Il-Palazz tal-Girgenti: u d-dritt li tagħmel li trid (dejjem u kullimkien)

girgenti-palace

Dal-għodu flaqgħa li Alternattiva Demokratika kellha mal-Kummissarju Elettorali Ewlieni tlabnieh jinvestiga l-fatt li nhar is-Sibt 18 ta Frar 2017 il-Palazz tal-Girgenti intuża biex fih saret laqgħa tal-Grupp Parlamentari tal-Partit Laburista. Dan, fil-fehma ta Alternattiva Demokratika jmur kontra l-liġi li tirregola l-Finanzjament tal-Partiti Politiċi u li tipprojibixxi li dan isir.

Din il-liġi daħlet fis-seħħ fl-1 ta Jannar 2016. Nisimgħu ħafna ftaħir kontinwu dwar kemm kienet pass il-quddiem, kif fil-fatt kienet. Imma l-Partit Laburista xorta ġie jaqa u jqum minnha għax uża propjetá pubblika għal attivitá ta partit u dan kontra dak li tippermetti l-liġi.

L-abbuż hu wieħed żgħir imma xorta jibqa abbuż. Huwa it-tip ta’ abbuż li tant drajnieh isir taħt imneħirna li ħafna ma jagħtux kaz. Anzi tilfu s-sens tan-normalita. Ta’ x’inhu tajjeb u x’inhu hażin.

Fost il-kummenti elettroniċi li hemm jakkumpanjaw din l-aħbar f’xi gazzetti online kien hemm min qal : din rajtu, għax ma rajtux it-tieġ taiben Lawrence Gonzi fil-Palazz tal-Girgenti f’ Lulju 2011. Probabbilment li min ifittex isib bosta każi oħra ta ulied politiċi li użaw propjetá pubblika bħalma għamel iben Lawrence Gonzi. Dwar dan jiena qatt ma qbilt. Naħseb li hi użanza ħażina għax tagħti l-messaġġ żbaljat li l-politiku fis-setgħa għandu jedd assolut dwar l-użu tal-propjetá pubblika, li ċertament mhuwiex il-każ. Imma fl-2016 il-Partit Laburista fil-gvern qata’ linja : għal kulħadd, suppost.

Hemm differenza kbira minn żmien Lawrence Gonzi: dakinnhar ma kienx hemm liġi li tirregola dawn l-affarijiet. Illum hemm! U niftaħru biha ukoll!

Il-liġi dwar il-finanzjament tal-partiti politiċi saret biex jinqatgħu l-abbużi żgħar u kbar. Jagħmilhom min jagħmilhom. Imma jidher li l-Partit Laburista jidhirlu li dawn ir-regoli japplikaw għal kulħadd minbarra għalih! Għax min jaħseb li hu bsaħħtu jibqa jidhirlu li għandu dritt li jagħmel li jrid: dejjem u kullimkien.

muscat-girgenti-tweet

Bħan-nagħaġ ta’ Bendu

naghag-ta-bendu

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ippubblikat fuq Illum : 12 ta’ Frar 2017

 

A Christmas carol for Jason Azzopardi

i-am-the-ghost-of-christmas-past

 

Just like Ebenezer Scrooge, Jason Azzopardi is haunted with scenes from his past. Scrooge had to deal with the Ghost of Christmas Past while Jason has been spotlighted by the Auditor General in three separate reports. These deal with issues forming part of the political responsibilities which he shouldered when part of the Lawrence Gonzi Cabinet.

The first report was presented one year ago and dealt with the issuance of encroachment permits on the eve of the 2013 general election.  The Auditor General then commented on Minister Jason Azzopardi’s intervention in the issuance of encroachment permits, emphasising that his intervention was “unwarranted”.

Pompous as ever, Jason Azzopardi insisted that he acted within the parameters of the law. He was not capable of recognising that he erred. Nor was he publicly chastised in any way by his own political party which has called for everybody’s resignation, except his own.

Two other reports were published by the Auditor General last week.  Both deal with government land: its acquisition in one case, its transfer in another.

The first report investigates the acquisition of 233, 236 and 237, Republic Street Valletta.  The Auditor General, in this investigation identified significant shortcomings in the process of negotiation, critically and negatively conditioning Government’s negotiating position. “This serious shortcoming,” states the Auditor General, “was raised in concerns raised by the Permanent Secretary,” who was over-ruled.

Notwithstanding the corrective measures subsequently taken, the process remained flawed. This, emphasised the Auditor General, represented a fundamental weakness in the process of negotiation (with HSBC), “effectively limiting Government’s bargaining power”.  Bad governance at its worst!

The second report deals with the investigation on the transfer of land at Ta’ L-Istabal, Qormi.   The Auditor General concluded that “failure in terms of good governance, to varying degrees, is a recurring theme that emerged” throughout his review of the matter. The Auditor General also noted “extraordinary haste” when as a result of problems being identified authorisations were obtained and contracts signed in a matter of two days.

The Auditor General lists a number of public officers as being responsible for the mess created when conditions attached to a contract concerning government property were cancelled illegally without Parliament’s approval in terms of legislation regulating the disposal of government land.

Describing this mess, the Auditor General states that he “did not find any direct evidence of political pressure exerted in the processes reviewed.” The emphasis obviously is on the words “direct evidence” as reading through the report it is amply clear that a selection of the top brass within the civil service would not act in such blatant defiance of the law unless they had at least tacit approval of the holders of political office to which they were responsible. The civil service officials mentioned by the Auditor General as being directly responsible are: The Director General, the Notary and the Assistant Director Contracts of the Government Property Division.

The Auditor General makes this very important consideration: “ …………… an element of political pressure was asserted by the Chair Vassallo Builders Group Ltd, who alleged that Marsovin Ltd had prior agreement with the ‘Minister’ and the GPD. The Director Marsovin Group Ltd negated this allegation, as did the Minister of Finance, the Economy and Investment and the Parliamentary Secretary for Revenues and Land, who indicated that they were not aware of the case at the time. Queried in this respect, the Chair Vassallo Builders Group Ltd indicated no knowledge of who the ‘Minister’ was. While the NAO cannot rule out pressure being exerted by any of the aforementioned, or possibly by other persons who did not come to this Office’s attention, the facts of the case render immediately evident that pressure was in fact exerted to the detriment of Government’s interests.”

Ultimately the responsibility for this mess lies on Jason Azzopardi’s lap. He has a lot of pending explanations. He will obviously not resign as clearly he only pays lip service to good governance.

In addition, this report from the Auditor General possibly throws some light on another incident: the loan of €250,000 by a certain Nazzareno Vassallo to the PN’s commercial arms on the eve of the 2013 general elections. We were then informed that the loan was of a commercial nature on commercial terms.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating. How can anyone believe Jason Azzopardi and his political party preaching adherence to good governance when as recently as 2012 they made a mess on all that they could lay their hands on?

Referring to Joseph Muscat’s gross administrative incompetence and the scandals popping up every other day is no solution. The more we unravel from the past the more clear it becomes that both the Labour Party and the Nationalist Party, each in its own way, as a result of their shady methods of operation, cannot be trusted with the reins of power.

published in The Malta Independent : Tuesday 27 December 2016

L-istrike tal-piloti tal-Air Malta

air malta branding

Il-piloti tal-Air Malta m’għadx għandhom fiduċja fil-management kurrenti tal-Air Malta. Dan intqal mill-ALPA (Airline Pilots Association) wara li l-Air Malta permezz ta’ talba għall-ħruġ ta’ mandat ta’ inibizzjoni waqqfet (għal issa) l-possibilità ta’ strike mill-piloti tal-Air Malta.

It-theddida ta’ istrike hi assoċjata mad-dewmien fil-konklużjoni ta’ negozjati dwar ftehim kollettiv ġdid għax il-ftehim kollettiv il-qadim skada xi xhur ilu.

Id-dritt tal-istrike hu arma qawwija u l-konsegwenzi jistgħu jkunu sostanzjali tant li bosta jsostnu li għandu jintuża biss meta jkunu ġew ippruvati bla suċċess l-alternattivi kollha biex tinstab soluzzjoni.

Issa l-Air Malta hi miżgħuda bil-problemi, bosta minnhom, kif tgħid l-ALPA huma problemi li ġew ikkawżati mill-management tal-kumpanija tul is-snin. Dan dejjem sar bil-kunsens tal-Gvern tal-ġurnata li bid-Diretturi li jaħtar dejjem kellu u għad għandu kontroll assolut (s’issa) fuq dak li jsir fil-kumpanija. [Tista’ per eżempju taqra  dak li kien kiteb xi snin ilu Michael Mallia li kien Direttur tal-Air Malta.]

Tul l-aħħar snin il-problemi tal-Air Malta, għalkemm naqsu, għadhom hemm. Għalhekk għaddejjin negozjati mal-Alitalia/Etihad Airways li dwarhom jidher li l-Unions ftit li xejn għandhom informazzjoni s’issa.

X’ser jiġri mal-Alitalia/Etihad Airways ftit nista’ ngħid ħlief dak li hu ovvju: li probabbilment jonqsu l-impieg mal-Air Malta. Hi pinnola morra li l-Gvern ta’ Joseph Muscat bla dubju jipprova jtaffi l-effett tagħha bl-istess mod li l-Gvern ta’ Gonzi mexa mat-Tarżna.

Dawn huma t-toroq rejali tal-Air Malta. Azzjoni industrijali issa kull ma tagħmel tkun li tagħti tefa l-isfel lill-futur li hu diġa imċajpar. Għalkemm hu l-mument tal-prudenza, dan ma jfissirx dgħjufija. Għax f’dan il-mument is-saħħa tal-istrike ma tagħmel ġid lil ħadd. La lill-Air Malta, la lil pajjiż u l-anqas lil piloti!

Il-parabboli ta’ Varist

Evarist-Bartolo.irrabjat

It-tradizzjoni politika Ewropeja, li f’kull partit politiku jkun hemm mhux biss min jaħseb b’moħħu imma, iktar minn hekk li jkun hemm min jitkellem ċar fil-pubbliku, għad ma rabbietx l-egħruq fil-fond f’pajjiżna. Kieku dan seħħ, il-ħajja politika f’Malta forsi hi ftit aħjar.

Minflok politiċi li jitkellmu ċar, għandna l-parabboli ta’ Varist li waqt li l-opinjoni pubblika qed tiffoka fuq il-Panama jippreferi jikkritika l-imġieba tal-Professur Bannister inkella  li jitkellem dwar xi stedina għal fenkata f’razzett fin-nofsinnhar tal-pajjiż. Messaġġ għal min irid jifhmu, imma ferm il-bogħod minn dak mistenni minnu.

Jiena nitkellem ma membri parlamentari miż-żewġ naħat tal-kamra. Wieħed minnhom, min-naħa tal-Gvern, riċentement qalli li Marlene Farrugia għaġġlet meta rriżenjat għax kieku stenniet ftit kienet issib appoġġ mhux żgħir mill-backbench.

Iva, wara l-istorja faċli tgħid x’seta ġara, kieku …………… nitkellmu ċar u mhux bil-parabboli.

 

Imma dan ma ġarax b’kumbinazzjoni għax tajjeb li niftakru li Joseph Muscat ħaseb minn kmieni biex jassigura ruħu li jkun jista’ joħnoq id-dissens fil-grupp parlamentari biex jipprova jevita dak li ġralu Lawrence Gonzi.

Id-daqs kbir tal-Kabinett (l-ikbar fl-istorja) kif ukoll l-inkarigi lil prattikament il-backbench kollu (min Chairman hawn u min konsulent hemm) huma fost il-miżuri intenzjonati minn kmieni biex id-dissens ikun regolat. Pero minkejja dan, il-grupp parlamentari laburista xorta kellu diskussjoni imqanqla dwar il-Panama Papers. Kien hemm min, bil-bibien magħluqin ħass li seta jkun kritiku ta’ kif saru l-affarijiet u diversi talbu r-riżenji ta’ Konrad u Keith. Il-kuraġġ tal-ftit instema imma ma kienx biżżejjed. Kellhom il-kuraġġ imma illimitaw ruħhom għall-kritika interna, li hi neċessarja ukoll.

S’issa d-dissens fil-Partit Laburista hu limitat għall-kritika interna u għall-parabboli ta’ Varist. Żewġ passi l-quddiem imma mhux biżżejjed biex tinkiseb lura l-kredibilità.

 

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.

Chernobyl : x’tgħallimna wara 30 sena?

ostrich

Tletin sena ilu bħal għada s-26 t’April 1986 kien sploda r-reattur nuklejari ta’ Chernobyl. X’tgħallimna?

L-isplużjoni ikkontaminat 40% tat-teritorju Ewropew. Mhux bl-istess mod.

Fi Sqallija, per eżempju, hekk kif sar magħruf x’kien ġara [għax ma kienx magħruf mill-ewwel] in-nies kienu ngħataw il-parir biex jaħslu sewwa l-ħxejjex u l-frott. Dan minħabba li bl-effett tar-rih kien hemm il-biża’ li materjal radjuattiv seta jiddepożita ruħu fuq il-ħxejjex u l–frott.

F’Malta ma niftakarx li kien hawn xi twissija ta’ dik ix-xorta. Kien qiesu ma ġara xejn.

Illum wara tletin sena nistaqsu jekk il-pajjiż huwiex mgħammar biex jinduna jekk inċident nuklejari li jkun seħħ, il-bogħod jew fil-viċin huwiex ta’ theddida għal saħħitna. X’miżuri ittieħdu? Tgħallimna xi ħaġa wara tletin sena?

Fis-snin li ġejjin ser ikollna diversi impjanti nuklejari viċin tagħna: fit-Tunisia, fl-Alġerija u fl-Eġittu b’mod partikolari. Possibilment ukoll fil-Marokk. Jidher li ħlisna mill-periklu wara l-bieb għax il-ftehim bejn il-Libja u Franza dwar impjant nuklejari biex jikkonverti l-ilma baħar f’ilma tajjeb għax-xorb ma laħaqx implimentat. Konna iffurtunati dwar dan kieku ma nafx x’seta inqala’ waqt il-gwerra ċivili li issa ilha ftit għaddejja fil-Libja.

Dwar il-ħtieġa li l-Gvern Malti jqajjem il-kwistjoni mal-Gvern Libjan kienet Alternattiva Demokratika biss li kienet tkellmet għax kemm il-Partit Nazzjonalista kif ukoll il-Partit Laburista kienu waqgħu fil-muta.

Kellna biss gazzetta Taljana (Il Sole 24 Ore: artiklu ta’ Federico Rendina intitolat Il Governo rilancia sull’atomo) li kienet qalet li l-Prim Ministru Taljan Silvio Berlusconi kien iddiskuta l-kostruzzjoni ta’ impjant nuklejari f’Malta mal-Prim Ministru Gonzi. Il-Gvern Malti kien ċaħad li qatt saret id-diskussjoni.

Nittama li wara tletin sena tgħallimna xi ħaga. Tgħid?

Evarist Bartolo u l-politika tal-iskalora

skalora

Bħalissa qed naqraw fil-gazzetti l-argumenti li qed iġib Evarist Bartolo dwar il-posizzjoni taċ-Chairman tal-Awtorità dwar is-Servizzi Finanzjarji (MFSA)  l-Professur Joe Bannister. Varist qed isostni li l-involviment ta’ Bannister f’hedge fund fil-gżejjer Cayman hu konflitt ta’ interess li minħabba fih Bannister ma messux qiegħed jokkupa l-posizzjoni  sensittiva ta’ Chairman tal-MFSA.

Il-Professur Bannister isostni li diġa ta l-ispjegazzjonijiet tiegħu ħames snin ilu, li ġew aċċettati minn Lawrence Gonzi u Joseph Muscat.

L-attakk ta’ Varist Bartolo f’dan il-mument, fl-opinjoni tiegħi, mhux daqstant attakk fuq il-Professur Bannister. Bannister huwa fil-mument l-aħjar medium għal Varist biex jiffoka fuq ir-responsabbiltà kollettiva tal-Kabinett bl-użu ta’ lingwaġġ li bih ma jkunx imdarras il-Laburist.

L-attakk reali hu kontra r-resistenza ta’ sħabu fil-Kabinett biex jiftħu għajnejhom dwar Konrad Mizzi u Keith Schembri. Resistenza li minħabba fiha m’humiex jirrealizzaw il-gravità tas-sitwazzjoni li timmerita rizenja immedjata ta’ Konrad Mizzi u Keith Schembri l-Kasco, inkella t-tkeċċija tagħhom.

It-Times tal-lum fil-fatt tirrapporta lil Varist jgħid “One sees someone defending somebody else, mentioning seriousness and principles, and then one finds that there are personal obligations and that the two are doing very well together.”

Dan Varist jgħidu fil-kuntest tal-kritika tiegħu indirizzata lejn il-Professur Joe Bannister. Il-mira reali iżda, fil-fehma tiegħi, hi Joseph Muscat u d-difiża li Muscat qed jagħmel lil Konrad Mizzi u Keith Schembri l-Kasco.

Din hi l-politika tal-iskalora li biha l-Gvern ta’ Joseph Muscat filwaqt li jiddefendi lil min mexa ħażin qiegħed, fl-istess ħin, kontinwament, ikanta favur is-serjetà fit-tmexxija imma mhux jirrealizza li qiegħed kontinwament jegħreq, imdawwar bl-iskalora. U kif qallu l-professur l-ieħor, Simon Busuttil, fl-iskalora diffiċli jsalva mill-għarqa.

Symbolic gestures do not compensate for planning failures

MFT.4 new cranes

Last Thursday, the MEPA Board finally decided to approve the Freeport Terminal’s application to install four cranes with 140-metre high jibs at the terminal. This decision was taken after the Board, in an anticipated about-turn, accepted a second declaration from Transport Malta as a recommendation for approval of the proposal.

In August, Transport Malta had pointed out that the installation of these new cranes was “not desirable” as, due to their height, they would “penetrate one of the established aeronautical protection surfaces by circa 18m”. However notwithstanding the conclusion that, for this reason, the Freeport’s proposal was not considered as undesirable, “given the importance of this facility to the economy”  Transport Malta gave its go-ahead to the Freeport’s proposal subject to a number of mitigation measures.

The Freeport facilities are too close to the residential area of Birżebbuġa and, over the years, MEPA has not given sufficient consideration to the impact that this facility has had – and is still having – on the quality of life of the residential community.

At no point during its consideration of the various planning applications submitted over the years has MEPA considered it necessary to consider the social impact of this economic activity. In fact, primarily as a result of the Freeport’s operations, most of the sport facilities in the area, introduced by the British services over the years, have disappeared. It is only recently that the extensive damage to the waterpolo pitch was made good,  through the reconstruction of a new waterpolo pitch. The activities of the Sailing Club, which  borders the terminal, have also been badly affected as a result of the increase in the number of ships making use of the terminal. The Birżebbuġa Sailing Club, ironically sponsored by the Freeport itself, is the only one of its kind in Malta’s political south.

Last Thursday, MEPA, despite opposition from the Freeport Terminal management, decided on compensating the Birżebbuġa community through the creation of an ad hoc fund to the amount of €955,000 to fund environmental improvement projects in the Birżebbuġa area. It is the second time in six years that MEPA has considered it necessary to take such a symbolic decision. The first time was in 2009, when a fund of €741,820 was created for the same purpose. That decision was, however, quashed by the Lawrence Gonzi-led Cabinet as a result of the planning appeal process, even though the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal  in an 11-page recommendation, explained why the original decision was to be confirmed.

The decision to create this latest ad hoc fund is symbolic in that it recognises the Freeport’s negative impact on the local community. It will not, however, have any substantial effect. It is just a symbolic recognition of the fact that the contribution of the Freeport Terminal to Malta’s economic growth is being achieved at the expense of the quality of life of Birżebbuġa residents.

It  is known that a number of residential properties in the area closest to the terminal have been vacant for a considerable time, as the noise generated through its operation is at times unbearable, irrespective of the time of day.

This is certainly a major failure of land-use planning in Malta, a failure that will be compounded in the coming months when other major planning decisions –  such as the gas storage facilities for the Delimara Power Station just across the bay from the Freeport Terminal – come into operation.

The transformation of Marsaxlokk Bay into an industrial port is now practically complete and, gradually, a substantial number of residents will be squeezed out.  It is the same process as that experienced by the Three Cities at Cottonera as a result of the activities of Malta Drydocks. The results can be seen by all.  Soon, the shedding of crocodile tears will commence and then the rehabilitation of Marsaxlokk Bay may possibly be planned.

originally published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 13 December 2015

€miljun għal Birżebbuġa

marco polo

Id-Direttorat tal-Ippjanar tal-MEPA għadu kif ikkonkluda r-rapport dwar l-applikazzjoni tal-management tal-Port Ħieles biex jinġiebu krejnijiet ġodda. Dawn il-krejnijiet fil-fatt waslu l-bieraħ.

Dan ir-rapport jikkonferma li l-MEPA, wara li rċiviet diversi oġġezzjonijiet, kemm mill-Kunsill Lokali ta’ Birżebbuġa kif ukoll mir-residenti, insistiet li jinbidlu l-pjanti u jitneħħew il-krejniet mill-parti tal-Port Ħieles li hi l-iktar viċin taż-żona residenzjali. Dan hu pass il-quddiem. Għax ir-residenti huma bir-raġun mxebbgħin bl-impatti tal-Port Ħieles fuq il-ħajja tagħhom, anke jekk tul dawn l-aħħar ħames snin ittieħdu passi biex dan ikun indirizzat.

Id-Direttorat tal-Ippanar qed jirrakkomanda ukoll li minħabba l-impatti tal-Port Ħieles fuq Birżebbuġa, jsir ħlas mill-Port Ħieles ta’ €955,000 biex jintużaw fuq xogħolijiet f’Birżebbuġa. Eżatt liema ser ikunu dawn ix-xogħolijiet għadu mhux ċar imma dawn affarijiet li jiġu ċċarati matul il-ġranet u l-ġimgħat li ġejjin bejn il-MEPA u l-Kunsill Lokali ta’ Birżebbuġa.

Fil-waqt li din hi aħbar tajba għal Birżebbuġa tajjeb li niftakru li sitt snin ilu, fl-2009, il-MEPA kienet ukoll ħadet deċiżjoni simili. L-ammont dakinnhar kien ta’ €741,820. Imma dakinnhar il-Port Ħieles kien appella minn dik id-deċiżjoni u l-Kabinett ta’ Lawrence Gonzi kien żamm mal-Port Ħieles u lill-Birżebbuġa ċaħħada minn dawn il-flus u Birżebbuġa tħalliet tittewweb .

Wara l-esperjenza qarsa ta’ sitt snin ilu nistennew u naraw kif ser jiżviluppaw l-affarijiet.