Green and Clean: Parliament’s role

The general election is being over-shadowed by a web of corruption spun around the Office of the Prime Minister. It has been unravelling for months since the publication of the Panama Papers.

Months of debate has highlighted the need for Parliament to reclaim the authority which, over the years, it has ceded to government. All institutions require continuous Parliamentary oversight: even the civil service needs to be properly monitored by Parliament.

The PN are proposing labour-proof institutions. In reality the institutions need to be PN-proof as well – as both major political parties have had exclusive control of institutions over the years, bending them to their will.

The current mess is the direct result of a two-party system that spread its tentacles through the institutions creating empires with the specific aim of buttressing those in power and protecting them in their time of need. It is a two-party system which, over a 50-year period, has developed a winner takes all mentality, as a result of which only those aligned to the winner are deemed to be able to contribute to the well-being and development of the country. The rest, with few exceptions, have been repeatedly excluded, and it is Malta which, ultimately has lost the utilisation of substantial talent.

This is the background to Alternattiva Demokratika’s electoral manifesto. Entitled Vote Green – Vote clean, without ignoring other important issues, it focuses on matters of governance in addition to its core environmental proposals.

We have plenty of good laws. The problem is that, many times, the pool of talent from which those who implement such laws are selected is generally limited to those carrying the party card. Successive governments have often preferred the politically loyal to the technically and ethically competent. This has been possible due to the fact that Parliament has abdicated its responsibilities and assigned them to the government.

Parliament should reclaim the authority ceded to government to appoint authorities and it should proceed to screen those nominated through a public hearing by a Parliamentary Committee on the lines practised by the Senate of the United States of America. This screening by Parliament should  be applicable first and foremost to all constitutional authorities, as well as to all authorities set up in terms of law. Likewise, the appointment of Commissioner of Police, the Head of the Armed Forces, the Governor of the Central Bank,  the Head of the Civil Service and ambassadors, as well as all civil service grades from Director up to Permanent Secretary,   should be subject to Parliamentary scrutiny.

In addition to ensuring a more serious selection process, this would serve as a safety valve protecting the civil service itself from abusive action on the part of an incoming government as happened in 2013, when the Head of the Civil Service and practically all Permanent Secretaries were removed in the first minutes of a new Labour government.

The recruitment of people of trust on a large scale during the past 4 years has further politicised the civil service. It is a practice that has been on the increase even before March 2013. The engagement of people of trust throughout the wider public service was used as a stratagem to avoid the scrutiny of the Public Service Commission, a constitutional body established specifically to ensure a fair recruitment process. This should cease forthwith, with the engagement of people of trust being limited to the private secretariats of holders of political office.

The Standards in Public Life Act, which ironically was supported by both the PN and the PL, was approved by Parliament shortly before dissolution. It provisions were therefore not implemented. In particular, the appointment of a Commissioner for Standards in Public Life – to be tasked with investigating the behaviour of MPs – has not yet materialised and will have to be addressed by the new Parliament elected on 3 June.

Lobbying is not yet regulated. In fact, its regulation has been postponed as no agreement was reached between the PN and the PL about possible lobbying regulations.

AD considers that the next Parliament will have to address head-on whether Members of Parliament should be full-timers, thus severing all links with profession and/or employment and, as a result, substantially reducing instances of conflict of interest faced by Members of Parliament.

Parliament can, in the next few weeks, assume a central role in re-building the country’s institutions. It is the only way forward to ensure that ethical behaviour in public life is the norm, rather than the exception.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 21 May 2017

Advertisements

Il-Manifest Elettorali ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika 2017

Vot Alternattiv, Vot Nadif.

Il-politika nadifa ma tiġx mix-xejn. Jeħtieġ li naħdmu għaliha kuljum. Lejl u nhar.Vot alternattiv hu vot favur l-indafa u kontra t-tniġġis ta’ kull xorta. Tniġġis tal-ħajja pubblika minn nuqqas ta’ tmexxija tajba u korruzzjoni. Hu ukoll vot kontra t-tniġġis ambjentali li daqqa jeqred il-ħajja, u drabi oħra jtappan u jnaqqas il-kwalità tal-ħajja tagħna lkoll.Vot alternattiv hu vot favur l-indafa fil-ħajja pubblika kif ukoll vot favur il-ħarsien tal-ambjent.

Din il-kampanja elettorali qed isseħħ fi tmiem leġiżlatura ta’ erba’ snin li wriet kemm l-istituzzjonijiet tal-pajjiż huma dgħajfa. Huma dgħajfa tant li ma jistgħux jintervjenu kontra l-abbuż li jikber, flistess ħin li jkompli jherri dak li baqa’ mill-istituzzjonijiet.

L-istituzzjonijiet ħafna drabi jaħdmu fuq l-affarijiet sempliċi u ordinarji ta’ kuljum imma mbagħad huma dgħajfa fil-konfront ta’ abbuż li jew isir mill-istat inkella minn dawk li l-istat irid jipproteġi.

Fid-dawl ta’ dan, l-indafa hi l-aġenda tagħna. Hi aġenda li tibni mill-ġdid jew issaħħaħ l-istituzzjonijiet u tagħti lura d-dinjità lill-pajjiż billi tistabilixxi mill-ġdid l-indafa fil-ħajja pubblika bħala valur imfittex u mixtieq. Hi aġenda li tfittex li tirrestawra s-serjetà fil-ħajja pubblika u l-indafa madwarna fit-toroq, fl-arja, fl-art u fil-baħar.

Idejn indaf fuq it-tmun tal-pajjiż. Nifs b’arja friska u nadifa. Ilma li nixorbu li jkun ċar u nadif. Ikel li ma jkunx ikkontaminat.

Il-Manifest sħiħ tista’ taqrah hawn.

Ir-riforma tal-MEPA: pass lura

MEPA cartoon

(cartoon ta’ Steve Bonello : http://www.stevebonellocartoons.com)

Wara li teżamina d-dokument ta’ konsultazzjoni ippubblikat mill-Gvern dwar ir-riforma tal-ippjanar għall-użu tal-art intitolat For an Efficient Planning System ma tista’ tasal għall-ebda konkluzjoni ħlief li dan hu pass lura. Iċ-ċokon tal-pajjiż għandu jwassal għal konsolidazzjoni  mhux għal frammentazzjoni tal-funzjonijiet ta’ governanza ambjentali.

Kien ikun iktar għaqli li kieku l-ambjent u l-ippjanar għall-użu tal-art baqgħu t-tnejn fl-istess Awtorita’. Il-konsolidazzjoni f’awtorita’ waħda li seħħet tnax-il sena ilu kienet pass il-quddiem li iżda ma kenitx segwita bl-allokazzjoni ta’ iktar riżorsi għad-Direttorat tal-Ambjent. Il-membri tal-Bord tal-MEPA li nħatru tul is-snin ma kienux kapaċi jagħrfu l-importanza ta’ iktar emfasi fuq ir-responsabbiltajiet ambjentali tal-MEPA. Id-Direttorat tal-Ambjent inħonoq u ma tħalliex jiżviluppa leħnu.

Id-dokument ta’ konsultazzjoni jiffoka fuq l-effiċjenza tal-proċess tal-ippjanar għall-użu tal-art. Taħt dan l-iskop ġeneriku jnaqqas il-protezzjoni għaż-żona barra l-iżvilupp, għall-bini protett  u għaż-żoni protetti.

Sal-lum, bl-emendi tal-2010, zvilupp  bla permess barra miż-żona ta’ żvilupp, jew bdil f’bini protett inkella żvilupp f’zona protetta, ma setax ikun sanzjonat. Dan kien wieħed mill-ftit passi l-quddiem li seħħew fil-passat mhux mertu tal-Gvern ta’ dakinnhar iżda riżultat tal-pressjoni tal-opinjoni pubblika, tas-soċjeta’ ċivili u anke, għax le, mertu ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika. Dawn l-irregolaritajiet issa, f’isem l-effiċjenza,ser ikun possibbli li jkunu regolarizzati. Dan hu pass lura u ser jippremja lil min abbuża u li bl-emendi tal-2010 inqabad fuq sieq waħda.

Id-dokument ta’ konsultazzjoni dwar l-ippjanar jipproponi ukoll li l-iskedar ikun ikkunsidrat mill-ġdid wara 10 snin. Din il-proposta ukoll hi pass lura għax ser isservi biex tinkoraġgixxi n-nuqqas ta’ ħarsien tal-patrimionju tagħna u dan billi taghti tama li min ihares lejn l-iskedar bħala xkiel. Tagħtih tama li b’xi mod ikun jista’ jirranġa hu ukoll.

Id-dokument ta’ konsultazzjoni ftit li xejn jitkellem dwar il-kompozizzjoni tal-Bordijiet tal-Ippjanar. Alternattiva Demokratika, kif anke saħqet fil-manifest elettorali għall-elezzjoni ġenerali tal-2013, jidhrilha li wasal iż-żmien li ma jibqax ikun hemm involviment dirett tal-Membri Parlamentari fit-teħid ta’ deċiżjonijiet tal-ippjanar tal-uzu tal-art. Ir-rwol tal-Parlament permezz tal-kumitati tiegħu għandu jiffoka fuq is-sorveljanza tal-awtorita’, inkluż li jgħarbel il-ħatriet li jagħmel il-Gvern.

Id-dokument ta’ konsultazzjoni dwar l-ippjanar konsistentement ifittex li jħares l-interessi ta’ min irid jiżviluppa l-art iżda fl-ebda parti tiegħu ma jfittex li jħares l-interessi tal-komunita. F’ħafna każi t-tħaffif u l-għaġġla tal-proċess tal-ħruġ tal-permessi ta’ żvilupp ser ifisser inqas ħarsien  għad-drittijiet ta’ terzi u għall-ħarsien tal-ispazji pubbliċi, ta’ bini skedat u żoni protetti.

Għaldaqstant, meta wieħed iħares b’mod komplessiv lejn id-dokument ta’ konsultazzjoni huwa ċar li l-proposta tal-Gvern hi pass lura.

Il-lingwa tas-sinjali

sign_language

Meta l-Ministru tal-Finanzi kien qiegħed jaqra d-diskors tal-Budget il-ġimgħa l-oħra d-diskors tiegħu kien maqlub għal-lingwa tas-sinjali (bil-malti). L-istess id-diskors tal-Kap tal-Opposizzjoni l-bieraħ u iktar tard matul il-ġimgħa l-istess ser jiġri bit-tweġiba tal-Prim Ministru.

Tajjeb. Anzi tajjeb ħafna.

Huwa neċessarju li nifhmu li dan m’huwiex xi kapriċċ iżda neċessita. Hu pass pożittiv. Iżda huwa meħtieġ li dan ikun estiż għall-oqsma kollha tal-amministrazzjoni pubblika. Bħala minimu naħseb li hu neċessarju li jkun hemm aċċess għal-lingwa tas-sinjali f’dawk l-oqsma tal-amministrazzjoni pubblika li huma f’kuntatt dirett mal-pubbliku.

Hu neċessarju li l-Korp tal-Pulizija jkollu membri tiegħu imħarrġa biex jikkomunikaw bil-lingwa tas-sinjali għax il-pulizija f’kull ħin ikunu in kuntatt ma kull settur tal-popolazzjoni u huwa neċessarju li jkun possibli li l-pulizija tkun f’posizzjoni li tikkomunika ma kulħadd. L-istess jgħodd għad-dipartiment tal-protezzjoni ċivili, għad-dipartment tal-edukazzjoni, għad-dipartiment tas-servizzi soċjali kif ukoll għall-Kunsilli Lokali.

Mhux faċli li tħarreġ in-nies mil-lum għal għada. Dan nifhmu. Bħalma nifhem l-impenn li s-soċjetá tagħna tkun dejjem iktar inklussiva: tagħti spazju lil kulħadd, tisma’ lil kulħadd u tagħti l-opportunitá lil kulħadd biex isemma’ leħnu. Huwa proċess li jieħu ż-żmien. Imma huwa proċess li bħalma ġie emfasizzat fil-Manifest Elettorali ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika fl-aħħar elezzjoni ġenerali, jeħtieġ li jwassal biex il-lingwa tas-sinjali tkun rikonoxxuta ukoll bħala lingwa uffiċjali tal-pajjiż.

B’hekk inkunu dejjem iktar pajjiż li jinkludi lil kulħadd: jisma’ lil kulħadd u jħalli lil kulħadd isemma’ leħnu b’dik il-lingwa li jifhem u li hu kapaċi juża.

Ippubblikat fuq iNews it-Tlieta 12 ta’ Novembru 2013

sign language 2

Biex niġu f’sensina

ostrich

Il-pjani lokali li jsiru m’humiex hemm għal dejjem. Jeħtieġ li jkunu aġġornati minn żmien għal żmien skond dak li jkun jeħtieġ il-pajjiż.

Mhux kulħadd jagħti prijorita’ lill-istess affarijiet.

Min iħares sal-pont ta’ imnieħru, (short term) bħalma qed jagħmel il-Gvern Laburista li għandna illum kif ukoll kif għamel il-Gvern Nazzjonalista ta’ qablu, jagħti prijorita’ lill-industrija tal-bini għax iqies l-kontribut li  suppost illi din l–industrija qed tagħti lill-ekonomija tal-pajjiż.

Bħalma ġara f’pajjiżi oħra b’konsegwenzi diżastrużi, l-investiment fil-propjeta’ hu bużżieqa li f’pajjiżna ukoll għad trid tinfaqa’ u meta tinfaqa’ ser iweġġgħu ħafna nies. J’alla ddum ma tinfaqa’ u sa dakinnhar nittama li min għandu jiftaħ għajnejħ ikun fetaħom beraħ u  jkun diġa beda jirrimedja.

Hemm bżonn urġenti li nifhmu li l-industrija tal-bini għandha bżonn tkun ristrutturat. Ma tistax tibqa’ tipproduċi iktar propjetajiet reżidenzjali  biex il-parti l-kbira minnhom jibqgħu vojta. Hemm ħtieġa li din l-industrija tkun mgħejjuna tfittex toroq oħra. Hemm ħafna modi kif dan jista’ jsir.

Il-programm elettorali ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika għall-elezzjoni ta’ Marzu 2013 kien ċar fuq din il-materja. Kien l-uniku wieħed li tkellem ċar fuq l-industrija tal-bini u dwar il-ħtieġa li ma jkollnix iktar proġetti massiċċi ta’ kostruzzjoni reżidenzjali.

72,150 post residenzjali vojt ifisser ħela tar-riżorsi tal-pajjiż. Ifisser ħela ta’ art. Ifisser ħela ta’ kapital investit li seta’ faċilment ġie investit f’oqsma oħra iktar produttivi. Ifisser ħela ta’ riżorsi umani li huma dedikati biex jipproduċu bini destinat li jibqa’ vojt. Riżorsi umani li l-pajjiż jeħtieġ f’oqsma iktar produttivi. Għall-ġid tagħhom, għall-ġid ta’ familtom, għall-ġid tal-pajjiż.

L-industrija tal-bini għandha impatti negattivi ekonomiċi, soċjali u ambjentali.

Ir-reviżjoni tal-pjani lokali hi l-opportunita tad-deheb biex nibdew mexjin fi triq li fuq medda ta’ żmien hi inqas problematika. Triq iebsa u diffiċli. Triq ta’ sagrifiċċju.  Triq li tirrikonoxxi li ġaladarba hawn dan il-bini kollu vojt ma nistgħux nibqgħu nibnu bl-istess ritmu. Ifisser ukoll li jeħtieġ li jonqsu l-impieġi fl-industrija tal-bini u jinħolqu f’oqsma oħra.  Mhux faċli. Imma l-problema saret daqshekk kbira għax Gvern wara l-ieħor għaddas rasu fir-ramel, bħan-ngħam.

Hi l-unika triq li tagħmel sens. Għax ikunu ifisser li bħala pajjiż bdejna ġejjin f’sensina.

kif gie ippubblikat fuq iNews nhar l-Erbgha 4 ta’ Settembru 2013

Waste Management politics

scrapyard

“We encourage waste separation in localities. However we recognise that this is not enough. As a country we still lag behind and have failed to reach targets on packaging waste as well as waste generated by electrical and electronic equipment.

It is essential to address the operation of scrapyards. These process waste which is subject to at least three Directives of the EU, namely the WEEE Directive, the End of Life Vehicles Directive and the Batteries Directive. The manner in which scrapyards have been permitted to operate signifies a total disregard of the principles and safeguards listed in the said Directives. The fact that after more than eight years of EU membership we are still discussing these issues signifies the low level of preparedness to shoulder environmental responsibilities resulting from EU adhesion.” (AD’s Electoral Manifesto, pages 89-90, March 2013)

The existence of operational scrapyards is an affront to Malta’s environmental obligations.

In scrapyards one finds discarded vehicles and other objects made primarily of metal  beyond their useful life. There are a number of operational scrapyards in various areas in Malta.  A major one was closed by MEPA some years back in Birżebbuġa. This is now in the process of reopening as an up to standard End of Life Vehicle facility based in Ħal-Far. The relative planning and environmental applications have been processed by MEPA and Malta Enterprise and the facility should be operational in the not too distant future.  There are other scrapyards (large and small) in various parts of the island. They are mostly an eyesore, generally a blot on the landscape as well as being the cause of negative environmental impacts.

Recycling scrap metal (and other materials) is an important economic activity which ensures that resources originally  extracted from the earth are kept in use and not discarded as waste. Recycling activity if properly managed is an important economic activity which is environmentally friendly. Employment created in this type of activity is an important source of green jobs.

Vehicles and equipment beyond its useful life cannot be disposed of haphazardly. Three specific EU Directives,  namely the End of Life Vehicle Directive (ELV), the Batteries Directive and the Waste from Electric and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE) establish  the responsibilities of EU member states to regulate in detail these specific waste streams.  The objective is to recover metals and other materials which would otherwise go to waste. Their recovery should however be carried out in an environmental friendly manner.

Each and every part of a vehicle or a piece of equipment should be dismantled with particular care being given to the collection of fluids and gases. No such care is afforded in scrapyards.

Similarly it is to be pointed out that the electric and electronic waste directive (WEEE) is not being properly implemented in Malta. This is due to the fact that there is a conflict between the responsibilities spelt out in the Directive and the eco-contribution charged in Malta on electric, electronic and white goods.

The WEEE Directive spells out and applies the responsibility of producers for disposing of the electric and electornic waste generated by their products. It does so to encourage producers to put on the market products which are easily recoverable and which can be recycled without much difficulty and expense. The recovery from consumers of electric/electronic products and white goods beyond their useful life can be carried out an at expense which in terms of the WEEE Directive is to be added to the purchase price. But the situation in Malta is such that the cost of processing the waste generated by electric/electronic products and white goods is already quantified as an eco-contribution. This was fairplay when there was no WEEE Directve in operation. But now producers would have to pay twice for the same service. They pay an eco-contribution on placing the product on the market and then they must pay once more to honour their WEEE committments.

In view of the above the WEEE Directive has not yet been properly implemented in Malta.

It is about time that we get our house in order. The politics of waste is a very important matter which has not yet been given sufficient thought.  Except that is for the siting of waste management faciltiies, which seems to be the only waste issue which has interested the public in recent years.

The Issues Paper published recently by Minister Leo Brincat makes scant reference to the above. Maybe this is because it is a preliminary document preceeeding the actual Waste Management Plan for 2014-20.

A structured discussion on waste policy will certainly be of help. Having a multitiude of public consultation exercises by the different Ministries launched during the summer period is not  good practice. It is an old trick played by those who want to  nominally honour their obligations to consult.  Hopefully when the actual draft Waste Management  Plan 2014-20 is available for consultation we will have ample time to discuss.

published in The Times of Malta, Saturday August 31, 2013

Greening the Constitution

Chadwick Lakes 02

Alternattiva Demokratika – The Green Party –  is in agreement that 50 years after its adoption Malta’s Constitution needs to be updated.  However such an exercise, as emphasised in AD’s 2013 electoral manifesto, should be carried out with the direct involvement of civil society. The Constitution belongs to all of us.

There are a number of issues which require careful consideration. In AD’s 2013 electoral manifesto at least fourteen such issues are identified. They vary in scope from electoral reform to widening the issues in respect of which discrimination is prohibited, by including protection from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. AD also proposes the introduction of a Constitutional provision in favour of a balanced budget, thereby ensuring that government is forced to discard budget deficits and consequently to control the spiralling public debt.

One very important issue is the need to entrench environmental rights and duties in the Constitution. The proposed Constitutional Convention, supported by AD, should aim at Greening the Constitution. That is, it should aim at addressing environmental rights and duties such that they are spelled out in unequivocal terms.  Environmental rights and duties should as a minimum be spelled out as clearly as property rights in the Constitution. They are worthy of protection just as the rights of individual persons.

Article 9 of the Constitution very briefly states that “The State shall safeguard the landscape and the historical and artistic patrimony of the nation.”  Further, in article 21 of the Constitution we are informed that this (and other safeguards) “shall not be enforceable in a Court” but that this (safeguard) shall be “fundamental to the governance of the country” and that it shall be the aim of the State to apply it in making laws.

It is not conducive to good governance to first declare adherence to specifc safeguards, but then specifically excluding the Courts from ensuring that such safeguards are being observed.

The strategy of announcing principles but then not providing the legislative framework for their implementation was also taken up in environmental legislation. In fact articles 3 and 4 of the 2010 Environment and Development Planning Act  announce a whole list of sound environmental principles. However  in article 5 of the same Act it is then stated that these cannot be enforced in a Court of Law!

When I had the opportunity of discussing the Environment and Development Planning Bill with Mario de Marco (then Parliamentary Secretary responsible for Tourism and the Environment) I had proposed on behalf of the Greens that the declarations  in articles 3 and 4 of the Bill should not be just guiding principles. They ought to be made enforceable by our Courts subject to the introduction of  a suitable transition. Unfortunately Dr de Marco did not take up the Greens proposal.

As things stand today, article 3 of the Environment and Development Planning Act announces very pompously that the government,  as well as every person in Malta, has the duty to protect the environment. Furthermore it is announced that we are duty bound to assist in the taking of preventive and remedial measures to protect the environment and manage resources in a sustainable manner.

Article 4 goes further:  it  states that government is responsible towards present and future generations.  It then goes on to list ten principles which should guide government in its endeavours.  Integrating environmental concerns in decisions on socio-economic and other policies is first on the list. Addressing pollution and environmental degradation through the implementation of the polluter pays principle and the precautionary principle follows immediately after.  Cooperation with other governments and entities enshrines the maxim of “think global, act local” as Malta both affects and is affected by environmental impacts wherever they occur.  The fourth guiding principle is the need to disseminate environmental information whilst the fifth one underlines the need of research as a basic requirement of sound environment policy.  The waste management hierarchy is referred to in the sixth principle followed immediately by underlining the requirement to safeguard biological diversity and combatting all forms of pollution.  Article 4 ends by emphasising that the environment is the common heritage and common concern of mankind and underlines the need to provide incentives leading to a higher level of environmental protection.

Proclaiming guiding principles in our Constitution and environmental legislation is not enough. Our Courts should be empowered in order that they are able to ensure that these principles are actually translated into concrete action.   Government should be compelled to act on the basis of Maltese legislation as otherwise it will only act on environmental issues when and if forced to by the European Union as was evidenced in the past nine years.

Greening the Constitution by extending existing environmental provisions and ensuring that they can be implemented will certainly be one of the objectives of the Greens in the forthcoming Constitutional Convention.

published in the Times of Malta 18 May 2013

Mill-Manifest Elettorali ta’ AD dwar bidliet fil-Kostituzzjoni : (14) Lingwa tas-sinjali

sign language

(14) Lingwa tas-sinjali

Il-lingwa tas-sinjali bil-Malti għandha tiġi rikonoxxuta mill-Gvern bħala lingwa ufficjali.

(silta mill-Kapitlu Numru 9 tal-Programm Elettorali ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika)

Mill-Manifest Elettorali ta’ AD dwar bidliet fil-Kostituzzjoni :(13) Reviżjoni tal-artiklu 2 tal-Kostituzzjoni

world_religion2

(13) Reviżjoni tal-artiklu 2 tal-Kostituzzjoni

L-Artikolu 2 tal-Kostituzzjoni għandu jiġi rivedut . L-ewwel, billi jiġi ddikjarat, minflok li r-reliġjon ta’ Malta hija r-reliġjon Kattolika Rumana, li l-istat jirrikonoxxi kull reliġjon li hija kompatibbli ma’ soċjetà demokratika u pluralista. It-tieni, li ma jkunx meħtieġ it-tagħlim obbligatorju tar-reliġjon fl-iskejjel.

(silta mill-Kapitlu Numru 6 tal-Programm Elettorali ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika)

The Foreign Minister & the Ministerial Code of Ethics

George Vella

Dr George Vella, Foreign Minister, in reply to Ivan Camilleri on today’s Times of Malta makes a valid point as to why, after being appointed a Cabinet Minister, he needs a transition period relative to the practicing of his profession as a medical doctor.

Ivan Camilleri describes Dr Vella as being “angry” at what he perceived as a “witch-hunt” in respect of members of the Cabinet still practising their profession.

Dr Vella has in fact repeated what former Health Minister Dr Joseph Cassar stated last week that in respect of patients who have been under his care for a number of years it would be extremely insensitive for him to withdraw abruptly from caring for them until they have had adequate time for them to identify an alternative professional who could take over their care.

This could easily have been solved by an immediate amendment to the Ministerial Code of Ethics through considering the possibility of utilising a suitable and reasonable transition period at the end of which medical doctors who are also members of Cabinet would be expected to cease practicing their profession altogether.

Establishment of such a transition period and subject to the medical doctor not being remunerated would have been a very reasonable  solution to the current impasse.

It however leaves unaddressed the general problem of Members of Parliament who still consider their parliamentary duties as being of a part-time nature. AD considers that it is high time that this issue is also addressed.

Parliament, AD states in its March 2013 electoral manifesto, should become a professional institution made up of full-time parliamentarians. This would assist MPs in fullfilling their Parliamentary duties much better than they are at present and could also possibly lead to Parliament functioning in a more family-friendly manner. [a very valid point made recently by new Labour MP Deborah Schembri]

An added benefit of a Parliament made up of full-time Members of Parliament would mean that by the time an MP (who is also a professional) is appointed as a Minister or Parliamentary Secretary he would have been weaned off his private practice. He/she would be used to it and so would his/her patients.