Riforma tal-Parlament

Il-Prim Ministru ilu jinki lill-opinjoni pubblika dwar meta ser ikun xolt il-Parlament kif ukoll dwar meta ser tissejjaħ l-elezzjoni ġenerali.

Imma Robert Abela kien ikkwotat jgħid ukoll li sa Ġunju 2022 ikun għadda kollox!

Kif inhuma  l-affarijiet illum, hi responsabbiltà kostituzzjonali tal-Prim Ministru dwar meta jkun xolt il- Parlament kif ukoll dwar meta tissejjaħ elezzjoni ġenerali.  Dan jagħmlu billi jagħti parir dwar dan lill-President tar-Republika.  Ħafna drabi nassumu li dawn it-tip ta’ deċiżjonijiet jittieħdu fl-interess nazzjonali avolja hu ċar daqs il-kristall li hu l-interess tal-partit fil-Gvern li jiddetermina kollox: dejjem.  Miżura li ssaħħaħ il-posizzjoni tal-Gvern qabel u waqt l-elezzjoni: the power of incumbency.

Dan mhux sewwa u għandu jinbidel kif inbidlu bosta affarijiet oħra.

Il-partit li immexxi qajjem dan il-punt fis-sottomissjonijiet li għamilna quddiem il-Konvenzjoni Kostituzzjonali: konvenzjoni li, dejjem ġejja, imma qatt ma tasal!

Hu propost li t-terminu tal-Parlament ikun wieħed fiss u li l-Prim Ministru ma jkollu l-ebda diskrezzjoni dwar kif u meta dan ikun xolt.  Fil-prattika kemm l-Istati Uniti kif ukoll il-parti l-kbira tal-Ewropa kontinentali għandhom Parlament b’terminu fiss. Anke r-Renju Unit, meta kienet immexxija mill-koalizzjoni bejn il-partit Liberali u dak Konservattiv, ftit snin ilu, introduċiet leġislazzjoni għal Parlament b’terminu fiss.

F’dan il-kuntest tajjeb li jkun emfasizzat ukoll li t-terminu ta’ ħames snin għall-Parlament huwa ftit twil. Dan ma kienx dejjem hekk. Meta twaqqaf il-Parlament Malti għall-ewwel darba fl-1921, mitt sena ilu, il-ħajja tal-Parlament kienet ta’ tlett snin. Sal-lum il-ġurnata, l-Parlament Federali Awstraljan għadu jkun elett kull tlett snin. Il-Kamra tar-Rappresentanti tal-Istati Uniti min-naħa l-oħra tkun eletta kull sentejn.

X’uħud jistgħu jkunu tal-fehma li għall-Parlament, tul ta’ sentejn jew tlieta bejn elezzjoni u oħra huma ftit wisq. Għal min qiegħed fil-Gvern, ħames snin jistgħu jkun perjodu addattat. Imma għal min qiegħed fl-Opposizzjoni hu twil wisq! Tlett snin hu perjodu ferm iktar addattat.

Il-Parlament għandu ħtieġa ukoll ta’ membri li xogħolhom ikun biss dak ta’ membri tal-parlament u li ma jagħmlu xejn iktar. Hemm bżonn ukoll li n-numru ta’ membri tal-parlament jonqos għax in-numru li għandna illum hu kbir wisq.  Membru Parlamentari full-time jaqta’ għal kollox kull kuntatt ma xogħol u/jew professjoni u bħala riżultat ta’ hekk inaqqas sostanzjalment il-possibiltà ta’ kunflitt ta’ interess meta jkun f’posizzjoni li jieħu kwalunkwe deċiżjoni.

Id-daqs tal-lum tal-Parlament, jiġifieri dak ta’ 65 membru parlamentari, kien determinat bħala riżultat tal-emendi kostituzzjonali tal-1974.  Imma dan, illum il-ġurnata, sa mill-1987, mhux id-daqs definittiv għax miegħu jistgħu jiżdiedu iktar bħala riżultat tal-applikazzjoni tal-mekkaniżmu kostituzzjonali tal-proporzjonalità.   Jista’ jiżdiedu iktar ukoll, bi tnax-il membru ieħor riżultat tal-miżuri kostituzzjonali ġodda dwar il-bilanċ tal-ġeneru, jekk dawn ikunu applikati.

Il-Parlament li jmiss, għaldaqstant, jista’ jkunu kbir mhux ħażin jekk jintużaw kemm il-mekkaniżmu dwar il-proporzjonalità kif ukoll dak dwar il-bilanċ tal-ġeneru. Jista’ jkun daqs li jikber sa 77 membru u possibilment anke sa 81 membru. Dan hu enormi għall-pajjiżna.

Is-sistema elettorali, li ż-żewġ partiti fil-Parlament ilhom ibgħabsu għal żmien twil, tipprovdi għal riżultat proporjonali u b’element korrettiv favur il-bilanċ bejn il-ġeneri meta fil-Parlament ikunu eletti żewġ partiti politiċi biss. Meta jkun elett it-tielet partit dawn il-mekkaniżmi kostituzzjonali dwar il-proporzjonalità u l-bilanċ tal-ġeneru ma jistgħux jaħdmu. Hemm biss eċċezzjoni waħda. Din tkun fil-kaz ta’partit politiku li jikseb iktar minn 50 fil-mija tal-voti fl-ewwel għadd fuq livell nazzjonali. Dan ikollu dejjem il-jedd li jiggverna billi jkun allokat is-siġġijiet neċessarji għal dan l-iskop.  

Hemm numru ta’ soluzzjonijiet alternattivi li kieku ġew applikati kien ikun possibli li l-Parlament tagħna jkollu bilanċ aħjar bejn il-ġeneri u proporzjonalità mingħajr ma jikber fid-daqs.  Dawn is-soluzzjonijiet, imma, ġew skartati kompletament. Dan għax ir-riforma kellha dejjem l-iskop li toħloq l-inqas tibdil possibli. Tibdil kosmetiku fl-istil tal-Gattopardo: tibdil li jħalli kollox kif kien!

Dan hu l-Parlament tagħna. Jeħtieġ li jinbidel mill-qiegħ.   

ippubblikat fuq Illum : il-Ħadd 13 ta’ Frar 2022

Reforming Parliament

The Prime Minister has been teasing public opinion for some time as to when Parliament will be dissolved and when we will consequently be proceeding to the next general election.

Robert Abela has been quoted as stating that it will definitely be over by June 2022.

As things stand, at this point in time, it is within the Constitutional prerogative of the Prime Minister to determine when Parliament is dissolved and a general election held. This he does by advising the President of the Republic accordingly. It is generally assumed that such decisions are taken in the national interest even though it is amply clear that it is always in the interest of the political party in power. It reinforces the power of incumbency.

Is this right? Should it remain so?

My party has raised this matter in its submissions to the Constitutional Convention which Convention has been pending for a number of years!

It is being proposed that Parliament should be a fixed-term Parliament and that the Prime Minister should have no discretion whatsoever in dissolving Parliament.  In practice both the United States as well as most of continental Europe have fixed-term Parliaments. Even the United Kingdom, some years ago, led by a Liberal-Conservative coalition, introduced legislation for a Parliament having a fixed-term.

Within this context it would be also pertinent to emphasise that a five-year term is a little bit too long. This was not always so. When Malta’s Parliament was originally established in 1921, 100 years ago, it had a three-year life span. The Australian Federal Parliament in this day and age is still elected every three years. The United States House of Representatives on the other hand is elected every two years.

Some could argue that a two- or three-year life span for parliament would be too short. Five years may be right for those governing. It is however too long for those in Opposition! A three-year term could be the right balance.

Parliament also needs fulltime MPs and probably less of them. A fulltime member of parliament would cut off completely all of his/her links with profession and/or employment and as a result substantially reduce instances of conflict of interest when faced with decision taking.

Parliament’s present size of 65 members was determined as a result of the 1974 Constitutional amendments. Since 1987, it is however not a definite size, as it is increased as a result of the constitutional adjustment mechanism for proportionality. It will be increased by a further twelve members if the newly introduced constitutional gender balance requirements are applied.

The next Parliament could be quite large if both the proportionality and gender balance adjustment mechanisms are in use. It could inflate to a size between 77 and 81 members! This is enormous for a country our size.

The electoral system, which the two parties currently in parliament have been tinkering with for ages, provides for proportionality and gender balance only if just two parties are elected into Parliament. If a third party is elected, both the constitutional provisions for proportionality and gender balance will not be activated. There is just one exception and this is relative to the political party which obtains more than 50 per cent of the votes on a national level: in such an instant, irrespective of the number of political parties making it to Parliament the party having an absolute majority of votes is ensured of having the parliamentary seats required for governing.

There are a number of alternative solutions available which make it possible for our Parliament to be both gender-balanced and proportional without any increase in its size. These solutions have however been completely discarded as the “reform” brief was always to change as little as possible. Cosmetic change is the order of the day in Gattopardo style: change which leaves everything the same.

Such is the state of our parliament. It needs a complete overhaul, which is long overdue.  

published on The Malta Independent on Sunday: 13 February 2022

Abbuż ta’ tfal fl-istituzzjonijiet fl-Awstralja

Fl-Awstralja għandha kif ġiet konkluża inkjesta dwar l-abbuż sesswali ta’ tfal fl-istituzzjonijiet. L-inkjesta damet għaddejja ħames snin u r-rapport li ġie ippubblikat f’dawn il-ġranet fih 17-il volum li ma jispiċċaw qatt. Ir-rapport jittratta “institutional responses into child sexual abuse“. Dan apparti diversi dokumenti oħra, prinċipalment ta’ natura konsultattiva li ġew ippubblikati matul il-ħames snin li ilha għaddejja l-inkjesta.

Ir-rapport fih 189 rakkomandazzjoni kif ukoll kritika qawwija lill-Knisja Kattolika fl-Awstralja.

Ir-rapport fih referenzi ukoll għal Malta u ċjoe għat-tfal li kienu mibgħuta bħala emigranti (sfurzati) prinċipalment fis-snin ħamsin. Dwar dawn, is-Senat Awstraljan fis-sena 2001 kien diġa ikkonkluda rapport intitolat Lost Innocents: Righting the Record. Report on Child Migration. liema rapport kien fih 33 rakkomadazzjoni oħra.

Kważi 7 snin ilu, fil-Parlament Malti, Lawrence Gonzi u Joseph Muscat kienu għamlu apoloġija lil dawn it-tfal Maltin għat-tbatija li sofrew. Kien hemm 315 tfal li uħud spiċċaw jagħmlu xogħol sfurzat u li hemm minnhom li sofrew abbuż kemm fiżiku kif ukoll sesswali.

Xi snin qabel il-Gvern kien kixef monument dedikat lil dawn it-tfal ix-Xatt ta’ Pinto, il-Valletta Waterfront.

Id-dibattitu dwar l-aħħar rapport Awstraljan ser ikun wieħed qawwi għax fost affarijiet oħra jattakka kemm iċ-ċelibat kif ukoll is-sigriet tal-qrar. Materji ta’ sensittivita kbira fil-Knisja Kattolika.

Huwa dibattitu li jista’ jaqbad xi ftit f’pajjiżna ukoll kemm minħabba l-kaz għad-danni li għadu pendenti quddiem il-Qrati Maltin in konnessjoni ma każ ta’ abbuż ta’ tfal minn żewġ membri tal-kleru, kif ukoll minħabba xi każijiet oħra li jistgħu jerġgħu joħorġu għad-dawl.

Prim Ministru li rriżenja minħabba fixkun inbid ………… jiswa’ A$3,000

1959 Penfolds Grange

 

Hawn taħt qed nirriproduċi artiklu dwar ir-riżenja tal-Prim Ministru ta’ New South Wales Barry O’Farrell minħabba flixkun inbid. Jiswa A$3,000! Il-kaz ġara sentejn ilu, f’April 2014.

Din ir-riżenja giet deskritta bħala : the sign of a political culture that has become allergic to even the whiff of corruption. Kull kumment ieħor tiegħi ikun żejjed.

Australian premier’s resignation a sign of less, not more, corruption

The Politics of Divorce

 

Legislation in favour of divorce already exists in Malta. No one has complained about it throughout the 36 years of its existence. A yes vote on May 28 will be a vote in favour of extending its applicability.

The 1975 Marriage Act had introduced divorce in Malta through the back door by recognising divorce decrees granted in foreign jurisdictions.

Since then, 785 persons (presumably Maltese), have made use of this right, having their marriage dissolved in various foreign countries.

This was subsequently recognised in Malta through the registration of their divorce in the Public Registry.

Of these divorce decrees, 422 were issued in the UK and 112 were issued in Australia as was indicated in a recent reply to a parliamentary question.

Divorce is a civil right that is not yet fully recognised in Malta. It is only partially recognised. Only those who have been domiciled abroad or those who have access to foreign jurisdictions (while resident in Malta) have access to this civil right.

It is as yet forbidden territory to the rest. A yes vote on May 28 will render divorce a civil right accessible to all Maltese and not just to a select few.

Divorce is an issue of political controversy even though it has been avoided by the parliamentary parties. They avoided it until such time that they could not ignore the Private Member’s Bill presented by Nationalist MP Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando and Labour MP Evarist Bartolo. These MPs took a leaf out of the Greens’ electoral manifesto which, since 1989 (when Alternattiva Demokratika was founded), has identified divorce as an attainable political objective.

In Malta, those insisting that divorce is not a political issue do so to justify the position adopted by either of the two parliamentary parties. Both the PN and the PL want to distance themselves from the divorce referendum in order to be able to immunise themselves from the political fallout of the referendum result. Both fear the impact of the result (and the campaign leading to it) on the cohesion of their political base, irrespective of whether the yes or the no wins.

It is time to stand up and be counted.

One cannot run with the hares and simultaneously hunt with the hounds. The PN is aware its no stance makes it difficult to retain the support of those among its ranks who favour divorce. Likewise, Labour is aware that some of its supporters still seek the guidance of the parish priest in resolving their dilemmas. References to fire and brimstone and eternal damnation could obviously be intended to help the PL and its supporters make up their mind!

These are considerations which are factored into the mathematics of divorce politics. This leads to the reason for shifting the decision on divorce away from its appropriate forum in Parliament onto the electorate’s lap. None of the parliamentary parties wants to be lumped with political responsibility for introducing divorce as both fear electoral retribution, which, even if marginal, could be a determining factor in the forthcoming polls.

The PN and the PL have successfully avoided mentioning divorce in all their electoral manifestos but then they proceeded to use this same avoidance in order to justify Parliament’s inability to act. While this is a disservice to the community, obviously, Malta has the MPs it deserves.

After 22 years AD is still the only political party in Malta which supports divorce legislation. The PN, true to its conservative pedigree, is unsurprisingly against while “progressive” Labour has no official position although, as a consolation prize, we have been informed its leader is “personally” in favour.

The parliamentary debate on the referendum has also spotlighted another interesting matter.

The utterances of a number of MPs are in stark contrast to the manner they speak and act in private. Well, they are very careful in order not to prejudice what’s left of their political career. It is clear that consistency is a value that is not appreciated in the House.

As matters stand, the state in Malta decided way back in 1975 that divorce is to be available only to those who have access to foreign jurisdictions. In respect of all others, the Maltese state decided there should be no access to divorce. A yes vote on May 28 will remove the Maltese state from the equation and will grant the opportunity to each and every individual to take his/her own decisions in the light of his/her beliefs and values.

The position of those who do not accept divorce is protected as no one will ram divorce down their throats. But they will also be in such a position that they will no longer be able to impose “their values” on others.

(published on Saturday, April 30, 2011)