X’inhu għaddej bejn il-PN u 17 Black ?

L-aħbar fit-Times tal-Ħadd dwar il-laqgħa bejn il-Membri Parlamentari tal-PN Kristy Debono u Hermann Schiavone ma Yorgen Fenech ta’ 17 Black fil-21 sular tat-torri ta’ Portomaso hi prova tal-wiċċ b’ieħor tal-Partit Nazzjonalista.

Is-17 Black hi kumpanija (inkorporata fid-Dubai) li dwarha hemm allegazzjoni ta’ tixħim li fih jissemmew Konrad Mizzi u Keith Schembri. Niftakru fl-emails dwar l-iskandlu Panama fejn intqal minn fejn ġejjin il-miljuni fil-kontijiet bankarji ta’ Mizzi u Schembri.
Dakinnhar il-PN għamilha tal-paladin kontra l-korruzzjoni. Imma llum imur għand l-istess 17Black biex jitolbu l-għajnuna.

Kristy Debono qalet li talbet għajnuna dwar użu ta’ sala żgħira għall-konferenzi. Hermann Schiavone min-naħa l-oħra kien evażiv u ma riedx jagħti informazzjoni.

Kif tista’ temmen lil dawn in-nies (u lil sħabhom) meta jitkellmu kontra l-korruzzjoni?
Kristy Debono u Hermann Schiavone għandhom l-obbligu li jagħtu spjegazzjoni pubblika. Anzi, li kieku l-Partit Nazzjonalista kien serju, diġa ssospendihom.

Imma ilna nafu, li s-serjetà ma toqgħodx tal-Pietà.

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Il-kontabilità ……….. taħt l-effett tal-loppju

Il-Kummisarju tal-Ambjent u l-Ippjanar fl-uffiċċju ta’ l-Ombudsman, iktar kmieni din il-ġimgħa ikkonkluda li mhu affari ta’ ħadd jekk membri tal-Bord tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar jattendux jew le l-laqgħat tal-Bord. Dik biċċa tagħhom: hi responsabbiltà tagħhom dwar kif jaġixxu biex iwettqu r-responsabbiltajiet tagħhom. Meta għaldaqstant, Jacqueline Gili kienet pprovduta bis-servizz ta’ ajruplan privat biex ikun iffaċilitat li hi tattendi għal-laqgħa tal-Bord tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar li fiha kienet diskussa u approvata l-monstrosità tal-dB Group f’Pembroke kien hemm indħil mhux permissibli fil-proċeduri tal-istess awtorità.

Is-Sur Johann Buttigieg, Chairman Eżekuttiv tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar, ikkonferma pubblikament li d-deċiżjoni li jġib lil Jacqueline Gili bil-ajruplan privat minn Catania, u jeħodha lura Catania biex tkompli tgawdi l-btala mal-familja tagħha, kienet deċiżjoni tiegħu. F’pajjiż fejn il-governanza tajba hi pprattikata, mhux ipprietkata biss, is-Sur Buttigieg kien jirreżenja immedjatament, inkella kien jitkeċċa bla dewmien hekk kif l-aħbar kienet magħrufa pubblikament. Dan apparti mid-dell kbir li nxteħet fuq il-validità tad-deċżjoni li ttieħdet bħala riżultat ta’ dan l-indħil fil-ħidma tal-Bord.
Imma, huwa fatt magħruf li l-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar mhiex kapaċi tiddeċiedi fuq kaz daqshekk ċar ta’ tmexxija ħażina. M’għandiex il-kuraġġ li taġixxi.

Ma nistgħux nistennew imġieba mod ieħor. Dawk maħtura fl-awtoritajiet pubbliċi huma kkundizzjonati dwar kif iġibu ruħhom mill-mod kif jaraw lill-politiċi li jkunu ħatruhom iġibu ruħhom. U ngħiduha kif inhi: ma tantx għandhom eżempji tajba fuq xiex jimxu.
L-istorja tal-Panama Papers hi waħda relattivament riċenti. Il-Prim Ministru Joseph Muscat, malli sar jaf li l-Ministru Konrad Mizzi u ċ-Chief of Staff tiegħu Keith Schembri, waqqfu kumpaniji fl-Amerika Ċentrali, fil-Panama, li hi rinomata bħala post fejn taħbi l-flus u tevita t-taxxi, flok ma keċċihom minnufih, qiesu qagħad jiggusthom daqslikieku ma ġara xejn. Dwar x’seta ġara iktar mill-kumpaniji ta’ Mizzi u Schembri u t-tielet kumpanija misterjuża (Egrant), s’issa għad ma nġiebu l-ebda provi. Dan intqal mill-Qrati repetutament, avolja d-deċiżjonijiet tal-Qrati ġew interpretati b’mod li qieshom naddfu lil uħud assoċjati mal-politika minn kull ħtija possibli. Il-fatti huma mod ieħor, kompletament differenti.

S’issa, bla dubju, hemm assenza ta’ provi kredibbli li jindikaw xi ħtija kriminali. Imma ma nistgħux ngħidu l-istess dwar l-imġieba ta’ dawk involuti. Il-provi magħrufa juru bl-iktar mod ċar li tal-inqas hemm imġieba żbaljata u mhix etika u dan minnu nnifsu jiġġustifika sanzjonijiet politiċi.

Dan ma japplikax biss għal dawk il-persuni li huma esposti għall-politika u li issemmew fil-Panama Papers. Japplika ukoll għal xenarji differenti f’kull kamp politiku.

Fuq livell kompletament differenti, jiena diversi drabi għamilt referenza għal tliet rapporti tal-Awditur Ġenerali dwar ir-responsabbiltajiet politiċi ta’ Jason Azzopardi, ilkoll konnessi mal-amministrazzjoni ta’ art pubblika. F’kull wieħed minn dawn it-tliet rapporti l-ex-Ministru Jason Azzopardi kien iċċensurat b’qawwa kbira. Ilkoll niftakru meta f’Ottubru 2017 waqt laqgħa pubblika tal-Kumitat Parlamentari għall-Kontijiet Pubbliċi uffiċjal pubbliku kien xehed li l-ex Ministru Azzopardi kien jaf b’dak kollu li kien għaddej. Imma Jason Azzopardi jibqa’ jilgħabha tal-iblah u jagħmel ta’ birruħu li ma kellux idea dwar dak li kien għaddej madwaru.

L-Opposizzjoni s’issa għadha ma ġegħlitux jerfa’ r-responsabbiltà ta’ għemilu. La ġiegħlet lilu u l-anqas lil oħrajn. Bilfors, f’dan il-kuntest, allura wieħed jistaqsi dwar kif l-Opposizzjoni tippretendi li neħduha bis-serjetà meta tkun kritika ta’ ħaddieħor. Għax l-ewwel u qabel kollox, l-Opposizzjoni għandha tkun kapaċi tapplika għaliha dak li ġustament tippretendi b’insistenza mingħand ħaddieħor.

Sfortunatament il-klassi politika presentment fil-ħatra mhiex kapaċi tipprattika dak li tipprietka. Meta l-partiti politiċi fil-parlament huma b’kuxjenza mraqqda, qiesha taħt l-effett tal-loppju, m’għandniex għalfejn niskantaw b’dak li naraw madwarna.

Ippubblikat fuq Illum :13 ta’ Jannar 2019

 

Anesthetised accountability

Earlier this week, the Planning and Environment Commissioner at the Ombudsman’s office held that it is nobody’s business as to whether or not the Planning Authority’s Board members attend Board meetings: this is a matter for their exclusive concern. The provision of a jet plane to encourage and facilitate the attendance of Ms Jacqueline Gili at the PA Board meeting which considered and approved the dB monstrosity at Pembroke is thus considered as an undue interference and influence in the Planning Authority’s operations.

The Planning Authority Executive Chairman Johann Buttigieg is on record as having taken the responsibility for the decision to bring Ms Gili over to Malta from Catania by air and facilitating her return to continue her interrupted family holiday.

In a country where good governance is upheld, Mr Buttigieg would have resigned forthwith and, in the absence of such a resignation, he would have been fired on the spot as soon as information on the matter became public knowledge.

In addition one would also have had to deal with the fallout on the validity of the decision so taken as a result of such an undue interference.

It is, however, well known that the Planning Authority is incapable of reacting to such blatant bad governance. It is common knowledge that that it lacks the proverbial balls, making it incapable of acting properly.

But we cannot realistically expect otherwise, because the appointees to public authorities mirror the behaviour of their political masters. We cannot expect accountability from the appointees if those that appoint them continuously try to wriggle out of shouldering their responsibilities. There are, of course, some exceptions.

The Panama Papers saga is recent enough. Instead of firing Minister Konrad Mizzi and his Chief of Staff Keith Schembri on the spot for setting up companies in the Central American tax-haven, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat acted as if nothing of significance ever happened. What could have happened – in addition to the setting up Mizzi’s and Schembri’s companies and the third mysterious one (Egrant) is not so far provable. This has been stated repeatedly by our Courts, although the relative decisions have been repeated misinterpreted as absolving various politically exposed people (PEP) from any wrong doing. Nothing could be further from the truth.

There is no doubt that, so far, there is an absence of proof indicating potential criminal liability. However, as a minimum, there is sufficient proof in the public domain pointing towards both errors of judgement and unethical behaviour which, on its own, is sufficient to justify immediate political sanctions.

This is not only applicable to all the PEP featuring in the Panama Papers saga. It is also applicable to other different scenarios across the political divide.

On a completely different level, I refer to the three reports by Auditor-General concerning the political responsibilities of Jason Azzopardi, all three of which deal with the management of government-owned land. In all three cases, former Minister Jason Azzopardi was heavily censored. I remember when a senior civil servant testified during a sitting of Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee in October 2017, in public session, that then Minister Azzopardi was aware of all the goings-on. Yet Jason Azzopardi sanctimoniously plays the idiot and feigns ignorance of the goings-on around his desk.

As yet, the Opposition has not yet held him (and others) to account. The Opposition cannot expect to be taken seriously when it rightly censors others before it musters sufficient courage to put its own house in order.

Unfortunately, the political class currently in office is not capable of practising what its preaches. With such anesthetised political parties, it is no wonder that this country has long gone to the dogs.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 13 January 2019

Mill-Kummissjoni Venezja: Malta demokrazija parlamentari?

Meta tipprova tifhem dak li ntqal mill-Kummissjoni Venezja tal-Kunsill tal-Ewropa tirriżulta preokkupazzjoni waħda bażika: Malta demokrazija parlamentari? Meta tgħarbel l-opinjoni li kienet ippubblikata iktar kmieni din il-ġimgħa tasal għal konkulżjoni loġika: id-demokrazija parlamentari f’Malta hi prattikament ineżistenti. Minflok għandna ċentraliżmu demokratiku bil-Kabinett jiddetta lill-Parlament. Dik li fuq il-karta hi l-ogħla istituzzjoni tal-pajjiż hi fil-fatt sudditu tal-Kabinett.

Wasal iż-żmien li l-Parliament jieħu l-mazz f’idejh. Din hi l-qalba ta’ dak li għandu jkun ikkunsidrat f’riforma kostituzzjonali massiċċa li hi meħtieġa.

L-opinjoni tal-Kummissjoni Venezja teżamina diversi materji. Hi intitolata “Malta: Opinion on Constitutional Arrangements and Separation of Powers and the Independence of the Judiciary and Law Enforcement.”

Dan mhu xejn ġdid għalina f’Alternattiva Demokratika. Jekk wieħed jgħarbel il-manifesti elettorali, stqarrijiet u artikli minn esponenti ta’ AD tul is-snin hu ċar li l-parti l-kbira ta’ dak li tgħid il-Kummissjoni Venezja ġie indirizzat minn Alternattiva Demokratika. Imma dak li qalet AD ġie repetutament injorat mill-klassi politika diriġenti li kontinwament injorat il-ħtieġa ta’ bidla. Qatt ma kellhom rieda tajba li jindirizzaw il-poteri kolonjali tal-gvernatur li fil-parti l-kbira tagħhom għaddew għand il-Prim Ministru u rabbew l-għeruq fil-kostituzzjoni u l-liġijiet tagħna. Il-mentalità li min jirbaħ ikaxkar kollox trid tispiċċa u tinbidel f’waħda fejn kull settur tas-soċjeta ikollu rwol fit-teħid tad-deċiżjonijiet u fejn il-Parlament ma jibqax servili lejn il-Kabinett imma jkun kapaċi li jieqaf fuq saqajh u jagħti direzzjoni hu lill-Kabinett.

Fl-opinjoni tiegħi mhux korrett li jingħad li d-demokrazija f’Malta hi pprattikata fuq il-mudell ta’ Westminister. Iktar inkunu korretti jekk nirrealizzaw li l-mudell hu dak imfassal mill-Uffiċċju tal-Kolonji imma mlibbes ilbies kostituzzjonali iktar riċenti: gvernatur liebes ta’ Prim Ministru.

Il-problema bażika hi li l-Parlament Malti ġie ikkastrat mill-PNPL. Hu Parlament ineffettiv għax m’għandux ir-rieda politika li jġiegħel lill-Gvern jagħti kont ta’ għemilu: la l-Gvern tal-lum u l-anqas lil dawk li ġew qabel .

Il-Kummissjoni Venezja tidħol fil-qalba tal-materja meta tipponta lejn żewġ punti fundamentali li jeħtieġ li jkunu indirizzati.

Id-defiċjenza kostituzzjonali bażika f’Malta hi li l-Prim Ministru għandu f’idejh poteri kbar, wirt mill-gvernaturi kolonjali u f’ħafna każi bla jedd tal-Parlament li jara x’inhu għaddej. Dan iżeblaħ dik li nirreferu għaliha bħala demokrazija parlamentari u hu l-kawża tal-problemi kollha indirizzati mill-opinjoni tal-Kummissjoni Venezja.

It-tieni problema hi l-membri parliamentari servili lejn l-eżekuttiv dejjem ifaqqsu: jistennew it-tqassim mill-Prim Ministru ta’ ħatrijiet intenzjonati biex iżommuhom okkupati u allura ma jkollomx il-ħin biex isaqsu u jgħarblu dwar il-ħidma tal-Gvern.
Dawn mhumiex problemi li ħoloqhom Joseph Muscat. Inħolqu minn ta’ qablu u ġew ipperfezzjonati tul is-snin biex ikun assigurat li ħadd ma jazzarda jaħseb b’moħħu. Il-ftit eċċezzjonijiet jippruvaw ir-regola!

L-aħħar tibdil sar mill-Parlament b’maġġoranza Laburista elett fl-2013 meta sar tibdil f’diversi liġijiet biex ikun possibli li membri parlamentari (laburisti) jkunu jistgħu jinħatru f’diversi karigi, bi ħlas sostanzjali. Dan jassigura li ħadd minnhom ma jiftaħ ħalqu biex ikun kritiku tal-Gvern għax kollha għandhom idhom fil-borma.

Lawrence Gonzi ipprattika dawn l-affarijiet, filwaqt li Joseph Muscat irfina s-sistema.

L-opinjoni tal-Kummissjoni Venezja titkellem dwar bosta materji oħra ta’importanza kbira. Imma fl-opinjoni tiegħi, fl-aħħar, dak kollu li jingħad hu rifless f’punt wieħed : it-tmexxija għandha tkun f’idejn il-Parlament li għandu jibni demokrazija parlamentari ta’ vera u jġiegħel lill-Kabinett jagħti kont ta’ egħmilu kontinwament. Il-kumplament ikun il-konsegwenza loġika ta’ dan.

Ippubblikat fuq Illum : Il-Ħadd 23 ta’ Diċembru 2018

Venice Commission opinion: is Malta a Parliamentary Democracy?

Reading between the lines of the Council of Europe Venice Commission’s opinion on Malta, one basic preoccupation sticks out: is Malta a parliamentary democracy? Perusal of the opinion, released earlier this week, leads to one logical conclusion: parliamentary democracy in Malta is practically nonexistent. Democratic centralism reigns supreme, with the Cabinet dictating to Parliament. What on paper is the “highest institution in the land” is in fact a vassal of Cabinet.

Is it not about time that Parliament takes control? This is the crux of the matter which needs to be addressed by a major constitutional overhaul.

The Venice Commission’s opinion is wide-ranging. It is in fact entitled “Malta: Opinion on Constitutional Arrangements and Separation of Powers and the Independence of the Judiciary and Law Enforcement.”

There is nothing new to Maltese Greens in all this. Going through Green election manifestos, statements and articles throughout the years clearly shows that most of the points raised by the Venice Commission’s opinion have been repeatedly addressed by Alternattiva Demokratika-The Green Party. Yet these green proposals have been ignored time and time again as the alternating ruling political classes have continuously manifested a glaring lack of good will to embrace change and remove the vestiges of colonial rule which are still entrenched in Malta’s constitutional and legal setup.

The “winner takes all” mentality has yet to give way to one where all sectors of society are involved in decision-taking and where, in particular, Parliament is not subservient to the tenant at the Auberge de Castille, but is capable of holding Cabinet on a leash.

It is, in my opinion, incorrect to state that democracy in Malta is practiced on the basis of a Westminister model. It is rather a Colonial Office model camouflaged in modern constitutional clothing: a governor in prim-ministerial clothing. The basic problem lies in the fact that Malta’s Parliament has been castrated by the PNPL. It is an ineffective Parliament, as there is no political will to hold any government to account: neither the present nor any previous other.

The Venice Commission’s opinion goes to the heart of the matter when it points out two fundamental issues that need to be addressed.

The basic constitutional deficiency in Malta is an all-powerful Prime Minister who has constitutionally inherited all the powers exercised by the colonial governors, many times without parliamentary oversight. This makes a mockery of our so-called parliamentary-democracy and is the source and cause of all the problems addressed by the Venice Commission opinion.

The second basic problem is a never-ending supply of servile Members of Parliament who look forward to the sinecures distributed by the Prime Minister to all (government) backbenchers, thereby ensuring that all or most of them are at his beck and call. They are thus kept busy and have no time to ask questions and demanding answers, thereby holding the executive to account.

These problems have not been created by Joseph Muscat. They have, however, been specifically designed by his predecessors in office, red and blue, and tweaked over the years to ensure that at no point would it be possible for anyone to upset the applecart. The few exceptions prove the rule.

The latest adjustments to the system were made by a Labour-controlled Parliament after the 2013 elections as a result of the amendments to various laws making it possible to assign various responsibilities, against substantial payments, to practically all Labour parliamentary backbenchers. This ensures that they each and every government backbencher is not in a position to call the government to account as they all have a finger in the pie!

Lawrence Gonzi had also practised the above, while Joseph Muscat perfected the system.

The Venice Commission opinion speaks on various other important topics. In my humble opinion, at the end of the day it only boils down to one point: Parliament should take full control: it should construct a real parliamentary democracy and hold the tenant at the Auberge de Castille and his associates to account, continuously. All the rest will necessarily follow.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday: 23 December 2018

L-idjoti (bla sens ta’ etika) fit-tmexxija tal-Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar

L-aħbar fil-media li Jacqueline Gili, Direttur tal-Kuntratti fil-Ministeru tal-Finanzi, persuna nnominata mill-Gvern fuq il-Bord tal-Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar, inġiebet minn Catania bil-jet għal-laqgħa tal-Bord kienet aħbar xokkanti. Fatt li jistabilixxi standards ġodda ta’ governanza ħażina għal din l-amministrazzjoni.

Id-dikjarazzjoni taċ-Chairman Eżekuttiv tal-Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar Johann Buttigieg, li jkun idjota kieku kellu jerġa’ jikri jet privat darba oħra meta jaf li m’għandux appoġġ politiku għal deċiżjoni bħal din, turina b’mod ċar daqs il-kristall in-natura tal-problema reali tal-Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar. Id-deċiżjonijiet ma jittieħdux fuq bażi ta’ prinċipji etiċi ta’ tmexxija imma biss jekk ikunx hemm appoġġ politiku għalihom. L-Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar għandha tmexxija amorali li tippermetti kollox, sakemm ikun hemm l-appoġġ politiku neċessarju.

Hemm mod sistematiku kif jivvutaw il-parti l-kbira tal-membri tal-Bord tal-Ippjanar. M’hemmx bżonn wisq għerf biex tbassar min minnhom jista’ jivvota favur jew kontra applikazzjonijiet kontroversjali. Xi kultant ivarjaw ftit imma ġeneralment tista’ tipprevedi bi kważi preċiżjoni kif ser tmur il-votazzjoni.

Dan ifisser li d-deċiżjoni li jinkera l-jet kien eżerċizzju sempliċi biex ikun assigurat li l-voti favur l-applikazzjoni jkunu kollha preżenti madwar il-mejda. Meta wieħed iqis li Jacqueline Gili m’attendietx 29 minn l-aħħar 75 laqgħa tal-Bord tal-Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar dan kollu jassumi sinifikat ikbar.

Dan kollu, minkejja Ii hu importanti hu huwa kważi insinifikanti f’kuntrast mal-problemi kkawżati mill-konflitt ta’ interess eżistenti fil-laqgħat tal-Bord tal-Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar.

Intqal li żewġ membri tal-Bord tal-Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar għandhom kunflitt ta’ interess li minħabba fih ma kellhomx jipparteċipaw fil-laqgħa li kkunsidrat u approvat l-applikazzjoni tad-dB għal żvilupp f’Pembroke.

Iż-żewġ każi huma ta’ natura kompletament differenti.

L-ewwel każ ta’ kunflitt ta’ interess hu dak tal-membru parlamentari Laburista Mellieħi Clayton Bartolo. Meta kien mistoqsi dwar il-każ wara d-deċiżjoni, l-Onor. Clayton Bartolo spjega li missieru u zijuh jikru fond kummerċjali mingħand id-dB Group: huma sidien ta’ kumpanija fil-qasam tal-isports tal-baħar li topera mit-Tunny Net, propjetá ta’ Silvio Debono. Il-fatt enfasizzat mill-Onor. Bartolo li l-qraba tiegħu ma jirċievu l-ebda ħlas mingħand id-dB Group hu rrelevanti. Dak li hu relevanti hu li Clayton Bartolo qatt ma seta biss jikkunsidra li jivvota kontra l-proġett tad-dB f’Pembroke għax li kieku għamel dan kien ikun qed jipperikola l-interessi kummerċjali ta’ qrabatu. Dan hu l-kunflitt ta’ interess ta’ Clayton Bartolo. Huwa kellu jiddikjara dan l-interess tiegħu immedjatament fil-bidu tal-laqgħa u sussegwentement kellu jwarrab u ma jipparteċipax fid-diskussjoni u d-deċiżjoni dwar il-proġett propost minn dB f’Pembroke.

It-tieni kunflitt ta’ interess hu ferm iktar serju minn hekk. Jinvolvi lil Matthew Pace membru tal-Bord tal-Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar u l-ishma li għandu fl-aġenzija tal-propjetá Remax. Dan l-interess ta’ Matthew Pace fin-negozju tal-propjetá huwa f’kunflitt dirett mad-doveri tiegħu ta’ membru tal-Bord tal-Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar. Bħala sid ta’ ishma f’Remax hu perfettament naturali li Matthew Pace jieħu interess attiv fil-permessi ta’ żvilupp li jistgħu jwasslu għal iktar negozju għall-aġenzija li fiha għandu sehem. Imma bħala membru tal-Bord tal-Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar m’għandu jkollu l-ebda interess ta’ din ix-xorta għax dan inevitabilment iċajpar il-ġudizzju tiegħu huwa u jikkonsidra u jiddeċiedi l-applikazzjonijiet li jkollu quddiemu. Hu ċar li qatt ma messu kien appuntat. Il-fatt li ġie appuntat juri l-importanza li jagħti l-Gvern preżenti lill-imġieba korretta ta’ dawk li jiġu maħtura.

Hu floku ukoll li niġbed l-attenzjoni li Matthew Pace hu direttur eżekuttiv tal-kumpanija MFSP Financial Management Limited li f’Ġunju li għadda kienet immultata €38,750 mill-FIAU (Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit) talli ma osservatx numru tal-liġijiet kontra l-ħasil tal-flus. Ir-rapporti fl-istampa f’Ġunju li għadda jindikaw li l-kontijiet inkwistjioni kienu ta’ Keith Schembri, Kap Amministrattiv tal-Uffiċju tal-Prim Ministru Joseph Muscat, u ta’ Adrian Hillman li kien Direttur Maniġerjali tal-Allied Newspapers.

Dan jgħinna mhux ftit biex nifhmu ħafna iktar dak li qiegħed jiġri. It-taħwid li għaddej fl-Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar għandu l-barka diretta minn Kastilja, u allura huwa l-Prim Ministru li jeħtieġ li jerfa’ r-responsabbiltá diretta għal dan kollu.

 

Ippubblikat fuq Illum : Il-Ħadd 30 ta’ Settembru 2018

Amoral idiots at the Planning Authority

The revelation that Jacqueline Gili, Director of Contracts at the Ministry of Finance and government appointee on the Planning Authority Board, was brought over for a meeting by a jet plane from Catania is shocking. It takes bad governance under this administration to a new level.

The declaration by PA Executive Chairman, Johann Buttigieg, that he would be an idiot to hire an executive jet next time in view of his not having any “political backing” for his decision to do so on this occasion identifies the real problem. Governance at the PA is dependent on political backing and not upon solid ethical behaviour. The authority has an amoral leadership and anything is permissible, as long as there is political backing.

The voting patterns of the Planning Authority Board members are clear enough. It is not rocket science to identify a priori which members of the Planning Authority Board are in favour and which are against controversial applications. They vary at times, but generally one can be 75 per cent spot-on in identifying who will vote “yes” and who will vote “no” on most applications.

This signifies that the jet plane decision was simply an exercise in ensuring that the potential yes votes were all on board. This in view of the large number of absences of Jacqueline Gili at Planning Board meetings in the recent past: she has not been present at  29 of the last 75.

I submit, however, that the jet plane issue almost pales into insignificance compared with the issue of conflict of interest at Planning Authority Board meetings. It has been said that two members of the Board had a conflict of interest in view of which they should not have participated in the meeting that considered and approved the dB Pembroke development proposal.

The two cases are however of a completely different nature.

The first conflict of interest is of Mellieħa Labour MP Clayton Bartolo. When prodded, after the decision was taken, the Hon Clayton Bartolo explained that his father and uncle are tenants of commercial premises owned by the dB Group: they are shareholders of a water sports company that operates from Silvio Debono’s Tunny Net Complex. The fact underlined by Hon Bartolo that the Bartolo relatives do not receive any payments from the dB Group is irrelevant. What is relevant is that, had Clayton Bartolo decided to vote against the dB Pembroke proposal, the existing commercial relationship between his immediate relatives and the dB Group would have been at considerable risk. This is what gives rise to Clayton Bartolo’s conflict of interest. He should have declared his interest before the PA Board meeting and not participated in the discussion and decision on the dB Pembroke project.

The second conflict of interest is much more serious. It involves PA Board member Matthew Pace and his shareholding in the Remax Estate Agency. Mr Pace’s interests in an estate agency is in direct conflict with his duties as a member of the Planning Authority Board. As a shareholder in Remax, it is natural for him to have an active interest in development permits as this would inevitably lead to more business for his agency. As a PA Board member, he should not have such an interest in any potential development permit as it would inevitably cloud his judgement in accessing and deciding on the applications for his consideration.

It is clear that Matthew Pace should have never been appointed in the first place and the fact that he was signifies the importance that the present government attaches to the ethical behaviour of its appointees.

It would be pertinent to also point out that Mr Pace is also Executive Director of MFSP Financial Management Ltd, an investment company which, last June, was fined €38,750 by the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit for breaching a number of anti-money laundering laws. Reports in the press at the time indicated that the accounts in question belonged to Keith Schembri, Chief of Staff to Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, and Adrian Hillman former Managing Director of Allied Newspapers.

This makes matters substantially easier to decipher: the useful idiots at the Planning Authority are in the good books of the powers that be at Castille. The buck therefore stops on Joseph Muscat’s desk: it is he who has to shoulder political responsibility for this mess.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 30 September 2018

Wara l-inkjesta Egrant ……… jibda l-kontrattakk

 

L-istorja dwar l-Egrant għad mhiex lesta.

L-ewwel u qabel kollox hemm ir-rapport tal-inkjesta li għadu mhux magħruf, ħlief minn Joseph Muscat u dawk mgħarrfa minnu.

Bħalissa għaddejja l-battalja legali bejn il-Kap tal-Opposizzjoni Adrian Delia u l-Avukat Ġenerali dwar il-pubblikazzjoni tar-rapport. Anke jiena nixtieq li r-rapport ikun ippubblikat imma nifhem li hemm diffikultajiet dwar dawk il-partijiet tar-rapport fejn hemm struzzjonijiet dwar lil min għandhom jittieħdu passi kontrih u dwar xiex. Ovvjament waħedha toħroġ l-osservazzjoni li ma kienitx l-aħjar deċiżjoni li jingħata kopja tar-rapport tal-inkjesta Joseph Muscat, ukoll minħabba li anke dan il-fatt jista’ jkun ta’ preġudizzju għall-investigazzjonijiet li huma meħtieġa min-naħa tal-Pulizija. Li r-rapport ikun ippubblikat b’biċċiet nieqsa ma jsolvi xejn. Naħseb li kien ikun aħjar kieku jkollna paċenzja nistennew, ilkoll kemm aħna.

Imbagħad hemm il-kontrattakk.

Nhar il-Ħadd Joseph Muscat għamel akkużi serji li b’mod ċar juru kif dan il-kontrattakk jista’ jiżviluppa. Muscat qed jgħid li Simon Busuttil kien jaf x’inhu għaddej dwar il-każ Egrant sa mill-bidu nett. Jgħid ukoll li possibilment Busuttil kien ukoll involut fil-koordinazzjoni ta’ kif żviluppaw l-affarijiet.

Issa jiena ma nafx jekk dan il-kliem (flimkien mal-ispjegazzjoni dettaljata dwar x’wassal għalih) intqalx ukoll lill-Maġistrat Aaron Bugeja, u f’dak il-każ jekk il-maġistrat irrappurtax dwaru fir-rapport finali tal-inkjesta, inkluż bir-reazzjoni ta’ Simon Busuttil għal dan. Għax jekk Joseph Muscat għarraf lill-Maġistrat b’dan “il-koordinament” li hu sar jaf bih, bla dubju il-Maġistrat Bugeja jkun talab spjegazzjoni mingħand Simon Busuttil, u kif inhu xieraq ikun għarblu sewwa.

Min-naħa l-oħra, jekk Joseph Muscat ma għarrafx b’dan lill-Maġistrat Aaron Bugeja naħseb li għandu l-obbligu li jispjega għaliex aġixxa b’dan il-mod.

Dwar dan kollu s’issa xejn mhu magħruf, għajr dak li qed jgħid Joseph Muscat.

Apparti dan, sal-ħin li qed nikteb għadni ma qrajt l-ebda kumment ta’ Simon Busuttil dwar dan. Waqa’ skiet komplet.

Dan kollu jfisser li għad hemm ħafna x’jingħad dwar l-istorja Egrant, kif din żviluppat u dan apparti l-inkjesti maġisterjali l-oħrajn li għadhom għaddejjin.

F’dan il-kuntest ilkoll kemm aħna għandna l-obbligu li ma ngħaġġlux biex naslu għall-konklużjonijiet għax bħal dejjem kulħadd jgħidilna bil-biċċa li jaqbillu u jħalli barra l-bqija.

Ikun għaqli li nistennew li naraw l-istampa kollha. Jekk le niżbaljaw bl-ikraħ.

Għalhekk ukoll importanti li naraw ir-rapport kollu tal-inkjesta, u mhux biċċa jew biċċiet minnu.

Fil-PN: Lawrence Gonzi l-medjatur

 

Adrian Delia, Kap tal-Opposizzjoni, huwa u jistkenn bejn attakk u ieħor li huwa soġġett għalihom bħalissa, diversi drabi ġie rappurtat jgħid li ħadd mhu ikbar mill-partit. Naħseb li jemminha din id-dikjarazzjoni għax jidher li jgħidha b’ċerta konvinzjoni. Fir-realtá l-affarijiet huma ħafna differenti minn hekk. Għax ilu li spiċċa ż-żmien li l-mexxej jordna u l-bqija jimxu warajh b’għajnejhom magħluqa.

Partit politiku hu kbir jew żgħir skond kemm jirrispetta lil dawk fi ħdanu. Għax jekk ma jirrispettax lilhom, kif qatt jista’ jirrispetta lil dawk barra minnu?

Il-Partit Nazzjonalista jidher li għadu ma tgħallem xejn mill-esperjenzi tal-konfront li kellu ma’ Franco Debono li l-enerġija tiegħu, flok ma ġiet utilizzata favur inizjattivi kostruttivi spiċċat intużat biex toħloq ħerba. Kien hemm mumenti fis-saga Franco Debono li l-PN seta’ jevita din il-ħerba, jew tal-inqas inaqqas il-konsegwenzi negattivi, imma minflok, il-Kap tal-PN ta’ dakinnhar Lawrence Gonzi għamel żbalji wieħed wara l-ieħor: ipprova jpoġġi lil Franco Debono f’rokna u minflok spiċċa fir-rokna huwa.

Il-Parlament, dakinnhar, fl-2012, kellu quddiemu żewġ mozzjonijiet. Waħda kienet imressqa mill-membri parlamentari Josè Herrera u Michael Falzon għall-Opposizzjoni Laburista, liema mozzjoni kienet kritika tal-politika tal-Gvern immexxi mill-Partit Nazzjonalista fil-qasam tal-ġustizzja u l-intern u kienet tikkonkludi b’dikjarazzjoni ta’ sfiduċja f’Carm Mifsud Bonnici, dakinnhar Ministru. Il-mozzjoni l-oħra kienet imressqa minn Franco Debono u filwaqt li kienet ukoll kritika tal-politika tal-Gvern fil-qasam tal-ġustizzja u l-intern ma kienet titlob l-ebda sfiduċja iżda kienet titlob diskussjoni fuq numru ta’ inizjattivi f’dawn l-oqsma.

Is-sens komun iwasslek biex tikkonkludi li jekk kellek tagħżel bejn iż-żewġ mozzjonijiet kont tagħżel dik ta’ Franco Debono bl-intenzjoni li tnaqqas kemm tista’ l-konsegwenzi kif ukoll bit-tama li tiffoka fuq titjib fil-qasam taħt diskussjoni u forsi tikkontribwixxi biex tikkalma xi ftit is-sitwazzjoni. Nafu li Lawrence Gonzi poġġa fuq l-aġenda tal-Parlament il-mozzjoni ta’ sfiduċja mressqa mill-Opposizzjoni u dan, b’mod ċar, biex jisfida lil Debono. Iffaċċjat b’dan l-atteġġjament ta’ Lawrence Gonzi, Franco Debono ma kellux għażla, irvella u daħal għall-isfida bir-ras nhar it-30 ta’ Mejju 2012 meta ivvota favur il-mozzjoni mressqa mill-Opposizzjoni.

Dan l-iżball tattiku ta’ Lawrence Gonzi wassal għal konsegwenzi gravi fuq il-Partit Nazzjonalista fil-Gvern. Nafu kif is-seduti Parlamentari bejn Mejju 2012 u l-aħħar ta’ dik is-sena kienu battalja kontinwa li spiċċaw bin-nuqqas ta’ approvazzjoni tal-budget.

Jidher li l-PN ma tgħallem xejn minn dak l-iżball: forsi għalhekk Lawrence Gonzi jrid jagħmilha tal-medjatur biex jiggwida ftit lil Adrian Delia ‘l bogħod mill-periklu li jidher li daħal għalih meta stieden lil Simon Busuttil biex jissospendi ruħu mill-Grupp Parlamentari!

Lawrence Gonzi kellu Franco Debono wieħed. Wara żdiedlu Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando u mbagħad ingħaqad magħom ukoll Jesmond Mugliette. Kien hemm bosta oħrajn fil-grupp parlamentari li dakinnhar kienu kritiċi tat-tmexxija ta’ Lawrence Gonzi imma qatt, safejn naf jien, ma ippreżentaw front wieħed biex jikkontestaw l-arroganza fit-tmexxija tal-Partit. In parti dan kien minħabba li ma kellhomx uniformitá ta’ ħsieb u/jew viżjoni.

Jidher li l-affarijiet qed jinbidlu. Il-front komuni li qed jippreżenta parti mill-grupp parlamentari nazzjonalista, illum b’solidarjetá ma’ Simon Busuttil jista’ jwassal lill-PN biex jiġi f’sensieh u tal-inqas jibda jirrispetta lil dawk fi ħdanu.

Bla dubju hemm x’tgħid favur kif ukoll kontra dak li qed jinsisti dwaru Adrian Delia. Pero żgur li m’humiex deċiżjonijiet li l-ewwel tħabbarhom f’konferenza tal-aħbarijiet (ftit wara li jkun jħabbarhom Joseph Muscat) u mbagħad, iffaċċjat b’reazzjoni kuntrarja iddur fuq ta’ madwarek għall-appoġġ. Id-deċiżjonijiet li qiegħed jiffaċċja l-Partit Nazzjonalista jirrikjedu diskussjoni serja li minna ħadd ma għandu jkun eskluż. Forsi l-medjatur jgħallimhom, mill-esperjenza tal-iżbalji tiegħu.

Ippubblikat fuq Illum : il-Ħadd 29 ta’ Lulju 2018

Lawrence Gonzi the PN mediator

 

Adrian Delia, Leader of the Opposition, has many a time been reported as stating that “no one is greater than the Party”. It seems a basic article of his political faith. Unfortunately for him, nowadays reality is quite different. Gone are the days when the leader issues orders and everyone follows blindly because the party has spoken.

The greatness of a political party is not measured in such terms but more in terms of to what extent it is capable of respecting its own. If it is not capable of doing this, how on earth can it ever respect diverging and contrasting opinions out there?

Six years down the line, the PN, apparently, has not yet drawn any lessons from the Franco Debono debacle, whose energy and enthusiasm – instead of being used positively –  ended up causing extreme havoc. There were specific instances when the PN could have avoided most of the damage caused, if the then PN party leader, Lawrence Gonzi, had not embarked on a series of tactical errors: he tried to corner Franco Debono into submission but instead triggered an over-reaction which he was not capable of handling.

Two specific motions were pending on Parliament’s agenda in 2012. One of these motions, submitted on behalf of the Opposition by its MPs Josè Herrera and Michael Falzon, was critical of government policy in the areas of justice and home affairs and ended by requesting a vote of no confidence in then Minister Carm Mifsud Bonnici. Another motion, presented by Franco Debono himself, while being equally critical of the same policy areas, was limited to requesting a detailed discussion of deficiencies in these policy areas.

Common sense would have led anyone in a position to choose which of the motions was to be discussed to opt for the Franco Debono motion, as it was clearly the one that could cause the least collateral damage. It was also possible that the Franco Debono motion could develop into a serious discussion and consequently the situation could calm down.

Lawrence Gonzi then proceeded to place on the Parliamentary agenda the no confidence motion presented by the Opposition, consequently calling Franco Debono’s perceived bluff. Faced with Gonzi’s challenge Franco Debono bit the bullet and, on the 30 May 2012, voted in favour of the no confidence motion moved by the Opposition.

It was a tactical error by Lawrence Gonzi and led to very serious consequences for the PN in government. We remember that parliamentary sittings between May and December 2012 were a continuous battle that led to the government being defeated when it presented its budgetary estimates.

Apparently, the PN has not learned anything from these blunders: maybe this is why Lawrence Gonzi is offering his “mediation skills” to guide Adrian Delia away from the dangers that he has created for the PN with his invitation to Simon Busuttil to auto-suspend himself from the PN Parlamentary Group!

Lawrence Gonzi had one Franco Debono, who was subsequently joined by Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando and Jesmond Mugliette and there were various other members of the then PN parliamentary group who were very critical of Lawrence Gonzi’s leadership. However, as far as I am aware, they never presented a coordinated front to stand up to the leadership’s arrogance. This, most probably, was the direct consequence of the fact that there was a lack of a uniform vision among those dissenting.

Well, times are changing. The common front of the PN parliamentary dissidents supporting Simon Busuttil may bring the PN to its senses in order that it may start respecting its own.

There is, without any doubt, much to say – both in favour and against Adrian Delia’s invitation to Simon Busuttil. These matters are, however, not normally announced in a PN press conference (after being prompted by Joseph Muscat) and then, faced with opposition, being rubber-stamped by a party structure. The decisions faced by the PN require a serious internal debate from which no-one should be excluded. The mediator may, as a result of his experience, guide the PN to avoid the pitfalls ahead. Otherwise, interesting times lie beyond the horizon.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 29 July 2018