Lock Them Up

This has been one of those weeks which former UK Labour leader Harold Wilson had in mind when he emphasised that a week is a long time in politics.

Two specific actions stick out. The first is the determination of PN Leader Adrian Delia to splinter the party, which he still leads, into insignificance. The second being the National Audit Office (NAO) report on the concession awarded to Vitals Global Healthcare (VGH) by the Maltese Government. The NAO report concluded that there was collusive behaviour between government and Vitals Global Healthcare.

Both the Labour Party in government as well as the Nationalist Party in Opposition are in a state of a disorganised mess, which, as rightly pointed out by the Malta Employers Association mid-week, could easily lead to a political and institutional meltdown. The Labour Government has been in cahoots with those seeking to make a quick buck at the expense of the public purse for the past seven years. The absence of a Parliamentary Opposition worthy of the name has made it easier not just to avoid accountability but also to come back for more.

Konrad Mizzi and Joseph Muscat together with their accomplices should have been behind bars long ago: the former for directing the plundering of the public purse, the latter (at least) for protecting him. They have given rise to a Mafia state. Those who ought to govern plunder openly thereby transmitting the clear message that “crime pays”.

The recent contest for the Labour leadership was lost by those campaigning under the unofficial slogan “lock them up”. The continuity campaign won as it was the safest bet ensuring “more of the same”, or at least, the possible protection of what has been plundered.

The NAO investigation and the resulting report on the award of the contracts to Vitals Global Healthcare (VGH) was requested by the trade union Union Ħaddiema Magħqudin (UĦM). The report is entitled “An audit of matters relating to the concession awarded to Vitals Global Healthcare by Government. Part 1: A review of the tender process.” The fact that this is just Part 1 indicates that there is much more waiting to be known.

The 219 page NAO report is quite detailed. The basic point raised is that even before it issued its “Request for Proposals” government had already agreed with Vitals Global Healthcare through a secret agreement which, for obvious reasons, it did not make available to the NAO. NAO however identified that VGH, in reply to the “Request for Proposals”, submitted a letter from the Bank of India as proof of access to finance for the “Malta Healthcare Project” which letter was dated fourteen days before the Request for Proposals was issued by the Maltese Government. The existence of this document led the NAO to conclude that this was definite evidence “of the VGH’s prior knowledge of the planned project and proof of collusion with Government, or its representatives.”

This is the most damning condemnation possible of the Government procurement process and the circumventing of the normal procurement process under the direction of the Director of Contracts: the political responsibility of Finance Minister Edward Scicluna.

Most fingers are pointing towards Konrad Mizzi, now conveniently dismissed from the Labour Parliamentary Group, and his protector Joseph Muscat. Edward Scicluna too, however, must shoulder political responsibility for acts of omission.

It was only as recent as Friday 26 June 2020 that Edward Scicluna, when receiving the 2019 Annual report of the Public Contracts Review Board (PCRB), emphasised the need for all government Ministries to nurture finance professionals to take adequate care of public expenditure. He had then emphasised that “the country is committed to the highest standards”.

The NAO in its VGH report has certified the real standards of the public procurement process under Edward Scicluna’s watch!

Prime Minister Robert Abela had the cheek to state that the NAO report is proof of the functioning of our institutions. Rather, I think the basic conclusion to be reached from the NAO VGH report is that Abela’s predecessor has successfully transformed the Labour Party into a modern version of Ali Baba and the forty thieves. The fact that Robert Abela is the “successful” continuity candidate speaks volumes.

published on the Malta Independent on Sunday : 12 July 2020

Min qed jiġbed l-ispag?

Hemm mistoqsija li bla dubju tberren f’moħħna aħna u nisimgħu jew x’ħin inkunu qed naqraw rapporti dwar ix-xhieda li qed tinġabar il-Qorti in konnessjoni mal-assassinju ta’ Daphne Caruana Galizia. Lil min qed tipproteġi l-pulizija?

Qed joħroġ messaġġ ċar li f’waqtiet partikulari xi uffiċjali tal-Pulizija u l-kriminali li bħalissa qed ikunu investigati kienu id f’id. Naturalment l-uffiċjali in kwistjoni dan jiċħduh. Imma, sfortunatament għal kulħadd, il-kredibilità tagħhom ilha li spiċċat.

Id-deċiżjoni tal-5 t’Ottubru 2018 tal-Qorti Kostituzzjonali dwar Silvio Valletta, dakinnhar Deputat Kummissarju tal-Pulizija, b’kunflitt ta’ interess minħabba r-responsabbiltajiet politiċi ta’ martu Justyne Caruana (politically exposed person) għamlet l-affarijiet ferm agħar. Fl-2018 il-Qorti Kostituzzjonali kienet aċċettat l-argumenti ta’ tal-familja ta’ Daphne Caruana Galizia u ordnat li Silvio Valletta jitbiegħed mill-investigazzjoni dwar l-assassinju.

Fid-dawl tal-allegazzjonijiet kontra id-Deputat Mexxej tal-Partit Laburista Chris Cardona dwar il-possibiltà ta’ ordni separata għall-assassinju ta’ Caruana Galizia, jikber konsiderevolment id-dubju dwar min qiegħed ikun protett mill-Pulizija. Għax kif jista’ jkun li Deputat Kummissarju tal-Pulizija li hu politikament espost jinvestiga politiku ġej mill-istess partit politiku li fih hi attiva martu ukoll Membru tal-Kabinett? Kien fit-8 ta’ Mejju 2016 li din il-gazzetta kienet irrappurtat illi Silvio Valletta kien offrut il-ħatra ta’ Kummissarju tal-Pulizija imma ma aċċettax minħabba li martu Justyne Caruana u l-fatt li “hija Membru tal-Kabinett u persuna prominenti fil-Partit Laburista, seta’ jitfa’ wisq piż u dell fuq l-operat tiegħu kieku aċċetta li jkun fit-tmun tal-Korp.” Dakinnhar iddeċieda tajjeb imma wara insihom id-dellijjiet!

Il-problema tikber konsiderevolment kull meta jissemmgħu dawk li kienu madwar Joseph Muscat, ewlieni fosthom Keith Schembri. Imma hemm oħajn ukoll li kellhom parti importanti fl-iżviluppi ta’ din il-ġimgħa: min jikkonsla u jikkalma u min iwassal il-messaġġi.

Hu magħruf li kemm Chris Cardona kif ukoll Keith Schembri intalbu jwieġbu xi mistoqsijiet mill-Pulizija imma safejn hu magħruf pubblikament s’issa ħadd minnhom mhu qed jiġi investigat.

Jingħad li għad baqa’ informazzjoni sensittiva x’tinkixef.

Irridu nżommu quddiem għajnejna li Daphne kienet stħarrġet u kitbet dwar il-każijiet ta’ korruzzjoni ewlenin fil-pajjiż tul dawn l-aħħar snin, li minnhom ma kellniex ftit. L-atturi xi drabi huma l-istess. Din il-ġimgħa kellna iktar informazzjoni fuq każ kbir. Hu il-kaz tal-Montenegro li stħarrġet it-Times u li minnu irriżulta li 17 Black ta’ Yorgen Fenech daħħlet madwar ħames miljun euro minn fuq dahar l-Enemalta. Min hemm sħab ma Fenech fis-17 Black u s’issa ma jidhirx?

Ix-xhieda fil-Qorti fil-kaz tal-assassinju qed jindikaw il-possibilità li hemm iżjed minn moħħ wiehed wara dan il-qtil. Yorgen Fenech ilu jinsisti li mhux hu l-moħħ iżda li hemm xi ħaddieħor li hu aqwa minnu.

Ma nagħmlux mod li dawn l-idejn moħbija wara l-qtil għandhom interess ukoll fil-qliegħ mill-Montenegro fejn spiċċa jidher Yorgen Fenech għal darba oħra għalihom hux?

Min qed jiġbed l-ispag f’dan kollu? Meta l-Pulizija jagħmlu investigazzjoni iktar fil-fond forsi jkollna ħjiel. Imma ma jiddependix biss minnhom. Jiddependi ukoll minn min s’issa għadu qiegħed jerfa’ l-piz waħdu u jostor lil ħaddieħor.

Il-kobba hi mħabbla sewwa. L-iskandli wieħed wara l-ieħor ilhom jakkumulaw. Dwar uħud minnhom ma sar xejn u dwar oħrajn tapari sar xi ħaġa. F’dan kollu hemm rwol fundamentali għall-ġurnaliżmu investigattiv li b’responsabbiltà jgħarbel u jfittex il-konnessjonijiet bejn in-numru dejjem jikber ta’ skandli. Il-qtil biex isikket lil min jinvestiga mhuwiex biss delitt kontra l-persuna imma hu ukoll delitt kontra d-demokrazija. Għax l-istampa libera li ma tibżax hi pilastru ewlieni tad-demokrazija tagħna.

L-istess idejn jidhru repetutament. Min hemm mistoħbi warajhom? Min qed jiġbed l-ispag Delimara, il-Montenegro u lura sal-Bidnija?

ippubblikat fuq Illum : Il-Ħadd 21 ta’ Ġunju 2020

Who is the puppet master?

There is a lingering question as we listen to or read reports on the evidence being compiled in Court relative to the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia. Who do the police protect?

The clear message being conveyed is that at a point in time specific police officers and the criminals currently under investigation were apparently in cahoots. Naturally, the officers referred to always deny any wrongdoing. Unfortunately for all of us, their credibility has been discarded over the years.

The decision of the Constitutional Court on the 5 October 2018 relative to Silvio Valletta, formerly Deputy Police Commissioner, having a conflict of interest on account of his being a politically exposed person due to his marriage to former Gozo Minister Justyne Caruana made matters worse. In 2018 the Constitutional Court had accepted the arguments of the family of Daphne Caruana Galizia and ordered that Silvio Valletta desists from continuing to be part of the investigation into the assassination.

In view of the allegations against former Deputy Leader of the Labour Party Chris Cardona about the financing of a separate and parallel DCG assassination contract, doubts linger on as to who received police protection. How could a politically exposed Deputy Police Commissioner investigate a politician belonging to the same political party as his wife, a Cabinet Minister? After all it was Silvio Valletta himself who in 2016 was reported in the Press as having declined being appointed as Commissioner of Police due to the perceived incompatibility of the duties of Commissioner with that of Cabinet Minister, as his wife then was. He took the right decision then!

The problem is further compounded by references to Joseph Muscat’s then Chief of Staff Keith Schembri as well as other persons close to the Office of the Prime Minister during the murder proceedings.

It is known that both Chris Cardona and Keith Schembri were questioned by the Police, but as far is publicly known none of them is under investigation yet. We do not know much more except the selected leaks planted in the media over the past weeks by those who certainly have some axe to grind.

The latest twist to the whole saga is the instructions issued by inquiring Magistrate that the police investigate the behaviour of former Police Commissioner Lawrence Cutajar after it was revealed in open court that he may have messed things up in his contacts with potential witnesses.

It is rumoured that there is still much more to be unravelled. While the evidence being heard in Court is pointing towards the possibility of two separate initiatives leading to the assassination of DCG it is still unclear as to who the real mastermind is. Whether Yorgen Fenech is a mastermind is still to be proven to the satisfaction of the Court. We should however remember that he contests this and points elsewhere.

Whether the ultimate puppet master is eventually identified is dependent on the investigative skills of the police. It also however depends on the extent to which those currently shouldering the blame are willing to pay the full price for the crime commissioned by others.

The resignation of Chris Cardona from Deputy Leader earlier this week is long overdue. He should have departed the moment the Acapulco brothel scandal saw the light of day. But that is another matter about which the whole truth is not yet in the public domain. Hopefully at some point in time more will be revealed as it may yet turn out to be of fundamental importance in entangling the whole mess.

At the end of the day it should be clear that crime does not pay.

 

Published on the Malta Independent on Sunday: 20 June 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The assassination: having friends in the right places

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

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

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

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

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

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

The plot thickens by the minute.

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

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

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

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 7 June 2020

Imnawwar minn ġewwa

Sal-ħin li qed nikteb, l-investigazzjoni interna tal-Pulizija nfirxet minn waħda iffukata fuq it-taqsima tat-traffiku għal taqsimiet oħra tal-korp. Bosta huma mnixxfa kif dawk li suppost iżommu l-ordni u jħarsu l-osservanza tal-liġi qed jiġu nvestigati huma stess dwar allegazzjionijiet ta’ abbuż minn fondi pubbliċi kif ukoll allegazzjonijiet li talbu flus biex ma jagħmlux dmirhom (speċi ta’ protection money).

Supretendent u numru ta’ uffiċjali oħra, rinfaċċjati bil-provi rreżenjaw mill-korp. Numru mhux żgħir ta’ pulizija ġew interrogati.

M’għandniex inkunu sorpriżi b’dan kollu, għax dan huwa kollu riżultat dirett ta’ kultura ta’ impunità li ġiet imxettla b’mod kontinwu mill-Partit Laburista fil-Gvern tul dawn l-aħħar snin. Xejn mhu xejn. B’xi mod jew ieħor kollox jibqa’ għaddej, jew kważi.

Il-Prim Ministru Robert Abela stqarr li l-fatt illi l-Pulizija stess qed jinvestigaw lill-pulizija li dwarhom hemm l-alegazzjonijiet huwa indikazzjoni ċara li l-istituzzjonijiet fil-pajjiż qed jaħdmu sewwa. Fil-fehma tiegħi din hi analiżi skorretta. Dak li qed jiġri trid tarah ukoll fil-kuntest tal-ħbiberija żvelata bejn dak li kien Deputat Kummissarju tal-Pulizija Silvio Valletta u Yorgen Fenech, (l-allegat mandant tal-assassinju ta’ Daphne Caruana Galizia). F’dan il-kuntest, l-investigazzjoni tindika li l-korp tal-Pulizija huwa mnawwar minn ġewwa.

Fil-waqt li l-parti l-kbira tal-membri tal-korp tal-Pulizija huma persuni serji, għandu jkun sottolinejat li mhux l-ewwel darba li rriżulta li uffiċjali anzjani tal-korp tal-pulizija kienu viċin ta’ persuni li kienu taħt investigazzjoni. Kaz ieħor riċenti li niftakar hu ta’ uffiċjal imlaħħaq fit-taqsima tar-reati ekonomiċi (spettur) li kien viċin ħafna ta’ operatur fl-industrija tal-logħob tal-ażżard. Tant kien viċin tiegħu li anke kellu l-aċċess biex jutilizza karozza privata ta’ din il-persuna, Ferrari. Il-każ imur lura sal-2015 meta missier l-ispettur, kien agent Kummissarju tal-Pulizija. Għax il-każ taz-ziju Silvio ċertament mhux l-uniku wieħed.

Kien il-kandidat laburista Andy Ellul li f’artiklu ppubblikat fuq it-Times tat-28 ta’ Jannar 2020 li stqarr li “Police commissioners form part of the executive and they have to toe the electoral programme of the government of the day”. Huwa ċertament ta’ sfortuna li Andy Ellul jikkunsidra li l-pulizija għandha funzjoni politika għax l-implimentazzjoni tal-manifest elettorali hi funzjoni tal-politiċi u tagħhom biss.

Dak li qal Andy Ellul jispjega ħafna dwar meta, kif u għaliex (uħud) mill-Pulizija jaġixxu u jinvestigaw. Andy Ellul kien hu nnifsu membru tal-korp tal-pulizija u allura suppost li jaf ferm iktar minn hekk!

Meta l-Panama Papers saru materja pubblika x’investigazzjoni għamlet il-pulizija? Abbażi ta’ dak li ġie osservat min-naħa tal-uffiċċju tal-Prim Ministru f’Kastilja, il-Pulizija ġew jaqgħu u jqumu. Konrad Mizzi u Keith Schembri ma ġewx mitluba biex jerfgħu ir-responsabbiltà għall-azzjonijiet tagħhom meta waqqfu kumpaniji sigrieta fil-Panama: ħelsuha ħafif. Għaldaqstant wara dan il-messaġġ ċar li qiesu ma ġara xejn, ħadd ma għandu jkollu l-ebda dubju x’kejl kellu japplika għall-pulizija u għall kull min jagħmel affarijiet li s-soltu ma naċċettawhomx. Kien biss meta l-whistle-blower saffar li l-investigazzjoni kellha tibda. Hawn xi ħadd li jemmen li b’mod ġenwin ħadd ma nduna b’xejn? Hu ċar li bosta ħadu sehemhom u allura b’mod konvenjenti “ħadd ma nduna xejn”.

It-triq biex tissewwa l-ħsara li saret lir-reputazzjoni li Malta kisbet illum il-ġurnata mhix triq faċli. Li tkun stabilita mill-ġdid il-fiduċja fil-korp tal-Pulizija hu pass wieħed żgħir minn ħafna meħtieġa.

Malta bil-mod qed tiġi trasformata f’soċjeta amorali fejn il-prinċipji aċċettabbli ta’ imġieba korretta qed jintremew il-baħar. Hemm min jiddieħaq bihom ukoll.

Rappresentanti tas-settur tas-servizzi finanzjarji qalulna li hemm bżonn is-sehem ta’ kulħadd biex naslu li nnaddfu isem Malta mill-ġdid. Huwa ftit diffiċli biex wieħed jifhem kif nistgħu naslu meta hu ċar għal kulħadd li l-korp tal-Pulizija hu mnawwar minn ġewwa.

 

ippubblikat fuq Illum : 16 ta’ Frar 2020

Rotten to the core

At the time of writing, the Police internal investigation has widened from one focused on the traffic section to other police units. Many are shocked that the upholders of law and order are themselves under investigation in respect of allegations on the fraudulent use of public funds as well as the allegation of being in receipt of protection money.

Faced with the available evidence, a Superintendent – as well as a number of other police officers – has resigned. It is reported that substantial number of officers were interrogated, with some being released on police bail.

I am not at all surprised because, in my view, this is the direct consequence of the culture of impunity which the Labour Party in government has continuously nurtured for the past six years during which it has been in office.

Prime Minister Robert Abela has stated that the fact that the police are investigating their own is, in itself, an indicator that the institutions are functioning properly. His assessment is, in my view, incorrect. Together with the revelations regarding the close friendship of former Police Deputy Commissioner Silvio Valletta and Yorgen Fenech, (the suspected mastermind of Daphne’s assassination), the police investigation is more of an indication that a section of the Police Force may be rotten to the core.

While most of the members of the Police Force are beyond reproach, it has to be underlined that this is not the first instance, in recent years, when senior police officers were reported as being too close to people under investigation. A specific case that comes to mind is that of a senior police officer in the Economic Crimes unit who was so close to an operator in the gaming industry – then under investigation – that it was then reported in the media that he had access to, and made use of, the operator’s private vehicle, a Ferrari. The case goes back to 2015. Uncle Silvio’s case is definitely not a one-off.

It was Labour Party candidate Andy Ellul who, in an opinion published in The Times on 28 January 2020 stated that “Police commissioners form part of the executive and they have to toe the electoral programme of the government of the day”. It is indeed unfortunate that Andy Ellul considers that the police have a political function, as the implementation of the electoral programme is the exclusive function of holders of political office.

Andy Ellul’s utterances explain quite a lot as to when, how and why (some of) the police act and investigate. Andy Ellul, a former policeman himself, certainly knows much better than that!

When the Panama Papers revelations hit the headlines what investigations were carried out by the Police? Taking the cue from the Office of the Prime Minister at Castille the Police were not bothered. If Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri can get away with shouldering responsibility for their actions through the setting up of secret companies in Panama, one should not wonder as to the yardstick applied to misdemeanours of some of the members of the Police Force. It was only when the whistle-blower sounded the alarm that matters took a new direction on the allegations relative to police in the Traffic Section and beyond.

Repairing Malta’s reputation is not an easy task and restoring confidence in the Police Force is only one small step of the many required. Our country is being slowly transformed into an amoral society in which principles of ethical behaviour are being scourned and thrown overboard.

We have been told by representatives of the financial services sector that we need all hands on deck to repair Malta’s reputation. It is difficult to comprehend how this can commence in earnest when key elements of the Police Force are rotten to the core.

 

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 16 February 2020

Investigating Konrad’s MTA contract

It is known that Johann Buttigieg, former Chief Executive at the Planning Authority, was squeezed out of his post by Minister Ian Borg. Johann Buttigieg, however, found an ally in Konrad Mizzi, then Minister for Tourism, who facilitated his employment as the new Chief Executive of the Malta Tourism Authority.

By the time Johann Buttigieg had taken up his new post at the Malta Tourism Authority, Konrad Mizzi had already resigned as Minister. Although Konrad Mizzi had announced his resignation after a Cabinet meeting on the 26 November 2019 it is not clear if he had volunteered to step down or if he had been forced to go. He was reported as having said: “I felt it my duty – in the context of current political circumstances – to resign in loyalty to the people, the Labour Party and the Prime Minister.”

It would be reasonable to assume that Johann Buttigieg returned the favour from Konrad Mizzi when, on 9th December, he signed the contract appointing Konrad Mizzi as a consultant to the Authority – as one of his first decisions as CEO! However, this would not necessarily be a correct assumption. In fact, elsewhere in the press it has been opined that the decision to engage Konrad Mizzi as consultant was taken by Joseph Muscat himself, because after Konrad Mizzi’s resignation he was directly responsible for the Tourism Ministry.

As Chief Executive of the Malta Tourism Authority, Johann Buttigieg must shoulder substantial responsibility although it is most probable that he was acting on the instructions of Joseph Muscat. He should by now be aware that illegitimate (and unethical) superior orders can – and should be – ignored.

After Minister Julia Farrugia Portelli announced the rescinding of Konrad Mizzi’s contract she was asked to explain the reasons which justified such a revocation. She was very brief in her reply, saying that there were legal and ethical reasons that justified such a course of action. She was reluctant to state more in order to avoid prejudicing any legal action, should this result.

It is very interesting to note that the Honourable Minister has justified the revocation of the contract on ethical grounds. She is, of course, correct, although she chose not to point fingers. The point at issue then is who acted unethically?

I suggest that there are four persons who acted unethically in this specific case.

Irrespective of what they say, former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and his sidekick Konrad Mizzi resigned in disgrace for a number of reasons, including being the cause of reputational damage to the country through their involvement and/or failure to act on the Panama Papers debacle, as well as a direct result of the role of the Office of the Prime Minister in Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder: a role, the details of which are still emerging.

Joseph Muscat and Konrad Mizzi are at the top of the list of those who acted unethically as they set in motion the revolving recruitment mechanism as a result of which Konrad Mizzi was parachuted straight into the organisation for which he, as Minister, was politically responsible just two weeks earlier. This is unacceptable in any country that has a minimum degree of adherence to good governance: normally there would be a cooling-off period of some two to three years before such appointments are even considered.

Muscat and Mizzi tried to cash in on the fact that, the rules governing the ethical behaviour of holders of political office are still in their infancy. Dr George Hyzler, recently appointed by Parliament as the first Commissioner for Standards in Public Life, is still in the initial phase of his term and has yet to draft some of the appropriate rules.

The same applies to Chairman of the Malta Tourism Authority and Chief Executive Johann Buttigieg, who should not have allowed Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and his sidekick Konrad Mizzi to bully them into submission. The recruitment of Mizzi was kept secret as long as was possible due to the fact that, knowledge of its existence would undoubtedly have created further turmoil within the Labour Party, then in the process of electing a successor to the disgraced Joseph Muscat.

Where do we go from here? In my view those acting unethically should shoulder their responsibilities. I have thus requested the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life to investigate the role of Joseph Muscat, Konrad Mizzi, Gavin Gulia and Johann Buttigieg in the matter and consequently to recommend the necessary action required.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 2 February 2020

Il-parkeġġ fl-Isptar Mater Dei

Matul il-kampanja elettorali għall-elezzjoni ta’ mexxej tal-Partit Laburista, wieħed mill-kandidati, il-Ministru għas-Saħħa Chris Fearne,  ħabbar li dalwaqt ser jitneħħa kull ħlas għall-parkeġġ tal-isptar Mater Dei.

Mal-ewwel d-daqqa t’għajn din tidher proposta tajba u raġjonevoli. Imma meta tibda taħseb ftit fuq l-implikazzjonijiet tagħha malajr tirrealizza li l-għan aħħari ta’ din il-proposta mhux faċli li jintlaħaq. Il-problema tan-nuqqas ta’ spazju għall-parkeġġ hi ferm iktar ikkumplikata u mhux ser tissolva billi jinqata’ l-ħlas.

Dawk li jużaw il-parkeġġ fl-Isptar Mater Dei huma pazjenti li jżuru l-isptar għall-visti (out-patients), persuni li jkunu qed iżuru lill-morda f’kull ħin tal-jum, impjegati tal-isptar u ħaddiema ingaġġati fuq xogħol kuntrattwali fil-konfini tal-isptar. Ilkoll kemm huma ta’ kuljum jiffaċċjaw in-nuqqas ta’ parkeġġ, ħlief dawk li għandhom spazju riżervat għalihom tul il-ġimgħa kollha, irrispettivament minn kemm jużawh.

Dawk il-pazjenti li jżuru l-isptar Mater Dei għal vista mal-ispeċjalisti diversi huma ġeneralment fost l-iktar persuni vulnerabbli, l-iżjed minħabba l-istat ta’ saħħithom. Għaldaqstant jagħmel ħafna sens  li jkun iffaċilitat għas-servizzi tal-isptar. Iżda għalihom it-tneħħija tal-ħlas għal parkeġġ mhi ser issolvi xejn. Anzi, aktarx l-affarijiet imorru għall-agħar.

Il-problema tal-parkeġġ fl-Isptar Mater Dei ġejja minn żewġ fatturi separati u distinti minn xulxin għalkollox. L-ewwel nett hi r-riżultat tal-użu mhux daqstant effiċjenti tal-ispazju tal-parkeġġ fil-konfini tal-isptar. Il-problema, qed tiġi kkaġunata wkoll mill-fatt li fit-toroq għandna għadd esaġerat ta’ karozzi, ħafna iktar milli jifilħu t-toroq tagħna. Dan, kif jirrimarka l-Pjan Nazzjonali għat-Trasport, jaħti għalih il-fatt li fil-qasam tat-transport ma ppjanajna qatt fit-tul.

Kieku l-ispazju tal-parkeġġ fil-konfini tal-isptar Mater Dei kellu jintuża b’mod iktar effiċjenti, bla dubju l-problema kontinwa ta’ nuqqas ta’ spazju tittaffa, avolja aktarx xorta ma tissolviex għalkollox.

Mhux biex nikkunslaw, imma tajjeb niftakru li l-problema tan-nuqqas ta’ spazju għall-parkeġġ mhix limitata biss għall-isptar Mater Dei, iżda hija mifruxa mal-gżejjer Maltin kollha.

Din hi riżultat tad-dipendenza esaġerata mill-karozzi li qed ikomplu jiżdiedu jum wara l-ieħor u li allura jikkompetu għal spazji dejjem iżjed limitati.

Dwar in-numru mhux żgħir ta’ pazjenti li jżuru Mater Dei għal xi vista huwa ovvju li wieħed ma nistgħux nistennew li dawn jużaw transport alternattiv. Dan minkejja li għadd minnhom diġa jinqdew bit-transport pubbliku b’mod regolari. Bosta minnhom ikunu jeħtieġu l-għajnuna biex ikollhom aċċess adegwat. Din l-għajnuna jsibuha mingħand il-qraba u l-ħbieb bl-użu ta’ karozzi privati.

L-awtoritajiet tal-Isptar Mater Dei għandhom ifasslu pjan li jindirizza l-ħtiġijiet tat-trasport ta’ dawk kollha dipendenti mill-isptar (pjan li jissejjaħ Green Transport Plan) biex ikun identifikat l-aħjar mod kif jistgħu jintużaw il-faċilitajiet tal-parkeġġ tal-isptar. Dan għandu jindirizza mhux biss il-ħtiġijiet tal-pazjenti fis-sodod tal-isptar u tal-impjegati imma ukoll ta’ dawk kollha li jżur l-isptar f’kull ħin tal-ġurnata.

Dan il-pjan mhux biss jista’ jidentifika soluzzjonijiet prattiċi għat-titjib fl-infrastruttura tal-isptar iżda wkoll jindika l-aħjar mod kif din tista’ tintuża. F’dan ix-xenarju mbagħad it-tneħħija tal-ħlas għall-parkeġġ tkun dettall pjuttost insinifikanti.

 

Ippubblikat fuq Illum : Il-Ħadd 5 ta’ Jannar 2020

Parking at Mater Dei Hospital

Within the context of the electoral campaign for the leadership of the Labour Party, Minister for Health Chris Fearne announced that, shortly, parking at the Mater Dei Hospital grounds will be free of charge.

At face value this is a reasonable proposal. However, when one tries to understand the implications of such a proposal it is obvious that this is easier said than done. The problem of lack of parking space is much more complex and it will not be unravelled by abolishing parking charges.

Users of Mater Dei Hospital parking are out-patients, those visiting bed-ridden patients, hospital staff and contractual workers carrying out duties within hospital grounds. All of them face a daily acute shortage of parking space, except, possibly, a small section of staff who have access to reserved parking on a 24/7 basis irrespective of the time they actually make use of it.

Mater Dei Hospital out-patients are among the most vulnerable of the Maltese population. So, it stands to reason that any measure aiming at facilitating their reasonable access to the services at Mater Dei Hospital would be most welcome. However, the availability of free-parking will not solve their parking problems. Rather, it will possibly make matters even worse than it is at present.

The parking problem at Mater Dei Hospital is the result of two separate and distinct factors. Firstly, it is the result of what is possibly an inefficient use of the available parking space within Mater Dei Hospital grounds. Secondly it is in itself a reflection of the large number of cars on our roads, which, as everyone knows, are bursting at the seams. This, as our Transport master plan points out is the result of an absence of long-term transport planning in the Maltese islands.

A more efficient use of the available parking space within the grounds of Mater Dei Hospital would undoubtedly contribute to reducing the parking problems faced by all users of the hospital, but it will most probably not solve it. At the end of the day the lack of parking space is a problem common to all sectors of Maltese society: it is an issue of over-dependence on the use of private cars with an ever-increasing number of cars competing for limited parking space.

It stands to reason that one cannot expect a number of out-patients to use alternative transport. Some already make use of public transport on a regular basis. Most would however need some form of help with their transport requirements which help is generally forthcoming from family and friends through the use of private cars.

The Hospital authorities need to draw up a Green Transport Plan covering the needs of the hospital’s stakeholders and the optimal use of the hospital facilities for this purpose. Green Transport Planning would analyse the requirements not just of the hospital’s patients and its staff: it would also project the requirements of those visiting patients.

At the end of the day the Green Transport Plan for Mater Dei Hospital would propose practical solutions in improving the hospital’s infrastructure as well as in optimising the use of its facilities. In this respect payment or non-payment for parking would be just a minor detail.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday: 5 January 2020