Minor footnote to 1980s talks

Much has been written about the meetings between Dom Mintoff and Guido de Marco prior to 1987 on finding ways in which to solve the constitutional crisis resulting from the 1981 perverse electoral results.

During these meetings Mintoff and de Marco undoubtedly also discussed various other matters as they considered appropriate. At one point, I too formed part of their agenda.

It was early in October 1984 and I was carrying out duties of architect and civil engineer at the then Public Works Department. Called to the office of the director, I was informed that, in view of my articles published in newspapers of the Nationalist Party, my employment was being terminated forthwith.

Being without a job was further compounded by the fact that the then Labour government had also withheld my professional warrant.

I initiated human rights proceedings claiming that my right to freedom of expression and protection from discrimination on political grounds had been breached by the Director of Public Works and his minister, Lorry Sant.

The first session of the court case was fixed for early November 1984. Witnesses were heard and submissions made.

Some time in April or May 1985, de Marco called to tell me that he had a message for me from Mintoff. My dismissal from the Public Works Department had cropped up in one of his meetings with Mintoff who had suggested that he would be prepared to take me on board as a civil engineer on the Freeport project, then under his wings and in its early stages.

However, this proposal was subject to the conditions that I had to halt legal proceedings against Sant and, in addition, I had to bind myself not to write any more articles in newspapers.

My response was a clear no.

We met a second time at the request of de Marco, presumably as Mintoff was pressing for an answer. But I did not budge. In view of my refusal, the message was relayed through two alternative routes. De Marco had asked two high-ranking PN officials to persuade me to compromise. Fortunately, they fully understood my position and did not press the matter any further.

On June 27, 1985, just weeks after receiving Mintoff’s message, the case was decided by Mr Justice Joseph Filletti. He concluded that my freedom of expression and my right not to be discriminated against on political grounds were breached by the Director of Public Works. The director, the court ruled, had to shoulder administrative responsibility for the happenings in his department on his own.

Mr Justice Filletti had exonerated the minister!

Subsequent to Mr Justice Filletti’s decision I received a phone call that a senior army officer attached to Mintoff’s office at Kalafrana wanted to speak to me.

I clearly remember that it was an August afternoon in 1985 when I called at his office. This army officer, eventually a colonel, told me that I should not count my chickens yet because, while I had a favourable first decision from the law courts, it was inevitable that it would be reversed on appeal.

He prodded me to accept Mintoff’s proposal and stop legal proceedings. I told the colonel that I had already refused the proposal and that I had no intention of changing my mind.

In the meantime, the Constitutional Court had fixed dates for hearings of the appeals submitted. I myself had submitted an appeal because, in my view, the minister should have been found responsible together with the director for breach of human rights. Proof had been submitted that the instructions for my dismissal had been issued by the minister himself.

The Constitutional Court decided the case on January 29, 1986. It concluded that Sant had, in fact, issued the instructions for my dismissal himself. It further acknowledged that proof of the minister’s direct involvement had been submitted through the evidence of various witnesses.

The Constitutional Court decided that both Sant and the director were responsible for political discrimination.

As to freedom of expression, the Constitutional Court reversed the first court’s decision and concluded that those in public employment sign away their rights of freedom of expression. By accepting public employment, the Constitutional Court held that you renounce your freedom of expression.

As it turned out, it seems that the colonel was most probably bluffing after all.

It was clear to me that Mintoff was trying to find a way out for Sant.

When my name cropped up in the de Marco-Mintoff talks it seems that I was considered as a pawn that could be easily sacrificed in the quest for the larger prize.

Fortunately, matters developed differently in this minor footnote to the de Marco/Mintoff talks.

published in The Times (Malta) 8th September 2012

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L-isqaq

silta minn intervista li Andrew Azzopardi għamel lil Carmel Cacopardo ippubblikata 7 ta’ Lulju 2012.

Jekk trid tara l-ewwel parti tal-intervista għafas hawn.

Mistoqsija :

Taħseb li l-Partit Nazzjonalista ħa jirnexxilu joħroġ minn dan l-isqaq li sab ruħu fih?

Tweġiba

L-egħruq ta’ dak li qed jiġri illum fil-PN issibhom fl-ewwel xhur tal-2004.

Meta Lawrence Gonzi ġie elett Kap tal-PN għamel l-iżball li flok fittex li jintegra fit-tmexxija l-ġdida tal-PN lill-kontestanti l-oħra (Louis Galea u John Dalli) spiċċa b’Tonio Borg bħala l-Viċi tiegħu. Issa Tonio għalkemm fuq livell personali hu persuna mill-aħjar, kif ukoll ta’ integrita’ indiskussa, mhux kapaċi jmexxi. Qatt ma tajjar nar. Gonzi spiċċa b’John Dalli emarġinat u b’Louis Galea l-bogħod mill-magna tal-Partit.

Gonzi jidher li ma rrealizzax li Eddie Fenech Adami  kien b’suċċess assigura illi dawk li kkontestaw miegħu għat-tmexxija tal-PN kienu involuti madwaru: Guido de Marco bħala Viċi Kap u Ċensu Tabone bħala President tal-Eżekuttiv. Eddie Fenech Adami kien ukoll kapaċi jisma’ l-kritika b’attenzjoni: ma kienx hyper-sensitive għall-kritika.

B’Louis Galea jew John Dalli Viċi Kap tal-PN flok Tonio Borg, il-PN illum kien ikun partit ftit differenti, mhux bla problemi imma ċertament mhux fi sqaq. Dan l-iżball Gonzi għadu jġorr l-effetti tiegħu sal-lum.

It-team ta’ madwar Gonzi minn l-ewwel ġurnata fittex li jipprattika l-politika ta’ winner takes all. Mhux biss, talli hemm dubju serju illi l-qlajjiet li wasslu għar-riżenja ta’ John Dalli jafu l-oriġini tagħhom madwar it-team li ħadem għal Lawrence Gonzi.

Biex il-PN joħroġ minn dan l-isqaq jeħtieġ mexxej ġdid li jħares b’mod oġġettiv lejn ideat differenti. Irid ikun xi ħadd li għandu egħruq fondi fil-partit, ħaġa li Lawrence Gonzi qatt ma kellu. Billi qatt ma kellu dawn l-egħruq Lawrence kien dipendenti iżżejjed fuq ta’ madwaru biex iħoss il-polz tal-Partit!

Biex joħroġ minn dan l-isqaq il-PN jeħtieġlu s-snin. Il-Labour ilu 25 sena fl-isqaq u s’issa għadu l-anqas ħareġ.

Gwardjan għal Ġenerazzjonijiet Futuri

Il-Gvern għadu kif ippubblika abbozz ta’ liġi dwar l-iżvilupp sostenibbli imsejjaħ Att biex jintegra l-iżvilupp sostenibbli fil-ħidma tal-Gvern, biex titqajjem kuxjenza dwar kwistjonijiet u prattiċi ta’ żvilupp sostenibbli fis-soċjeta’ kif ukoll biex jippromwovi l-adozzjoni tal-istess.  Dan l-abbozz kien ippubblikat fil-Gazzetta tal-Gvern ta’ nhar it-Tlieta 22 ta’ Novembru 2011.

Il-proposta originali dwar Gwardjan għal Ġenerazzjonijiet Futuri saret minn Malta fi żmien li kien Minisru tal-Affarijiet Baranin Guido de Marco. Din saret fil-kuntest tal-Konferenza ta’ Rio de Janeiro f’Ġunju 1992.

Meta Mario de Marco Segretarju Parlamentari fl-Uffiċċju tal-Prim Ministru responsabbli mill-Iżvilupp Sostenibbli ddiskuta miegħi l-proposti li kien ser iressaq il-Gvern jiena għan-nom ta’AD issuġġerejtlu li kien il-waqt li jinħoloq il-Gwardjan tal-Ġenerazzjonijiet Futuri fil-Liġi Maltija biex dak li qed ngħidu lill-barranin li hu tajjeb għalihom napplikawh għalina.

Li  l-Gvern addotta l-proposta tiegħi, li jiena ppreżentajt għan-nom ta’ AD, hu ta’ sodisfazzjoni.  Avolja jiena kelli f’moħħi responsabiltajiet ftit differenti minn dak li qed ipproponi l-Gvern.

Pero’ hu f’waqtu li nirrikonoxxi li sar pass tajjeb. Li forsi jkun sviluppat iktar il-quddiem.

Future Generations must be heard

 

The politics of sustainable development links present and future generations. The 1987 report of the United Nations Commission on Environment and Development (the Brundtland report) emphasised that development is sustainable if the choices we make today do not restrict tomorrow’s generations from making their own independent choices.

Future generations, to date, have no political or financial power and cannot challenge decisions taken by present generations. They have no voice. They are not represented at the negotiating table where present-day decisions are made.

Politics is dominated by the requirement to satisfy today’s wants, irrespective of the costs, as witnessed by spiralling financial, environmental and social deficits.

During the preparatory meetings for the Rio 1992 earth summit, delegations discussed the impacts of development on various vulnerable groups.

In a four-page document (A/CONF.151/PC/WG./L.8/Rev.1/Add.2), dated February 21, 1992, Malta submitted a proposal to the working group of the preparatory committee of the UN Rio conference, which met in New York in early March 1992.

After underlining the international community’s recognition of the rights of future generations as another vulnerable group, the Maltese government rightly emphasised that it is not sufficient to simply recognise the principle of future generation rights.

Words must be transformed into action. In paragraph 17 of its document, Malta proposed to go beyond rhetoric through the inclusion in the 1992 Rio declaration on the environment of the following: “We declare that each generation has, in particular, the responsibility to ensure that in any national or international forum where it is likely that a decision is taken affecting the interests of future generations access be given to an authorised person appointed as ‘Guardian’ of future generations to appear and make submissions on their behalf, so that account be taken of the responsibilities stated in this declaration and the obligations created thereby.”

Malta’s proposal was presented by the Foreign Ministry led by Guido de Marco.

The proposal had been developed by the International Environment Institute of the University of Malta within the framework of its Future Generations Programme led by Fr Emanuel Agius. Malta’s proposal was not taken up in the Rio declaration on the environment.

Do we need a guardian of future generations in Malta? I believe that we do and I think that the issue should be addressed when Parliament discusses legislation on sustainable development shortly.

The reasons justifying the domestic implementation of Malta’s 1992 proposal to the UN Rio preparatory committee are crystallised in paragraph 7 of Malta’s proposal that focuses on responsibility and foresight. Malta emphasised that present generations are in duty bound to foresee possible risks and uncertainties that present economic, political and technological policies have on future generations.

Responsibility, stated Malta in 1992, demands foresight. Hence, one should anticipate effective measures to, at least, prevent foreseeable risks and uncertainties.

The guardian of future generations would be the voice of those still unborn to defend their right to make their own choices, independently of the choices of present and past generations.

S/he would be the conscience of present generations nudging them towards behaviour and decisions that are compatible with their responsibilities.

In particular, s/he would be in a position to speak up on behalf of future generations when current or contemplated policies give rise to long-term risks that are not adequately addressed. S/he would emphasise that it is unethical for present generations to reap benefits and then shift the consequence of their actions on future generations.

Future generations need a voice to be able to communicate their concerns.

The appointment of a guardian to protect their interests would be such a voice. Such an appointment would also be implementing the President’s declaration during the inaugural session of the present Parliament on May 10, 2008 when he emphasised that the government’s plans and actions are to be underpinned by the notion of sustainable development. He had further stated that “when making decisions today, serious consideration will be given to the generations of tomorrow”.

Hungary has already given the lead. In 2007, the Hungarian Parliament appointed Sándor Fülöp as Parliamentary Commissioner for Future Generations. Among other things, he is entrusted to act as a policy advocate for sustainability issues across all relevant fields of legislation and public policy.

International NGOs, such as the World Future Council, have actively brought up the issue of future generations requiring a present-day voice during the second preparatory committee of the UN Rio+20 sustainability conference held in March this year in New York.

The Maltese Greens consider that it is time for the government to accept that the principled action it took on an international level in 1992 is equally applicable on a national level.

Malta too has the responsibility of foresight. It has the responsibility to ensure that the future can speak up such that we can listen and consider the impacts of our actions.

The time is ripe to act. We owe an ear to future generations. They deserve it.

 

published in The Times – Saturday August 27, 2011