess elettorali. Dan kollu għandna mhux biss nirrispettawh: fuq kollox għandna ninkuraġġuh għax jagħmel il-ġid lill-pajjiż.

Qed ngħid dan fid-dawl tal-kandidatura tiegħi għall-elezzjoni każwali li ser issir għada it-Tnejn 14 ta’ Novembru 2022 wara li Albert Buttiġieġ irreżenja mill-Kunsill Lokali ta’ San Ġiljan, in vista tal-elezzjoni tiegħu bħala Membru Parlamentari.

Nhar l-Erbgħa li għaddew tfajt in-nominazzjoni tiegħi b’rispett lejn kull votant, b’mod partikolari dawk li ma jħossuhomx ristretti dwar kif għandhom jivvutaw. Bħala partit politiku, l-partit li jiena mmexxi dejjem saħaq li l-vot hu b’saħħtu biżżejjed biex jintuża lil hinn mil-limiti artifiċjali mposti mill-partiti politiċi ewlenin. Kuntrarju għall-partiti politiċi l-oħra aħna dejjem inkoraġġejna li l-vot ma jkunx eserċitat b’mod restrittiv iżda b’mod li jagħti apprezzament lill-kandidati kollha lil hinn mill-kulur politiku li miegħu huma assoċjati.

Il-votanti li jaġixxu b’dan il-mod, li ma jħallux lil min jirrestrinġihom, jixirqilhom kull rispett għax qed jisfidaw lis-sistema li tipprova toħnoqhom. Għal din ir-raġuni ma nistax nonqos milli nikkontesta l-elezzjoni każwali, anke jekk il-possibilitajiet għalija naf li huma limitati. Li nikkontesta f’dawn iċ-ċirkustanzi hu obbligu.

Biex jagħżlu l-kandidati preferuti tagħhom, uħud mill-votanti jaqilbu l-vot tagħhom minn partit għall-ieħor skond kif jidhrilhom li hu l-aħjar. Fil-fatt, meta ġew mgħaduda l-voti fl-elezzjoni tal-2019 għall-Kunsill Lokali ta’ San Ġiljan, fit-tieni għadd tal-voti, 6.33% tal-voti miksuba mill-kandidat Albert Buttigieg kienu jkomplu fuq partiti li mhumiex il-partit li miegħu hu ikkontesta. Dan hu rifless fil-mod kif tqassmu l-voti ż-żejda li kellu Albert Buttiġieġ. Hu probabbli ħafna li dan jirrepeti ruħu anke fl-għadd waqt l-elezzjoni każwali, kif, wara kollox, jiġri diversi drabi fl-elezzjonijiet lokali u anke sa ċertu punt, f’elezzjonijiet oħra.

Kif inhuma mqassma l-voti li hemm fil-pakketti li jiffurmaw il-kwota elettorali ta’ Albert Buttiġieġ, jiena ma nafx. Ma nafx jekk hemmx biżżejjed minnhom biex jagħmlu differenza. In-numri huma żgħar ħafna, ma hemmx eluf involuti: il-kwota sħiħa fil-fatt fiha biss 390 vot. Il-kwota meħtieġa għall-elezzjoni każwali ser tkun ta’ 196 vot.

Ir-riżultat jista’ jkun determinat minn kemm hu kbir in-numru ta’ votanti li għarfu s-saħħa kbira li għandu l-vot tagħhom u għamlu użu minnha. Uħud minnhom wara li ivvutaw lill-kandidati tal-PN, il-partit li ppreżenta l-kandidatura ta’ Albert Buttiġieġ, għaddew il-preferenza tagħħom fuq kandidati ta’ partiti oħra, inkluż possibilment fuqi. Oħrajn għażlu possibilitajiet oħra dwar kif ivarjaw il-preferenzi tagħhom, jekk dehrilhom li dan kien meħtieġ.

Dan hu is-sabiħ tas-sistema elettorali tagħna li mhux dejjem napprezzaw biżżejjed. F’dan il-kuntest il-vot tagħna jsir għodda pożittiva għall-bidla.

Hu l-għarfien u r-rispett lejn dan il-proċess li minnu jgħaddu uħud mill-votanti li wassalni biex nieħu pass li ġie deskritt bħala pass politiku mhux tas-soltu: li nikkontesta elezzjoni każwali li tirriżulta minn vakanza kkawżata minn kandidat ta’ partit politku ieħor.

Irrispettivament minn xi jkun ir-riżultat, inbaxxi rasi, bħal dejjem quddiem ir-rieda tal-votant.

ippubblikat fuq Illum: Il-Ħadd 13 ta’ Novembru 2022

Our vote: a powerful instrument for change

Our vote is much more powerful than we can ever imagine. Our electoral system provides for a transferability of the votes cast through a system of preferences. Our electoral system is in fact known as the single transferable vote (STV).

This means that we cast our vote by indicating the candidate which gets our first preference by denoting the number one next to his/her name. Subsequently we continue with other consecutive preferences. As a result, if at any point our preferred candidate does not require our vote, this proceeds to being utilised by the candidate which we indicate as our second preference. If required the vote can even move on to being utilised by candidates which we would have indicated as being our additional but later preferences. This happens all the time during all the elections organised in this country.

There is no uniform way as to how voters proceed to determine their voting preferences. After identifying the first preference some limit themselves to assigning their preferences to the candidates of just one political party, ignoring the rest. Some limit themselves to a couple of names on one party list and ignore the rest.

Others, pick and choose across party lines. Hence the term “cross-party voting”. Every voter has this right: some use it, others are not even aware of its availability.

The Parliamentary parties are not enthusiastic about “cross-party voting” except when they benefit directly. They consider that it dilutes their strength. In fact, they continuously seek to discourage such a practice by spreading around the admonition, during election time, that this practice could invalidate your vote! This is done to reduce, as much as possible, voter leakage.

On the other hand, ADPD has always encouraged cross-party voting as such a practice genuinely gives value to every candidate on the ballot paper. This is the manner which can help us elect the best possible representatives wherever they are needed.

In fact, some of those who vote ADPD tend to vote across party lines habitually. The percentage of those who vote in this manner varies from one election to another. It also varies by district and locality. Around 33 per cent of ADPD voters, on average, identify preferences on the ballot paper which go beyond green candidates. At times the preferences they select have had a determining effect on the result.

This goes to show the strength and impact of each individual vote. It is the mature way to use your vote thereby ensuring that it is effective for as long as possible throughout the electoral cycle.  We should not only respect those who act in this manner: their behaviour should be encouraged as it delivers good results for all.

All this is being stated to explain why I have submitted my candidature for the casual election due tomorrow Monday 14 November 2022 as a result of Albert Buttiġieġ resigning from the St Julian’s Local Council  after being elected as a Member of Parliament.

Last Wednesday I submitted my nomination as a sign of respect towards all St Julian’s voters, and in particular those who have unchained themselves from partisan prejudice and voted accordingly.  The political party which I lead has always maintained that our vote can and should be utilised beyond the artificial limitations which the parliamentary political parties seek to impose. Contrary to the stand taken by the parliamentary parties we have always encouraged that voting is carried out in a non-restrictive manner such that it is possible to value all candidates without being hampered by their political allegiance.

Voters who act in this manner, refusing to be restricted in the manner in which they exercise their voting rights deserve to be respected. In these circumstances not contesting a casual election is not an option for me, even though I am aware that the possibilities are limited. In these circumstances contesting is a duty.

In selecting their preferred candidates some of the voters switch their vote from one political party to another. When the votes for the 2019 St Julians Local Council elections were counted, at second count stage it resulted that 6.33% of the votes obtained by candidate Albert Buttigieg had their second preference assigned to candidates of the other political parties. This is reflected in the manner in which the surplus votes of Albert Buttiġieġ were distributed. Most probably this will be repeated during the casual election counting process. In fact, it happens continuously during other elections as well.

I am not aware as to what lies in store in the sealed packets containing the electoral quota of Albert Buttiġieġ. The numbers involved are small: the full quota contains just 390 votes. The quota for the casual election will therefore be 196 votes.

The casual election result may be determined by the number of voters who decide to make full use of the power of their vote. Some have, most probably, first voted for all the PN candidates and thereafter proceeded to vote for one or more of the candidates presented by the other political parties, including yours truly.  Others will have selected other options.

This is the strength of our electoral system which is not always appreciated. In this context our vote is a tool for positive change.

We need to respect our voters, knowing what they go through to express their preferences for political change through their vote.  These voters motivate me in my political work, including in the decision to contest this casual election which has been described as an unusual political step.

Irrespective of the result I am humbled by the experience, and as always submit myself to the will of the voters.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday: 13 November 2022

Wegħda 336 : il-Labour u l-ODZ

Kif jidher fis-silta ta’ hawn fuq mill-manifest elettorali tal-Partit Laburista ta’ Marzu 2022, ġejna mwegħda regoli iktar stretti fejn jidħol żvilupp f’ODZ.

Il-proposti għal amnestija oħra għal żvilupp ODZ li sar qabel l-2016 juri kemm anke f’din ma hemm l-ebda serjetà. Moħħhom biss biex jgħaddu ż-żmien bin-nies.

Għalfejn isiru il-liġijiet u r-regolamenti jekk kontinwament naraw kif isiru l-eċċezzjonijiet u nippruvaw niġġustifikaw lil min ma jimxix magħhom?

Permezz ta’ din l-amnestija ġdida li tiġġustifika l-abbużi fl-ODZ għal darboħra l-Gvern qiegħed jippremja lil min abbuża u qiegħed ikompli jittrasforma lill-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar f’aġent għall-abbużi, fejn jekk tħallas multa sostanzjali tista’ tiġġustifika l-abbużi tal-iżvilupp.

Il-Labour għal darboħra wiegħed ħaġa u qiegħed jagħmel oħra: kompletament bil-maqlub. Il-Partit Laburista għadu ħiereġ minn elezzjoni ġenerali li fiha kellu manifest elettorali li fih wiegħed illi se jassigura illi ż-żona barra mill-linja tal-iżvilupp (l-ODZ) tkun imħarsa iktar minn qatt qabel. Minflok, bil-proposti li qiegħed jagħmel illum il-ġurnata qed iħares lil min jabbuża, sakemm dak li jkun ikun lest li jħallas. Il-Labour fil-Gvern qed ikun konsistenti, konsistenti fil-mod illi fil-qasam ambjentali jimxi bil-maqlub ta’ kif wiegħed. Din l-amnestija  tkompli fuq l-ewwel amnestija favur l-abbużi fil-qasam tal-ippjanar sitt snin ilu.

 Il-Partit Laburista fil-Gvern qed jagħti l-messaġġ li fil-qasam tal-ippjanar tista’ tħawwad għax b’xi mod jew ieħor fl-aħħar tirranġa, basta tħallas. Mal-Labour, bil-flus tirranġa.

L-iskema l-ġdida qegħda testendi l-amnestija li kienet ħarġet fl-2016 billi tinkludi ukoll żvilupp li jinstab barra miż-żona tal-iżvilupp. Din l-iskema titkellem primarjament dwar żvilupp parzjali bla permess fl-ODZ.

 Din l-amnestija hi insult lil min għażel li jimxi sewwa u josserva l-liġi u r-regolamenti u jimxi mal-kundizzjonijiet tal-permess ta’ żvilupp. L-amnestija hi dikjarazzjoni ta’ falliment fil-qasam tal-infurzar. In-numru ta’ każijiet kompla jikber, sena wara l-oħra, għax l-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar ma kinitx kapaċi tinforza l-liġi quddiem min kien lest li jisfidaha.

Kultant l-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar tagħmel show biex taparsi qed tagħmel xogħolha. Pero wara din il-faċċata tat-teatrin ma hemm xejn, ma hemm l-ebda serjetà.

Lil min sfida u għamel ta’ rasu qed jgħidulu: issa ħallas multa u qisu qatt ma kien xejn!

Minflok dawn l-amnestiji biex tiġġustifika l-iżvilupp ta’ art ODZ ikun iktar għaqli kienu l-Gvern jibda l-proċess biex art ODZ li fl-2006 saret tajba għal-iżvilupp ma tibqax żviluppabbli. Ilna s-snin issa nitkellmu dwar reviżjoni tal-pjani lokali. Saru anke laqgħat ta’ konsultazzjoni pubblika dwar dan imma s’issa għadu ma immaterjalizza xejn.

Il-Partit Laburista fil-Gvern qed jagħmel minn kollox biex jiġġustifika żvilupp abbużiv barra miż-żona tal-iżvilupp. L-inqas ħaġa li konna nistennew f’dan il-mument hi amnestija li tiġġustifika iktar l-abbużi ta’ żvilupp tal-art. L-amnestija qed tippremja lil min abbuża u fl-istess ħin qed tikkastiga lil min mexa sewwa. Hi fuq kollox dikjarazzjoni ta’ falliment fl-amministrazzjoni pubblika biex tinforza l-liġi. Tagħti messaġġ wieħed inkwetanti: għamel li trid għax mal-Labour tirranġa!

Wara dan kollu, dawn ma jistħux jitkellmu fuq is-saltna tad-dritt!

(dan hu rapport ta’ dak li ntqal f’konferenza stampa dalgħodu quddiem l-uffiċini tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar il-Floriana minn Carmel Cacopardo u Ralph Cassar)

ara ukoll rapporti kif gej:

Times of Malta: With Labour, money talks: Government slammed for ODZ amnesty scheme

Malta Today : Money Talks with Labour: Greens slam Government for ODZ abuse amnesties

Malta Independent: With Labour, money talks – ADPD

Newsbook: Bil-flus mal-Labour tirranga – ADPD

TVM : L-ADPD jgħid li l-estensjoni ta’ skema f’żoni barra mill-iżvilupp tista’ twassal għall-abbużi

Mqabba: vittma ta’ sklerożi tal-istituzzjonijiet

Madwar għoxrin sena ilu, l-awtorità responsabbli mill-ippjanar għall-użu tal-art, dakinnhar imsejħa l-MEPA, kienet ippubblikat pjan dwar ir-regolamentazzjoni tal-minerali fil-gżejjer Maltin. Dan id-dokument bl-isem Minerals Subject Plan for the Maltese Islands iġib id-data ta’ Mejju 2003.

Kif mistenni, dan il-Pjan hu dwar il-qafas regolatorju essenzjali biex issir l-estrazzjoni tal-minerali minn ġol-art. Primarjament dan jikkonċerna l-operazzjoni tal-barrieri biex tkun estratta l-ġebla Maltija. Dan hu qasam tal-kawbojs, qasam fejn ir-regolamentazzjoni hi skarsa u l-infurzar prattikament ineżistenti.

Fl-ewwel linji tiegħu, dan il-pjan jitkellem ċar ħafna billi jitkellem dwar il-kunflitt inevitabbli li jirriżulta mill-operazzjoni tal-barrieri. Jemfasizza li fi gżejjer li huma żgħar u b’popolazzjoni li hi iffullata hemm kunflitt mat-turiżmu u l-industrija, kif ukoll kemm mal-iżvilupp kummerċjali kif ukoll dak residenzjali. Hemm impatt ukoll fuq il-ħarsien tar-riżorsi naturali u ta’ dawk kulturali. Li jinħoloq bilanċ bejn il-ħtieġijiet tal-industrija tal-kostruzzjoni għar-riżorsi minerali f’kuntest ta’ żvilupp sostenibbli hi sfida ewlenija, jgħidlina l-pjan. Dan flimkien ma kunsiderazzjonijiet ta’ ippjanar ta’ użu ta’ art u konsiderazzjonijiet ambjentali.

Il-pjan dwar il-minerali jitkellem ukoll fid-dettall dwar l-impatt fuq terzi: jiġifieri l-impatt fuq in-nies, kemm residenti kif ukoll dawk li jkunu fil-viċinanzi, hi x’inhi r-raġuni għal dan: dan jinkludi t-tfal tal-iskola primarja. Specifikament jikkunsidra l-impatti riżultat tal-istorbju u tat-trab li huma ġġenerati mit-tħaddim tal-barrieri, mhux biss mill-ħidma biex ikun estratt il-ġebel, imma ukoll minn attività anċillari.

Il-pjan jirreferi għall-ġenerazzjoni tal-istorbju u jgħid li l-permessi ta’ żvilupp għandhom jindirizzaw dan l-inkonvenjent b’diversi miżuri, fosthom permezz ta’ ilqugħ adegwat (acoustic screening), kontroll tal-ħinijiet tal-operazzjoni tal-barriera, li jkun stabilit il-massimu tal-istorbju permissibli u li l-attività storbjuża tkun l-iktar il-bogħod possibli minn żoni sensittivi.

Il-pjan jitkellem ukoll dwar ir-regolamentazzjoni tal-ġenerazzjoni tat-trab. L-attività li tiġġenera t-trab għandha tkun il-bogħod kemm jista’ jkun minn żoni sensittivi. Hu rakkomandat ukoll mill-pjan li meta jinġemgħa fuq is-sit kwantità ta’ prodotti tal-ġebla (stockpiling) dan ikun mgħotti: dan inaqqas it-tixrid tat-trab u allura jgħin biex ikun indirizzat l-inkonvenjent.

Għandi kopja elettronika ta’ dan il-pjan li kont niżżilt minn fuq is-sit elettroniku tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar xi snin ilu. Meta din il-ġimgħa erġajt fittixt, sibt li dan id-dokument sparixxa minn hemm: illum m’għadux aċċessibli fuq is-sit elettroniku tal-awtorità!  Safejn naf jien dan il-pjan għadu fis-seħħ imma, mal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar diffiċli tgħid: għax qatt ma taf fejn int!

Ftakart f’dan kollu meta f’dawn il-ġranet ġejt ikkuntattjat minn residenti fl-Imqabba minħabba applikazzjoni tal-ippjanar (PA 0350/22) li daħlet reċentement dwar barriera fil-viċinanzi tal-iskola primarja tal-Imqabba.  Din l-applikazzjoni hi dwar attività diversa fil-barriera inkluż tkissir tal-ġebla biex tipproduċi ż-żrar kif ukoll dwar il-ħażna taż-żrar fs-sit (stock piling).

Ir-residenti qalulna, lili u lil Melissa Bagley, (kandidat tal-partit fuq id-distrett elettorali li minnu jifforma parti l-Imqabba) li ilhom jaqilgħu ġo fihom żmien. Bħala riżultat ta’ dan għandhom raġun li joqgħodu lura milli jitkellmu direttament. Bħala partit aħna ser nitkellmu f’isimhom.

Jiena rajt il-file dwar din l-applikazzjoni fuq is-sit elettroniku tal-awtorità tal-ippjanar u nħoss li għandi ngħid pubblikament li jiena mħasseb ħafna bir-reazzjoni tad-Direttorat tas-Saħħa Ambjentali li hi nieqsa minn kull sens ta’ responsabbiltà. Jonqos milli jitkellem dwar l-impatti negattivi fuq in-nies kemm tat-trab fin iġġenerat kif ukoll tal-istorbju. Ma jitkellimx dwar il-ħtieġa li dan ikun ikkontrollat mill-proċess tal-ippjanar innifsu.

L-Awtorità dwar l-Ambjent u r-Riżorsi, min-naħa l-oħra, tistabilixxi numru ta’ kundizzjonijiet li għandhom ikunu osservati in lineja ma’ l-aħjar prattiċi ambjentali. Għandu jkun ċar, iżda li dawn il-miżuri u kundizzjonijiet jeħtieġ  li jkunu partiintegrali kemm minn eventwali permess ta’ żvilupp kif ukoll mill-permess operattiv li jinħareġ mill-ERA innifisha.

Sal-ħin li qed nikteb, id-Dipartiment tal-Edukazzjoni għadu ma fetaħx ħalqu biex jipproteġi lill-istudenti fl-iskola primarja tal-Imqabba li hi daqstant viċin tal-barriera soġġett ta’ din l-applikazzjoni. Ma nafx x’qed jistennew biex jipproteġu lit-tfal Mqabbin mill-istorbju u t-trab fin ġġenerat mill-barriera!

B’mod konvenjenti l-anqas il-Kunsill Lokali tal-Imqabba ma fetaħ ħalqu. Imma dan ma jissorprendi lil ħadd.

Din hi materja serja u gravi li teħtieġ l-attenzjoni tagħna lkoll. Il-barrieri u l-ħidma fihom jinħtieġu li jkunu regolati sewwa biex il-kwalità tal-ħajja ta’ dawk kollha li jgħixu fil-madwar tkun imħarsa bis-serjetà.

Is-skiet, jew in-nuqqas ta’ azzjoni adegwata, tal-awtoritajiet li nsemmi iktar il-fuq hi skandaluża. Din hi sklerożi tal-istituzzjonijiet. Meta l-iktar hemm bżonnhom, dawn jiġġammjaw.

ippubblikat fuq Illum: il-Ħadd 6 ta’Novembru 2022

Mqabba: a victim of institutional sclerosis

Around twenty years ago, the authority responsible for land use planning, then named MEPA, had published a Minerals Subject Plan for the Maltese Islands. The plan is dated May 2003.

The Subject Plan, as expected, deals with the regulatory framework for mineral extraction, primarily limestone, which was then and still is now, cowboy territory. Regulation is scarce and enforcement in this sector is almost inexistent.

The Subject Plan fired a warning shot in its first lines by pinpointing the inevitable conflicts resulting from the operation of quarries. It emphasises that “in such small and densely populated islands there are inevitable land use conflicts between limestone extraction and tourism, industrial, commercial and residential development, and the preservation of the islands’ natural and cultural resources. Balancing the needs of the construction industry for mineral resources with other planning and environmental policies, in the context of sustainable development is a key challenge for this Mineral Subject Plan and for the day-to-day control of extraction and related activities.”

The Subject Plan considers impacts on third parties. Specifically, it considers the impacts of noise and dust resulting from quarry operations and ancillary activities.

With reference to noise, it states that planning permits will seek to regulate noise impacts through the use of acoustic screening, restricting operating hours, setting of permissible maximum noise levels, locating noisier operations as far as possible from noise sensitive locations and properties and ensuring appropriate stand-off distances between operations and sensitive locations.

On the other hand, the regulation of dust impacts in the said Mineral Subject plan is also fairly detailed in that it is required to site the dust generating activities away from sensitive locations, considering the direction of prevailing winds. Covering of stockpiles is also recommended.

I have an electronic copy of this Subject Plan which I downloaded some time ago from the Planning Authority website. Checking recently, it has apparently mysteriously disappeared: it is no longer accessible on the Planning Authority website! As far as I am aware this Subject Plan is still applicable. When dealing with the Planning Authority, however, one never knows for certain!

All this came to mind when I was recently contacted by a number of Mqabba residents relative to a planning application (PA 0350/22) submitted recently concerning a quarry in the vicinity of the Mqabba Primary School. The application seeks to carry out activities ancillary to quarrying, including crushing and stock piling of stone derived aggregate on site.

Residents, have informed me and Melissa Bagley, party candidate on the electoral district of which Mqabba forms part, that they have been at the receiving end for a long time. As a result, they are reluctant to speak up publicly. ADPD will be taking up their case and speaking on their behalf.

I have gone through the planning application file which is available online and must publicly state that I am shocked at the reactions of the Environmental Health Directorate which fails to make any submissions on the negative impacts of noise and dust generated as a result of quarry operations, and, on the need, to control them through the planning process itself.

The Environment and Resources Authority (ERA), on the other hand, lists a number of conditions to be adhered to in line with best practice environmental measures. It should however be clear that these measures should be an integral part of both an eventual planning permit as well as the standard operational permit issued by ERA itself.

The Department of Education has so far not reacted in order to protect the students at Mqabba Primary School which school almost borders the quarry in question. What is it waiting for to protect Mqabba boys and girls from excessive noise and from continuously inhaling dust particles generated by the quarry operations?

The Mqabba Local Council is also conveniently silent. However, no one is surprised about that.

This is a very serious issue which needs our attention. Quarrying needs adequate regulation and prompt enforcement such that the quality of life of all those in the vicinity is adequately protected.

The silence (or the lack of appropriate action) of the relative public authorities listed above is scandalous. This is institutional sclerosis. When needed most the institutions we have fail to act.

published in the Malta Independent on Sunday : 6 November 2022