Iċ-ċavetta li tista’ tiftaħ il-bibien magħluqa ………………

Opening door with key

 

Mhux l-ewwel wieħed li ser nikkummenta li bir-riżultati elettorali ta’ tmiem il-ġimgħa kulħadd hu kuntent. Ovvjament din hi reazzjoni artifiċjali ħafna u għandha titqies biss bħala l-ewwel reazzjoni sakemm kulħadd ikollu ċ-ċans li jifli ftit ir-riżultati daqsxejn iktar fil-fond.

Iċ-ċifri uffiċjali, per eżempju jgħidu li Alternattiva Demokratika kisbet 1.10% tal-voti mitfugħa f’dan ir-rawnd ta’ elezzjonijiet lokali. Dawn iċ-ċifri huma korretti imma ma jagħtux l-istampa rejali. Dan minħabba li AD ikkontestat biss f’7 lokalitajiet minn 34. Il-lokalitajiet li fihom AD ikkontestat l-elezzjonijiet nhar il-11 t’April l-anqas ma huma għal kollox l-istess lokalitajiet li fihom AD ikkontestat fl-2012 u allura ftit li xejn tista’ tagħmel paraguni.

Fil-Qala, fin-Nadur u f’Ħal-Qormi AD kisbet numru żgħir ta’ voti li huma kumparabbli kemm ma dawk miksuba fl-elezzjoni ġenerali kif ukoll, fejn applikabbli, ma’ parteċipazzjoni f’elezzjonijiet oħra tal-Kunsilli Lokali fl-istess lokalitajiet. F’dawn il-lokalitajiet mela jkun ġust li wieħed jikkonkludi li AD baqgħet fl-istess ilma.

Imma mhux l-istess jista’ jingħad fil-lokalitajiet l-oħra. F’Ħ’Attard reġa’ ġie elett għal darba oħra s-Segretarju Ġenerali ta’ AD Ralph Cassar li fl-ewwel għadd kiseb 7.3% tal-voti mitfugħa.  Mhux biss reġa’ ġie elett imma kiseb ammont ta’ voti iktar mis-soltu, u, iktar importanti minn hekk, wiret biżżejjed voti mingħand kandidati oħra (PN, PL u Indipendenti) biex ġie elett f’lokalita fejn il-Partit Laburista naqqas il-presenza tiegħu billi tilef kunsillier. Issa dan il-fatt għandu l-importanza tiegħu prinċipalment għax ifisser li Alternattiva Demokratika qed tikkonsolida l-egħruq tagħha f’dik iż-żona ta’ Malta li hi iktar sensittiva minn żoni oħra għal materji ambjentali.

Argumenti simili jistgħu jingħadu għal-lokalita’ ta’ San Ġiljan fejn il-kandidat ġdid u żgħażugħ Gulio Caruana irdoppja l-voti (ġieb 5.4%) li kisbet il-kandidat ta’ AD fl-istess lokalita fl-2012. Żieda simili kellu Simon Galea fuq San Pawl il-Baħar fejn irid jingħad li kienu bil-voti tiegħu, meta ġie eliminat, li l-PN seta jirbaħ il-lokalità ta’ San Pawl il-Baħar. L-istess kif kien ġara fil-Mosta fl-2012 bil-voti li dakinnhar kienu inkisbu minngħand Robert Callus.

Min-naħa l-oħra kienet esperjenza ġdida l-kandidatura taż-żgħazugħa Monique Agius fuq Ħaż-Żebbuġ li kisbet 3.1% tal-voti l-ewwel darba li kkontestat.

Dan kollu jrid ukoll ikun ikkunsidrat fl-isfond tad-49.6% miksuba mill-LE fir-referendum kontra l-kaċċa fir-rebbiegħa. Dan ir-referendum kien riżultat ta’ petizzjoni li bdiet Alternattiva Demokratika flimkien ma’ 13-il għaqda ambjentali fil-pajjiż. Fil-parti l-kbira tagħhom dawk li ivvutaw LE m’humiex votanti li soltu jivvutaw Alternattva Demokratika. Huwa ovvju li fil-parti l-kbira tagħhom is-soltu jivvutaw lill-partiti oħra. Ta’ l-inqas fil-konfront ta’ uħud, dan mhux bil-fors jibqa’ l-każ u dan in vista tal-kummenti diversi minn dawk li ma qablux mal-posizzjoni li ħadu l-partiti l-kbar.

Din hi storja li għad trid tiżviluppa matul it-tlett snin li ġejjin. Jekk tiżviluppax jew le f’ċaqlieq ta’ votanti min-naħa għall-oħra tal-ispettru politiku huwa kmieni biex jingħad imma l-ingredjenti biex dan iseħħ qegħdin hemm. Għandek persentaġġ għoli ta’ votanti li ma mxewx mad-direzzjoni indikata mill-mexxejja tal-partiti l-kbar. Għal uħud mhux importanti li kellhom opinjoni differenti mill-mexxejja. Imma għal oħrajn li ivvutaw LE fuq prinċipju tal-ħarsien tal-bijodiversita fir-rebbiegħa il-mistoqsijiet mhux imwieġba huma interminabbli. Huwa l-ewwel darba li l-partiti l-kbar kellhom l-opportunità li jagħmlu għażla ċara. Għamluha u issa ħadd ma għandu l-iskuża li ma jafx fejn hu.

Għax bla ma trid bil-fors tirrifletti u tistaqsi lilek innifsek : kif tista’ tieħu posizzjoni favur l-ambjent fir-referendum u mbagħad ma tagħtix l-istess piz lill-ambjent f’elezzjonijiet oħra?  Għal uħud mill-votanti ma hemm xejn ħażin li l-ambjent jingħata prijorita sekondarja, imma għal numru dejjem ikbar jidher li dan mhux il-każ.

Kemm hu kbir dan in-numru għad irridu naraw. Kliem l-ambjentalista Alan Deidun fis-Sunday Times ta’ nhar il-Ħadd li għadda huwa ċar:

“Effectively, the spineless stance taken by both PL and PN MP’s effectively meant that over 124,000 Maltese citizens were not represented by their elected parliamentarians, bar one. This is the boldest of statements about our political class…..the aspirations of such a large minority have only been voiced by a party – AD – which is not even represented in Parliament…..yet another quirk of democracy.”

Din hi l-isfida li Alternattiva Demokratika għandha quddiema bħala riżultat tal-votazzjoni tal-11 t’April. Hi opportunità unika li mhux ser tirrepeti ruħha fil-futur qarib. Il-futur ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika jiddependi fuq kemm ser tkun kapaċi matul ix-xhur li ġejjin taddatta ruħha biex issarraf din l-opportunità.

Bħala konsegwenza tar-riżultat tal-11 t’April diversi qed jinteressaw ruħhom iktar fil-ħidma ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika. Dan jawgura tajjeb għall-futur għax jagħti l-possibilità lill-Alternattiva Demokratika li torganizza ruħha aħjar, biex twassal b’mod iktar effettiv il-messaġġ tagħha li l-ħarsien tal-ambjent jiddetermina l-kwalità tal-ħajja ta’ kull wieħed u waħda minna peró l-iktar ta’ dawk fil-periferija tas-soċjetà.

Ir-riżultat tal-votazzjonijiet tal-11 t’April fih iċ-ċavetta li biha jistgħu jinfetħu ħafna bibien li illum huma magħluqa.

Dejjem sakemm ma tilħaqx tinbidel is-serratura.

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Alternattiva Demokratika Position Paper on Reform in Drug Policy

Portugal.decriminalisation

Paper Presented to the Justice Reform Commission by Robert Callus

AD Spokesman on Social Policy

All countries in the world use a combination of 4 measures to tackle the even increasing drug problem. These are: Prevention, treatment, harm reduction and punishment.

Unfortunately most countries (including Malta) have so far focused too much on punishment at the expense of the other three. The biggest problem with punishing drug users is not only that it uses financial and human resources that could have been used for the other three measures but also that it directly interferes in their success rate.

The Portuguese model is so successful mostly for this reason. Hard drug use, crime and transmitted diseases would not have significantly decreased if it just decriminalized personal use (remove punishment.) What Portugal did was take this opportunity to strengthen the other three more successful measures in combating this problem.

Prevention

Most drug users start at a young age, mostly in their early and mid-teens.

There is a surmounting amount of research on why some young people take drugs (and/or become addicted on them) and some don’t. For instance self esteem, vulnerability to peer pressure, stability in the family are the most common of variables that indicate whether a person is at more risk than others.

However, as simple as this may seem, there is one common reason that comes out clear from  any research available or even from a short conversation with a drug user: These people use drugs because they believe they need them. (The only possible exception to this rule of thumb is in the case of people who have used drugs occasionally due to peer pressure only. However these people are the least likely to become drug addicts and one should be more concerned about the rest)

Be it to overcome shyness, depression, anxiety, or tiredness, drug users – especially the ones who go on to become addicts – feel, at that point in time that the pros of overcoming that negative feeling are higher than the cons of using the drugs.

On the other hand, as is made clear in the Global Commission Report on Drug Policy, http://www.globalcommissionondrugs.org/reports/ fear of the law (unlike fear of addiction) is not a common deterrent for young people not to take drugs.

Thus in order to prevent as many people as possible from commencing drug use society needs to focus on our children’s coping mechanisms because if that fails, they
are very likely to try to cope with drugs, irrespective of whether they legal or not.

Treatment

According to Hazelden’s drug treatment organization  www.hazelden.org   (whose extensive work on the 12 step model is widely used with very successful results today including in our own OASI rehabilitation centre), drug addiction is a disease and should be treated as a disease by policy makers.

And like HIV or cancer won’t go away if you threaten the afflicted with punishment, neither will drug addiction.

Thus, our first goal is to get as many addicts as possible realize that they actually need to be treated. Once again this is what Portugal managed to do with successful results.

Since decriminalization, if a person is caught with drugs for personal use in Portugal, all he is obliged to do is one thing: Be interviewed by a Commission for the Dissuasion of Drug Addiction which consists of a social worker, a psychiatrist and an attorney. Though the Commission does have limited powers (including giving a fine of up to 150 Euro if a person refuses treatment) its main aim is to give advice and if need be invite people to seek further help. http://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/drug-decriminalization-policy-pays

The rationale behind this is that while society has literally “lost” every person arrested for drug possession by placing him on the wrong side of the law, through this system, a substantial amount of these people realize that they do need help and that society is offering it.

Instead of burning bridges with drug addicts, it works on building them.

Once again, the increase in demand for treatment services, is financed by money that would have otherwise been spent on prosecuting drug addicts.

Harm Reduction

Some addicts, either just can’t quit (once again this depends on numerous variables such as age of onset of drug use, social support networks, childhood traumas etc) or do not consider it the right time to do so.

While complete abstinence should always be the ideal to be reached, the concept of harm reduction is that “if you’re still going to use, at least do it in the least harmful manner, for yourself and others”.

Malta already practices harm reduction such as through free syringe distribution and methadone maintenance programmes.

More could be done especially if more resources are allocated. The possibility of prescribed heroin for long-term addicts as practiced in the UK and Switzerland should also be explored (the substances added to street heroin are usually more harmful than the heroin itself).

Aside from the financial aspect, criminalizing drug addicts is also working against harm reduction in a psychological sense. If that same society that’s telling you that you’re a criminal and should be punished is the same one telling you on the need for clean syringes or that many diseases can be also transmitted from the spoon (on which the heroin is cooked) apart from the syringe, you’re less likely to take that advice.

Conclusion

I hope that in this brief position paper I have provided enough arguments to show we need to move towards a more humane policy towards drug use and addiction. Not only because it’s morally the right thing to do but also because it is more successful.

We should not fool ourselves that the day will come when we win the war on drugs. Drugs are here to stay. But if we do move away from a more populist policy that may provide a feel good factor by temporarily removing people from the streets to behind bars but has so miserably failed, towards one that an abundant amount of research shows to actually reduce drug addiction and the problems they create we can make a significant step forward in tackling this serious and escalating problem.

26 July 2013

Kunsilli Lokali 2012 : il-kandidati ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika