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

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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 hairman 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 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

ann fenech

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

warning

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

spys

 

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.

The hospital’s concrete

concrete sampling

 

The issue came to the fore last September when Minister Konrad Mizzi said that there were problems with constructing additional wards on the Emergency Department of Mater Dei Hospital.  The contractor whose tender had been selected proceeded to carry out the necessary tests to ascertain that the existing buildings had the specified load-bearing properties. It was found that they did not.

All hell broke loose. Questions were asked as to how this was possible. Only one person kept his cool, former Finance Minister Tonio Fenech who, in September ,  declared  that he was not at all surprised by what was being said. He added that he was aware that Skanska, the contractor in charge of the hospital construction project, had repeatedly refused to construct additional floors because (it maintained)  the structure was not designed to carry such additional loads.

How come that only former Minister Tonio Fenech seems to have been aware of the design limitations of the hospital’s concrete?

On the other hand, whilst an inquiry is under way, Minister Konrad Mizzi is unethically disseminating selective titbits of information in order to make heavily loaded political statements.

Arup Group, a UK engineering firm, was commissioned by the government to analyse  the concrete used in the hospital’s structure. The report, which has already been submitted to the government and parts of which are being selectively quoted by Minster Konrad Mizzi, has not yet been published.

Likewise, the government is selectively quoting a waiver agreement between the Foundation for Medical Services and Skanska, signed on the conclusion of the project, presumably putting in writing what had been  agreed when addressing the final list of pending issues between the parties. The quotes being made lead to the conclusion that the waiver agreement was a blanket waiver. In fact, Minister Konrad Mizzi is actively encouraging such a conclusion. A full disclosure of the agreement would make it possible to consider whether the selective quotes are misleading –  as they most probably are.

Contrary to the manner in which the public debate has so far developed, the issue of the hospital concrete is primarily one of quality control on site, that is whether adequate quality control existed on site throughout the duration of the project. Such quality control requires that all concrete used on the Mater Dei project should have been sampled on use and tested according to established standards. Generally speaking, 28  days after use the project management team would have been in possession of the laboratory results on the concrete’s strength.

The questions which logically arise are whether the project managers had results indicating that the concrete supplied was not compatible with the relative specifications and, if such results did in fact materialise,  the manner in which they reacted to them.

The answers to these questions will point to the technical responsibilities arising both professionally and managerially.

Are there political responsibilities? I do not know. However,  the question of political responsibilities could arise if the politicians in charge interfered (directly or indirectly) in the technical decision taking. Political responsibilities  could also arise if the politicians obstructed the Foundation for Medical Services in the performance  of its duties by, for example, withholding funds or by dishing out appointments to persons who were not fit for purpose.

These are undoubtedly issues which the inquiry led by Mr Justice (retired) Philip Sciberras will examine, hopefully in some detail.

The sooner this whole saga comes to an end, the better. It is about time that everybody’s mind is at rest. This includes the taxpayer, who is not yet certain whether he will end up footing the bill.

Published in The Malta Independent on Sunday, 31 May 2015

Il-konkos f’Mater Dei: min kellu idu fil-borma?

 pouring of concrete

Fil-konferenza stampa ta’ Konrad Mizzi u Chris Fearne intqal li l-konkos dgħajjef f’Mater Dei twassal fuq is-sit fl-ewwel sitt xhur tal-1996.

Lawrence Gonzi, dal-għodu qalilna li l-ftehim [dwar il-waiver] bejn il-Fondazzjoni għas-Servizzi Mediċi (FMS) u Skanska qatt ma tela’ l-Kabinett għall-approvazzjoni. Dan minnu innifsu jnissel ħafna iktar mistoqsijiet dwar x’ġara fil-fatt u dwar min realment kellu idu fil-borma.

Imma l-gazzetti jidher li m’humiex jagħtu piż biżżejjed lil biċċa informazzjoni oħra li sirna nafu biha f’Settembru li għadda. Dakinnhar meta ħarġet l-aħbar li l-konkos kien dgħajjef u l-bini għaldaqstant ma jiflaħx piż addizzjonali, Tonio Fenech kien qal li xejn ma kien sorpriż. Kien żied jgħid li kien għalhekk li Skanska kienu irrifjutaw li jżidu l-għoli tal-bini.

Dan kollu jfisser li hemm min ilu ħafna jaf li l-kwalità tal-konkos użata f’Mater Dei kienet inferjuri minn dak ippjanat. Probabbilment ħafna qabel ma ġie iffirmat il-ftehim li skandalizza lil kulħadd.

Il-mistoqsijiet li jeħtieġu tweġiba huma bosta. Liema kienu l-idejn iħawwdu fil-borma tal-konkos ta’ Mater Dei? Kemm kienet ilha magħrufa din l-informazzjoni? X’kienu d-deċiżjonijiet dakinnhar li kienet magħrufa din l-informazzjoni?

Qabel ma jkun hemm tweġiba għal dawn il-mistoqsijiet ser ikun diffiċli ħafna li nifhmu kemm x’ġara kif ukoll min hu responsabbli.