Illum : wara li l-Arċisqof beżaq mis-sunnara tal-PN

 

L-emendi Kostituzzjonali reġgħu fuq l-agenda.

Nafu li tul dawn l-aħħar snin il-possibilita li tiltaqa’ l-konvenzjoni kostituzzjoni kienet limitata minħabba li ġie mdeffes fin-nofs Franco Debono. Il-Partit Laburista ried lilu u l-Partit Nazzjonalista oppona. Nifhmu li għad qed isiru sforzi biex din il-problema tingħeleb.Imma qed jingħadu diversi affarijiet oħra li huma ta’ interess kbir.

Madwar tlett ġimgħat ilu, Mons Scicluna qal li l-Knisja ma jkollha l-ebda oġġezzjoni li titneħħa r-referenza għal Kattoliċiżku mill-Kostituzzjoni Maltija. Il-Knisja, qal Mons. Scicluna, ma tridx privileġġi imma trid il-libertà reliġjuża. Dikjarazzjoni makakka u f’waqtha ta’ Mons Scicluna li indirizzat waħda mill-issues jaħarqu quddiem il-Konvenzjoni Kostituzzjonali. Jaħarqu fis-sens li kien (u għadu) antiċipat li l-PN jopponi din il-bidla. Dan minkejja li din il-bidla kostituzzjonali ma għandhiex bżonn żewġ terzi tal-Parlament għall-approvazzjoni, iżda teħtieġ biss maġġoranza sempliċi. Bid-dikjarazzjoni ta’ Mons Scicluna l-Knisja beżqet mis-sunnara tal-P.N. u mhux ser tħalli lill-P.N. jinqeda biha!

Issa li l-Knisja beżqet mis-sunnara tar-Religio et Patria, illum ħarġet ir-reazzjoni ta’ Adrian Delia, mexxej tal-PN, u dan kif antiċipat. Ser jibda jbeżża’ bil-babaw ġaladarba l-Knisja mhux ser tħallieh jinqeda biha. Dalgħodu kien rappurtat li Adrian Delia qal li l-Prim Ministru jrid ineħħi l-kurċifissi mill-iskejjel! Daqt jibda jgħidilna li sejrin l-infern!

Ir-realta hi li Malta għandha bżonn Kostituzzjoni lajka, jiġifieri kostituzzjoni li filwaqt li tirrispetta l-liberta reliġjuża tkun waħda li ma tpoġġi l-ebda reliġjon fiċ-ċentru tagħha. Tkun kostituzzjoni sekulari. Il-pajjiż hekk hu fir-realtà, wieħed lajk, u l-kostituzzjoni tiegħu għandha tirrispetta dan il-fatt.

Hemm bżonn ftit iktar serjeta meta niddiskutu l-kostituzzjoni. B’mod partikolari mill-partit tal-avukati!

Sadanittant Alternattiva Demokratika qed tistenna li tibda l-konvenzjoni kostituzzjonali biex tkun tista’ tinvolvi ruħha fid-diskussjoni dwar it-tibdil meħtieġ fil-kostituzzjoni Maltija. S’issa, AD ma hiex involvuta f’xi diskussjjonijiet li jidher li għaddejjin.

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The financing of Fawlty Towers

Townsquare.Fawlty Tower

The saga of the Mrieħel and the Townsquare towers is now entering a new phase, with the planning appeal stopwatch due to start ticking shortly –  most probably towards the end of the month. It is known that, so far, Sliema Local Council and a number of environmental NGOs will be appealing against the 4 August decision of the Planning Authority to approve the “Fawlty Towers” at Mrieħel and Townsquare Sliema .

Financing of the projects is next. The banks cannot increase their already substantial exposure to loans that are dependent on building speculation. Consequently, the developers will inevitably have to seek the involvement of private citizens and, possibly, institutional investors. Most probably, the process for financing the projects has already commenced; it will involve the issuing of bonds to the public and will normally be sponsored by a bank and a stock-broking agency.

The bank or banks and stockbrokers sponsoring the bond issue will have to ensure that the bonds are subject to an “appropriateness and suitability testing” subject to such direction as the Malta Financial Services Authority  may consider necessary and suitable. Also, in the light of past local unpleasant experiences, the Authority will undoubtedly be guided by the need to ensure  that prospective investors fully understand the inherent risks of the proposed investments.  It will also ensure that detailed information is published in the form of a suitable prospectus in which the small print is both legible and understandable.

Those who finance the high-rise projects should shoulder responsibility for their impact together with the Planning Authority and the developers. They will potentially make it happen, so they should carry the can. It is important to get this message through: those who will invest in the Gasan and Tumas bonds intended to finance the “Fawlty  Towers”  should receive more than a monetary return on their investment. The moment they sign up they will also assume co-responsibility – with the developers, the Planning Authority, the bank or banks and the sponsoring stockbrokers – for this projected development .

Word is going around on the need to boycott the services and products placed on the market by the Gasan and Tumas Groups. Journalist Jürgen Balzan, writing in Malta Today described these services and products as being wide-ranging (hotels, car-dealerships, gaming, finance and property) which easily impact on the daily life of a substantial number of Maltese citizens. However, such a boycott’s only link with  the “Fawlty  Towers”  would be through the owners.  It would be preferable for a boycott to have a direct link with the offensive action.  In this context, the forthcoming bond issue to finance the “Fawlty  Towers”  presents itself as a suitable opportunity.

A boycott is a non-violent instrument of protest that is perfectly legitimate in a democratic society. The boycotting of the forthcoming bond issue would send a clear message that people will not be complicit in further ruining the  urban fabric of Sliema and ensure that development at Imrieħel is such that the historic landscape is fully respected.

A social impact assessment, if properly carried out, would have revealed the apprehensions of the residents in particular the residents on the Tignè peninsula. But, unfortunately, as stated by Sliema Green Local Councillor Michael Briguglio, the existing policy-making process tends to consider such studies as an irritant rather than as a tool for holistic management and community participation.

We have had some recent converts on the desirability of social impact assessments, such as Professor Alex Torpiano, Dean of the Faculty for the Built Environment at the University of Malta. Prof. Torpiano, in an opinion piece published by the Malta Independent this week, stressed that spatial planning in Malta needs a social-economic dimension. Unfortunately, I do not recollect the professor himself practising these beliefs as the leading architect in the MIDI and Cambridge projects on the Tignè peninsula,  a stone’s throw from Townsquare!

Investing in this bond issue is not another private decision: it will have an enormous impact on the community.

Responsibility for this ever-increasing environmental mess has to be shouldered by quite a few persons in Malta. Even the banks have a very basic responsibility – and not one to be shouldered just by the Directors: the shareholders should also take an interest before decisions are taken and not post-factum.

I understand that the Directors of APS Bank have already taken note of the recent  statements regarding the environment by  Archbishop Charles Scicluna. As such, it stands to reason that APS will (I hope) not be in any way associated with the financing process for the “Fawlty  Towers”.  However, there is no news as yet from the other banks, primarily from the major ones – ie Bank of Valletta and HSBC.

This is a defining moment in environmental action in Malta. It is time for those that matter to stand up to be counted – and the sooner the better.

published by the Malta Independent on Sunday – 21 August 2016

Dom Mintoff: a political bully

The film Dear Dom has elicited contrasting reactions. It reflects the whims of the man. Initially being way ahead of his contemporaries, he ended up detached from the effects of the changes which he pursued.

He rightly wanted Malta to exit the soonest from its Middle Ages. The temporal powers of the Church run by an archbishop-prince and the colonial rulers were his first targets. Deliberately he opted to bully his way through. The bulldozer was Dom Mintoff’’s preferred operational tool and strategy. Initially used against the colonisers and the Church it was subsequently used by Mr Mintoff against his own people.

His oratory as well as his negotiating skills were central throughout his political career. He radically reformed and expanded the welfare state created by his predecessor as Prime Minister and Labour leader, Sir Paul Boffa, whom he toppled after accusing him of not being capable of standing up to the colonial masters.

Mr Mintoff’s strategy of seeking to improve the nation’s standard of living through integration with the UK stood in stark contrast to that of his nemesis George Borg Olivier who opted for independence as the tool to improve Malta’s living conditions. Mr Mintoff’s strategy to achieve integration failed and eventually he turned to Plan B: to follow the road leading to independence, patiently developed by Dr Borg Olivier. He couldn’t stand that, as playing second fiddle was not his game.

Dr Borg Olivier was patient. Mr Mintoff was not. Independence for Dr Borg Olivier was a gradual process starting with the essentials of self-government and slowly building up the county’s infrastructure: a prerequisite for its social and economic development. That was too slow for Mr Mintoff’s temperament. His attitude was one seeking absolute control at day one. His pace was much faster than Dr Borg Olivier could ever get accustomed to. This was reflected in Mr Mintoff’s style of negotiations, in his demands and in the stormy foreign relations which developed as a result of his approach.

Mr Mintoff’s followers embarked on many a violent spree. One may trace the justification of violence as a political tool in the debate and declarations leading to the Independence Round Table Conference, in particular in what are known as Labour’s six political points (is-sitt punti). Lino Spiteri interviewed in Dear Dom, qualifies this reference to violence as a necessary tool in the rebellion against the colonial powers. While that was indeed one of its earliest manifestations, unfortunately it eventually became a tool for all seasons, when Mr Mintoff lost control of the hangers-on which surrounded him, including the notorious members of his Cabinets, those who had their own “bully boys”.

Violence shamed Mr Mintoff and the Labour Party many a time, most notably when The Times was burnt down on Black Monday, October 15, 1979. In 1984 even his handpicked successor was embarrassed when supporters (labelled as the aristocracy of the working class) went berserk at the Archbishop’s Curia and destroyed all they could see.

Mr Mintoff was not capable of standing up to the criminal behaviour which slowly developed around him until it engulfed him and his party. This was recently described by former Air Malta chairman Albert Mizzi in an interview carried in The Sunday Times on March 25. Mr Mizzi stated: “I remember one time when someone mentioned something to him about corruption. He turned to me and said, is it true? I replied: ‘That what’s people are saying’. His response was: ‘What can I do if that person has helped me to build up the party? Can I take action against him?’ You see, this is small Malta.” That is Mr Mintoff at the mercy of his sycophants: those who helped him build his party and then proceeded to squeeze it dry until the pips squealed.

Bullying of opponents was an essential characteristic of Mr Mintoff’s method of government. Obviously those who benefited from his methods and actions think otherwise.

They consider it as a minor and insignificant blip. Those at the receiving end tend however to recognise it as an essential element of the man’s method. Positive politics is less relevant if the implementation method adopted is unacceptable. As a result Labour’s achievements under his leadership related to the welfare state and the general upgrading of the rights of working men and women will be forever overshadowed.

Coercive methods were characteristic of the man who sought to achieve his targets by hook or by crook. The shareholders of the National Bank of Malta, their heirs and all those who stood in his way are living testimony to Mr Mintoff’s methods. He bullied his way through all opposition: in his party, in Parliament, in civil society, in industrial relations and in the economy. His bullying of intellectuals bequeathed an inheritance of mediocrity to his Labour Party.

When the historical dust will have settled there will be one issue which sticks out in defining the man. It will not be the welfare state but his political bullying which shaped his party for a generation.

published in The Times of Malta, May 5, 2012

Ir-referendum dwar id-divorzju : Riflessjonijiet (2) għall-kwiet fil-Messiku

llpup iebsin ta’ nagħaġ. Briganti. Hekk qalilna l-Isqof t’Għawdex lilna lkoll, il-Kattoliċi favur id-divorzju. Diskors li impressjona ħafna lill-merħla tiegħu li  68% minnha qablet miegħu. Imma l-bqija tal-pajjiż irvella għal dawn l-insulti. Għax mhux kulħadd nagħġa. Kollha għandna moħħ u l-parti l-kbira minna kapaċi nagħmlu użu minnu.  

X’jiswa li fl-aħħar minuti tal-kampanja referendarja tintalab apoloġija jew biex nuża kliem l-Arċisqof Cremona “infittxu r-rikonċiljazzjoni” jekk hu ċar li m’hemmx l-iċken intenzjoni li wieħed jirrimedja? Għax issa l-Isqof t’Għawdex ġie rappurtat li qal waqt pontifikal fil-Munxar li m’għandu l-ebda dispjaċir, u jekk meħtieġ jirrepeti dak li għamel u qal.  

Sfortunatament l-Isqof t’Għawdex jittratta lill-fidili ta’ nagħaġ mhux ta’ bnedmin li jafu jaħsbu u jixtarru. Nissuġġerilu li joqgħod ftit fis-skiet kif kien tal-parir Dun René Camilleri:  biex forsi fis-skiet u l-ġabra jagħraf ftit dak li s’issa għadu ma indunax bih. Imbagħad forsi jaħsibha xi ftit differenti. Jista’ jkun li  għandu bżonn ftit riflessjoni fil-kwiet bħal dik li ntbagħat jagħmel Patri Mark Montebello ġewwa l-Messiku.