Crocodile tears and the assassination of Daphne

Countless articles and opinions have been written about Daphne’s assassination last Monday, when the car she was driving was blown to smithereens.

Many theories have been woven as to the possible identity and motivation of those who planned and/or executed her assassination. I will not add to the speculation.

Like many others, I followed her writings through the years and found most of them informative. In the Maltese journalist community, her investigative skills were second to none. Her arguments were always very forceful even though a bias was always clearly present. She could alternate between well-written, clearly thought out and investigative articles and pure invective aimed at those she despised.

Her underlying political views were always clear and she promoted them mercilessly. Until June 2017, she ignored most of the sins of the PN and focused relentlessly on those of the PL. After June 2017 she practically lumped them both together in one basket, as they deserved, lending credence to the statement that there is nothing to distinguish the PN from the PL.

As for AD, it was one of her punching bags when it suited her, in particular at those critical political junctures where AD’s views and positions contrasted sharply with those of the PN. At other times, when she found AD’s views useful, she used them to buttress her own.

Her assassination is a direct blow against freedom of expression in Malta.

Various other attempts have been made to shut her up through the countless actions in court for civil damages. An attempt was made to cripple her financially with a legal mechanism, insisting that the claimed civil damages be deposited in Court when legal action is initiated. This was an attempt at intimidation which, unfortunately, the Law Courts did not see through. The attempt was only thwarted through the initiative of David Thake who organised crowd funding of the sums requested, thus short-circuiting the bully-boy tactics of Minister Cardona and his lawyers.

The Leader of the Opposition, Adrian Delia, having been under her spotlight for the past four months is now apparently out to milk her assassination for his party’s political gain, as is evidenced by his speeches earlier this week. He seems to want us to forget that he too was a contributor to the pile of actions for libel submitted against her. Their withdrawal this week smells of crass hypocrisy.

This is essentially the background to the crocodile tears being shed by some of those who say that they are “shocked” at her assassination.

Police investigations have commenced. Requesting help from foreign experts may ensure that all leads are followed. The investigation was almost torpedoed in its first seconds when Magistrate Consuelo Scerri Herrera failed to realise that this was a definite no-go area for her. That she took hours to realise this, is testimony to the fact that some members of the bench still need to master much more than the law.

The Magistrate’s presence shocked all as soon as she arrived on site at Bidnija. Soon after, that shock was to be compounded by the comments posted on Facebook by a Police Sergeant from the police investigating team on his being overjoyed at the day’s happenings. The fact that he was suspended pending disciplinary action is not sufficient. It still needs to be explained by the Commissioner of Police why some members of the police force have still not realised that they should stay away from the social media as it may seriously jeopardise not only their integrity and impartiality but also that of the whole Police Corps.

Apparently, it was not only the Police Sergeant who was overjoyed on Monday afternoon. What about the few carcades which were organised? Anybody cares to assume responsibility?

The Prime Minister is very anxious to get to the bottom of all this. We all are. The sooner this is done the better. However, when this is done and dusted it would be appropriate to examine the extent to which it was avoidable. As indeed it was.

 

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 22 October 2017

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L-għarbiel ta’ Owen Bonnici : b’toqob kbar

Il-pass li ħabbar Owen Bonnici li l-Gvern ser jitlob il-parir ta’ kumitat parlamentari qabel ma jagħmel numru ta’ ħatriet hu pass il-quddiem. Pass żgħir iva. Imma xorta l-quddiem. Dan ma nistax niċħdu, avolja hu fermi l-bogħod milli wieħed jistenna fid-dinja tal-lum.

Il-liġi proposta għadna ma rajnihiex u għalhekk dawn il-kummenti huma bbażati fuq dak li qal Owen Bonnici. Il-Gvern, qal Owen Bonnici, ser jibqa’ jkollu l-aħħar kelma, imma ser ifittex il-parir ta’ kumitat parlamentari qabel ma jagħmel ħatriet politiċi ta’ ambaxxaturi u ċ-Ċhairpersons ta’ numru ta’ entitajiet pubbliċi. Dan hu tajjeb imma imbagħad, dejjem skond ma qal Owen Bonnici l-iskrutinju li jista’ jsir mill-kumitat parlamentari hu wieħed limitat ħafna. Għax jista’ jsir biss bil-miktub u ser ikun limitat dwar kompetenza professjonali.

Din il-limitazzjoni fil-poteri ta’ skrutinju hi daħq fil-wiċċ u jfisser li fil-prattika l-iskrutinju li jista jsir hu limitat ħafna u ftit li xejn jista’ jservi ħlief fejn ikunu nominati persuni inkompetenti.

L-aħbarijiet ta’ TVM qalulna li l-ħatriet ser jgħaddu mill-għarbiel tal-Parlament. Imma ma qalux li l-għarbiel ta’ Owen għandu toqob kbar, li minnu jgħaddi kważi kollox.

Fil-Manifest Elettorali tal-aħħar elezzjoni (u anke f’dak ta’ qabilha) Alternattiva Demokratika ipproponiet miżura ferm iktar drastika u ċjoe li l-Parlament (jew il-kumitati tiegħu) jiddeċiedi u mhux sempliċiment jagħti parir. U biex jagħmel dan għandu jgħarbel sewwa permezz ta’ skrutinju pubbliku (public hearing) mingħajr limitazzjoni.

U mela mistoqsijiet bil-miktub!

It-tmexxija ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika

Aċċettajt li immexxi lill-Alternattiva Demokratika issa, f’dan il-mument kritiku. Mhux l-ewwel darba li ġejt nominat. Drabi oħra f’dawn l-aħħar disa’ snin ma aċċettajtx it-tmexxija li kienet offruta lili u minflok għażilt li nagħti sehmi taħt it-tmexxija ta’ ħaddieħor. Fil-fatt huma żbaljati dawk li l-bieraħ irrappurtaw li fil-passat jiena diġa kont Chairman ta’ AD. Fil-fatt ma kontx.

Il-bieraħ indirizzajt il-Laqgħa Ġenerali l-ewwel darba bħala Chairman. Fid-diskors tiegħi emfasizzajt li Alternattiva Demokratika trid torganizza ruħha aħjar. Idealment AD għandha tkun preżenti f’kull lokalità f’Malta u Għawdex. Mhux faċli, imma ċertament li dan hu possibli. Biex ikollna riżultati elettorali aħjar jeħtieġu li norganizzaw ruħna aħjar.

Biex dan ikun jista’ jseħħ hemm bżonn ta’ involviment ikbar da parti tal-membri ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika fil-ħidma ta’ kuljum tal-partit. Ħidma li nistgħu nippjanawha flimkien u nikkoordinawha aħjar.

Każini m’għandniex u l-anqas ma qiegħed nippjana li jkollna.

Waħda mill-ideat interessanti li qed nikkunsidraw hi dwar jekk ikunx għaqli li niftħu xi uffiċini reġjonali: tnejn jew tlieta. Dawn jistgħu jkunu l-bażi tal-ħidma tagħna mifruxa fil-pajjiż. Imma biex dan ikun jista’ jseħħ neħtieġu ħafna iktar riżorsi.

Din hi l-isfida tagħna għal dawn il-ġimgħat u x-xhur li ġejjin.

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AD tilqa’ b’sodisfazzjon il-konsultazzjoni dwar il-bidla tal-karozzi petrol u diesel għal dawk elettriċi

 

Alternattiva Demokratika tilqa’ b’sodisfazzjon l-aħbar tal-Prim Ministru li se jniedi konsultazzjoni dwar il-bidla minn vetturi li jużaw il-petrol u d-diesel – fabbrika tal-kanċer fil-qalba ta’ kull belt u raħal – għal vetturi elettriċi.

Il-kelliem ta’ AD Ralph Cassar qal:”Din il-bidla hija waħda mill-proposti konkreti li għamlet Alternattiva Demokratika fid-dokument tagħha Zero Carbon Malta 2050. Il-perjodu ta’ tranzizzjoni biex il-karozzi kollha ikunu elettriċi jiddependi minn ħafna fatturi fosthom kemm jeħtieġ żmien biex tinbidel l-infrastruttura li s’issa taqdi biss vetturi petrol u diesel għal infrastruttura li tinkludi skemi ta’ bdil, iċċarġjar u riċiklaġġ ta’ batteriji, kif ukoll perjodu biex karozzi eżistenti jinbidlu fi żmen raġjonevoli. Fuq medda qasira l-Gvern għandu jara li l-vetturi kollha tiegħu, dawk ta’ kumpaniji tal-kiri tal-karozzi u taxis jinbidlu għal dawk elettriċi. L-elettrifikazjoni tat-trasport pubbliku wkoll għandha tiġi ppjanata minnufih. Li huwa importanti li jkun hemm pjan b’miri ċari u tondi u li l-miri jinżammu.”

“Nemmnu li ma din l-inizjattiva importanti għandhom jittieħdu oħrajn b’mod immedjat biex tonqos il-konġestjoni fosthom li fi żmien qasir isiru sistemi nazzjonali ta’ passaġġi sura ta’ nies għar-roti u roti elettriċi tul il-bypasses kollha. Qed insejjħu biex ikun hemm inċentivi biex in-nies jitħajru jużaw ir-roti u roti elettriċi għall-commuting. Ma tagħmilx sens li jkun hemm ostakli bħal bżonn ta’ reġistrazzjoni ta’ roti elettriċi – l-użu tagħhom għandu jkun faċilitat u mhux imxekkel. Anzi għandu jkun hemm skemi li itaffu l-ispiża ta’ min jiddeċiedi li jixtri roti elettriċi. L-investiment f’infrastruttura għar-roti u roti elettriċi u inċentivi fiskali biex jingħataw spinta jqum ħafna inqas minn infieq f’flyovers u mini. Dawn il-proġetti u inċentivi jistgħu jsiru relattivament malajr. Skont figuri minn Londra l-introduzzjoni ta’ ‘bicycle superhighways’ żied l-użu tar-roti b’60%. Figuri oħra juru tnaqqis ta’ 35% fil-ħin tal-vjaġġ tal-vetturi meta tul toroq prinċipali ġew introdotti lanes separati u siguri għar-roti. Għal kull persuna li tuża r-rota ikollok anqas traffiku u anqas tniġġis fi żmien qasir.”

“L-elettrifikazzjoni tat-trasport għandha tkun marbuta wkoll ma’ investiment serju f’sorsi rinnovabbli tal-enerġija, mix-xemx, sal-mewġ, ir-riħ u sorsi oħra bħal gass naturali mill-irżieżet u d-drenaġġ. Il-mira ta’ 10% sas-sena 2020 hija ftit wisq. Malta għal darba għandha l-opportunita’ li tkun minn ta’ quddiem fil-bidla lejn ekonomija zero karbonju – ekonomija sostenibbli b’tipi ta’ xogħol f’livelli differenti għal kulħadd, u b’kwalita’ ta’ ħajja aħjar għalina lkoll.”

(din hi stqarrija għall is-stampa ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika)

 

 

Beyond roundabouts and flyovers

 

The need for adequate traffic management is apparently, at last, very high on the list of matters preoccupying the Maltese public. The solutions to the problems we face, however, depends on the behaviour of each and every one of us.

Traffic congestion is a constant irritation, as our roads are clogged for longer periods of time and in addition to wasting an ever-increasing amount of time in traffic, we are simultaneously constantly reducing the quality of the air we breathe.

Tackling traffic management adequately would hence address two fundamental issues: air quality and our clogged roads.

I do not dispute that improving the road network eases the flow of traffic. However, it has to be stressed that this is only a short-term measure. Adjusting the roundabout at Manwel Dimech Street in Qormi or the traffic lanes close to the airport or constructing flyovers at Kappara and Marsa will address and rationalise traffic movement now.

However, this further development of the road infrastructure is simply an encouragement for more cars to use our roads. It is only a matter of time when it will be the turn of the new developments to burst at the seams.

The present state of affairs is the direct result of the long-term neglect of transport policy. Public transport – as well as alternative means of transport – has been given the cold shoulder for far too long.

We require a transport policy that actively encourages the reduction of the number of vehicles on the road. Having around 800 cars on the road for every one thousand people in a small country is ridiculous. The small distances between localities in Malta and Gozo should make it much easier to encourage a reduction in dependence on the privately-owned car. Initiatives can be taken on a local level as well as between neighbouring localities. In such instances, it can be much easier to encourage the use of bicycles or the use of public transport or even to walk short distances: our health will surely benefit.

Isn’t it about time that we claim back ownership of our streets? We need more pedestrianised streets inaccessible to cars at any time of the day in every locality in Malta and Gozo. More streets need to be traffic-free, safe for children and parents to walk to school and back. We also need wider pavements for the use of pedestrians (not for tables and chairs to service catering establishments).

In the 2016 Budget speech, Finance Minister Edward Scicluna announced that, during 2017, government entities should be finalising sustainable transport plans. In the coming weeks these should be made public and, as a result, we expect that all government entities will commence addressing the mobility requirements of their employees and their customers. If carried out properly, this exercise could also impact on the private sector thereby (hopefully) substantially reducing a substantial number cars from our roads at peak times. In turn, this could have a considerable impact on public transport because with fewer cars on the roads, it should be more efficient.

Concurrently, government should also address the proposal to electrify the whole private transport sector through banning petrol and diesel cars from our roads, after a reasonable transition, and switching over to cars running on electricity. In Malta, this proposal was launched as part of Alternattiva Demokratika’s 2017 election manifesto. Since then, it has also been taken up by the French and UK governments. Removing petrol and diesel cars from our roads would substantially improve the quality of the air we breathe in all our localities and consequently in the long term will contribute to a considerable reduction of respiratory ailments.

This is the only way forward by which traffic is brought under serious control simultaneously ensuring sustainable mobility and improving the quality of our air.

 

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 10 September 2017

Lumija magħsura

L-għasir tal-lumi hu sustanzjuż u jagħmel ħafna ġid għas-saħħa. Imma xi ngħidu għal lumija magħsura?

Iktar kmieni din il-ġimgħa awgurajt lit-Tabib Anthony Buttigieg wara li hu ħabbar d-deċiżjoni tiegħu li fi ħsiebu jikkontesta għat-tmexxija tal-Partit Demokratiku. Possibilment huwa jimla l-vakanza li nħolqot minn Marlene Farrugia wara li din iddeċidiet li ddabbar rasha wara biss ftit xhur fil-kariga.

It-Tabib Buttigieg hu persuna b’moħħu f’postu. L-għada tal-elezzjoni ġenerali, meta kellu ma wiċċu dikjarazzjoni ta’ Marlene Farrugia li hi ma kienitx teskludi li tikkontesta għall-kariga ta’ Kap tal-PN, wara li kien irriżenja Simon Busuttil, hu irriżenja mill-kariga ta’ deputat mexxej tal-PD. Bħala riżultat ta’ hekk ħa posizzjoni ċara li kienet tikkuntrasta mal-impulsivitá ta’ Marlene Farrugia. Dakinnhar Buttigieg kien iddikjara li dak li qalet Farrugia kien kontra dak li jemmen hu, għax fil-fehma tiegħu l-Partit Demokratiku kellu jkun separat u distint mill-Partit Nazzjonalista.

Bħala riżultat ta’ din il-posizzjoni huwa għamilha ċara illi d-disponibilitá tiegħu li jieħu sehem f’koalizzjoni ma kellha l-ebda impatt fuq id-determinazzjoni tiegħu li jħares l-identitá tal-partit tiegħu. Li tkun allejat kritiku abbażi ta’ programm politiku miftiehem bl-ebda mod mhu komparabbli ma min żviluppa attitudni li jilgħaq kontinwament.

Mid-dehra Marlene Farrugia taħsibha mod ieħor għax diġa għamlitha ċara illi għadha tal-ħsieb li fi żmien ħames snin mill-ġdid tikkunsidra li tikkontesta għat-tmexxija tal-PN. Għax skontha, l-ebda wieħed mill-erba’ kandidati għal Kap tal-PN mhu kapaċi. Dan kollu sfortunatament jibgħat messaġġ wieħed u ċar: li l-mexxejja attwali tal-Partit Demokratiku tara l-futur tagħha u tal-partit tagħha bħala parti integrali mill-Partit Nazzjonalista. Għal Marlene Farrugia il-Partit Demokratku qiesu lumija magħsura li tarmiha wara li tkun użajta.

Bħala riżultat tal-mauvri tagħha bl-iskop li tkun eletta, irrispettivament mill-prezz politiku, Marlene Farrugia ikkaġunat ħafna ħsara li teħtieġ li tkun rimedjata mingħajr iktar dewmien.

Alternattiva Demokratika ma jkollha l-ebda diffikulta li tesplora kif tista’ tikkoopera mal-Partit Demokratiku immexxi minn Anthony Buttigieg, liema eżerċizzju (fil-passat) kien abbandunat minħabba li l-impulsivitá kienet l-għodda ewlenija tat-tmexxija tal-PD sa mit-twaqqif tiegħu. Buttigieg hu persuna konsistenti u l-imġieba tiegħu tidher li taqbel ma dak li jgħid.

Hemm ħafna ħidma li teħtieġ li issir u ftit wisq nies biex jagħmluha.

Fost il-kollegi enerġiċi ta’ Anthony Buttigieg hemm Timothy Alden li hu l-moħħ wara l-inizzjattiva kurrenti tal-Partit Demokratiku biex jiżdied il-ħarsien tal-widien u tal-ilma tal-pjan billi possibilment ikunu nklużi fil-qafas legali li ġie żviluppat għad-dimanju pubbliku fil-Kodiċi Ċivili. Alternattiva Demokratika tappoġġa din l-inizzjattiva.

Hi inizjattiva li timmerita appoġġ wiesa’ avolja forsi strateġikament kien ikun aħjar li l-ewwel tkun implimentata sewwa l-politika u r-regolamenti eżistenti li diġa joffru protezzjoni sostanzjali kemm għall-widien kif ukoll għall-ilma tal-pjan.

Il-futur tal-partiti ż-żgħar hu dipendenti fuq il-kooperazzjoni u fuq kemm aħna kapaċi li ma nisparpaljawx r-riżorsi limitati li hawn. Dan ikun ferm aħjar mill-impulsivitá u n-narċissiżmu li għamel ħsara sostanzjali.

Il-lumi magħsur għandu użu. Imma m’għandux ħajja twila.

ipubblikat f’Illum : 20 t’Awwissu 2017

Wiċċu bla żejt

 

Persuna li ma tistħix ngħidulha li jkollha wiċċ bla żejt. Taġixxi b’mod sfaċċat, qiesu ma ġara xejn. Bħall-membru parlamentari tal-PN David Agius.

David Agius, meta kien membru parlamentari fuq in-naħa tal-Gvern kien, flimkien ma oħrajn, ivvota favur li art f’diversi partijiet ta’ Malta, fil-parti l-kbira tagħha art verġni, tingħata għall-iżvilupp. Issa qasam fuq in-naħa l-oħra u qiegħed jappoġġa lir-residenti li qed jipprotestaw kontra dan l-iżvilupp li hu ivvota favur tiegħu.

F’Ħ’Attard, fl-inħawi magħrufa Tal-Idward, fil-periferija taż-żona tal-iżvilupp, David Agius jappoġġa lir-residenti li qed jipprotestaw biex art agrikola ma tkunx żviluppata. Ir-residenti huma rrabjati għax issa hemm it-tieni applikazzjoni biex ikun determinat kif tista’ tkun żviluppata l-art fl-inħawi tal-Idward.

David Agius kien hemm, kważi ċass, bla espressjoni f’wiċċu. Ħdax-il sena ilu, fil-Parlament kien ivvota favur l-istess żvilupp li issa kien qed jipprotesta kontra tiegħu!

L-istorja kollha hi dwar dak li hu magħruf bħala l-eżerċizzju ta’ razzjonalizzazzjoni li permezz tiegħu meded kbar ta’ art imxerrda mal-gżejjer Maltin, sa dakinnhar barra miż-żona tal-iżvilupp, saru tajbin għall-bini. Bil-vot tiegħu favur dan kollu David Agius għin biex dan ikun possibli li jsir. David Agius mhux waħdu. Fuq il-bankijiet tal-Opposizzjoni għad hemm diversi kollegi tiegħu li għamlu bħalu.

L-ippjanar għall-użu tal-art hu strument li għandu jkun użat fl-interess tal-komunitá kollha, u mhux fl-interess tal-ftit. Sfortunatament, illum, ħdax-il sena wara huwa ċar iktar minn qatt qabel kemm l-eżerċzzju ta’ razzjonalizzazzjoni injora lill-komunitajiet residenzjali tagħna madwar il-pajjiż kollu biex jaġevola lill-ispekulaturi.

Meta l-Parlament approva li meded kbar ta’ art barra miż-żona tal-iżvilupp isiru żviluppabbli kien jaf li ma kien sar l-ebda studju biex ikunu mkejla l-impatti kumulattivi li rriżultaw minn din id-deċiżjoni. Bħala riżultat ta’ dan, l-impatti tat-traffiku, l-kwalitá tal-arja, l-għargħar, id-dellijiet fuq bini diġa armat b’pannelli fotovoltajċi kif ukoll in-numru dejjem jiżdied ta’ propjetá vojta kienu fatturi injorati kompletament meta l-Parlament iddeċieda li japprova l-eżerċizzju ta’ razzjonalizzazzjoni.

Sfortunatament, l-Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar, minkejja li kienet taf b’dan in-nuqqas baqgħet għaddejja u ma ppruvatx tagħmel tajjeb għan-nuqqas tal-Parlament.

Sadanittant, fil-Parlament, il-Ministru Ian Borg huwa u jwieġeb għall-kritika ta’ din id-deċiżjoni tal-Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar ipponta subgħajh lejn l-Opposizzjoni. Imma dan mhux biżżejjed għax anke l-Partit Laburista wara 4 snin fil-Gvern ma għamel xejn dwar dan kollu.

Bosta minna niftakru li meta l-Partit Laburista kien fl-Opposizzjoni, fil-Parlament, kien ivvota kontra dan l-eserċizzju ta’ razzjonalizzazzjoni. Dan iwassal għall-mistoqsija inevitabbli dwar jekk il-Partit Laburista bidilx fehmtu. Għax ħlief għal ftit kummenti waqt il-kampanja elettorali l-Partit Laburista qatt ma qal xejn dwar dan kollu. Dan x’jfisser? Għandna ninterpretaw in-nuqqas ta’ azzjoni mill-Partit Laburista fil-Gvern bħala qbil mal-ezerċizzju ta’ razzjonalizzazzjoni?

Sa fejn naf jiena, Alternattiva Demokratika biss indirizzat dan kollu waqt il-kampanja elettorali li għadha kif intemmet. Dan billi pproponiet li dawn it-tip ta’ permessi m’għandhomx joħorġu f’dawk il-lokalitajiet fejn hemm numru konsiderevoli ta’ propjetajiet residenzjali vakanti.

Jidher imma li l-partiti fil-parlament issa bidlu ir-rwol tagħhom. David Agius hu l-eżempju ovvju: meta l-partit tiegħu kien fil-Gvern jappoġġa l-ispekulazzjoni, u issa li qiegħed fl-Opposizzjoni taparsi jappoġġa lir-residenti.

ippubblikat fl-Illum il-Ħadd  9 ta’ Lulju 2017

David Agius’s mental gymnastics

 

David was always into sport – primarily basketball, if I remember correctly. He has, however, now dedicated considerable time to the practice of mental gymnastics.

In Attard, in the area known as Tal-Idward – which is just outside the development zone – David has time and again publicly manifested his support of the residents’ cause: opposition to the development of agricultural land. The residents have now vented their anger in a pubic protest against a second planning control application that seeks to identify what would be permissible development in the tal-Idward area at Attard, the first application having been turned down around three years ago.

David Agius, the Opposition Whip, stood there, with a poker face, not batting an eyelid. Eleven years ago, in Parliament, he voted in favour of permitting the same development against which he is now demonstrating!

The issue is the so-called “rationalisation exercise” as a result of which considerable tracts of ODZ land all over the Maltese islands will henceforth to be considered as developable land. In 2006, with his favourable vote in Parliament, David Agius, contributed to making this possible. On the Opposition benches, he is accompanied by a number of other MPs who likewise voted in favour of more virgin agricultural land being given up for development.

Land-use planning should keep in mind the interests of the whole community and not only the interests of a select few. Unfortunately, eleven years down the line, it is now more clear than ever that the rationalisation exercise has  completely ignored the interests of the residential communities all over the islands in order to satisfy the greed of land speculators.

When Parliament considered the approval of removing ODZ status of large tracts of land, primarily (but not exclusively) agricultural land, it did so in full knowledge of the fact that the cumulative impacts of such a decision had not been assessed. Such an assessment, which is prescribed in the Strategic Environment Assessment Directive of the EU, would have been mandatory had Parliament’s decision been taken some days later than it actually was.

As a result, traffic impacts, air quality, flooding, the shadowing of existing residential property equipped with photo-voltaic panels and the issue of an ever increasing stock of vacant properties were completely ignored when Parliament approved the rationalisation exercise.

The Planning Authority, unfortunately, notwithstanding that it is aware of the shortcomings underpinning the rationalisation exercise, has failed to take steps to mitigate these shortcomings apart from minor cosmetic changes to the  proposals submitted on behalf of speculators.

In Parliament Minister Ian Borg rightly pointed his fingers at the Opposition when replying to criticism of the above-mentioned Planning Authority’s decision.  Blaming the Opposition is however not enough as the Labour Party had sufficient time to act on the matter in the past four years, but has not done so. Most of us remember that the Labour Party itself, when in Opposition, had voted against the rationalisation exercise in Parliament. This leads to the inevitable question as to whether or not Labour has since changed its mind as – with the exception of a few sympathetic comments on the eve of the June general election – it has never committed itself to changes to the rationalisation exercise. Are we to interpret the Labour Party’s non-action as a change of political position, signifying agreement with the rationalisation exercise in the form approved by Parliament in 2006?

As far as I am aware, Alternattiva Demokratika, the Green Party, is the only political party to propose a specific measure on changes to the rationalisation exercise. This was done once more during the recent electoral campaign. Such a measure proposed by Alternattiva Demokratika is linked to the large number of vacant properties, which should be a break applied by land-use planning regulators in order not to develop more land unnecessarily.

But is seems that the Labour Party and the PN have switched roles. Hence David’s mental gymnastics: supporting speculators when in government, supporting residents when in opposition.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 9 July 2017

Inxammru l-kmiem

 

 

Issa huwa żżmien li ngħarblu l-ħidma tal-partiti politiċi u nħejju għall-futur, btibdil kbir jew żgħir, skond dak li jirriżulta meħtieġ.

Il-Partit Laburista qiegħed fil-proċess li jagħżel suċċessur għal Louis Grech filwaqt li l-PN beda t-triq għal tibdila oħra li tista tkun waħda sostanzjali.

Mhux il-ħsieb tiegħi li nikkummenta dwar dawn l-għażliet li għandhom quddiemhom il-PN u l-PL. Għandi biżżejjed biex inħabbel rasi, għax bla dubju, Alternattiva Demokratika ukoll teħtieġ li tifhem sewwa dak li ġara u tieħu passi radikali dwaru.

Kif diġa kelli l-opportunitá li nikteb, ir-riżultat li kisbet AD kien mistenni wara li AD ma waslitx għal ftehim dwar koalizzjoni mal-PN. Għal AD kienet għażla, fil-fehma tiegħi iebsa, imma kienet ukoll għażla neċessarja. Ma kienitx deċiżjoni kontra koalizzjoni imma kontra l-forma tal-koalizzjoni li essenzjalment kienet waħda li tibla l-identitá tal-partiti li jiffurmaw il-koalizzjoni u (tal-inqas għall-elezzjoni) tippreżenthom bħala parti integrali mill-Partit Nazzjonalista, bit-tajjeb u l-ħażin kollu tiegħu.

Filwaqt li nifhem ir-raġunament ta min ġenwinament xtaq li AD tkun tifforma parti mill-koalizzjoni kontra l-korruzzjoni, għadni ftit li xejn ma smajt jew qrajt reazzjonijiet ta dawk li fehmu jew ta l-inqas apprezzzaw ir-raġunament ta Alternattiva Demokratika li ma tissieħibx.

Kien hemm waqtiet li ħsibt illi li kieku kien hemm iktar żmien, wieħed seta jasal. Imma fir-realtá qatt ma stajna naslu għax il-PN ġenwinament ma kienx fposizzjoni li jippreżenta l-kandidati tiegħu taħt isem jew emblema differenti minn dik tas-soltu. Allura, l-loġika ukoll kellha twassal biex anke a bażi ta dan biss wieħed jifhem il-posizzjoni li ħadet AD.

Ilna s-snin nitkellmu favur il-ħtieġa ta koalizzjoni (jew alleanza pre-elettorali) u mhux ser nieqfu issa.

Imma dan kollu jwassal ukoll għal konsiderazzjoni oħra ta natura iktar fondamentali.

Kemm hu addattat il-mod li bih taħdem AD illum, bla presenza lokali jew reġjonali? Ximpatt għandu dan fuq l-effettivitá ta AD  bmod partikolari meta dan inqabbluh mal-presenza kontinwa tal-PN u l-PL fil-lokalitajiet kollha?

Ilni snin nargumenta, internament fAD, li din hi l-isfida ewlenija għal Alternattiva Demokratika. Għax filwaqt li ċċarezza tal-ħsieb u l-viżjoni politika hi essenzjali għal kull partit politiku hi daqstant meħtieġa organizzazzjoni li tista tittraduċi l-ħsieb fazzjoni politika konkreta. Kultant naraw partiti politiċi bmagna organizzattiva impressjonanti imma mingħajr ċarezza fil-ħsieb u fil-viżjoni. Fil-każ ta AD id-diffikulta hi bil-maqlub. Hemm ideat u viżjoni ċara imma hemm nuqqas ta l-għodda organizzattivi biex dawn l-ideat jagħtu frott politiku adegwat.

Din mhiex problema li ħoloqha Arnold Cassola. L-anqas ma ħoloqha Michael Briguglio qablu. Ilha magħna sa minn meta twaqqfet AD fl-1989. Ovvjament hi responsabbilta kollettiva ta kulħadd li ma żviluppajniex din l-għodda organizzattiva neċessarja tul is-snin. Jiena ma naqbilx ma min iwaħħal fis-sistema elettorali għan-nuqqas ta AD li jkollha riżultati elettorali posittivi. Mhux faċli, imma mhuwiex gravi daqskemm jgħidu!

Din hi l-isfida li għandha quddiema AD illum. Uċuħ ġodda dejjem tajniehom merħba u nibqgħu nagħtuhom. L-isfida quddiemna hi li nkunu preparati daqs l-avversarji politiċi tagħna.

L-ebda tim tal-futbol ma jinżel jilgħab logħba bil-flipflop, l-anqas dawk fl-iktar diviżjoni inferjuri. Jaf kemm jaf il-logħba, imħejji kemm hu imħejji, biex tim ikollu ċans sportiv jeħtieġlu l-preparazzjoni teknika u l-appoġġ amministrattiv daqs l-avversarji tiegħu. Biex dan ikun possibli jeħtieġ impenn mhux biss mit-tim imma ukoll minn dawk kollha li jappoġġawh.

Fdawn il-ġranet fAlternattiva Demokratika qed niddiskutu dan kollu. Arnold Cassola infurmana li hu ma xtaqx ikompli jmexxi u allura huwa neċessarju li jkollna tmexxija ġdida.

Filwaqt li nieħu din l-opportunitá nirringrazzja lill-Arnold għall-ħidma tiegħu tul dawn is-snin kollha huwa neċessarju li issa nikkonċentraw fuq il-ħidma neċessarja biex niftħu kapitlu ġdid. Kapitlu li jrid iżewweġ flimkien l-idejali mal-ħidma organizzattiva.

Jidher li l-piż għal dan ser inġorru jiena u għaldaqstant hu l-mument li nitlob l-għajnuna ta dawk kollha li jissimpatizzaw ma’ Alternattiva Demokratika.   Hu l-mument li nxammru l-kmiem.

ODZ lessons : from  Żonqor to Għargħur

 

A planning application (PA3592/16)  to construct a home for the elderly in the area between Naxxar and Għargħur was due to be discussed by the Planning Authority Board on Thursday. Less than five hours before it was due to begin, however, the public hearing was postponed. There may be valid reasons for the postponement but, so far, such reasons – if they exist – are still unknown.

For the past few months, Alternattiva Demokratika, the Green Party in Malta, has been supporting the residents who are opposed to the development of this privately-owned  home in their neighbourhood since the planning application was first published.

There are various reasons which justify opposition to this proposed development. When faced with such a proposal, the first reactions understandably relate to the direct impact that it will have on the residential community – during both the construction phase and  the operational phase of the proposed facility. During the construction phase, this impact would include excavation noise and vibration, the nuisance caused by airborne dust during construction and the general inconvenience resulting from a large construction site very close to a residential community.

Once the home is in use, the traffic generated at all times of the day – as well as the occupying of residents’ parking spaces by visitors – will be one of the most pressing concerns to justify opposition to the proposal.

These are sensible reasons which justify opposition to the proposed development, even though some mitigation of these impacts is generally possible.

In my opinion, however, before even considering the proposal, it has to be emphasised that the construction of a home for the elderly outside the development zone (ODZ) between Naxxar and Għargħur is a good reason for objection in principle.

On the grounds of social policy, to continue encouraging the institutional care of the aged by way of residential homes does not hold water. It makes much more sense to help the older members of our society to remain in their homes as an integral part of the community, close to their roots, as long as this is possible. This should be the preferred option, rather than forcing them to abandon their roots and move away to the outskirts of our towns and villages.

The Social Policy Ministry harps on about the integration of the elderly in the community while the authority responsible for land use planning is facilitating their segregation. Obviously, somewhere there is a lack of understanding and coordination.

Locating homes for the elderly on the edges of our towns and villages is, in the long term, unsustainable. In addition to fostering segregation, instead of encouraging inclusion, it creates an environmental deficit by encouraging the displacement of a number of the residents of our town and village centres to what is now considered as ODZ land. As a result, this leads to an increase in the number of vacant residential properties while simultaneously adding to the built footprint of the Maltese islands – as if we do not have more than enough developed land!

The 2011 Census identified Għargħur as having a 28.5 per cent residential property vacancy rate. The rate for Naxxar was 24.5. These official statistics, which include both vacant properties and partially vacant properties, will undoubtedly get much worse.

This leads to another argument against the proposal to provide a home for the elderly in this particular area.  How can we justify taking up ODZ land for further development when even the site selection exercise, carried out as part of the application process, identified alternative sites within the development zone?

It seems that not enough lessons have been learnt as a result of the Żonqor debacle.  Is it not about time that the Planning Authority puts its house in order?

Policy coordination between the Ministries concerned with social policy, sustainable development, the environment and land use planning is obviously the missing link and should be addressed immediately.

published in the Malta Independent on Sunday – 25 June 2017