Weeding out corruption

corruption

One of the Bills currently pending before Parliament is the Private Member’s Motion presented by Franco Debono.  Motion 288 was presented on January 21, 2012. Entitled “An Act to regulate the formation, the inner structures, functioning and financing, of political parties and their participation in elections”. This Bill will be discarded once Parliament is dissolved.

Parliament did not discuss the Bill, although the Parliamentary Select Committee headed by Franco Debono and including MPs Francis Zammit Dimech and Jose’ Herrera discussed the matter at length in two public sessions in which representatives of all political parties and civil society participated.

The 2013 general elections will proceed on the basis of the current “rules” of party financing: a free for all. The circus which will be organised at Pieta’ and Ħamrun up till next Sunday will place common people at the forefront with their small donations to the political parties of their choice. There is nothing wrong with that. But unfortunately those making genuine donations will camouflage others whose objective is not so genuine.

Fat cats will pay homage at Pieta’ and Ħamrun contributing to the party coffers. These will be in addition to those who have already done so quietly. These later ones do not advertise donations. It is only occasionally that inadvertently their activity comes to light.

Readers will remember the case of Noel Borg Hedley, former private secretary of the Finance Minister Tonio Fenech who admitted in court the criminal charges brought against him that he accepted bribes from  building developers. He accepted tips and donations which he used to finance the electoral campaign of his boss, Minister Tonio Fenech.

The Minister has denied knowledge of the source of the finances used in his election campaign. It is not known whether the police have investigated the Hon Minister as to whether, notwithstanding his denial, he actually knew anything about the matter. No one is above the law, we are told.

This is one case which the public knows about. After the Borg Hedley case Minister Tonio Fenech was retained by Lawrence Gonzi as part of the Cabinet indicating clearly Dr Gonzi’s standards.

The government led by Lawrence Gonzi  did not have the political will to  introduce a regulatory structure which determines and limits the permissible amounts which can be donated as well as determining the compulsory disclosure of the names of those who make donations to political parties and their candidates.

Alternattiva Demokratika considers that the public has a right to know the identity of those financing all the political parties and their candidates. In particular regulation of party financing should establish a limit on the maximum donation which may be received from any one donor.  AD’s electoral manifesto to be published in the coming weeks will once more place this matter on the general election agenda emphasising that donations received by political parties (including their candidates) in excess of €5,000 per annum should be disclosed as well as that it should be illegal to receive donations in excess of €40,000 per annum from one source.

All political parties, year in year out, piously declare themselves in favour of transparency. Yet when push comes to shove those who have the power to legislate have repeatedly failed to act.

Regulating the financing of political parties is an essential building block in the fight against corruption. The fact that no such legislation is in place is adequate proof that there is no political will to weed out corruption.

First published on di-ve.com: December 14, 2012

L-Imħallfin fl-aħbarijiet

Scales_of_justice

L-imħallfin fl-aħbarijiet. Għal raġunijiet żbaljati. Raġunijiet li immaterjalment dwar x’ser tkun il-konklużjoni finali dwarhom ikompli jitfa iktar dellijiet fuq l-integrita’ tal-ġudikatura.

Kulħadd hu bniedem u l-possibilta’ tal-iżball uman dejjem tibqa’, ikun hemm kemm ikun hemm kontrolli.

Imma forsi issa hu l-mument addattat li nistaqsu jekk il-mod li bih jinħatru l-imħallfin u l-maġistrati huwiex addattat. S’issa jaħtarhom il-Prim Ministru li jikkonsulta ruħu ma min iħoss il-ħtieġa.

Alternattiva Demokratika hi tal-fehma li wasal iż-żmien li l-ħatriet isiru wara li l-Kummissjoni għall-Amministrazzjoni tal-Ġustizzja tgħarbel in-nomini tal-Gvern għall-Imħallfin u Maġistrati.

Il-Kummissjoni darba waħda biss kienet konsultata u dik id-darba kienet tat parir kontra l-ħatra li kienet ser issir. Minn dakinnhar lil hawn il-Kummissjoni qatt ma kienet ikkonsultata iktar.

Anke’ fil-ħatra tal-Imħallfin u l-Maġistrati hemm bżonn iktar trasparenza u serjeta’.

Wanted: a progressive incomes policy

The budget to be presented next Wednesday should revisit Malta’s incomes policy such that the difficulties faced by low income households is addressed.

The minimum wage should be increased in line with the findings of the Caritas Report published in March this year. This report entitled “A Minimum budget for a decent living” had focused on three low income household categories and concluded that it is necessary to uplift the statutory minimum wage from €158.11 to €180 per week of 40 hours. It is unfortunate that both the PN and Labour are deadset against this proposal.

Alternattiva Demokratika  realises the importance of such a proposal in assisting those having a low income to make ends meet and has repeatedly encouraged its implementation.

Another proposal on incomes policy is on the table. The General Workers’ Union has proposed that Cost of Living wage adjustments should be made every 6 months. Implementing this proposal would provide a realistic and timely compensation to those at the lower end of the social ladder.

Its about time that these proposals are seriously considered by government in its budget proposals.

originally published in di-ve.com, Friday 23rd November 2012

Tonio Borg : lejlet il-vot

Il-Parlament Ewropew għada jivvota dwar jekk in-nomina mill-Gvern Malti ta’ Tonio Borg bħala Kummissarju Ewropew hiex waħda aċċettabbli.

Bl-appoġġ tal-Partit Popolari, l-Konservattivi, l-partiti tal-lemin (inkluż dawk ta’ Bossi u Le Pen) u numru mdaqqas mill-grupp soċjalista probabilment li jkun approvat b’mod partikolari wara d-dikjarazzjoni li iffirma. L-opposizzjoni ġejja mill-Liberali, mill-Ħodor, minn parti mis-Soċjalisti (fuq quddiem MEPs nisa u LGBT) u l-bqija tax-xellug.

Intqal ħafna dwar il-kandidatura ta’ Tonio Borg. Kull min ikkritikah għamel dan mill-ottika tiegħu.

Da parti ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika ikkritikajna n-nomina tiegħu bħala waħda li m’hiex addattata u dan in vista tal-posizzjonijiet politiċi li ħa matul il-karriera politika tiegħu. Hemm politiċi oħra li huma inqas kontroversjali u li ma ħadux posizzjoni ta’ konfront kontra l-gays u kontra d-divorzju . Il-posizzjoni ta’ Tonio Borg favur politika inumana dwar l-immigrazzjoni ġiet manifestat bl-appoġg da parti tiegħu għall-ftehim ta’ Berlusconi ma Gaddafi li bih bagħat l-immigranti lura fil-Libya għas-swat u t-tortura. Ġiet manifestata ukoll meta bagħat lura l-immigranti mill-Eritrea li spiċċaw sparixxew jew ġew ittorturati u dan kif ikkonkludew l-Amnesty International u l-UNHCR.

Filwaqt li hu floku li jingħad li matul il-hearing ta’ tlett siegħat li kellu fil-Parlament Ewropew Tonio Borg wera li kellu konoxxenza tajba tad-dikasteru  assenjat lilu naħseb li jkun għaqli li jkun emfasizzat li fi tlett siegħat ma tistax tħassar dak li tkun għamilt matul karriera politika sħiħa. Tista’ tipprova tispjega imma trid tkun konsistenti. Jekk ma tkunx ma tistax tikkonvinċi.

Matul it-tlett siegħat tal-hearing Tonio Borg impressjona li kien teknikament kompetenti. Iżda diversi li kellhom dubji dwar kemm il-passat hu mera tal-futur baqgħu bid-dubji. Għalhekk talbuh jagħmel dikjarazzjoni.

Id-dikjarazzjoni li Tonio Borg iffirma tiftaħ beraħ l-issue tal-abort. Il-PN tkaża meta MEPs mill-PL ivvutaw favur riżoluzzjoni fil-Parlament Ewropew li kellha referenzi mill-iktar indiretti għall-abort u dan fil-kuntest ta’ għajnuna lill-pajjiżi li qed jiżviluppaw. Kienu l-akkolti ta’ Tonio Borg fil-kampanja ta’ emendi kostituzzjonali dwar l-abort li fetħu l-kanuni. Issa naraw kemm huma lesti li jitkellmu fil-pubbliku dwar id-dikjarazzjoni ta’ Tonio Borg u kemm din tfisser appoġġ inkondizzjonat għall-abort fejn l-Unjoni Ewropea tista’ tagħmel dan.

Bid-dikjarazzjoni li iffirma Tonio Borg issa intrabat pubblikament li jpoġġi l-kuxjenza tiegħu fil-ġemb u jimplimenta dawk ir-rizoluzzjonijiet li ivvutaw favur tagħhom tal-Labour!

Dikjarazzjoni bħal din mhux kulħadd jagħtiha l-istess piz. Għax daqqa ta’ pinna ma tħassarx dak li temmen.

Pajjiż tal-cowboys : israq u tkun ippremjat

Kemm il-Partit Nazzjonalista kif ukoll il-Labour iridu jagħtu premju lil min seraq art fl-Aħrax tal-Mellieħa biex fuqha għandu dik li tissejjaħ boathouse.

Fil-fatt dawk li għandhom boathouse fl-Aħrax tal-Mellieħa (fl-Armier, Little Armier u t-Torri l-Abjad) isejħu lilhom infushom is-sidien tal-boathouses, meta fil-fatt ma għandhom xejn li hu tagħhom għax l-art li fuqha huma mibnija l-boathouse hi tal-Gvern.

Ilhom snin twal jokkupaw din l-art u qiesu ma ġara xejn.

Aqraw ftit il-magazine Mill-Bajja li jippubblikaw dawn is-sidien tal-boathouses u issiru taf bi “ftehim” li għamlu mal-Gvern li jagħtihom l-art biex il-boathouses li għandhom illum ikunu jistgħu jibnuhom aħjar. Il-Gvern permezz ta’ ittra iffirmata mill-Viċi Prim Ministru Tonio Borg nhar it-3 t’April 2003 wiegħed lil dawn is-“sidien tal-boathouses” 230 tomna art (jiġifieri 26,000 metru kwadru) li għaliha jħallsu €366,000 fis-sena!

Il-Labour wegħdu li huma jirrispettaw dan il-ftehim.

Il-PN u l-Labour għamlu dan il-pajjiż wieħed tal-cowboys.  Qed jgħidu “aħtaf li tista’, u mbagħad b’xi mod nirranġaw” !

F’Alternattiva Demokratiku ma naqblux ma dan. Meħtieġ li l-iktar kmieni possibli li l-art ħdejn il-baħar ikun jista’ jgawwdiha kulħadd, u mhux dawk li ħatfuha f’idejhom bil-barka tal-PN u tal-Labour.

Min ma jridx jagħti premju lil min seraq l-art fl-Aħrax tal-Mellieħa għaldaqstant għandu biss għażla waħda x’jagħmel:  Alternattiva Demokratika.

Il-qżież ta’ Austin Gatt

Il-proċess tal-privatizzazzjoni tal-parking areas f’numru ta’ lokalitajiet f’Malta hu riżultat tal-qżież ta’ Austin Gatt u tal-akkolti tiegħu. Li jinjoraw lil kulħadd. Jidhrilhom li dak li jiddeċiedu huma ben fatt.

Fi stqarrija li ħarġet Alternattiva Demkokratika l-bieraħ fil-għaxija għidna li kien kundannabbli li Transport Malta għal darba oħra injorat lill-Kunsilli Lokali meta pprocediet bi process li jista’ jwassal ghall-privatizzazzjoni ta’ parkeggi diversi fil-lokalitajiet. Is-sens komun kien jitlob li kellhom ikunu l-Kunsilli Lokali li jingħataw ir-responsabbilta’ għall-amministrazzjoni tal-parkeggi.

Ma saret l-ebda konsultazzjoni mal-Kunsilli Lokali dwar il-materja u dan kontra dak li tipprovdi l-liġi dwar il-Kunsilli Lokali li tesiġi l-konsultazzjoni ma’ Kunsill Lokali dwar kull materja li teffettwa l-lokalita.

Alternattiva Demokratika taqbel mal-mozzjoni mressqa mill-Opposizzjoni fil-Parlament li twaqqaf il-process tal-privatizzazzjoni tal-parkeggi u titlob li jinghata bidu għal konsultazzjoni pubblika bl-iskop li jkunu involuti l-Kunsilli Lokali.

Kien floku l-appoġġ għal din il-mozzjoni kemm ta’ Franco Debono kif ukoll ta’ Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando.

Waqt id-diskussjoni fil-Kumitat tax-Xogħol tal-Kamra (iktar kmieni illum) Franco Debono qal li hu kien fi ħsiebu jressaq emenda biex il-mozzjoni tinbidel f’waħda ta’ sfiduċja f’Austin Gatt. Naqbel miegħu 100% għax il-qżież ta’ Austin Gatt għandu jkun iċċensurat bla ebda riżerva.

Malta’s Nine Ghost Towns

The 2005 Census had revealed that 53,136 residential units in Malta were vacant. This was an increase of 17,413 units over the 35,723 vacant residential units identified during the 1995 Census. Faced with an increase of over 48 per cent in 10 years, a responsible government would have contained the development boundaries as existing supply can satisfy the demand for residential accommodation for many years to come.

In 2006, just nine months after the 2005 Census, the Nationalist Party-led Government defied common sense and, instead of applying the brakes, it further increased the possibilities for building development through three specific decisions. Through the rationalisation process, the PN-led Government extended the boundaries of development in all localities. Then it facilitated the construction of penthouses by relaxing the applicable conditions. If this were not enough, it increased the height limitations in various localities, intensifying development in existing built-up areas.

As a result of increasing the permissible heights, sunlight was blocked off low-lying residential buildings in the affected areas.

These residences were using sunlight to heat water through solar water heaters or to generate electricity through photovoltaic panels installed on their rooftops.

They can now discard their investments in alternative energy thanks to the PN-led Government’s land use policies!

The result of these myopic land use planning policies further increased the number of vacant properties, which is estimated as being in excess of 70,000 vacant residential units. (Mepa chairman Austin Walker, in an interview in June 2010, had referred to an estimated 76,000 vacant residential properties.)

The estimated total of vacant residential properties is equivalent to nine times the size of the residential area of Birkirkara, the largest locality in Malta, which, in 2005, had 7,613 residential units.

These ghost towns over the years have gobbled up resources to develop or upgrade an infrastructure that is underutilised. Spread all over the Maltese islands, these ghost towns have required new roads, extending the drainage system, extending the utility networks and street lighting as well as various other services provided by local councils.

The funds channelled to service ghost towns could have been better utilised to upgrade the infrastructure in the existing localities over the years.

The above justifies calls for an urgent revision of development boundaries through a reversal of the 2006 rationalisation exercise where land included for development in 2006 is still uncommitted.

Similarly, the relaxation of height limitations and the facilitated possibility to construct penthouses should be reversed forthwith.

All this is clearly in conflict with the efforts being made by the Government itself, assisted with EU funds, to increase the uptake of solar water heaters and photovoltaic panels.

I am aware of specific cases where decisions to install photovoltaic panels have had to be reversed as a result of the development permitted on adjacent property subsequent to the 2006 height relaxation decisions.

In its electoral manifesto for the forthcoming election, AD, the Green party, will be proposing a moratorium on large-scale development in addition to the reversal of the above policies as it is unacceptable that the construction industry keeps gobbling up land and, as a result, adding to the stock of vacant property.

The market has been unable to deal with the situation and, consequently, the matter has to be dealt by a government that is capable of taking tough decisions in the national interest.

Neither the PN nor the Labour Party are capable of taking such decisions as it has been proven time and again that both of them are hostages to the construction industry.

The slowdown of the activities of the construction industry is the appropriate time to consider the parameters of its required restructuring. It is clear that the construction industry has to be aided by the State to retrain its employees in those areas of operation where lack of skills exist.

There are three such areas: traditional building trades, road construction and maintenance as well as marine engineering.

Traditional building skills are required primarily to facilitate rehabilitation works of our village cores and to properly maintain our historical heritage. Our roads require more properly-trained personnel so that standards of road construction and maintenance are improved and works carried out in time. Our ports and coastal defences require a well-planned maintenance programme and various other adaptation works as a result of the anticipated sea-level variations caused by climate change.

The construction industry employs about 11,000 persons. It is imperative that its restructuring is taken in hand immediately.

In addition to halting more environmental damage, a long overdue restructuring will also serve to mitigate the social impacts of the slowdown on the families of its employees through retraining for alternative jobs both in the construction industry itself and elsewhere.

The so-called ‘social policy’ of the PN and the PL have neglected these families for years on end.

 

published in The Times on 29 September 2012

Qabel ma tfaċċa Franco Debono

L-Onorevoli Franco Debono donnu jaħseb li qabel ma tfaċċa hu ħadd qatt ma tkellem dwar il-liġijiet elettorali u l-finanzjament tal-partiti.  Fil-fatt fil-blogpost tiegħu tat-8 ta’ Settembru 2012 qalilna :

“If AD had any sort of rudimentary strategy they would take up my proposals for reform in the electoral law and party financing instead of playing Austin Gatt s game who has been against both.” [Nota miżjuda t-Tnejn 10 ta’ Settembru 2012: il-blogpost hawn fuq ikkwotata jista’ jkun hemm diffikultajiet dwarha għax għal xi hin illum tneħħiet minn fuq il-blog ta’ Franco Debono. Ma kien hemm l-ebda spjegazzjoni għal dan.]

Tajjeb li jkun jaf li id-dinja kienet teżisti ħafna qabel ma tfaċċa Franco Debono.

Alternattiva Demokratika ilha titkellem fuq dawn l-issues (liġijiet elettorali u finanzjament tal-Partiti) għal snin twal u dan flimkien ma issues oħra bħall-Whistleblowers Act u FOI (Freedom of Information Act) sa mit-twaqqif tagħha fl-1989.

Ikun aħjar li kienu min jtkellem u/jew jikteb jiċċekkja ftit l-affarijiet qabel ma jħarbex jew jiftaħ ħalqu.

Armier cowboys should not be rewarded

The unauthorised campers at Marsaxlokk were in the news during the last weekend not just  for their illegal camping but more for the violence they used.

It seems that the lack of action of government in respect of the Armier (and other) illegal boathouses has conveyed the message that at the end of the day they may strike a deal! Their vote for public land.

We have been through this before. That is in fact what’s on the books at Armier even though government has been very slow to implement what it has agreed to.

Agreements were entered into with the squatters at Armier  represented through their company Armier Developments Limited. Officially government is awaiting the approval of the Marfa Action Plan which was issued by MEPA for public consultation in 2002. It is government which will eventually approve the Marfa Action Plan after “careful consideration” of MEPA’s recommendations.

The Marfa Action Plan is the result of a detailed exercise through which the various activities in the l-Aħrax peninsula  were identified.

Through  the Marfa Action Plan, still in draft form , the authorities seek to compromise with the squatters by identifying five areas where they can construct alternatives to their present illegal boathouses.

Alternattiva Demokratika is opposed to arriving at any form of agreement with the squatters. They should be evicted the soonest.

The area should be rehabilitated with its cultural and natural features conserved. All boathouses illegally constructed, both pre and post 1992 should be demolished forthwith.

In its reactions to the draft Marfa Action Plan way back in 2002 Alternattiva Demokratika-The Green Party had stated that :

“The establishment of footpaths, picnic areas, proper camping sites coupled with a conservation of historical buildings and the prevention of further devastation of garigue areas through the dumping of rubble are all valuable features of the plan. AD is concerned about the effectivity of the administrative structures which will oversee the operation and maintenance of the proposed investment in such matters as the cleaning of picnic areas and the control of campsites. Enforcement structures from MEPA would be welcome”.

As no part of the island is more than 20 minutes away from the coast AD considers that the MEPA proposal for the construction of beach rooms is an unnecessary development which will only serve to reward squatters and undermine the rule of law.

Cowboys should be punished not rewarded.

My conclusion is identical to that of Dr Harry Vassallo former AD Chairman in 2002 who commenting on the Marfa Action Plan had stated: “When one considers the lack of accessible coastland and the uncontrollable sprawl of development, one realises that there can be no room for compromise in the defence of what we have left. The quality of life of the entire population should be given a priority over the privileges of boat house residents”.

Original of this post was published on Friday 17 August 2012 at di-ve.com.

On the same subject in this blog you may view:  Parties in Cahoots with Squatters

Il-professuri tad-demokrazija

Jekk taqra l-kummenti online tat-Timesof Malta.com kif ukoll xi blogs tieħu l-impressjoni li għandna ħafna professuri tad-demokrazija jiġru mas-saqajn.

Wieħed minn dawn hu Alex Sciberras Trigona li fl-artiklu tiegħu tal-lum intitolat Undue compensation argumenta illi meta JPO irreżenja mill-PN il-leġittimita demokratika tal-Gvern spiċċat.

Il-leġittimita tal-Gvern toħroġ mir-riżultat elettorali tal-2008 u minn imkien iktar. Nistgħu nikkritikaw is-sistema elettorali bħala li hi inġusta, u fil-fatt aħna f’AD hekk nagħmlu għax is-sistema tillimita l-aritmetika tal-proporzjonalita għall-PN u l-PL u tiġi taqa’ u tqum mill-bqija! B’daqshekk ma jfissirx li l-Parlament m’huwiex leġittimu. Jfisser li seta’ kien iktar rappreżentattiv.

Li l-Gvern qiegħed f’posizzjoni diffiċli huwa veru, bħalma hu veru li l-appoġġ Parlamentari li jgawdi l-Gvern hu wieħed dubjuż għax m’huwiex dak l-appoġġ li nassoċjaw ma Gvern stabbli. Hi sitwazzjoni ftit tollerabbli għax qegħdin fi tmiem ta’ leġislatura. Li kienet l-istess sitwazzjoni fil-bidu ta’ leġislatura kienet tkun materja li tirrikjedi deċiżjonijiet politiċi immedjati.

Ma naħsibx li AST għamel wisq ġid lill-Partit Laburista bl-artiklu tal-lum. Meta tagħsar l-artiklu ma toħroġ xejn. Imma min għandu għajnejn u moħħ jiftakar li dawk li fil-passat ma tantx taw isem tajjeb lil-Labour għadhom mas-saqajn. Il-kredenzjali demokratiċi ma’ jirriżultawx biss minn dak li ngħidu imma iktar minn dak li nagħmlu! Is-sehem ta’ Alex Sceberras Trigona fil-leġislatura tal-1981-87 hi l-ikbar prova tal-kredenzjali demokratiċi tiegħu. Mhux biss li ipparteċipa fi Gvern li l-maġġoranza assoluta tal-elettorat ma riedux. Imma ukoll dwar il-mod kif mexxa l-politika barranija tal-pajjiż. L-ikbar eżempju hu l-ftehim sigriet mal-Korea ta’ Fuq.

Għall-Partit Laburista l-kontribut ta’ AST u l-presenza mill-ġdid tiegħu fit-tmexxija tal-Partit huma sinjali posittivi li dawk li tgerrxu fil-passat ġew lura u li l-Partit hu back in business. L-artiklu tal-lum jikkonfermaw li l-Partit mhux biss hu back in business, imma li its business as usual!