Il-Palazz tal-Girgenti: bejn Gvern u Partit

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Meta nhar it-Tlieta li għadda, jiena u Arnold Cassola iltqajna mas-Sur Joseph Church, il-Kummissarju Elettorali Ewlieni, tkellimna miegħu dwar il-Palazz tal-Girgenti u l-fatt li l-Grupp Parlamentari tal-Partit Laburista għamel użu minnu biex iltaqa hemm.

Għal uħud Alternattiva Demokratika qed tfettaq u tgħaġġibha. Jiena ma naħsibx li dan hu l-każ għax hemm prinċipju importanti ħafna fin-nofs: fejn hi l-linja li tissepara l-partit mill-gvern? Issa jiena konxju li hemm min mhuwiex interessat fil-prinċipji, għax għal uħud, dawn huma burokrazija żejda!

Għandu jkun hemm separazzjoni bejn il-Gvern u l-partit politku li jiffurmah, jew inkella dawn għandhom ikunu ħaġa waħda, jew kważi?  Din hi l-qalba tal-kwistjoni kollha li fil-fehma ta Alternattiva Demokratika teħtieġ li tkun ikkunsidrata battenzjoni kbira.

Il-liġi li tirregola l-finanzjament tal-partiti saret biex ikun hemm trasparenza. Saret ukoll biex tiġbed linja ċara dwar dak li jista jsir u dak li ma jistax isir, u dan permezz ta numru ta kontrolli.

Fost affarijiet oħra, l-Att tal-2015 dwar il-finanzjament tal-partiti politiċi, fl-artiklu 34 tiegħu jgħid li partit politiku ma jistax jaċċetta donazzjoni minn sorsi tal-istat. Mhemmx kif u għaliex, iżda xejn, bla argumenti jew eċċezzjonijiet.

Issa donazzjoni għal-liġi dwar il-finanzjament tal-partiti politiċi ma tfissirx biss li partit ikun irċieva għotja ta flus. Għax anke jekk jixtri jew jirċievi prodott jew servizz bi prezz ridott, partit politiku jkun qiegħed jirċievi donazzjoni, u l-valur tad-donazzjoni, fdan il-kaz tkun l-ammont li jkun tnaqqas mill-prezz jew mill-valur tal-oġġett jew servizz. Imma jekk partit politiku jirċievi prodott jew servizz bla ma jħallas xejn għalih ikun qiegħed jirċievi donazzjoni li tikkonsisti fil-valur sħiħ tal-oġġett jew servizz li jkun qed jirċievi.

Fil-kaz tal-laqgħa tal-Grupp Parlamentari tal-Partit Laburista li saret fil-Girgenti ġara preċiżament hekk. Il-Grupp Parlamentari tal-Partit Laburista ingħata servizz li kien jikkonsisti fl-użu tal-Palazz tal-Inkwiżitur fil-Girgenti biex fih jiltaqgħu, il-bogħod mill-istorbju, u allura biex il-ħidma tagħhom setgħet tagħti l-frott ippjanat. Dan is-servizz ingħata lill-Partit Laburista mill-uffiċċju tal-Prim Ministru u dan ingħata bla ħlas. Minħabba li ngħata bla ħlas jitqies li huwa donazzjoni.

Il-Prim Ministru ma għandu l-ebda seta’ jagħmel donazzjonijiet ta din ix-xorta. Huwa miżmum milli jagħmel dan minn liġi li ippreżenta l-Gvern immexxi minnu stess fil-Parlament u li daħlet fis-seħħ fl-1 ta Jannar 2016 wara li ġiet approvata. Hemm min qed jargumenta li fil-passat sar l-istess. Probabbilment li dan huwa veru. Imma issa għandna liġi eżattament biex dan ma jerġax isir. Liġi li l-Gvern (ġustament) jiftaħar biha, ħalli mbagħad ikun hu stess li ma josservahiex!

Mhiex ħaġa sabiħa li l-partit u l-Gvern ikunu ħaġa waħda. Meta dan iseħħ, l-anqas ma hu sinjal tajjeb. Ikun ifisser li wasalna fsitwazzjoni li fiha dak li hu tal-pajjiż ikun ikkapparrat mill-ftit. Hekk jibdew il-problemi l-kbar. Jibdew minn affarijiet żgħar li dwarhom jgħidulek biex ma tfettaqx imma imbagħad jinfirxu għal affarijiet ikbar.

Imma jekk ma tkunx tajt kaz fl-affarijiet iżżgħar imbagħad ikun tard wisq.

II-partit fil-Gvern jifforma l-Gvern imma hu separat u distint minnu fkull ħin.

Għalhekk għandha taġixxi malajr il-Kummissjoni Elettorali għax is-separazzjoni bejn il-partit u l-istat hu prinċipju sagrosant meta demokrazija parlamentari tkun bsaħħitha.

ippubblikat fuq Illum: Il-Ħadd 26 ta’ Frar 2017

Joseph tweets a selfie from Girgenti

muscat-girgenti-tweet

A week ago, during a short break from a very “fruitful” meeting of the Labour Party Parliamentary Group, Joseph Muscat, the Prime Minister, tweeted a selfie. The selfie included a number of hangers-on who promptly re-tweeted Joseph’s selfie, announcing to one and all that the Labour Party Parliamentary Group was meeting at Girgenti, the Prime Minister’s official residence in the countryside.

In the tweeted selfie, standing in the front row, perched between Planning Parliamentary Secretary Deborah Schembri and Civil Rights Minister Helena Dalli stands Justice Minister Owen Bonnici, the Cabinet member who around 18 months ago piloted the Financing of Political Parties Act through Parliament  Throughout the past months, the Honourable Owen Bonnici rightly proclaimed this as a milestone. How come his own government and his own political party ignored the implementation of this milestone?

It seems that Joseph, the tweeter from Girgenti, was either not properly advised of the implications of this landmark  legislation or else ignored completely the advice he received.

On Tuesday I visited the offices of the Electoral Commission and met Joseph Church, the Chief Electoral Commissioner. Together with my colleague Arnold Cassola, I drew the attention of Mr Church to the fact that the Parliamentary Labour Party was making use of government property contrary to the provisions of the Financing of Political Parties Act. On behalf of Alternattiva Demokratika – The Green Party in Malta, we requested that Joseph Muscat and his Labour Party be investigated for acting against the provisions of the landmark legislation: Joseph Muscat for permitting the use of the Girgenti Palace and the Labour Party for accepting to use it as a venue for one of the meetings of its Parliamentary Group.

As I have already explained during a Press Conference held after the meeting with the Chief Electoral Commissioner, as well as in the daily edition of this newspaper [Girgenti: demarcation line between party and state. TMI 23 February] the use of the Girgenti Palace is deemed to be a donation, which in terms of article 34 of the Financing of Political Parties Act is not permissible to be received by a political party from the state. Joseph Muscat the Prime Minister could not grant such a donation, and Joseph Muscat the Leader of the Labour Party could not accept it.

Unfortunately, this incident communicated by tweet sends a very clear and negative message: that Joseph Muscat and his Labour Party consider themselves to be above the law. The law which they rightly described as being a “landmark legislation” was intended to apply to one and all.  Joseph Muscat and his Labour Party seem to think otherwise. In fact, the Labour Party is not even yet registered as a political party as the Electoral Commission, some months back, considered that it does not satisfy the conditions laid down in the legislation.

Some may consider that Alternattiva Demokratika is splitting hairs when raising the matter. I beg to differ, as a very basic principle is at stake: the demarcation line separating the government from the governing political party. This is what lies at the core of the complaint submitted by the Greens to the Chief Electoral Commissioner for an investigation in terms of the provisions of the Financing of Political Parties Act.

I am informed that the Electoral Commission will be meeting next Wednesday when it is expected to consider the request to investigate Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and his political party for ignoring the provisions of the Financing of Political Parties Act.  It is the moment of truth for the Electoral Commission. Eight out of nine of its members are political appointees: four nominated by the Prime Minister and another four nominated by the Leader of the Opposition. The ninth member of the Commission is the chairman, a senior civil servant.

It is time for all nine members of the Electoral Commission to stand up and be counted. As a constitutional body, it is the Commission’s duty to defend the values of a modern day parliamentary democracy. Whether it will do so is anybody’s guess. I will definitely not hold my breath.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 26 February 2017

Girgenti: demarcation line between party and state

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Meeting the Chief Electoral Commissioner Mr Joseph Church last Tuesday, together with Arnold Cassola, I raised the issue of the use of the Inquisitor’s Palace at Girgenti by the Labour Party Parliamentary Group for one of its meetings.  Some may consider that Alternattiva Demokratika is splitting hairs when raising the matter. I beg to differ as a basic principle is at stake: the demarcation line separating government from the governing party.

To what extent should the affairs of the government be administered separately from those of the governing party? This is what lies at the core of the complaint submitted by the Greens to the Chief Electoral Commissioner for investigation in terms of the provisions of the Financing of Political Parties Act.

The Act to regulate the financing of political parties was introduced to ensure that party financing was subject to transparency rules. It also establishes no-go areas. Amongst other matters the 2015 legislation provides in its article 34  that political parties should not accept donations from the state. There are no exceptions to this rule.

In terms of the Financing of Political Parties Act, a donation is not just pecuniary in nature. Whenever a political party purchases a product or a service at a reduced price it would be in receipt of a donation. The quantum of the donation would be equivalent to the reduction in price of the product or service received.  On the other hand if a political party acquires a product or a service without paying its commercial price, then, the value of the donation received amounts to the full price of the said product or service.

This is exactly what happened when the Labour Party Parliamentary Group made use of the Prime Minister’s official residence at the Girgenti Inquisitor’s Palace. The Parliamentary Group received the service of a meeting place without payment. Hence its being considered as a donation.

The Prime Minister does not have the authority to make such donations. His actions in this respect are restricted by law which was presented and approved in Parliament by the government he leads and entered in force as on 1 January 2016.  Some have argued that this is not the first time that such meetings were so organised. This may be so. It is precisely for this purpose that the legislation was enacted in order to prevent its reoccurrence. One should not propose such legislation and then be the first to ignore it!

Government and the governing political party should be separate and distinct. When such distinction is not clear, even in the case of minor matters, this would be a very bad indication. It would signal that the resources of the state are not being managed appropriately. It would be wrong to ignore such signals indicating the existence of minor problems as these will, if ignored, subsequently spread to more substantial matters. It would then be too late to act.

The party in Government forms the Government of the day but should be separate and distinct from it at all times.

Hence the need for the Electoral Commission to act immediately. The separation between government and the governing political party is a basic principle in a healthy democracy.

published in The Malta Independent : Thursday 23 February 2017

Bħan-nagħaġ ta’ Bendu

naghag-ta-bendu

Il-viżjoni li għandu l-Partit Nazzjonalista dwar il-politika fMalta tipprova tittratta lill-votanti bħan-nagħaġ ta Bendu. Għax il-ħarsien tad-demokrazija u d-drittijiet fundamentali, skond il-PN u s-segwaċi fidili tiegħu, huma assigurati biss permezz tal-Partit Nazzjonalista u għaldaqstant it-taqbida t-tajba tista issir biss permezz tiegħu u taħt it-tmexxija tiegħu.

Għal uħud, il-pluraliżmu hu tajjeb biss għaċċikkulata u, forsi, ftit għax-xandir!

Matul ix-xhur li ġejjin, bħalma jiġri kważi qabel kull elezzjoni ġenerali, bla dubju qed tikber l-għajta tal-Partit Nazzjonalista u ta dawk li jinċensawh dwar il-ħtieġa ta koalizzjoni kontra Joseph Muscat u l-Partit Laburista u dak kollu li dawn jirrappreżentaw.

Il-politika ta Simon Busuttil tidher differenti minn dik tal-predeċessur tiegħu. Lawrence Gonzi kien esprima lilu innifsu diversi drabi kontra anke l-idea innifisha ta koalizzjoni li ġieli ddeskriviha bħala kalċI avvelenat li jippreferi li ma jmissx.

Imma fir-realtá, għalkemm Simon Busuttil qed jipprietka ħafna dwar koalizzjoni kontra l-korruzzjoni, fil-prattika qed imexxi l-quddiem process ta assimilizzazzjoni ta kull min jaħseb li jista jikkompeti lill-Partit Nazzjonalista għall-voti, anke bl-iżjed mod remot. Beda bSalvu Mallia li illum hu parti mill-Partit Nazzjonalista u presentement għaddej bil-proċess tal-assimilazzjoni tal-partit ta Marlene Farrugia. Milli qed jingħad jidher li dan il-proċess wasal fit-tmiem tiegħu.

Koalizzjoni ma issirx billi nimxu bħan-nagħaġ ta Bendu wara l-Partit Nazzjonalista. Imma issir bejn partiti politiċi differenti wara li dawn jaqblu fuq programm politiku komuni kif ukoll dwar il-mod kif dan għandu jitwettaq. Għandi dubju kemm il-Partit Nazzjonalista qatt jista jasal li mhux biss jagħmel xi forma ta kompromess fuq il-proposti li jrid ipoġġi quddiem l-elettorat, imma iktar minn hekk dwar kemm hu lest li jaċċetta li jikkampanja ukoll favur ideat u idejali ta partiti politiċI oħra. Għax jekk ser nitkellmu fuq koalizzjoni pre-elettorali jfisser li jrid ikun ifformulat programm politiku aċċettabbli għall-elementi kollha ta din il-koalizzjoni.

Programm politiku ta koalizzjoni pre-elettorali jinvolvi ferm iktar minn ġlieda kontra l-korruzzjoni u t-tisħiħ tat-tmexxija tajba fl-istrutturi tal-istat. Jinkludi firxa sħiħa ta oqsma li dwarhom partiti politiċi differenti għandhom fehmiet differenti. Xi drabi differenzi żgħar imma xi minn daqqiet differenzi sostanzjali. Dan ma jgħoddx biss għall-politika ambjentali, imma jgħodd ukoll għall-edukazzjoni, għall-politika soċjali kif ukoll għall-politika fiskali, dik ekonomika u dik kulturali, fost oħajn.

Koalizzjoni politika teħtieġ li tkun mibnija fuq dan il-pedament bażiku, jiġifieri ftehim programmatiku, inkella ma jkollix direzzjoni jew skop ċar għajr li tiġbor lil kulħadd fmerħla waħda l-uniku skop reali li jidher li għandu bħalissa l-Partit Nazzjonalista.

Koalizzjoni li issir bxi mod ieħor tkun biss ezerċizzju li jittratta lill-Maltin bħan-nagħaġ ta Bendu.

ippubblikat fuq Illum : 12 ta’ Frar 2017

 

Basics for coalition building

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It happens on the eve of most general elections in Malta. We are once more being bombarded with comments emphasising the need to set up a pre-electoral coalition in order to present a united opposition to Joseph Muscats Labour Party.

The Leader of the Opposition, as a self-appointed messiah, has reiterated many a time that the country can only be delivered from the clutches of corruption if it unites under his leadership in opposition to Joseph Muscat, the Labour Party and all that they represent. It is claimed that he can deliver us from all evil!

In public fora, Simon Busuttil speaks in favour of setting up a coalition against corruption, yet privately – far away from the glaring spotlight – he is actively working on trying to assimilate within the Nationalist Party those whom he thinks can help increase his own partys vote tally. He has successfully recruited Salvu Mallia and is apparently currently in the final stages of the process of assimilating Marlene Farrugias Democratic Party within the Nationalist Party.  

In my view this can in no way be described as the manner in which to go about assembling a pre-electoral coalition of political parties. Rather, it is an attempt by the Nationalist Party at cannibalising other political parties, an exercise which, in fairness, has been going on for years. Just like the Labour Party, the Nationalist Party has, to date, demonstrated that the only coalition that made any sense to them was the one within their own parties, as both of them have, over the years, developed into grand coalitions – at times simultaneously championing diametrically opposed causes.

Real pre-electoral coalitions are assembled in a quite different manner. They should be formed on the basis of a commonly agreed political platform – one which plots an agreed electoral programme as well as the manner in which this should be implemented by the coalition partners.

Given its method of operation to date, I have reasonable doubts as to whether the Nationalist Party is able to compromise on its electoral pledges as well as to whether it can ever agree to take on board (at least) the basic issues championed by the other political parties with which it may seek to form a coalition. If a pre-electoral  coalition is ever to be formed, the coalitions electoral platform must be acceptable to all the constituent elements of that coalition.

An agreed electoral platform would address much more than issues of corruption and governance – on which there is a general common position. An agreed electoral platform would necessarily be all-embracing and range from environmental matters to education, social, economic, fiscal and cultural policy, as well as all other matters so essential in running the country.

A pre-electoral coalition must of necessity be constructed on the basis of this agreed electoral platform, a crystallisation of thought and political direction shared by the political parties forming the coalition. The process to achieve such an agreed shared electoral platform is long and laborious, as a multitude of red lines have to be agreed on or else overcome. It is an exercise that should be based on mutual respect in contrast to the often acrimonious relationship so prevalent in local politics.

By its very nature, a pre-electoral coalition, if formed, signifies a commitment to do away with, once and for all, two-party politics and consequently signifies the substitution of the politics of confrontation with the politics of consensus.

This would be a watershed in Maltese politics and this is the real challenge, if we wish to move forward.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday: 12 February 2017

Political calculation or environmental principle?

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Joseph Muscat’s declaration that the Freeport Terminal will not be permitted to expand in Birżebbuġa’s direction due to its impacts on the residential community will inevitably have an effect on the Planning Authority. Viewed in the context of the recent Planning Authority decision not to approve the proposed Ħondoq ir-Rummien development, a pattern seems to be developing.

Given the fact that these two decisions are closely associated with localities that politically support the Labour Party it is still not clear whether this newly discovered sensitivity to restrict development which negatively impacts residential communities is based on political calculation or on environmental principle. This consideration is inevitable, in particular due to the report in this newspaper on 22 June that the Prime Minister had stated, in a discussion with environmental NGO Flimkien għall-Ambjent Aħjar, that he does not care about impact assessments, as residents get used to everything. As far as I am aware, the Office of the Prime Minister never corrected this report.

The Freeport Terminal debate clearly indicates that Birżebbuġa residents are determined to deliver a different message: they have had enough. During the last seven years there has been an ongoing tug-of-war between Birżebbuġa Local Council, MEPA and the Freeport Terminal Management. This has led to a number of improvements, the most important of which was the setting up of a tripartite Environmental Monitoring Committee that has served to build some bridges and to explore solutions to existing problems caused by the operation of the Freeport Terminal.

There was a time, around two years ago, when pressure was put on Birżebbuġa Local Council to drop its objections to specific operations. I distinctly remember representatives from the oil-rig repair industry  trying to convince the Council of the “benefits” that an oil-rig industry based at the Freeport Terminal could generate.

When these representatives realised that no one was convinced, an amendment to the environmental permit was forced through the then MEPA Board. To their credit, only three of the then board members understood the real issues and voted against the proposal: the two MPs (Joe Sammut and Ryan Callus) and the environmental NGO representative Alex Vella of the Ramblers Association.

The amended environmental permit would have permitted minor repairs to ships and oil-rigs berthed at the Freeport Terminal. However, after the MEPA Board meeting all hell broke loose, leading Prime Minister Joseph Muscat to disassociate himself from its decision and publicly align himself with the minority on the board opposing the changes. He then stated that he was in agreement with “his representative”, Labour MP Joe Sammut.

While the Freeport Terminal, faced with the reaction of residents, eventually relinquished the newly-acquired permit, the internal debate within the Labour Party continued, leading to the recent statement by Joseph Muscat that he is not in agreement with an expansion of the Freeport Terminal operations that would have a negative impact on the Birżebbuġa community.

Irrespective of whether it is a matter of principle or a political calculation which has led the Prime Minister to make such a statement, I submit that this is still a significant turning point that has been achieved as a direct result of Birżebbuġa Local Council’s persistent lobbying. It contrasts with the position taken by the Leader of the Opposition, who looks forward to an increase in the operations of the Freeport Terminal, without batting an eyelid over the resulting, continuously increasing, impact on the residential community.

The Prime Minister’s statement, while being a positive first step, is certainly not enough. It needs to be translated into policy as an integral part of the revised Local Plans currently under consideration. It is also important that the Prime Minister’s newly identified sensitivities are exported to other areas in Malta and Gozo. It is essential that, in a small country such as ours, third party rights opposing “development” are reinforced.

The issue at stake is far larger than Birżebbbuġa or the Freeport Terminal. It is a tug-of-war between those supporting “development” at all costs and our residential communities. The government must, through planning policy, be supportive of all our residential communities without exception.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 31st July 2016

Trying to squeeze out the small political parties?

Financing of Political Parties ActStandards in Public Life Bill

 

Legislation regulating the financing of political parties in Malta is long overdue. Alternattiva Demokratika has been harping on about this subject since its foundation in 1989 and has referred  to it in all the general election campaigns since.

Former MP Franco Debono has been a driving force over the last few years in ensuring that the financing of political parties has been an item retained on the national agenda.

The Parliamentary Committee for the consideration of Bills is currently examining the Financing of Political Parties Bill in detail. On behalf of Alternattiva Demokratika, I had the opportunity to be present at a number of sittings and also participated in the ensuing discussion after being invited to do so by the Parliamentary Committee.

While the general thrust of the Bill is reasonable, it contains three basic mistakes which, if unchecked, will impact the whole regulatory process. The first is over-regulation. The second is the retention of absolute control directly in the hands of representatives of the Parliamentary political parties which, in turn, leads to the third fault- this being a one-size-fits-all template.

I will take each in turn.

The over-regulating aspect of the Bill has been watered down, as  Minister Owen Bonnici was very flexible when faced with this criticism. He accepted various amendments to the Bill, scaling down  various  provisions relating to the proposed regulation of political parties.

The government is proposing that the regulating authority on party political financing should be the Electoral Commission. It attempts to justify its stance by pointing out  that the General Elections Act already assigns responsibility to the Electoral Commission to receive, and where necessary vet, the expenses made and donations received by candidates in general, local and European elections in Malta. However, Minister Owen Bonnici, who is piloting the Bill,  was not in a position to explain why the Electoral Commission had never taken any action when faced with a blatant disregard for the rules by candidates in past elections.

The alternative proposal, initially piloted by Alternattiva Demokratika but subsequently also taken up by the PN Opposition, would see the regulatory authority on political party financing vested in the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life. This Commissioner would be a  Parliamentary Official, to be elected subject to the support of two-thirds of Members of Parliament when the Standards in Public Life Bill, currently pending on Parliament’s agenda, is approved. Enjoying the support of two-thirds of MPs would signify that the person selected would enjoy widespread support and consequently his or her moral authority would be substantial and effective.

During the discussion Minister Owen Bonnici declared that the Council of Europe’s GRECO (Group of States Against Corruption) was  breathing down his neck  and consequently the government could not afford to await alternative institution building.

A major stumbling block is the composition of the Electoral Commission itself. This is determined in the Constitution, with four of its members being nominated by the Prime Minister and  another four members  being nominated by the Leader of the Opposition. The chairman of the Electoral Commission is always a civil servant nominated by the Prime Minister. This signifies that the parliamentary political parties, through their absolute control of the Electoral Commission, end up regulating themselves through their nominees. But what is even worse is the fact that they also control the regulatory process for all other political parties which may consider registering.

It seems that this rigid control of the regulatory process by the parliamentary political parties is not enough.  To be sure of tightening even further the resulting control, the Financing of Political Parties Bill also adopts a one-size fits-all template. It does this by ignoring reality and makes no distinction between the political parties having seven-digit turnover and the rest. Nor does it distinguish between the political parties run by full-time professionals paid for their services, at least in part through funds arising from donations, and political parties run by volunteers with an annual turnover averaging €10,000. The one-size-fits-all approach is, however, not extended to state financing. For the past 20 years, both the Nationalist Party and the Labour Party parliamentary groups have been receiving €100,000 in public funds annually.

The proposed  rigid reporting and auditing requirements that may be reasonable for political parties with seven-digit budgets are certainly quite unreasonable for a political party such as Alternattiva Demokratika, run by volunteers on a shoestring budget which averages €10,000 annually.

The limited administrative capacity of small parties is not factored in the Bill under consideration.

The end result may well be that there will be considerable administrative difficulties for political parties not presently in parliament to register as political parties once the Bill under discussion becomes law. (It has to be borne in mind that only political parties registered in terms of an eventual   Financing of Political Parties Act will be able to present candidates in all elections in Malta. All other candidates will be considered as independent candidates and grouped together at the lower part of the ballot paper.)

Mixed messages have come through during the debate on this Bill. Unfortunately, however, the message at these final stages is that there is also a clear but undeclared objective of the Financing of Political Parties Bill– to squeeze out the small political parties.

In the coming months we will see whether this undeclared objective can be overcome.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday, 5 July 2015

 

 

Labour & the Environment : it gets better every day!

Marine Protected Areas

The map above indicates the 4 marine protected areas around Malta.

The proposed location of the cruise terminal/yacht centre/luxury villas project at Tas-Simar Qala Gozo is in site Number 2.

Labour’s credentials on environment protection get better every day!

 

Il-votazzjoni kmieni w il-pazjenti bid-dimentia

complaint. San Vincenz

 

Bdiet il-votazzjoni kmieni u magħha bdew l-argumenti. Il-gazzetti online (Times, Independent, Malta Today) qed jikkummentaw dwar il-pazjenti rikoverati fid-djar għall-anzjani li jbatu mid-dimentia.

Dawn il-pazjenti għandhom jew m’għandhomx jivvutaw?

L-ewwel reazzjoni tiegħi hi għalfejn titqajjem issa din l-issue? Fil-każ ta’ min ilu jbati mid-dimentia setgħu faċilment ittieħdu passi ferm qabel illum. Jeżistu mekkaniżmi fil-liġi li jippermettu illi persuna ma tibqax ikollha vot jekk ikun aċċertat minn Bord Mediku illi ma tistax teżerċita l-ġudiżżju meħtieġ biex tiddeċiedi kif għandha tivvota.

Imma jekk dan s’issa ma sarx hi responsabbilta’ tal-Kummissjoni Elettorali li tieħu d-deċiżjoni dwar x’għandu jsir.

Il-Kummissjoni Elettorali timxi b’dan il-mod. Persuna li isimha jidher fir-reġistru elettorali tingħata l-faċilita li tivvota dejjem. Ma jistgħux jiddeċiedu l-qraba jew l-istaff tal-isptar/dar tal-anzjani għaliha. Tiddeċiedi hi x’għandha tagħmel. Jekk il-persuna tagħżel li tivvota waħedha għandha kull dritt li tagħmel dan. Jekk titlob assistenza minn naħa tal-Assistenti tal-Kummissjoni Elettorali li jkunu mal-kaxxa tal-vot dawn jagħtu l-assistenza mitluba. Imma dawn għandhom jingħataw struzzjonijiet ċari mill-persuna li titlob l-assistenza tagħhom. Jekk din il-persuna tkun tidher mifxula u ma jkollhiex idea x’inhu għaddej ma tistax tagħti struzzjonijiet ċari lill-Assistenti tal-Kummissjoni Elettorali. Dawn ma jkunux allura jistgħu jagħtu l-assistenza mitluba għax ma jistgħux jiddeċiedu huma, iżda jridu jwettqu dejjem ix-xewqat tal-votant.

Is-sistema elettorali tagħna allura tipprovdi salvagwardji biżżejjed biex tħares id-dinjita tal-votant. Kollox jiddependi fuq l-integrità personali tal-Assistenti tal-Kummissjoni Elettorali.

Id-diffikulta dwar l-Assistenti tal-Kummissjoni Elettorali hi li fil-każ ta’ referendum ikollhom rapprezentanti biss mill-Partiti Politiċi fil-Parlament. Il-promuturi tar-referendum, kif ukoll dawk li jopponu, huma injorati kompletament.

Allura biex tkun imħarsa d-dinjita’ tal-pazjenti niddependu fuq il-partiti rapprezentati fil-Parlament, apparti fuq l-integrità personali tal-Assistenti tal-Kummissjoni Elettorali.

Taking care of tax evaders

HSBC Geneve

 

Joseph Muscat and the Labour Party pride themselves with emphasising that this Government has removed the statutory limitation (prescription) relative to corruption when holders of political office are criminally prosecuted.

It certainly was a step in the right direction. It still however requires the test of time to verify whether it is compatible with the human rights provisions of our Constitution and the European Convention of Human Rights as was explained by former Strasbourg Judge Giovanni Bonello in his article Bribery and Genocide : the same? (Times of Malta April 20, 2013)

Such a clear stand against corruption contrasts with the provisions of Legal Notice 256 of 2014 entitled Investment Registration Scheme Regulations 2014 which launched the latest amnesty that can be utilised by Maltese citizens who evaded payment of income tax. Camouflaged through the use of Orwellian terminology as an “Investment Registration Scheme”, this amnesty, as others before it, did not treat holders of political office any differently from other tax evaders. It afforded them the same opportunities to be able to “regularise” their position absolving them from having committed an economic crime.

Apparently, this government considers tax evasion to be a crime which is substantially inferior to corruption. In fact, the recent cases brought to light by Swiss Leaks have revealed the ease with which former Cabinet Ministers have wriggled out of their tax evasion crimes that they had successfully concealed for around 40 years, including when in office.

During all these years, most of the funds which were accumulated in various bank accounts until they ended in an HSBC Genève account, reaped interest at varying rates depending on market conditions, which, as a result, increased the quantum of the undeclared funds. Had both the funds originally invested as well as the accumulated interests  been appropriately declared to the tax authorities in Malta , they would have been subject to between 35 per cent and 65 per cent  taxation in terms of Income Tax legislation. Yet the Investment Registration Scheme of 2014 allows self-confessed tax evaders off the hook subject to a  maximum 7.5 per cent registration fee! They even get a discount if they repatriate the funds! Apparently it pays to be a tax evader.

There are, however, some matters  which are not at all clear, yet.

Before insisting on his imaginary “right” not to be pestered by the press, former Minister Ninu Zammit had informed The Malta Independent on Sunday  that all his affairs were now “regularised”, having  made use of the 2014 amnesty to reap the benefits of his hoard stacked in Genève. He was also reported as having stated that the sources of his hoard was income derived from his professional activity  as well as various deals in landed property.

It is public knowledge that Zammit’s land deals were negotiated through the Malta registered limited liability company by the name of LENI Enterprises Limited of which he was both a shareholder and a director.  It is logical that any income from land deals would not only have a bearing on Ninu Zammit’s tax status but also on the reported performance and possible tax liabilities of LENI Enterprises Limited. In this respect, the  company’s financial reporting would certainly make very interesting reading.  Have its audited accounts been submitted to the Malta Financial Services Authority or its predecessors in terms of law?  Who has certified these accounts? What about the role of the auditors of LENI Enterprises Limited?  Is there the need to revisit the audited accounts of LENI Enterprises Limited due to the fact that at least one of its directors has benefited from the latest tax evasion amnesty?

As far as I am aware,  Legal Notice 256 of 2014 only absolves self-declared tax-evaders resident in Malta from their non-observance of income tax legislation. Other crimes could still be actionable .

Such other crimes would include false declarations to Cabinet in terms of the Ministerial Code of Ethics. There may also be other issues should these result from the investigations which the Commissioner of Inland Revenue is currently carrying out on the basis of the information which is now known.

There is however one important thing which we should never underestimate. The benevolence of the state towards tax evaders has no limits. It knows how to take care of these small details too.

 

published in the Malta Independent on Sunday – 1st March 2015