The Guardian of Future Generations

The politics of sustainable development advocates a long-term view. The familiar Brundtland definition put forward in Our Common Future – the concluding report of the World Commission on Environment and Development in 1987 – is clear enough: meeting the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations to meet their own needs. (Gro Harlem Brundtland is a former Norwegian Social Democrat Prime Minister.)

This definition has been quoted quite often, but when it comes to its implementation, matters generally develop on a different path. Short-term needs take over, making a mockery of all declarations in favour of sustainable development. Way back in 1987,
Brundtland sought to drawn our attention to this. In fact, her report emphasises the fact that:  “We act as we do because we can get away with it: future generations do not vote; they have no political or financial power; they cannot challenge our decisions.”

This was the reason why, on behalf of Alternattiva Demokratika, way back in 2012 I  proposed the setting up of a Guardian of Future Generations – a proposal that had originally been presented by Malta at the preparatory meetings for the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 and which was taken on board by Mario de Marco, then Environment Minister.

The position was set up as part of the provisions of the Sustainable Development Act of 2012 but unfortunately, since day one, not enough resources have been made available in order that the Guardian of Future Generations may act today on behalf of a better tomorrow.

Chev. Maurice Mizzi, who currently heads the Guardian of Future Generations, recently issued a statement which gave the thumbs down to the dB-ITS project at Pembroke. Chev. Mizzi emphasised that it was the lack of a masterplan for the area that justified applying the breaks to the project at this point in time. He further stated that there was a need for all authorities to place more value on the views of the common citizens, so that they are empowered to ensure that their rights, as well as their quality of life, are properly protected.

Without in any way diminishing the positive step taken by the Guardian of Future Generations in respect of the dB-ITS project, I would respectfully point out that we have not heard much more from that end. The list of responsibilities of the Guardian is long and if acted upon, would make the Guardian much more than a post of symbolic value, as described by the local press recently.

The list of responsibilities of the Guardian are grouped in the legislation under ten headings ranging from the promotion of sustainable development advocacy across national policy making, legislation and practices, to encouraging sustainable development within the private sector right and up to the need to direct the focus of the Office of the Prime Minister to safeguard future generations.

After six years of existence it is about time that the Guardian of Future Generations stands up on its feet and speaks out loud and clear on all matters that will have an impact on future generations. Unfortunately, so far it has rarely spoken up, apart from regarding the db-ITS project statement. This is certainly not enough. I have no doubt that the Guardian would like to do more, but it cannot because it has been deprived of resources – which has been the situation since it was created.

The Guardian of Future Generations has a lot of potential which is as yet undeveloped. The time for taking action is ripe.

 

published in The Independent on Sunday : 14 October 2018

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Il-PN u l-governanza tajba

Bħalissa fil-PN kulħadd qiegħed jgħid tiegħu dwar l-għażliet politiċi li għamel il-PN meta kien immexxi minn Simon Busuttil. Busuttil issa ilu ftit li telaq it-tmexxija, meta warrab biex refa’ r-responsabbiltá politika għat-telfa elettorali massiċċa ta’ Ġunju 2017.

Ir-riżultat tal-inkjesta maġisterjali dwar Egrant, li ma sabet l-ebda prova tal-involviment tal-familja Muscat f’din il-kumpanija, hi parti minn dan ix-xenarju. Għax ma tistax titkellem dwar il-korruzzjoni mingħajr ma jkollok f’idejk il-minimu ta’ provi.

Niftakru ftit dwar it-tlett kumpaniji li kienu nħolqu fil-Panama. Tnejn minnhom kienu identifikati ta’ min kienu: ta’ Keith Schembri u Konrad Mizzi. Dwar it-tielet waħda kien hawn ħafna għidut sakemm f’April tal-2017 fuq il-blog ta’ Daphne Caruana Galizia kienet ħarġet l-allegazzjoni miktuba għall-ewwel darba li tassoċja lil Michelle Muscat mat-tielet kumpanija, l-Egrant.

Il-PN kien għamilha fatta – mhux biss Simon Busuttil – u kważi b’vuċi waħda kien hemm ripetizzjoni ta’ din l-allegazzjoni daqs li kieku kienet skoperta tagħhom. Dakinnhar ma smajt lil ħadd mill-PN jgħid fil-pubbliku kliem differenti. Fi ftit kliem ir-responsabbiltá politika kienet waħda kollettiva.

Kienet Alternattiva Demokratika biss li applikat il-brejkijiet. Fil-fatt f’artiklu ippubblikat f’Illum nhar l-24 t’April 2017, intitolat Pilatu fid-dawl tax-xemx jiena għidt hekk : “li tkun moralment konvint li l-istorja hi korretta mhux biżżejjed. Din l-istorja teħtieġ il-konferma li tiġi mill-provi tad-dokumenti u mhux mid-dimostrazzjonijiet. Għax fuq id-dokumenti hi mibnija. Allura hemm obbligu li dawn id-dokumenti tant bażiċi jaraw id-dawl tax-xemx.

Id-dokumenti qatt ma rajnihom sakemm sabu ruħhom għand il-Maġistrat li ikkonkluda li huma foloz.

Ovvjament hemm ħafna spjegazzjonijiet li jeħtieġ li jsiru. Fosthom hemm bżonn ikun magħruf is-sors tad-dokumenti foloz. Minn fejn ġew. Imma probabbilment qatt ma nkunu nafu għax is-sors tal-ġurnaliżmu hu protett. Dejjem sakemm Pierre Portelli ma tmissux il-kuxjenza u jikxef lil min daħħlu fi sqaq.

Il-ġlieda tal-PN favur il-governanza tajba dejjem kienet waħda difettuża.

Niftakar ċar qiesu l-bieraħ waqt l-unika laqgħa li Alternattiva Demokratika kellha mat-tmexxija tal-PN dwar il-possibilitá ta’ alleanza pre-elettorali konna iddiskutejna l-kredibilitá tal-PN dwar dan. Min-naħa ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika konna tlabna spjegazzjoni mill-PN għal numru ta’ issues li kienu jitfgħu dell sostanzjali fuq dak kollu li l-Partit Nazzjonalista kien qed jgħid dwar il-ħtieġa ta’ governanza tajba.

Tlabna spjegazzjoni dwar ħames każi li dwarhom diġa ktibt diversi drabi u ċjoe : Beppe Fenech Adami u r-rwol tiegħu fuq kumpanija Capital One Investment Group/Baltimore Fiduciary Services, Claudio Grech u l-iskandlu taż-żejt u l-fatt li ma kienx jiftakar jekk qatt iltaqax ma George Farrugia, il-każ tal-invoices foloz bejn il-Grupp dB u l-PN, il-kunflitt ta’ interess ta’ Mario de Marco bejn l-obbligi parlamentari tiegħu u l-fatt li kien konsulent legali ewlieni tal-grupp dB, u l-applikazzjoni ta’ Toni Bezzina għal villa ODZ għalih meta l-PN kien qed imexxi l-quddiem politika ambjentali differenti.

L-ispjegazzjoni li tlabna ma ingħatax għax weħilna fuq affarijiet oħra. Imma dan hu it-track record tal-PN dwar il-governanza tajba. Li l-Partit Laburista hu agħar minn hekk ma hi tal-ebda konsolazzjoni!

In-nifs li nieħdu

Meta, riċentment, kienu intervistati mill-medja lokali Uffiċjali tal-Awtoritá tal-Ambjent u r-Riżorsi (ERA), ikkonfermaw dak li ilna nafu għal żmien konsiderevoli: it-tniġġiż tal-arja f’Malta hu prinċipalament ikkawżat mill-mezzi tat-trasport. Triq Sant’Anna fil-Furjana hi l-iktar triq bl-arja mniġġsa f’Malta filwaqt li mhux ‘il-bogħod li l-kwalitá tal-arja tal-Imsida teċċedi dak permissibli mir-regolamenti tal-Unjoni Ewropea dwar il-kwalitá tal-arja.

Hu ovvju li l-ħtija ewlenija għal dan hi ġejja min-numru ta’ karozzi fit-toroq tagħna. Gvern wara l-ieħor dejjem qagħda lura milli jindirizza l-problema bis-serjetá. Dejjem iduru mal-lewża: jindirizzaw il-konsegwenzi mingħajr il-kuraġġ li jiffukaw fuq il-kawża.
Is-soluzzjoni qegħda billi jonqos in-numru tal-karozzi fit-toroq tagħna kif ukoll li simultanjament titjieb il-kwalitá tal-karozzi li jibqgħu.

Waqt il-kampanja elettorali tal-2017 f’Malta, Alternattiva Demokratika ipproponiet li fi żmien 20 sena l-karozzi kollha fit-toroq tagħna jkunu jaħdmu bl-elettriku. Din il-proposta tfisser li fuq perjodu ta’ mhux iktar minn għoxrin sena ma jkollniex iktar karozzi li jaħdmu bil-petrol jew bid-disil fit-toroq tagħna. B’hekk, bla dubju, it-tniġġiż tal-arja, jonqos drastikament.

Din il-proposta ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika kienet għoġbot lil Joseph Muscat li f’ Settembru 2017, f’waħda mill-prietki tiegħu ta’ nhar ta’ Ħadd kien tkellem favur tagħha. Imma ma smajna xejn iktar dwarha minn dakinnhar!

Billi l-vjaġġi li nagħmlu bil-karozzi tagħna fil-parti l-kbira tagħhom idumu inqas minn ħmistax-il minuta hu ħafna possibli li n-numru ta’ karozzi fit-toroq tagħna jonqos. Dan faċilment jinftiehem għax għal dawn id-distanzi qosra hawn diversi mezzi alternattivi li jassiguraw mobilitá effiċjenti.

Jonqos biss ħaġa waħda: ma hawnx rieda politika biex jittieħdu d-deċiżjonijiet meħtieġa.

Il-Furjana, minn barra li għandha t-triq bl-iktar arja mniġġsa f’Malta trid tiffaċċja ukoll l-emissjonijiet tal-vapuri tal-passiġġieri (cruise liners), li, skond id-direzzjoni tar-riħ, iktar iva milli le, jonfħu d-dħaħen tagħhom direttament għal ġoż-żona residenzjali tal-Furjana. Din hi problema li f’miżura inqas hi ffaċċjata ukoll minn Birżebbuġa bħala riżultat tal-moviment tal-vapuri fil-Port Ħieles.

Il-vapuri suppost li jaqilbu l-magni tagħhom fuq żjut u fjuwil li jniġġes inqas hekk kif jidħlu fil-port. Din hi materja li hi regolata minn diversi direttivi tal-Unjoni Ewropeja. Id-diffikultá, bħal dejjem, hi, li l-infurzar tal-liġijiet ftit li xejn ikun osservat.

Teoretikament teżisti soluzzjoni oħra biex ikun ikkontrollat u jonqos sostanzjalment it-tniġġiż mill-vapuri ġaladarba dawn jkunu siguri fil-port. Jista’ jkun possibli li jagħmlu użu minn sors elettriku li joriġina mill-art flok mill-ġeneraturi tal-elettriku fuq il-vapuri.

Lokalment diġa tħejjew żewġ studji preliminari dwar dan: wieħed jiffoka fuq il-Port il-Kbir u l-ieħor fuq it-Terminal tal-Port Ħieles f’Birżebbuġa. Dawn l-istudji saru kif ġie inkoraġġit li jsir mir-rakkomandazzjoni tal-Kummissjoni Ewropea dwar il-promozzjoni tal-użu ta’ elettriku mill-art mill-vapuri fil-portijiet tal-Unjoni Ewropea.

Rakkomandazzjoni li saret fl-2006.

Dawn l-istudji jaslu għal konklużjonijiet simili fis-sens li ma jistax iseħħ progress bħala riżultat ta’ azzjoni unilaterali f’portijiet individwali. L-azzjoni u d-deċiżjonijiet jeħtieġ li jittieħdu fuq livell tal-industrija tal-vapuri u trid tkun misjuqa internazzjonalment jew mill-Unjoni Ewropea.

Huwa magħruf li huma biss il-vapuri li jbaħħru lejn l-istat Amerikan ta’ Kalifornja li għandhom il-kapaċita teknika li jutilizzaw l-elettriku ġġenerat fuq l-art. Dan minħabba li l-Kalifornja għandha liġijiet li tobbliga li dan isir.

Ir-rakkomandazzjoni tal-2006 tal-Unjoni Ewropea ħejjiet it-triq biex saru numru ta’ studji dwar diversi portijiet tal-Unjoni dwar kemm jagħmel sens ekonomiku li fejn hemm portijiet viċin ħafna ta’ żoni residenzjali jitfu l-magni tagħhom u jagħmlu użu tal-elettriku mill-art. Nistgħu biss nittamaw li dawn l-istudji jittieħdu in konsiderazzjoni meta titfassal t-triq il-quddiem.

Ippubblikat fuq Illum : Il-Ħadd 22 ta’ Lulju 2018

Alternattiva Demokratika dwar Egrant

Minn dak magħruf s’issa dwar il-konklużjonijiet tar-rapport tal-inkjesta dwar Egrant joħorġu numru ta’ riflessjonijiet u konklużjonijiet ċari.

Il-konklużjoni ewlenija hi li l-korruzzjoni m’huwiex faċli li tippruvaha. Li jkollok suspetti wieħed jifhimha imma li tkun kapaċi tipprova dawk is-suspetti, dik ħaġa oħra.

Kien għalhekk li f’Alternattiva Demokratika qagħdna lura meta bdew ħerġin l-allegazzjonijiet left, right and centre. Kien għalhekk li ma ipparteċipajniex f’dimostrazzjonijiet “kontra l-korruzzjoni”, mhux għax aħna m’aħniex ukoll kontra l-korruzzjoni imma għax safejn kien magħruf ma kien hemm l-ebda prova magħrufa dwar l-allegazzjoni ewlenija u ċjoe li l-Egrant kienet tal-familja Muscat.

Min-naħa l-oħra, l-esistenza ta’ dokumenti falsifikati hi materja gravi li teħtieġ investigazzjoni iktar profonda biex isir magħruf min kien warajhom u li dan jew din jerfa’ r-responsabbiltá ta’ egħmilu.

Waħda mill-konsegwenzi ta’ dan ir-rapport ta’ inkjesta hi li issa sfortunatament hemm il-periklu li r-riżultat tal-inkjesta jintuża biex jiġġustifikaw affarijiet oħra li dwarhom ma ittieħdux passi u dan dwar Konrad Mizzi u Keith Schembri. Dan hu l-agħar ħaġa li tista’ tiġri, imma diġa qed tinħass.

Fl-aħħarnett nemfasizza dak li diġa għidt il-bieraħ li r-rapport tal-inkjesta għandu jkun ippubblikat fit-totalitá tiegħu.

The air we breathe

Officers of the Environment and Resources Authority, interviewed by the local media, emphasised what we have known for ages: the main contributor to air pollution in Malta is transport. St Anne Street in Floriana is the most polluted street in Malta, while Msida will soon exceed the maximum permissible limits of EU regulations on air quality.

It is pretty obvious that the main culprit is the number of cars on our roads. Successive governments, however, have been reluctant to bell the cat. Instead they go around in circles, tackling the effects and continuously avoiding the causes.

The solution lies in reducing the number of cars on our roads and simultaneously improving the quality of the remaining numbers.

During the 2017 Electoral Campaign in Malta, Alternattiva Demokratika-The Green Party proposed the electrification of cars on Maltese roads within a maximum of 20 years. This proposal means that all petrol and diesel run cars would be taken off our roads within a maximum of 20 years. Inevitably, air pollution would decrease drastically.

Alternattiva Demokratika’s proposal was subsequently taken up by Joseph Muscat in September 2017 in one of his Sunday sermons. However, we have not heard anything more on the matter since.

Reducing the number of cars on our roads is achievable due to the fact that most of the trips made by cars are of less than 15 minutes duration. This is understandable, as most of the distances we travel are short.

Only one thing is missing: the political will to act.

Floriana, in addition to having the most polluted street on the island, must also cope with emissions from cruise liners, which, depending on the direction of the prevailing wind, more often than not blow their fumes directly across the Floriana residential area. To a lesser extent, this is an experience also shared by Birżebbuġa as a result of the ship movements at the Malta Freeport Terminal.

Ships should switch over to less polluting fuels when in port, a matter which is regulated by a number of European Union Directives. The difficulty with this is that enforcement is practically non-existent.

Theoretically, there is also another solution to control and substantially reduce pollution from ships, once these are berthed. It would be possible to switch over the electricity supply required by a ship from one dependent on the ship generators to a source of electrical power which is land-based. Two preliminary studies have been carried out locally, one focused on the Grand Harbour and the other focused on the Freeport Terminal at Birżebbuġa. These studies were carried out in terms of the EU Commission Recommendation on the promotion of shore-side electricity for use by ships at berth in Community ports, a recommendation that was adopted in 2006.

The above-mentioned studies have reached similar conclusions in that it is considered that progress cannot be achieved by unilateral action at individual ports. Action must be industry-wide and must be driven internationally or by the EU.

It is known that only sea vessels which call at ports in the American state of California are equipped to take onshore power supply, because California has legislated on the matter.

The EU recommendation of 2006 has paved the way for a number of studies across the EU on the economic feasibility of onshore power supply to ships berthed close to residential areas. We can only hope that these studies are taken into consideration when plotting the way forward.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 22 July 2018

Bżonn ta’ impenn ikbar favur il-kontabilitá

 

Dal-għodu għan-nom ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika għamilt żjara ta’ kortesija lill-Ispeaker fl-uffiċini tiegħu fil-Parlament.

Tkellimna dwar il-ħidma tal-Parlament. Jiena għażilt li niffoka fuq żewġ punti. L-ewwel dwar in-nuqqas tad-dħul fis-seħħ tal-liġi dwar l-Istandards fil-Ħajja Pubblika u wara dwar ir-apport annwali tal-Ombudsman għall-2017. Żewġ argumenti li huma relatati ħafna.

Bid-dewmien tad-dħul fis-seħħ tal-Att dwar l-Istandards fil-Ħajja Pubblika il-Parlament qed jagħti messaġġ wieħed ċar: li m’għandux għaġġla biex il-Membri Parlamentari jagħtu kont ta’ egħmilhom kull meta dan ikun meħtieġ. Jidher li għad ma hemmx qbil bejn Gvern u Oppożizzjoni dwar il-ħatra tal-Kummissarju għall-Istandards fil-Ħajja Pubblika, liema Kummissarju jeħtieġlu li jinħatar bi qbil ta’ żewġ terzi tal-Kamra.

Jidher li l-partiti rappreżentati fil-Parlament m’għandhomx għaġġla biex din il-liġi tkun implimentata. L-ewwel damet tlett snin għaddejja mill-Parlament (Mejju 2014 sa Marzu 2017). Issa ilha ħmistax-il xahar li rċieviet l-approvazzjoni tal-President tar-Repubblika, iżda għada fuq l-ixkaffa.

Dan kollu jassumi sinifikat ikbar jekk wieħed jarrah fil-kuntest tar-rapport tal-Ombudsman għall-2017 fejn hu ċar li d-dritt għall-informazzjoni dwar l-amministrazzjoni pubblika qiegħed taħt assedju.

Hu ċar li l-kontabilitá u l-aċċess għall-informazzjoni jimxu id f’id fi stat demokratiku. Huma l-pedamenti tad-demokrazija li l-Parlament għandu l-obbligu li jindokra.

Tlabt lill-Ispeaker biex jiġbed l-attenzjoni tal-Parlament li mhux aċċettabbli li nibqgħu bit-tkaxkir tas-saqajn. Hu neċessarju li l-Parlament jassigura l-ħarsien tad-dritt tal-aċċess għall-informazzjoni kif ukoll li l-kontabilitá ma tibqax slogan.

 

L-ostaklu tal-aċċess għall-informazzjoni hu delitt kontra d-demokrazija

Ir-rapport Annwali tal-Ombudsman għall-2017 li kien ippubblikat iktar kmieni din il-ġimgħa hu inkwetanti. F’partijiet minnu, nazzarda ngħid li hu ukoll tal-biża’. L-Ombudsman jikkummenta fit-tul dwar “in-nuqqas tal-amministrazzjoni li tipprovdi informazzjoni”.

Josserva żewġ tendenzi ġenerali.

L-ewwel tendenza hi li diversi Dipartimenti tal-Gvern u Ministeri qed isibuha bi tqil biex jiżvelaw informazzjoni importanti. Il-kliem li l-Ombudsman juża’: “Sfortunatament l-amministrazzjoni pubblika – u dan jinkludi ukoll awtoritajiet pubbliċi – jidher li addottaw attitudni ġeneralment negattiva dwar l-obbligu li tkun żvelata informazzjoni u d-dritt taċ-ċittadin li jinżamm infurmat. Uħud marru fl-estrem li anke qed jirrifjutaw li jipprovdu kemm informazzjoni importanti kif ukoll imformazzjoni vitali li l-pubbliku hu ntitolat għaliha minħabba li din tikkonċerna setturi importanti tal-ħajja ekonomika u soċjali tal-pajjiż.”

It-tieni tendenza hi agħar: diversi ftehimiet li daħal għalihom il-Gvern fihom klawsola li tobbliga li jinżamm is-skiet dwar il-kontenut tal-ftehim. Dak li hu magħruf bħala “non-disclosure clause”. L-Ombudsman jgħidilna li issa hawn “żvilupp riċenti u Inkwetanti permezz ta’ attentat biex jiġi assigurat skiet totali hi l-prattika li torbot lil dawk li magħhom l-amministrazzjoni pubblika jkollha rabta kuntrattwali biex ma tiżvelax informazzjoni fil-kuntratti infushom mingħajr l-approvazzjoni tal-awtoritá pubblika.”

Issa fir-realtá, din il-prattika ma ġietx addottata f’daqqa waħda fl-2017. Kien hemm okkazjonijiet fil-passat meta l-Gvern rabat lil oħrajn inkella aċċetta li jintrabat hu stess li ma tkunx żvelata informazzjoni. Jidher imma li din il-prattika qed iżżid fil-frekwenza. Mhux biss il-kuntratt ta’ Henley and Partners dwar il-bejgħ taċ-ċittadinanza li fih dawn il-provedimenti imma ukoll il-kuntratt dwar il-privatizzazzjoni tal-lotteriji pubbliċi mal-Maltco kif ukoll il-ftehim dwar il-privatizzazzjoni parzjali tas-sistema tas-saħħa mal-Vitals Healthcare inkella l-ftehim mal-Electrogas dwar il-qalba għall-gass tal-impjant tal-ġenerazzjoni tal-elettriku f’Delimara.

Kif jista’ jkun li gvern jippretendi li jkun trasparenti u kontabbli meta juża’ jew jippermetti l-użu ta’ strateġiji bħal dawn li jostakolaw li tkun żvelata l-informazzjoni?

L-Ombudsman hu korrett li jipponta subgħajh lejn dan in-nuqqas bażiku ta’ servizz pubbliku li jridha ta’ wieħed ġust, effiċjenti, trasparenti u kontabbli. Jiena naħseb li dan hu daqstant importanti li jimmerita diskussjoni fil-Konvenzjoni Kostituzzjonali – jekk din xi darba issir. Forsi wasal iż-żmien li tkun il-Kostituzzjoni innifisha li tillimita b’mod strett lill-amministrazzjoni pubblika milli tibqa’ tillimita l-aċċess għall-informazzjoni b’dan il-mod.

Hu meħtieġ li jkollna s-salvagwardji kontra dan l-abbuż sfaċċat li qiegħed jostakola l-aċċess għall-informazzjoni li għandha f’idejha l-amministrazzjoni pubblika. Is-salvagwardji jistgħu jinkludu l-possibilitá ta’ reviżjoni amministrattiva immedjata li tikkanċella l-ostaklu għall-aċċess kif ukoll passi biex dawk responsabbli biex jostakolaw dan l-aċċess għall-informazzjoni mingħajr raġuni valida ma jitħallewx iktar jeżerċitaw il-funzjonijiet ta’ uffiċċju pubbliku.

L-Ombudsman jispjega fir-rapport tiegħu li l-liġi tagħti lill-uffiċċju tiegħu l-għodda meħtieġa biex ikollu aċċess għall-informazzjoni li jeħtieġ ħalli “jmexxi l-investigazzjonijiet dwar l-ilmenti li jkunu waslu” avolja din l-informazzjoni xi drabi tingħata b’mod imqanżaħ. Iżda l-Ombudsman iqis li għandu jiġbed l-attenzjoni għal tlett ċirkustanzi partikolari “li juru kif ir-rispons negattiv tal-awtoritajiet pubbliċi meta dawn jintalbu informazzjoni qed ixekkel l-Ombudsman u lill-Kummissarji fl-uffiċċju tiegħu fil-qadi ta’ dmirijiethom”.

L-ewwel kaz jirrigwarda l-Armata. Ir-rifjut tal-Ministeru għall-Intern u s-Sigurtá Nazzjonali li jgħaddi l-files kollha dwar l-eżerċizzji ta’ promozzjonijiet għall-għola gradi fl-Armata issolva biss wara d-deċiżjoni finali tal-Qorti tal-Appell f’Ottubru 2016 liema deċiżjoni ikkonfermat li Ombudsman kellu l-obbligu li jinvestiga l-ilmenti li rċieva.

It-tieni kaz jirrigwarda ir-rifjut tal-Ministeru tas-Saħħa li jipprovdi l-informazzjoni mitluba mill-Kummissarju għas-Saħħa biex dan jipprovdi il-ftehim sħiħ ma’ Vitals Healthcare dwar il-privatizzazzjoni ta’ sptarijiet f’Malta u Għawdex li kien meħtieġ fl-investigazzjoni dwar jekk l-interessi tal-pazjenti u l-istaff (mediku) kienux adegwatament imħarsa.

It-tielet kaz hu dwar l-ilmenti kontinwa tal-Kummissarji fl-uffiċċju tal-Ombudsman (Saħħa, Ippjanar/Ambjent u Edukazzjoni) dwar id-dewmien li qed jirriżulta f’investigazzjonijiet li jkunu jeħtieġu konklużjoni immedjata. Dan minħabba n-nuqqas tas-settur pubbliku li jagħti tweġiba għat-talbiet diversi għal informazzjoni.

L-obbligu tal-amministrazzjoni pubblika li tiffaċilita l-aċċess għall-informazzjoni u d-dritt taċ-ċittadin li jkun infurmat huma bażiċi f’soċjetá demokratika. Attentati biex dan l-aċċess taċ-ċittadin għall-informazzjoni jkun imblukkat b’dan il-mod jimmina l-proċess demokratiku u dan billi ċ-ċittadin qed ikun ostakolat milli jifforma opinjoni fuq kif qed ikun amministrat l-istat. Dan qiegħed ukoll jostakola lil dawk l-istituzzjonijiet fid-dmir li jiddefendu ċ-ċittadin komuni milli jagħmlu xogħolhom.

F’isem Alternattiva Demokratika jiena nirringrazzja lill- Ombudsman talli qed ikun daqstant ċar fid-difiża tiegħu ta’ dak li hu bażiku f’soċjetá demokratika kif ukoll talli qed isemma’ leħnu b’vuċi ċara kontra dan l-abbuż ta’ poter.

Ippubblikat f’Illum Il-Ħadd : 10 ta’ Ġunju 2018

Obstructing access to information is a crime against democracy

The Ombudsman’s 2017 Annual Report, published earlier this week, is very worrying. At times it makes scary reading. The Ombudsman comments at length on “the failure by the administration to provide information” and points at two general trends.

The first of these is the reluctance of various Government Departments and Ministries to disclose important information. The exact words  from the Ombudsman’s report,  which I quote verbatim, are: “Regrettably the public administration – and this includes public authorities – appears to have adopted a generally negative approach towards its duty to disclose information and the citizen’s right to be informed. Some have gone to extremes by even refusing to provide important and even vital information to which the public was obviously entitled since it concerned important segments of the economic and social life of the country.”

The second trend is even worse: various agreements entered into by government are containing a non-disclosure clause. The Ombudsman states “An even more worrying, recent development that has come to light in an attempt to ensure a total blackout of silence is the practice of binding parties with whom the public administration enters into contractual agreements not to disclose information on the contracts themselves without prior approval from the public authority.”

Now, in fairness, this practice has not been adopted suddenly in 2017. There have been a number of instances in the past where the government bound others, or else accepted to be bound, not to disclose information. Apparently this is now increasing in frequency. It is not just the contract with Henley and Partners on the sale of Maltese citizenship which contains such provisions but also the contract concerning the privatisation of the public lottery system with Maltco, as well as the agreements on the partial privatisation of the Health service with Vitals Healthcare as well as the Electrogas agreements in relation to the Delimara power station changeover to gas.

How can a government claim to be transparent and accountable when it uses or permits the use of the non-disclosure weapon?

The Ombudsman is right to point out this basic deficiency of a public service which pretends that it is fair, efficient, transparent and accountable. I consider that it is also of such importance that it merits discussion in the Constitutional Convention, if this is ever convened. Maybe it is about time that the Constitution should limit very strictly the use by the public administration of non-disclosure as a tool to obstruct the public’s access to information.

Safeguards are required against the abusive use of the non-disclosure of information held by the public administration. Such safeguards could include access to fast track administrative review as well as both publication of the suppressed information and the prohibition from holding public office of those found guilty of blocking the public’s access to information without valid reason.

The Ombudsman explains in his report that the law provides his office with the tools to ensure that it has access to the information it requires “to conduct its investigations into complaints received”, even though this information is at times made available very reluctantly. However, the Ombudsman considers it appropriate to underline three specific instances “that show how the negative response of public authorities to provide information hindered the Ombudsman and his Commissioners in the exercise of their functions”.

The first instance is that concerning the Armed Forces of Malta. The refusal by the Ministry for Home Affairs and National Security to provide all files relating to promotion exercises in the top echelons of the AFM was only resolved after a definite decision of the Court of Appeal in October 2016, which confirmed that the Ombudsman had a duty to investigate the complaints received.

The second instance is that concerning the refusal of the Ministry of Health to comply with the request of the Commissioner of Health to supply “clean copies” of the agreements with Vitals Healthcare on the privatisation of hospitals in Malta and Gozo which were required in the investigation into whether the interests of patients and staff were being adequately protected.

The third instance is that of repeated complaints in all the reports of the Commissioners attached to the Ombudsman’s office [Health, Planning/Environment and Education] on the resulting delay in investigations which, by their very nature, require an immediate response. These delays are the direct result of the failure of various sectors in the public administration to submitting an expedient reply to requests for information.

The duty of the public administration to disclose information, and the right of the citizen  to be informed, is basic in a democratic society. Attempts to block the essential flow of information to the citizen through non-disclosure tools undermines the democratic process, as it blocks the essential elements required by the citizen in order to form a clear and unbiased opinion on the way in which the state is being administered. Moreover, it obstructs those institutions entrusted with defending the common citizen from carrying out their duty.

On behalf of Alternattiva Demokratika-The Green Party, I thank the Ombudsman for taking such a clear and unequivocal stand in favour of the basic tenets of democratic rule and against such blatant abuse of authority.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 10 June 2018

Li l-permess ta’ Townsquare tħassar hu pass kbir ‘il quddiem

 

Id-deċiżjoni tat-Tribunal ta’ Reviżjoni dwar l-Ambjent u l-Ippjanar li jħassar il-permess għat-torrijiet ta’ Townsquare u jibgħat il-każ mill-ġdid quddiem l-Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar hu pass kbir ‘il quddiem.

It-Tribunal iddeċieda li hemm bżonn li l-pjanti sottomessi jkunu analizzati sewwa fil-kuntest tal-policies eżistenti kif ukoll li hemm studji li ma sarux li għandhom isiru u studju oħrajn li qatt ma’ raw id-dawl tax-xemx li għandhom ikunu magħrufa.

Alternattiva Demokratika hi sodisfatta b’din id-deċiżjoni għalkemm konxji li t-triq lejn deċiżjoni finali għadha ‘l-bogħod u mimlija perikli ambjentali.

Huwa l-mument li nifhmu kemm hu importanti li nibqgħu attenti għal dak li qed jiġri madwarna u li nibqgħu nsemmu leħinna bla waqfien.

IVF: ir-riżervi ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika dwar il-proposti li saru

Alternattiva Demokratika il-bieraħ ippubblikat dokument bil-fehmiet tagħha dwar il-proposti tal-Gvern biex jestendi is-servizz tal-IVF.

Il-proposti li saru mill-Gvern jestendu l-faċiltá eżistenti tal-iffrizar minn waħda użabbli f’ċirkustanzi eċċezzjonali għal użu normali, ineħħu l-limitazzjoni konnessi mal-ġeneru għal aċċess għas-servizz, joħloq per konsegwenza d-dritt ta’ donazzjoni kemm tal-isperma mingħand raġel kif ukoll ta’ bajd mingħand mara kif ukoll jippermettu li jkun hemm min joffri ruħu bħala sostitut (surrogate) flok l-omm biex iġġorr it-tarbija waqt it-tqala.

Alternattiva Demokratika iddikjarat li taqbel mal-linji ġenerali tal-proposti imma għandha numru ta’ riżervi importanti dwar dak li qiegħed jiġi propost.

Fil-qosor id-dokument ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika jagħmel dawn l-osservazzjonijiet

  1. Għandna nirrispettaw il-pluralità ta’ valuri etiċi fil-pajjiż u għaldaqstant għandu jkun possibli li persuna li għal raġunijiet ta’ kuxjenza ma taċċettax l-iffriżar tal-embrijuni jkollha l-opinjoni tagħha rispettata u per konsegwenza jkun possibli li tagħmel użu mis-servizz tal-IVF b’din il-limitazzjoni, (opt-out etiku mill-iffrizar): dan id-dritt għandu jkun rikonoxxut minn stat lajk;
  2. Li f’kull ħin għandu jkun rispettat id-dritt tal-informazzjoni, kemm tal-persuna li ser tirċievi d-donazzjoni tal-isperma jew il-bajda kif ukoll ta’ kull wild li jirriżulta, id-dritt tal-informazzjoni jfisser li l-identità ta’ min ikun qed jagħmel id-donazzjoni għandha tkun magħrufa kemm lil min ikun ser jirċievi d-donazzjoni, kif ukoll lill-ulied ġġenerati meta dawn jagħlqu is-16-il sena: is-segretezza mhiex aċċettabbli;
  3. Li hu neċessarju li jsir screening tal-isperma u l-bajda għal mard trasmess ġenetikament;
  4. Nifhmu li s-surrogacy qed tkun proposta bil-kundizzjoni li dan ma jkunx kummerċjalizzat, però għadu mhux ċar kif dan ser isir għax ġaladarba jkun infetaħ il-bieb ser ikun diffiċli li jkun hemm kontrolli effettivi tal-kummerċjalizzazzjoni;
  5. Il-proposta tal-addozzjoni tal-embrijuni ma jidhirx li tista’ tkun implimentata u teħtieġ diskussjoni iktar profonda.

Fid-dawl ta’ dan għandha jkun emfasizzata l-ħtieġa li f’soċjetá li tħaddan il-pluraliżmu etiku nirrispettaw iktar l-opinjonijiet ta’ xulxin. Ovvjament, l-iktar mumenti fejn hu meħtieġ dan ir-rispett hu fejn il-fehmiet jikkuntrastaw: għax fejn dawn jaqblu ma hemm bżonn l-ebda sforz!

Huwa meħtieġ li ma jkunx hemm għaġġla żejda fid-diskussjoni pubblika. Il-Gvern qed jgħaġġel ħafna u mhux jagħti biżżejjed ċans lill-opinjoni pubblika biex tiddiġerixxi biżżejjed dak li qed ikun propost. Għad hemm diversi punti li jeħtieġu iktar ħsieb għax is-soluzzjonijiet proposti mhux ċari. Ikun għaqli għall-Parlament li jidħol f’iktar dettall dwar l-implikazzjonijiet tas- soluzzjonijiet proposti u dan billi fost oħrajn jitlob direttament hu l-assistenza ta’ esperti biex jgħinuh jindirizza xi difetti tal-proposti li qed jipproponi l-Gvern.

Alternattiva Demokratika tittama li l-Parlament jagħmel xogħolu sewwa. L-ebda mandat elettorali ma jagħti lill-Gvern is-setgħa li jagħmel li jrid. Tajjeb li niftakru li għalkemm diffiċli biex jitħaddmu jeżistu rimedji f’kaz li l-Parlament jonqos mill-jagħmel xogħolu sewwa.