Pétrus: minn Yorgen għal Joseph: u ejja, b’daqshekk x’ġara?

Il-politiċi għandhom iżommu distanza soċjali min-nies tan-negozju, u dan mhux biss waqt pandemija. Dan kien rappurtat li ntqal minn George Hyzler, il-Kummissarju tal-Istandards fil-Ħajja Pubblika, iktar kmieni din il-ġimgħa, waqt seduta ta’ kumitat parlamentari li kien qed jiddiskuti r-rapport tiegħu dwar investigazzjoni li għamel fuq Joseph Muscat, ex-Prim Ministru. Ir-rapport ta’ Hyzler hu dwar ir-rigal li Joseph Muscat irċieva mingħand Yorgen Fenech li kien jikkonsisti fi tlett fliexken inbid prim, Château Pétrus, mingħand min hu presentement akkużat li kien il-moħħ wara l-assassinazzjoni ta’ Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Joseph Muscat mhux l-ewwel politiku li irċieva rigali kompromettenti. L-ex Ministru tal-Finanzi Tonio Fenech kien aċċetta rikba bla ħlas (bejn Malta u Madrid u lura) fuq jet privat flimkien ma żewġ negozjanti biex jara logħba futbal taċ-Champon’s League (l-Arsenal f’Madrid).  Tonio Fenech, li anke rċieva rigali kontroversjali oħra, dakinhar kien soġġett għal kritika qawwija, avolja l-kariga ta’ Kummissarju dwar l-Istandards fil-Ħajja Pubblika ma kienitx teżisti!  Anke kellu l-barka tal-Prim Ministru ta’ dakinnhar, “ir-rett” Lawrence Gonzi. U ejja, b’daqshekk x’ġara?

Fl-2015 kellna ukoll il-każ tal-ex-Ministru tas-Saħħa  Joe Cassar li, kif kien sar magħruf, kien aċċetta numru ta’ rigali mingħand negozjant ieħor kontroversjali: Joseph Gaffarena. Dakinhar ukoll ma kellniex Kummissarju dwar l-Istandards fil-Ħajja Pubblika, imma  Joe Cassar ħa deċiżjoni korretta u irreżenja wara li ammetta li żbalja. Cassar ma irrealizzax mill-ewwel bil-gravità ta’ dak li ġara. Imma fl-ebda ħin ma qal: u ejja, b’daqshekk x’ġara?

Meta dawk li jkollhom kariga politika jirċievu rigali li jiswew il-flus ikunu qed joħolqu sitwazzjoni li biha faċilment jikkompromettu l-kariga pubblika li jokkupaw. Il-posizzjoni kompromettenti tkun ferm iktar gravi jekk dak li jġib ir-rigal ikun jiddependi mill-politiku  minħabba deċiżjonijiet li jkunu għadhom pendenti, u ferm agħar jekk ikun jew tkun diġa ibbenefika minn deċiżjonijiet li diġa ttieħdu.

Nifhem li għal uħud mill-politiċi din tista’ tkun sitwazzjoni diffiċli ħafna, b’mod partikolari jekk il-politiku nvolut ma jkunx imdorri jaġixxi b’mod etiku saħansitra f’affarijiet żgħar li niffaċċjaw fil-ħajja ta’ kuljum.  L-imġieba etika mhiex switch li tixgħel jew titfi skond jekk tkunx attiv fil-politika jew le.  Il-politiku qiegħed taħt il-lenti pubblika u l-pubbliku, illum jew għada, jiskopri l-imġieba mhux korretta ta’ dak li jkun.  L-attitudni ta’ uħud ġeneralment hi rifless ta’ imġieba mhux etika li saret tant komuni fis-soċjetà tagħna: fil-professjonijiet, fin-negozju (żgħir u kbir), fis-servizzi, fis-settur pubbliku u f’kull qasam tal-ħajja ta’ kuljum. Is-soċjetà tagħna żviluppat attitudni ta’ “u ejja, b’daqshekk x’ġara?”. Kollox, jew kważi kollox jgħaddi.  Allura m’hemmx għalfejn nistgħaġbu jekk din l-attitudni hi riflessa ukoll f’dawk eletti f’karigi pubbliċi!

Ir-rapport dwar l-inbid Château Pétrus li Yorgen ta’ lil Joseph hu biss każ wieħed li spikka.  Bla dubju hemm kwantità ta’ każijiet ta’ għoti ta’ rigali lil politiċi konnessi ma’ deċiżjonijiet speċifiċi  inkella li kellhom impatt fuq il-proċess ta’ teħid ta’ deċiżjonijiet.  F’xi każi il-linja li tifred rigal minn  attentat ta’ korruzzjoni hi waħda fina ħafna. Il-parti l-kbira tal-każi imma, diffiċli li jkunu ppruvati.  Huwa għalhekk essenzjali li l-ftit każi li dwarhom hemm il-provi jittieħdu passi dwarhom.

L-uffiċċju tal-Kummissarju tal-iStandards fil-Ħajja Pubblika hu essenzjali fil-bini tal-infrastruttura etika tant meħtieġa biex ikunu regolati dawk f’ħatriet politiċi.  Hu għal din ir-raġuni li kien hemm elf skuża u dewmien sostanzjali biex din il-kariga inħolqot.

Ir-rapporti tal-Kummissarju dwar l-Standards fil-Ħajja Pubblika dejjem ser ikunu kontroversjali. Waqt li wieħed jirrispetta l-ġudizzju tal-Kummissarju, huwa għandu jifhem li l-konsiderazzjonijiet tiegħu dejjem ser ikunu taħt il-lenti. Bħalissa, f’xi waqtiet jidher li qed joqgħod lura bħalma għamel fl-investigazzjoni riċenti dwar il-vjaġġ ta’ Joseph Muscat f’Dubai.

Dawn huma materji li dwarhom bħalissa għadna qed nitgħallmu. Anke l-Kummissarju dwar l-iStandards fil-Ħajja Pubblika nnifsu għadu qed isib saqajħ f’mixja li forsi twassalna biex xi darba neliminaw mill-vokabolarju tagħna espressjonijiet bħal “u ejja, b’daqshekk x’ġara?”.

Kultant, imma, naħseb li diġa qegħdin tard wisq!

ippubblikat fuq Illum : il-Ħadd 26 ta’ Lulju 2020

Château Pétrus and the “anything goes” syndrome

Politicians should keep a social distance from big business, always, not only during a pandemic. This was reportedly stated by George Hyzler, the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life earlier this week during a parliamentary committee sitting, when discussing the contents of his report concluding an investigation of Joseph Muscat, former Prime Minister. Hyzler’s report dealt with the receipt by Joseph Muscat of a gift consisting of three bottles of the premier Bordeaux red wine, Château Pétrus, from Yorgen Fenech, entrepreneur, currently defending himself from the criminal charge of masterminding the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Joseph Muscat is not the first politician to receive such compromising gifts. Former Finance Minister Tonio Fenech had accepted a free ride to join a couple of entrepreneurs to watch an Arsenal Champion’s League match in Madrid on a private jet belonging to one of the entrepreneurs. Tonio Fenech, who also received other controversial gifts, was heavily criticised, even though unfortunately there was no Standards Commissioner to investigate back then! He even had the blessing of his boss, the sanctimonious Lawrence Gonzi.

In 2015 we also had the case of former Health Minister Joe Cassar who, it was revealed, had accepted a series of gifts from another controversial business man: Joseph Gaffarena. There was no Commissioner for Standards in Public Life then, but Joe Cassar took the right decision and resigned after publicly accepting that he had committed a serious error of judgement.

When holders of political office accept expensive gifts, they are placing themselves in a position which could easily compromise the public office which they occupy. The seriousness of the compromising situation created increases exponentially if the gift bearer is dependent on the holder of political office for decisions yet to be taken or worse, if he/she has already benefitted from decisions taken.

It is acknowledged that at times the holder of political office may be in a very awkward situation, especially if he is not accustomed to behaving ethically even in minor everyday matters. Ethical behaviour is not a switch-on/switch-off matter dependent on whether one is involved in politics. Holders of political office are under the glare of the public spotlight, which, sooner or later discovers their misdemeanours. Their attitude is however generally a reflection of the unethical behaviour prevalent throughout society: in the professions, in business, in all sectors of everyday life. Our society has developed an attitude that “anything goes”. Consequently, it is no wonder that this is also reflected in those elected to public office!

The Château Pétrus report is just one case which has made it to the headlines. There are undoubtedly countless of other cases of gifts to holders of political office which were the result of specific decisions or else had a material impact on decision-taking. In some cases, the gift bearing borders on corruption. Most of them are however difficult to identify or prove. It is hence imperative that action is taken in respect of the few provable cases.

The Office of the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life is an essential building block of the ethical infrastructure required for the regulation of holders of political office. For this specific reason, it took ages to be implemented with a multitude of excuses continuously piling up in order to justify substantial delays.   The reports of the Standards Commissioner will always be controversial. Whilst respecting his judgement he will undoubtedly realise that his considerations will always be subject to scrutiny as at times he appears to be applying excessive self-restraint as he has done in the investigation relative to the recent Muscat Dubai trip.

We are currently riding a steep ethical learning curve. Even the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life himself is on this ethical learning trip at the end of which it may be possible to consign the “anything goes” syndrome to the dustbin of history, even though at times it seems that it may be already too late!

 

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 26 July 2020

Pluraliżmu anke fil-valuri

Wieħed mill-argumenti qawwija li lewnu d-dibattitu dwar id-dħul ta’ Malta fl-Unjoni Ewropeja kien li Malta ħtieġilha tidħol fis-seklu għoxrin qabel ma taħseb biex tissieħeb fl-Unjoni. Kien argumentat li kien hemm il-ħtieġa ta’ progress fuq ħafna fronti qabel ma Malta setgħet tissieħeb fl-UE. In-naħa l-oħra tal-argument, ovvjament, dejjem kien li s-sħubija minnha innifisha setgħet tkun il-katalist għat-tibdil tant meħtieġ fis-soċjetá Maltija. Għax il-bidla tista’ ddum biex isseħħ, imma fl-aħħar mhux possibli li tkun evitata. Kif jgħidu, tardare sí, scappare no!

Malta ssieħbet fl-UE fl-2004. Il-bidla fis-soċjetá Maltija għadha għaddejja, kultant b’ritmu mgħaġġel ħafna. Ir-referendum dwar id-divorzju li sar f’Mejju 2011 ħoloq terrimot, li, nistgħu ngħidu illi għadu għaddej.

Il-liġi dwar l-ugwaljanza fiż-żwieġ li l-Parliament approva iktar kmieni din il-ġimgħa kienet pass ieħor f’din id-direzzjoni. Kienet deskritta bħala “immorali” (Edwin Vassallo), “Marxista” (Clyde Puli), “kommunista” (Herman Schiavone) kif ukoll “tal-Korea ta’ Fuq ” (Tonio Fenech).

Dawn it-tikketti juru kif jaħdem moħħ dawk li qed jirreżistu din il-bidla. Mid-dehra ħadd minn dawn il-kritiċi tal-leġislazzjoni dwar l-ugwaljanza fiż-żwieg ma fehem li dan il-pass kien ukoll il-konsegwenza loġika tal-emenda kostituzzjonali, approvata mill-Parlament fil-leġislatura l-oħra liema emenda kienet iċċarat li d-diskriminazzjoni minħabba l-ġeneru kienet ipprojibita ukoll. L-intolleranti fost l-Insara fostna jgħidu li dawk li jappoġġaw l-ugwaljanza fiż-żwieġ huma “bla valuri”. Dawn għadhom ma irrealizzawx li l-valuri tagħhom m’humiex l-unika valuri. Qed ngħixu f’soċjetá bi pluralitá ta’ valuri. Ħadd m’għandu monopolju, la dwar il-valuri u l-anqas dwar dak li hu tajjeb jew ħażin.

Uħud mill-kelliema ewlenin tal-Opposizzjoni, minkejja li ddikjaraw l-appoġġ għal-liġi taħt konsiderazzjoni, xorta dehrilhom li kellhom jużaw il-ħin ta’ diskorshom bi kliem dispreġġattiv dwar dak propost. Dan il-lingwaġġ mimli insulti użat fid-dibattitu parlamentari sfortunatament jirrifletti fuq l-Opposizzjoni Nazzjonalista kollha, anke fuq dawk li għamlu sforz ġenwin u qagħdu attenti li jużaw  lingwaġġ konċiljattiv biex jikkomunikaw ħsiebijiethom.

L-opposizzjoni konservattiva qegħda fir-rokna. Min-naħa l-waħda riedet tħabbar mal-erbat irjieħ tal-pajjiż li issa kkonvertiet u ser tkun fuq quddiem biex tiddefendi d-drittijiet tal-komunitá LGBTIQ. Min-naħa l-oħra iżda, l-Opposizzjoni ma setgħetx tinjora l-fatt li għad għandha dipendenza qawwija fuq appoġġ minn l-agħar elementi ta’ intolleranza reliġjuża fil-pajjiż, dawk jiġifieri li għadhom iqiesu d-drittijiet LGBTIQ bħal materja ta’ “immoralitá pubblika”.  Edwin Vassallo kien l-iktar wieħed ċar fi kliemu meta iddikjara li l-kuxjenza tiegħu ma tippermettilux li jivvota favur dak li huwa ddeskriva bħala proposta leġislattiva “immorali”.

Fi ftit sekondi Vassallo (u oħrajn) ħarbat dak li kien ilu jippjana Simon Busuttil sa minn meta kien elett Kap tal-PN.  Dan wassal lil uħud biex jispekulaw dwar jekk l-Insara intolleranti, id-demokristjani u l-liberali fil-PN jistgħux jibqgħu jikkoabitaw wisq iktar.

Dan kollu jikkuntrasta mal-mod kif ġiebu ruħhom il-konservattivi fil-Partit Laburista. Dawn, minħabba kalkuli politiċi, ippreferew li jew jibqgħu ħalqhom magħluq inkella qagħdu attenti ħafna dwar dak li qalu. Jidher li tgħallmu xi ħaġa mid-dibattitu dwar id-divorzju!

L-approvazzjoni mill-Parliament tal-liġi dwar l-ugwaljanza fiż-żwieġ huwa pass ieħor il-quddiem favur il-pluraliżmu tal-valuri. Il-Parlament aċċetta l-pluraliżmu tal-valuri u iddeċieda li kulħadd jixraqlu r-rispett. Għandna bżonn nifhmu, lkoll kemm aħna, li qed ngħixu f’soċjetá bi pluralitá ta’ valuri li lkoll jixirqilhom ir-rispett. Hu possibli li ma naqblux, imma li ninsulentaw lil xulxin minħabba li nħaddnu valuri differenti ma jagħmilx sens. Xejn m’hu ser jibdel il-fatt li ħadd ma għandu monoplju fuq il-valuri li f’numru ta’ każi jikkontrastaw.

Malta illum introduċiet l-ugwaljanza fiż-żwieġ. M’aħniex ser indumu biex nindunaw li dan ser jagħmel lis-soċjetá tagħna waħda aħjar, għal kulħadd.

ippubblikat fuq Illum : il-Ħadd 16 ta’ Lulju 2017

Value Pluralism

One of the arguments made during the debate prior to Malta joining the European Union was that before it did so, Malta should open its doors to the 21st century. It was argued that much progress needed to be made before Malta could join the EU. The flip side of this argument was that EU membership could be the right catalyst for change that Maltese society needed, because change can be obstructed and delayed but, in the long term, it cannot be stopped.

Malta did join the EU in 2004 and the opening of the doors (and windows) of change is currently work-in-progress. The divorce referendum held in May 2011 opened the floodgates to a recognition of the fact that Maltese society was in a state of rapid change, making up for lost time.

The Marriage Equality Reform legislation approved in Parliament earlier this week was another step. It was described as “immoral” (Edwin Vassallo), “Marxist” (Clyde Puli), “communist” (Herman Schiavone) or even “North Korean” (Tonio Fenech).

These labels identify the frame of mind of those resisting change. Apparently, none of these critics of marriage equality legislation has yet realised that this step is the direct legal consequence of the Constitutional amendment, approved by Parliament some years back, which spelled out in unequivocal terms the prohibition of discrimination based on gender.

The intolerant Christian right argues that legislation proposing marriage equality is the result of a society which has lost its values. They have not realised that their “values” are not the only ones around: we live in a society where a plurality of values is a fact. The Christian right has no monopoly: either on values or on what is right or wrong.

A number of leading Opposition spokespersons, notwithstanding their declaration of support for the proposed legislation, deemed it fit to hurl never-ending insults against the proposals being debated and all that these represented. This insulting language used during the parliamentary debate is a sad reflection on the whole of the PN Opposition, even on those who sought to apply the brakes and in fact used more conciliatory language to convey their thoughts.

The conservative opposition is in a tight corner. On the one hand it wanted to announce in unequivocal terms its recent “conversion” to championing LGBTIQ rights. At the same time the Opposition could not ignore the fact that it is still chained to an intolerant Christian right which labels LGBTIQ rights as morally reprehensible. Edwin Vassallo was the most unequivocal when he declared that his conscience would not permit him to vote in favour of what he described as an “immoral” legislative proposal.

In a couple of seconds, Vassallo and others blew up what had been carefully constructed by Simon Busuttil since assuming the PN leadership, causing some to speculate whether the cohabitation of the conservative Christian right, Christian Democrats and liberals in the PN can last much longer.

In contrast, even if for political expediency, the conservatives in the Labour Party parliamentary group have either kept their mouth shut or else watched their language. It seems that they have learnt some lessons from the divorce referendum debate.

Parliament’s approval last Wednesday of the Marriage Equality Legislation is another step in entrenching the acceptance of value pluralism. Parliament has accepted value pluralism and decided that it was time to respect everyone.

We need to realise that we form part of a society with a plurality of values, all of which deserve the utmost respect. It is possible to disagree, but insulting people because they have different values than one’s own is not on. A society with a plurality of values is a fact and nobody will or can change that.

Malta has now introduced marriage equality. As a result, our society will show a marked improvement that will have a positive impact on all of us.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 16 July 2017

A gambit declined

 

The setting up of a pre-electoral alliance is a complex exercise. Alternattiva Demokratika recognised the strategic importance of forming pre-electoral alliances a long time ago – in fact, prior to the 2008 general election, it had (unsuccessfully) taken up such an initiative itself.

The actual result of the 2008 general election was so close that any pre-election alliance would have had a substantial impact on the final result. This was very clear in the polls commissioned and published in the run-up to that general election.  The difference in votes on a national level between the PN and the PL in the March 2008 general election was a mere 1580, with AD receiving 3810 votes first count votes.

When examining the possibility of forging a pre-election alliance there is generally a choice between two approaches to take: either a principle-based approach or a pragmatic one.

The principle-based approach for a pre-election alliance seeks a long-term view based on building bridges that can possibly withstand the test of time. A pre-election alliance based on principles is based on an agreed shared vision. Even if it is not all-encompassing, this can be easier for voters to identify with as it entails a positive proposal: the shared vision.

On the other hand, the pragmatic approach is one aimed solely at the desired result. It is arithmetically driven. It can signify the lumping together under one umbrella of all sorts of views with (possibly) a minimum common denominator.

The National Front pre-electoral alliance set up by Simon Busuttil and Marlene Farrugia  was, in my opinion, one of the latter. Not only did it include the Nationalist Party and the Democratic Party but also the fringe elements of the PN itself, which had previously been weeded out over the years as undesirables.

The National Front was a pragmatic exercise to the extent that an analysis of the actual votes cast clearly shows that the PD link with the PN resulted in no votes being added to the PN by the PD.  Some may argue, for example,  that votes cast for PD candidates in the fifth district (Marlene Farrugia’s home district),  helped the PN turning the tides on Labour by recapturing Labour’s fourth seat. This is not so, as the gain of an additional seat by the PN on the fifth district was exclusively due to boundary changes: the village of Marsaxlokk having been moved to the third district and it being substituted by the hamlet of Ħal-Farruġ from the sixth district.

The PN/PD alliance failed in its major arithmetic objective as it is clear that it failed to attract a significant number of disgruntled voters. Actually, it rather repelled them with its continuous negative messages and sent most of them back to Labour. Unfortunately, this failed attempt will dissuade any other attempt at alliance-building in the immediate future, as no political party enjoys being taken for a ride, as was Simon Busuttil’s party.

Declining the invitation to join  the National Front as an appendix to the PN  was the correct response from Alternattiva Demokratika. It was an exercise in foresight that has been proved right. Listening to “independent” journalists and self-centred intellectuals advocating the Busuttil/Farrugia National Front was a very sad experience, as these were the same people who should have taken the PN itself to task for its internal contradictions on issues of good governance. By endorsing the PN-led National Front, unfortunately, they ended up endorsing the PN’s misdemeanours when they should have been at the forefront of those insisting that the PN clean up its act before claiming any right to wear the suit of shining armour.

In another context, it was former PN Finance Minister Tonio Fenech who made the most appropriate statement earlier this week in the Malta Independent. Answering his own rhetorical question as to what the Nationalist Party stands for, Tonio Fenech replied: “The only true answer I can give is, I don’t know”.

And so say all of us.

published in the Malta Independent on Sunday – 18 June 2017

Through the revolving door: politicians for sale at a discount

Barroso.GoldmanSachs

 

US Investment Bank Goldman Sachs announced last week that it had “hired” former EU Commission Chairman Josè Manuel Barroso as an advisor and non-executive Chairman of the Goldman Sachs International arm.

The New York Times quoting co-CEOs of Goldman Sachs International Michael Sherwood and Richard J. Gnoddle explained the relevance of the appointment as being “Josè Manuel’s immense insights and experience including a deep understanding of Europe”. Earlier this week, the EU Observer  further commented that Goldman Sachs hired Barroso “as it struggles with the fallout from Britain’s vote to leave the EU”.

Based in London but offering services across Europe, Goldman Sachs may be faced with limited or no access to the EU’s single market as a result of Brexit. Hence the need to hire Barroso as an advisor and lobbyist as the United Kingdom and the European Union prepare for the negotiations leading to the UK’s exit from the European Union which can be triggered any time in the forthcoming weeks through a declaration in terms of article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

Barroso’s engagement with Goldman Sachs is one which will be much debated as, like nine other members of the Commission which he led between 2009 and 2014, he has been catapulted into the corporate boardroom through the revolving door. His value to Goldman Sachs is his knowledge of the privileged information to which he had access during his 10-year tenure as President of the EU Commission and, the influence which he may still have on a number of key EU officials.  This gives great value to his advisory/lobbying role with Goldman Sachs.

European Union regulations on the possible activities of its former Commission members draw a cut-off line after an 18-month cooling-off period at the end of their tenure when, as stated by an EU Commission spokesperson, “there is a reasonable assumption that the access to privileged information or possible influence are no longer an issue”.   This is contested by the different political groupings in the EU Parliament who maintain that the cooling-off period for EU Commissioners taking up sensitive jobs after ceasing their duties as Commissioners should be extended from 18 months to five years as the present length of time is insufficient to ensure that the EU is really the servant of ordinary people and not of multinational corporations or international financial institutions.

This debate at a European Union level contrasts to the provisions of the Standards in Public Life Bill currently being debated by the Maltese Parliament which Bill, so far, does not make any provision on the regulation of lobbying in Malta in any form or format.

It is not unheard of in Malta for politicians to move through the revolving door from the Cabinet to the private sector boardroom or its anteroom, and back again. Three such cases of former Cabinet Ministers in Malta in the recent past come to mind : John Dalli and his involvement with the Corinthia Group and later the Marsovin Group, Karmenu Vella who similarly was heavily involved first with the Corinthia Group and subsequently with the Orange Travel Group as well as with Betfair and finally Tonio Fenech’s recent involvement in the financial industry.

Being unregulated, lobbying through the revolving door is not illegal but it can still be unethical and unacceptable in a modern democratic society as it can result in undue influence of corporations over the regulatory authorities.

Piloting the debate on the Standards in Public Life Bill on Monday 11 July, Deputy Prime Minister Louis Grech recognised the deficiencies of the Bill and declared that a register of lobbyists in Malta was a necessity. While this is a welcome statement and a significant first step forward, it is certainly not enough, as a proper regulation of lobbying in Malta is long overdue. This involves much more than registration of lobbyists or even the regulation of revolving door recruitment in both the private and the public sector.

If done properly, lobbying is perfectly legitimate. It is perfectly reasonable for any citizen, group of citizens, corporations or even NGOs to seek to influence decision-taking. In fact it is done continuously and involves the communication of views and information to legislators and administrators by those who have an interest in informing them of the impacts of the decisions under consideration. It is perfectly legitimate that individuals, acting on their own behalf or else acting on behalf of third parties, should seek to ensure that decision-takers are well informed before taking the required decisions.

However, for lobbying to be acceptable in a democratic society, it must be done transparently. In particular, through regulation it must be ensured  that lobbying should not be transformed into a  process through which the decision-takers make way for the representatives or advisors of corporations to take their place. Lobbying activities must be properly documented and the resulting documentation must be publicly accessible.

Hopefully, Parliament will take note and act.

 

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday: 17 July 2016

Rigali lill-politiċi

gift

Kull rigal li jirċievi persuna fil-politika huwa intenzjonat biex jinfluwenza, fis-sens wiesa’ tal-kelma, u  dan irrispettivament mill-valur. Anke l-oġġetti ta’ bla valur jew dawk b’valur insinifikanti huma intenzjonati biex jinfluwenzaw. Issa l-influwenza intenzjonat bl-għoti ta’ diary, jew biro inkella xi flixkun inbid jew xi xarba alkoholika oħra hi bla dubju differenti minn l-influwenza b’lift f’jet privat għal partita futbol fi Spanja.

L-affarijiet żgħar li jingħataw huma ħafna drabi iktar riklami milli rigali u l-iskop tagħhom ikun wieħed ta’ nota ta’ introduzzjoni jew inkella ta’ apprezzament. Imma l-biro, id-diary u l-flixkun inbid biż-żmien jikbru ftit ftit u jsiru ikla, hampers u affarijiet oħra ukoll. Ħafna drabi t-tixħim ma jkunx f’moħħ min jagħti “token”, l-anqas f’min jagħti xi ħaġa iktar sostanzjali bħal hamper. Niftakru forsi li fis-settur privat ħafna drabi dan hu l-mod kif jingħad grazzi lil klijenti li jiġġeneraw ħafna xogħol. In-nies tan-negozju mhux dejjem jirrealizzaw li l-prattiċi tagħhom, għalkemm validi għalihom, għandhom sinifikat u implikazzjoni differenti meta applikati fis-settur pubbliku

Niftakar lil sid il-jet privat li kien stieden lil Tonio Fenech miegħu sa Spanja biex jaraw partita futbol kien qal lil waħda mill-gazzetti  li ma kellux bżonn jistenna l-partita futbol biex jiltaqa’ ma Tonio Fenech. Seta jagħmel appuntament miegħu meta ried, mingħajr l-iċken diffikulta. Kien korrett. Għalih ma kellu l-ebda sinifikat li ta’ lift lil Tonio Fenech.

Dakinhar ħadd ma qal li Tonio Fenech kien ixxaħħam bil-lift fuq il-jet privat. Imma Tonio Fenech xorta għamel ħażin bħalma kien għamel ħażin Lawrence Gonzi li għalih ukoll kien qiesu ma ġara xejn. Aċċetta rigal meta kien ipprojibit milli jagħmel dan mill-Kodiċi tal-Etika tal-Ministri u s-Segretarji Parlamentari.

Il-mod kif żviluppa l-każ ta’ Dr Joe Cassar dwar ir-rigali (karozza u CCTV) riċentement kien għal kollox differenti. Cassar inqabad bis-sunnara mingħajr ma nduna. Li l-Kap tal-Opposizzjoni ħa passi kien posittiv imma mill-Opposizzjoni ma ħtieġlu l-ebda sforz partikolari għal dan. Ovvjament qed jipprova jerġa’ jibni l-kredibilità li l-PN tilef meta kien fil-Gvern.

Ma neskludix li hemm kazijiet oħra li s’issa għadhom ma rawx id-dawl tax-xemx. Huwa importanti li meta dawn il-kazijiet tifaċċaw ikollna l-għodda lesta biex tkun tista’ issir l-investigazzjoni meħtieġa. Kien għal dan l-iskop li sentejn ilu Kumitat Magħżul tal-Parlament wara diskussjoni twila ħejja abbozz ta’ liġi dwar l-Istandards fil-Ħajja Pubblika.

Imma jidher li l-volontà politika hi nieqsa għax dan l-abbozz għadu pendenti wara li għaddew sentejn.

L-iżbalji saru, u jibqgħu isiru. Li m’għandniex huwa r-rimedji.

Id-dnubiet tal-abbatini

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Ħelwa din Ann Fenech tiddeskrivi l-iżbalji tal-PN fil-Gvern qieshom “dnubiet tal-abbatini” ħdejn dak li qed isir illum.

L-istejjer tal-lum huma gravi. Anzi gravi ħafna. Mhux biss dawk dwar il-kumpaniji fil-Panama ta’ Konrad u Keith tal-Kasco. Gravi ħafna ukoll l-istejjer dwar il-biċċa esproprijazzjoni ta’ Triq iz-Zekka l-Belt Valletta u anke l-kaz tal-Cafè Premier.

Huma gravi ħafna minkejja li sa issa għad m’hemmx provi ta’ korruzzjoni.

Mhux bħall-kaz tas-Segretarju Privat ta’ Tonio Fenech li quddiem il-Qorti tal-Maġistrati ammetta akkużi ta’ korruzzjoni u weħel sentenza ta’ tlett snin ħabs sospiza. Dakinnhar kien hemm min ikkummenta li dan l-ex-Segretarju Privat kien refa’ ħafna iktar milli messu. Tonio Fenech dakinnhar kien qal li hu ma kellux x’jaqsam u ma kien jaf xejn.

Imbagħad tiġi Ann Fenech tipprova ddaħħaq bid-dnubiet tal-abbatini.

Il-bozza l-ħamra għall-Onorevoli Ministru

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Meta Ministru jingħata rigal, f’soċjetà demokratika tixgħel il-bozza ħamra. Jiġifieri l-allarm. Waħedha toħroġ il-mistoqsija: għalfejn l-Onorevoli Ministru ingħata rigal?

Il-Kodiċi tal-Etika tal-Ministri [ara t-Tieni Skeda tal-Abbozz ta’ Liġi dwar Standards fil-Ħajja Pubblika – li għadu pendenti quddiem il-Parlament]  fir-regola numru 58 jgħid hekk :

“58. L-ebda Ministru m’għandu jaċċetta rigali jew servizzi li l-entità tagħhom tkun tali li jistgħu jpoġġuh f’obbligazzjoni, kemm jekk din tkun reali kif ukoll jekk tidher li tista’ tkun……………… ”

Huwa għal din ir-raġuni li hawn kjass bħalissa dwar il-flat ta’ Portomaso li qed jagħmel użu minnu il-Ministru Chris Cardona. L-ewwel ġie allegat li l-flat kien misluf lill-Ministru. Il-Ministru wara ħafna ħin qal li l-flat hu mikri għandu. L-Onorevoli ipproduċa ukoll kuntratt li qed jingħad li ġie iffirmat f’Diċembru 2014, għal perjodu ta’ għaxar xhur.

Il-kuntratt, li jidher li sar bil-għaġġla, fih xi dettalji nieqsa imma fih ukoll kundizzjonijiet speċjali li jwasslu għal konklużjoni li hemm xi ħaġa li qed tinħeba. Il-kera li mistennija titħallas, skond dan il-kuntratt li ġie ippubblikat il-bieraħ fil-għaxija mid-Dipartiment tal-Informazzjoni, m’għandiex titħallas minn qabel, l-anqas xahar b’lura imma sa mhux iktar tard minn ħamest ijiem minn tmiem il-kuntratt.

Il-kuntratt ippubblikat għaldaqstant flok ma jagħlaq il-każ iktar jiftħu beraħ. Għax issa, iktar ċar minn qatt qabel trid tiġi imwieġba l-mistoqsija: għalfejn l-Onorevoli Ministru qed jingħata dan it-trattament preferenzjali?

Hemm min ser iweġibni u jgħidli li sid il-flat għandu dritt li jagħmel li jrid bi ħwejġu. Naqbel perfettament.

Id-diffikultà, f’soċjetà demokratika, hi li l-Onorevoli Ministru m’għandux l-istess dritt: ma jistax jaċċetta rigali jew trattament preferenzjali. Għax ikun qed jagħti messaġġ li għandu obbligazzjoni, inkella li bir-rigal jew bit-trattament preferenzjali qed titħallas lura obbligazzjoni. F’soċjeta demokratika, dawn l-messaġġi m’humiex aċċettabbli.

Għalhekk kien ġie ikkritikat bl-aħrax Tonio Fenech meta aċċetta passaġġ bla ħlas fuq jet privat biex mar jara logħba futbol ta’ l-Arsenal ġo Madrid. Lawrence Gonzi dakinnhar ukoll ma kienx kredibbli għax ma ħax passi.

Imma donnu li xejn m’hu xejn! Joseph Muscat miexi fuq l-istess passi etiċi ta’ Lawrence Gonzi: għan-niżla.

L-ispjuni boloh ta’ Tonio Fenech

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It-Torċa tal-lum irrappurtat storja dwar numru ta’ uffiċjali pubbliċi mlaħħqa li kienu qed jgħaddu informazzjoni lil Tonio Fenech, ex-Ministru tal-Finanzi. Billi kienu msieħba f’google group dawn kienu jiddiskutu bejniethom issues kurrenti hekk kif jinqalgħu w jgħaddu informazzjoni sensittiva lil Tonio Fenech xi kultant ankè qabel ma jkun jaf biha l-Gvern stess.

Għal Tonio Fenech bla dubju kienet scoop għax kien ikun armat b’informazzjoni biex ikun jista’ jitkellem “in real time” imma għas-servizz pubbliku hi daqqa ta’ ħarta.

Għax is-servizz pubbliku mhux qiegħed hemm biex jivvantaġġa lil xi partit politiku imma biex imexxi u jagħti servizz lill-pajjiż kollu.  Għalhekk ngħidu li l-lealtà tas-servizz pubbliku hi waħda lejn il-Gvern tal-ġurnata li jiddetermina d-direzzjoni. Is-servizz pubbliku imbagħad jimplimenta.

L-artiklu fit-Torċa jidentifika uħud minn dawn l-uffiċjali pubbliċi b’isimhom. Qegħdin fost oħrajn fil-Bank Ċentrali, l-MFSA (Malta Financial Services Authority), u fl-Uffiċċju Nazzjonali tal-Istatistika.

Dan hu ħażin, avolja mhux l–ewwel darba li ġara.  Kien hemm indikazzjonijiet fil-passat  li dan ġara. Id-differenza issa hi li qed jingħad li dawn inqabdu “red-handed”, jiġifieri li hemm il-provi. Probabbilment li l-provi huma ta’ natura teknika u jinvolvu traċċi elettroniċi tal-emails mibgħuta, kif fil-fatt ġie ippubblikat fit-Torċa.

Dawn sfortunatament huma l-konsegwenzi tar-rwol tal-politika partiġġjana fis-serviżż pubbliku li timmanifesta ruħha ukoll fil-parti l-kbira tal-ħatriet li saru u jsiru prinċipalment fil-gradi l-għoljin. Mhux kaz ta’ Nazzjonalisti kontra Laburisti jew ta’ Laburisti kontra Nazzjonalisti, iżda hi ferm iktar ikkumplikata minn hekk. L-abbuż bl-impiegi pubbliċi imsejħa “position of trust” hi parti importanti  mill-problema. Il-mod kif ġew ittrattati s-Segretarji Permanenti immedjatament wara l-elezzjoni hi aspett ieħor tal-problema.

Sfortunatament, dawn l-affarijiet ikomplu. L-ispjuni ta’ Tonio Fenech kienu l-boloh li nqabdu. Il-problema l-kbira huma dawk li għandhom aċċess għal informazzjoni sensittiva ħafna jużawha kif jaqblilhom u ma jinqabdu qatt. Kien hemm minnhom qabel Marzu 2013 u jkun hemm oħrajn li jagħmluha issa.

Fis-settur pubbliku ukoll, dak li tiżra’ taħsad.