The mess created by Franco Debono

The current controversy as to whether it is appropriate for the Electoral Commission to be the authority overseeing the implementation of the Financing of Political Parties Act was anticipated over three years ago.

As far back as February 2014, Alternattiva Demokratika -the Green Party – in reaction to the White Paper published by the government on the regulation of the financing of political parties, had welcomed the initiative but had also queried the choice of the Electoral Commission as the regulating authority. This position was reiterated by  Alternattiva Demokratika in July 2014 when Minister Owen Bonnici and his advisor Franco Debono presented the finalised Bill.

Alternattiva Demokratika has consistently insisted on the identification of an acceptable alternative to the Electoral Commission as the regulating authority. This alternative was identified when the Parliamentary Select Committee on Standards in Public Life agreed to the setting-up of the post of a Commissioner for Standards in Public Life and on the 24 March 2014 concluded its workings by finalising a Bill for the purpose. This Bill was approved by Parliament on 22 March 2017 and, hopefully, its implementation process will start soon. The Commissioner for Standards in Public Life is to be appointed by – and requires the consent of a two-thirds majority in Parliament. This ensures that the appointee will be acceptable to everyone.

Alternattiva Demokratika’s position was subsequently adopted by the Nationalist Party, which  presented various amendments to the proposed legislation on party financing at the Parliamentary Committee stage. On behalf of Alternattiva Demokratika, I participated actively in this debate, even in the Parliamentary Committee dealing with Bills, and can attest that Government and its advisors consistently opposed the replacement of the Electoral Commission as the regulatory authority of choice.

The author of the basic draft of the Financing of Political Parties Bill, former MP Franco Debono, emphasised that he had modelled his proposal on UK legislation. He refused to consider, at any time, that the basic mechanics that determine the composition of the Maltese Electoral Commission clearly show that his proposal was a non-starter. He even refused to consider that the situation in the UK is completely different, in view of the fact that there is a long-standing tradition of appointing a truly independent Electoral Commission, so much so that very recently the said Commission, after a thorough investigation, fined the Conservative Party the maximum fine permissible at law for proven irregularities in party financial reporting!

In a document published by Alternattiva Demokratika way back in July 2014 to explain its position on the Financing of Political Parties Bill, it was stated that:  “ ……. the manner in which the Electoral Commission is composed, half appointed by Government with the other half appointed by the Opposition (and a Government appointed chairman) places the two parliamentary parties in such a position that they directly control the whole proposed process.”

The fact that the Electoral Commission is a constitutional authority already entrusted with specific duties spelled out in the Constitution is not a valid argument which can in any way justify its selection as the regulatory authority for political party financing. It has to be borne in mind that the only reason why the Electoral Commission carries out its electoral duties adequately is due to the detailed and entrenched legislation which regulates the electoral process, which legislation is so tightly drawn up that it leaves very little, if any, space for political manoeuvring.

The Electoral Commission currently has three complaints on its agenda which point to three infringements of the political party financing legislation. The Labour Party, primarily on the basis of statements by the db Group as well as reports in the press, is insisting that it has proof that the Nationalist Party is circumventing the regulations on political donations by camouflaging them as payment for fake services. The way forward is to have the matter thoroughly investigated. Unfortunately, due to its composition, the Electoral Commission is not and cannot ever be a credible investigating authority.

The PN is thus right to oppose an investigation led by a politically-appointed Electoral Commission and to challenge the matter in Court. Obviously, this may be a convenient way out for the PN, handed to them on a platter by the Labour Government and its advisor Franco Debono.

Alternattiva Demokratika would have preferred it if the law were better drafted without leaving any room for the PN (and possibly Labour too, at a later stage) to wriggle out of its obligations.

This will, however now signify that in these crucial months leading to a general election, the rules regulating party financing will be largely ineffective while the validity of the law is dissected in our Courts of Law.

This is a mess created by Franco Debono who preferred his narcissistic posturing to the identification of reasonable proposals acceptable to all political parties. Whether the government will, at this late stage, seek a reasonable way out is anyone’s guess.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 9 April 2017

Joseph Church : waħdu fin-nofs

 

 

Is-Sur Joseph Church hu l-Kummissarju Elettorali Ewlieni. Huwa uffiċjal pubbliku. Jmexxi l-Kummissjoni Elettorali magħmula minn 9 membri: 4 nominati mill-Prim Ministru, 4 oħra nominati mill-Kap tal-Opposizzjoni flimkien mas-Sur Joseph Church.

Meta l-Gvern ippreżenta l-abbozz ta liġi dwar il-finanzjament tal-partiti politiċi mill-ewwel insista li l-awtoritá li kellha tieħu ħsieb it-twettiq ta dawn l-obbligi kellha tkun il-Kummissjoni Elettorali. Il-Gvern insista dwar dan għax il-konsulent legali tiegħu Franco Debono repetutament insista dwar dan. Kienu jgħidu li hekk hi l-liġi Ingliża!

Alternattiva Demokratika dejjem insistiet li kien żball li din ir-responsabbiltá titqiegħed f’ħoġor il-Kummissjoni Elettorali għax din, minħabba l-komposizzjoni tagħha, fl-iktar mumenti kritiċi tieħu posizzjoni partiġġjana biċ-Chairman fin-nofs irid jiddeċiedi prattikament hu l-iktar kwistjonijiet jaħarqu.

Franco Debono u Owen Bonnici kienu jgħidu li l-Kummissjoni Elettorali dejjem mexxiet tajjeb l-elezzjonijiet kollha li kellha l-inkarigu li tmexxi. Dawn forsi qatt ma irrealizzaw li l-liġijiet elettorali tant huma dettaljati li l-Kummissjoni Elettorali ftit għandha fejn tiċċaqlaq u anke kieku riedet kważi qatt ma setgħet tagħti deċiżjonijiet differenti milli tat!

Fuq kollox il-Kummissjoni Elettorali Ingliża hi komposta bmod differenti u fiha persuni li huma verament indipendenti. Il-Kummissjoni Elettorali Maltija għandha tmienja minn disa membri li mhumiex u l-anqas qatt ma jistgħu jkunu indipendenti, avolja huma lkoll persuni serji. Hemm ta’ l-inqas tlieta minnhom li kienu kandidati felezzjonijiet ġenerali. Hemm min minnhom anke illum hu direttur ta Korpi Parastatali nnominat mill-Gvern!

Fdawn iċċirkustanzi Alternattiva Demokratika kienet ipproponiet li l-awtoritá dwar il-finanzjament tal-partiti għandha tkun fil-Kummissarju għall-Istandards fil-Ħajja Pubblika li l-Liġi dwaru ġiet approvata riċentement.

Wara xi żmien li Alternattiva Demokratika kienet ħarġet bdin il-proposta, il-Partit Nazzjonalista ukoll kien ħareġ idoqq l-istess diska. Imma l-Gvern webbes rasu.

Mela illum tiddeċiedi l-Kummissjoni Elettorali.

Immaġinaw ftit xinhi l-posizzjoni tal-Kummissjoni meta titalab tinvestiga liżżewġ partiti l-kbar. Diġa hawn l-ewwel każijiet u hemm d-diffikultajiet. It-Times qed tirrapporta li wara li ġie diskuss il-każ tal-invoices tal-PN/Silvio Debono hemm membri tal-Kummissjoni li qed joġġezzjonaw li l-Kummissjoni Elettorali tkun hi li tinvestiga u taqta l-każ.

Ovvja, 4 jaqblu u 4 ma jaqblux. U jispiċċa jiddeċiedi ċ-Chairman is-Sur Joseph Church, waħdu, war li jkun qies il-parir legali li jirċievi.

Dan kollu seta jkun evitat kieku l-Gvern ta każ tal-fehma ta Alternattiva Demokratika li kienet ippreżentata bil-miktub kemm meta ħarġet il-White Paper kif ukoll iktar tard meta ħareġ l-abbozz ta liġi.

Joseph tweets a selfie from Girgenti

muscat-girgenti-tweet

A week ago, during a short break from a very “fruitful” meeting of the Labour Party Parliamentary Group, Joseph Muscat, the Prime Minister, tweeted a selfie. The selfie included a number of hangers-on who promptly re-tweeted Joseph’s selfie, announcing to one and all that the Labour Party Parliamentary Group was meeting at Girgenti, the Prime Minister’s official residence in the countryside.

In the tweeted selfie, standing in the front row, perched between Planning Parliamentary Secretary Deborah Schembri and Civil Rights Minister Helena Dalli stands Justice Minister Owen Bonnici, the Cabinet member who around 18 months ago piloted the Financing of Political Parties Act through Parliament  Throughout the past months, the Honourable Owen Bonnici rightly proclaimed this as a milestone. How come his own government and his own political party ignored the implementation of this milestone?

It seems that Joseph, the tweeter from Girgenti, was either not properly advised of the implications of this landmark  legislation or else ignored completely the advice he received.

On Tuesday I visited the offices of the Electoral Commission and met Joseph Church, the Chief Electoral Commissioner. Together with my colleague Arnold Cassola, I drew the attention of Mr Church to the fact that the Parliamentary Labour Party was making use of government property contrary to the provisions of the Financing of Political Parties Act. On behalf of Alternattiva Demokratika – The Green Party in Malta, we requested that Joseph Muscat and his Labour Party be investigated for acting against the provisions of the landmark legislation: Joseph Muscat for permitting the use of the Girgenti Palace and the Labour Party for accepting to use it as a venue for one of the meetings of its Parliamentary Group.

As I have already explained during a Press Conference held after the meeting with the Chief Electoral Commissioner, as well as in the daily edition of this newspaper [Girgenti: demarcation line between party and state. TMI 23 February] the use of the Girgenti Palace is deemed to be a donation, which in terms of article 34 of the Financing of Political Parties Act is not permissible to be received by a political party from the state. Joseph Muscat the Prime Minister could not grant such a donation, and Joseph Muscat the Leader of the Labour Party could not accept it.

Unfortunately, this incident communicated by tweet sends a very clear and negative message: that Joseph Muscat and his Labour Party consider themselves to be above the law. The law which they rightly described as being a “landmark legislation” was intended to apply to one and all.  Joseph Muscat and his Labour Party seem to think otherwise. In fact, the Labour Party is not even yet registered as a political party as the Electoral Commission, some months back, considered that it does not satisfy the conditions laid down in the legislation.

Some may consider that Alternattiva Demokratika is splitting hairs when raising the matter. I beg to differ, as a very basic principle is at stake: the demarcation line separating the government from the governing political party. This is what lies at the core of the complaint submitted by the Greens to the Chief Electoral Commissioner for an investigation in terms of the provisions of the Financing of Political Parties Act.

I am informed that the Electoral Commission will be meeting next Wednesday when it is expected to consider the request to investigate Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and his political party for ignoring the provisions of the Financing of Political Parties Act.  It is the moment of truth for the Electoral Commission. Eight out of nine of its members are political appointees: four nominated by the Prime Minister and another four nominated by the Leader of the Opposition. The ninth member of the Commission is the chairman, a senior civil servant.

It is time for all nine members of the Electoral Commission to stand up and be counted. As a constitutional body, it is the Commission’s duty to defend the values of a modern day parliamentary democracy. Whether it will do so is anybody’s guess. I will definitely not hold my breath.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 26 February 2017

Kompetizzjoni : min hu l-iktar maħmuġ?

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Bħalissa għaddejja kompetizzjoni bejn il-Partit Nazzjonalista u l-Partit Laburista dwar min minnhom hu l-iktar maħmuġ.

Jekk tisma lill-kelliema tal-PN jitkellmu jkollok informazzjoni dettaljata dwar katalgu ta ħmieġ li bih hu mifni dan il-pajjiż. Inevitabilment, jekk tkun smajt lil tal-PN biss jitkellmu tikkonkludi kemm hu żventurat dan il-pajjiż!

Min-naħa l-oħra, wara li tkun smajt lil Owen Bonnici jew lil Deborah Schembri, bi qdusija kbira, jitkellmu dwar l-aħħar każ ta Jason Azzopardi, bil-fors li tibda titkellem waħdek u tibda tistaqsi bejnek u bejn ruħek jekk hux qed tisma sewwa. Għax, tgħid: dan Jason li qed jitkellmu dwaru mhux dak li jippontifika dwar il-korrettezza? Ara trid tkun vera wiċċek imdellek biex titkellem bħal Jason Azzopardi, joħroġ żewġ rapport dwarek l-Awditur Ġenerali u qiesu ma ġara xejn.

Min hu l-iktar maħmuġ? Tagħmel xi differenza dwar min hu l-iktar jew l-inqas maħmuġ? Għax għalija l-grad tad-differenza fil-ħmieġ bejniethom hu irrelevanti. It-tnejn maħmuġin u mhemmx xtagħżel bejniethom. Ma tistax tafda lil ħadd minnhom.

Jieħu għalih min irid.   

Bejn Owen Bonnici u Franco Debono

owen bonnici + franco debono

Dawn l-aħħar ġranet, Franco Debono ta bosta pariri lil Owen Bonnici fuq il-medja soċjali. Ma nafx x’ma qallux.

Wara li Owen ħa żball madornali u ta parir lill-Kabinet dwar il-ħatra ta’ maġistrati li kull min jifhem qed jgħid li ma setgħux jinħatru, naħseb li Franco għandu biċċa xogħol mhux żgħira.

Għax Franco Debono dan l-aħħar kien qed iħambaq dwar il-ħtieġa li jkun hemm għarfien aħjar tal-Kostituzzjoni. Forsi jkun utli għal Franco li jfiehem ftit lil Owen dwar dawk il-partijiet tal-Kostituzzjoni li jitkellmu fuq il-ħatra tal-maġistrati, għax jidher li Owen fehmhom ħażin!

Il-Liġi dwar il-Finanzjament tal-Partiti

LN 427.15

 

Lejlet il-Milied il-Ministru Owen Bonnici ippubblika l-avviż legali li bih stabilixxa l-1 ta’ Jannar 2016 bħala d-data li fiha l-liġi dwar il-finanzjament tal-partiti tidħol fis-seħħ.

Din hi liġi mportanti li dwarha Alternattiva Demokratika ilha titkellem sa minn meta twaqqfet, mill-1989. Hi importanti ħafna u kienet meħtieġa bħala strument ta’ trasparenza u kontabilità. Imma kif saret hi inġusta anke fil-konfront ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika għax hi imfassla biex ikunu akkomodati l-Partit Laburista u l-Partit Nazzjonalista.

Hemm prinċipalment tlett difetti serji fil-liġi li dwarhom ilna nitkellmu sa minn meta ġiet ippubblikata l-White Paper.

L-ewwel nett huwa żball oħxon, fil-fehma tagħna, li nħatret il-Kummissjoni Elettorali bħala l-awtorità li tirregola. Il-Kummissjoni Elettorali, kif nafu, hi maħtura nofs bin-nofs mill-Gvern u l-Opposizzjoni biċ-Chairman jinħatar mill-Gvern. Mela l-partiti ser jirregolaw lilhom infushom kif wara kollox suppost ilhom jagħmlu snin kbar. Għax il-Kummissjoni Elettorali, anke bil-liġijiet il-qodma, kienet responsabbli, per eżempju, biex tirċievi d-dikjarazzjonijiet tal-kandidati dwar kemm nefqu fl-elezzjonijiet. Tafu daqsi bl-infieq bl-addoċċ li dejjem sar minn-numru ta’ kandidati. Imma l-Kummissjoni Elettorali qatt ma għamlet xejn.

It-tieni l-kontrolli li tipproponi l-liġi huma l-istess għal kulħadd. One size fits all. Ma hemmx distinzjoni bejn il-kontrolli introdotti għall-partiti li jonfqu l-miljuni u partit bħal Alternattiva Demokratika li rari ħafna qabeż l-€10,000 infieq f’sena. Il-proposti fattibbli li għamlet Alternattiva Demokratika f’dan is-sens ġew injorati.

It-tielet imbagħad, hemm bomba tal-ħin li tikkonsisti fil-propjetà tal-Gvern jew propjetà rekwisizzjonata li l-partiti għandhom f’idejhom b’kirjiet baxxi ħafna. Dawn iI-kirjiet baxxi ma huma xejn ħlief donazzjoni li qed jirċievu l-Partit Laburista u l-Partit Nazzjonalista kull sena. F’xi każi huma sostanzjali u jistgħu jkunu f’konflitt mal-liġi. Dwar dan, bla dubju nisimgħu iktar matul ix-xhur li ġejjin.

Huwa tajjeb li fl-aħħar ittieħdu passi billi l-Parlament approva liġi dwar il-finanzjament tal-partiti. Imma setgħet saret ħafna aħjar.

Ignoring residents and their local councils

strait street valletta 2

 

Government has published a consultation document dealing with the use of open public spaces by catering establishments, entitled Guidelines on Outdoor Catering Areas on Open Public Space : a holistic approach to creating an environment of comfort and safety.

This document was launched earlier this week at a press conference addressed by the Minister for Tourism Edward Zammit Lewis and the Parliamentary Secretary responsible for planning and simplification of administrative processes Michael Falzon.

The inter-Ministerial committee set up by government to draft the policy document was limited to representatives of the Ministry of the Interior, MEPA, Transport Malta, the Government Property Division, the Malta Tourism Authority and the Association of Hotels and Restaurants (MHRA). Representatives of the local councils were excluded from participating.

It seems that when the matter was being considered by Cabinet, the Minister for Local Councils Owen Bonnici was fast asleep as otherwise he would undoubtedly have drawn the attention of his colleagues that the Local Councils Act, in article 33, deems it a function of local councils “to advise and, where applicable, be consulted by, any authority empowered to take any decisions directly or indirectly affecting the Council and the residents it is responsible for”.

Surely the use of public open spaces by catering establishments is a matter which is of considerable interest to local councils as it affects both the councils and the residents they represent. Yet the government has a different opinion as representatives of local councils were not invited at the drawing board where the guidelines on the use of public open spaces by catering establishments were being drafted.

The guidelines introduce a one stop shop at MEPA, thereby eliminating the need to apply for around four other permits for the placing of tables and chairs in public open spaces. This would be a positive development if MEPA can take on board all the considerations which are normally an integral part of the four other application processes.

If the utilisation of public open spaces was limited to the squares in our towns and villages, I do not think that there would be any issue. There is sufficient space in such areas and using part of it for open air catering activities there would not be cause for concern.

However, problems will definitely arise in areas of mixed use, that is, areas where the ground floor is used commercially and the overlying areas are used as residences. This is a common occurrence in many of the localities where there is a high demand by the catering business for the utilisation of public open space. The guidelines, however, ignore the impacts which placing chairs and tables at street level could have on the residents in such areas, in particular those living in the floors immediately above ground level. Such impacts would primarily be the exposure of residents to secondary cigarette/tobacco smoke as well as noise and odours. The issue of noise will undoubtedly arise, in particular during siesta time, as well as late into the evenings while secondary smoke from cigarettes/tobacco as well as odours will be an ever present nuisance. Maybe if the local councils were not excluded from the inter-Ministerial Committee, these matters would have been taken into consideration.

In such instances it would be necessary to limit the placing of tables and chairs at such a distance from residences where impacts on residents from secondary smoke, noise and odours are insignificant: that is if there is sufficient space.

The guidelines establish that a passageway of 1.50 metres on pavements is to be reserved for pedestrians. In addition they establish that where a permit is requested to place chairs and tables outside third-party property, specific clearance in front of doors and windows is to be observed. Isn’t that thoughtful of the inter-Ministerial Committee? Instead of categorically excluding the placing of chairs and tables along the property of third parties it seeks to facilitate the creation of what would inevitably be a nuisance to the users of such a property. This, too, is the result of the lop-sided composition of the inter-Ministerial Committee.

Nor are parking spaces spared. The inter-Ministerial Committee makes provision in the proposed guidelines for the possibility that catering establishments can also make use of parking spaces for the placing of tables and chairs when other space is insufficient. The guidelines leave no stone unturned in ensuring that tables and chairs get priority, even though this is worded in terms that make it appear that it would be an exception.

Enforcement, as usual, will be another headache. We already have quite a number of cases in various localities where passageways are minimal or inexistent and pedestrians, excluded from walking along the pavement have to move along with the traffic, right in the middle of the road. At times this may prove quite difficult and dangerous, in particular for wheelchair users or in the case of parents with small children. Enforcement to date is practically inexistent and I do not think that matters will change much in this respect.

Unfortunately, MEPA is a repeat offender in ignoring the interests of the residential community when faced with all types of development. The guidelines on the use of public open space by catering establishments are thus more of the same.

While cars have taken over our roads, catering establishments will now be guided on how to take over our pavements and open spaces, parking included!

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 13 September 2015  

Wanted: an impartial regulator for political party financing

Financing of Political Parties Act

Earlier this week, Parliament’s Standing Committee for the Consideration of Bills concluded its detailed discussion on the Bill regarding the financing of political parties. I was invited by the Committee to participate in the discussion in representation of Alternattiva Demokratika.

The Bill was improved as a result of the discussion. Around 34 clauses of the Bill were, in fact, amended, most amendments receiving unanimous consent.

However Alternattiva Demokratika’s major objection to the Bill was not addressed. When the White Paper on the regulation of the financing of political parties was published with government’s initial proposals, AD was already making the point that the choice of the Electoral Commission as the regulator was not a suitable option.

This lack of suitability clearly results from the very composition of the Electoral Commission. It is composed of nine people, four of whom are nominated by the Prime Minister, a further four are nominated by the Leader of the Opposition and the ninth person is the chairman of the Commission, who occupies that post in virtue of his having been appointed by the Prime Minister as head of The Electoral Office.

How can nominees of the parliamentary political parties regulate impartially the very parties nominating them as well as other political parties? Over the years, the Electoral Commission had the responsibility of receiving and vetting the returns submitted by candidates for elections (local, national and European) in which returns the candidates should have listed the donations they have received as well as their electoral expenditure. A cursory look at the newspapers published during past election campaigns would immediately provide ample proof that a number of such returns were – without any doubt – false declarations. Over-spending and undeclared financing was rampant, yet the Electoral Commission never took any action. Had it done so, I think that quite a number of our Members of Parliament in past legislatures or MEPs would have been unseated.

Yet the Hon. Minister Owen Bonnici keeps defending the government’s political choice of selecting the Electoral Commission as the regulator. In the government’s defence, he stated that the Electoral Commission is a constitutional body entrusted with the conduct of elections which, he said, it has carried out to the satisfaction of everyone.

Minister Owen Bonnici is incorrect. The Electoral Commission, in conducting elections, does not have any elbow room. Its discretion is substantially limited by electoral legislation which is very tight and precise. And whenever the Electoral Commission had any practical room for manoeuvre it made a mess of it.  In simple words, the Electoral Commission is constructed on partisan foundations. There are historical reasons for this but it is a basic truth which cannot be camouflaged.

While the Electoral Commission’s hands are generally tied up where electoral legislation is concerned, it is a different kettle of fish when dealing with the regulation of political parties and their financing. There will be issues and submissions that require interpretation and an eventual decision.

Already, way back in February 2014, Alternattiva Demokratika had proposed an alternative regulatory authority in the person of the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life, a post resulting from a Bill which was proposed by a Parliamentary Select Committee led by Mr Speaker Anġlu Farrugia. This Select Committee concluded its work and presented its final report on 24 March 2014, almost 16 months ago. For those who seek to act in good faith there was ample time for considering the proposals made. Yet the proposed Bill is still pending on the Parliamentary agenda.

In the Bill [Standards in Public Life Bill] the Select Committee proposed that the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life should be appointed, subject to obtaining the support of two-thirds of Members of Parliament. The election of the Commissioner would thus be on a par with that of the Ombudsman: the requirement that the support of two-thirds of Parliament has to be achieved would ensure that the selected person would, irrespective of his/her views be acceptable to a very wide-cross section of society.

This is the way forward initially proposed by Alternattiva Demokratika, but supported at a later stage by the PN.

The government never spoke against the AD proposal but only stated that it preferred the Electoral Commission as the regulatory authority as it was in a hurry. Minister Owen Bonnici said many a time that the GRECO (Council of Europe – Group of States Against Corruption) was breathing down his neck and as a result he had no time to spare for institution building!

This law will most probably be applied with effect from 1st January 2016. It is generally designed on the basis of a one-size-fits-all template that does not distinguish between political parties having a turnover measured in millions of euros and others which handle just a few thousands of euros per annum.

Political parties will be required to present annual audited accounts to the regulator, which will be published. They will also be required to submit a report on donations received over a calendar year. In addition, they will be required to publish the names of those donating in excess of €7,000 in a calendar year up to the permissible maximum of €25,000.

Alternattiva Demokratika will be examining the law in detail and taking legal advice before deciding whether to initiate legal action contesting the selection of the Electoral Commission as the regulator. The proposed law is generally a step in the right direction but, unfortunately, is tainted by the lack of identification of an appropriate regulator. It is indeed a pity that, when taking such a bold step forward, the government preferred the partisan path. In so doing it has diluted the efforts of all those who have worked hard in previous years to achieve this goal.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 19 July 2015

Mill-Parlament għall-Qorti ?

Scales_of_justice

 

Wara ġimgħat ta’ diskussjoni kif ukoll bħala riżultat tat-text finali tal-Liġi dwar il-Finanzjament tal-Partiti Politiċi jidher li hemm il-possibilita ta’ żewġ kawżi. Dawn iservu biex tinfetaħ battalja legali dwar issues jaħarqu li fihom fil-Parlament ma kienx hemm qbil bejn il-Gvern u l-Opposizzjoni.

L-ewwel kawża possibli hi dik indikata fil-press conference ta’ Chris Said u Claudio Grech nhar it-Tlieta li għaddew. Din tirrigwarda l-għażla tal-Kummissjoni Elettorali bħala r-regolatur biex titħaddem il-liġi. Waqt id-diskussjoni fil-kumitat parlamentari li jikkunsidra l-liġijiet l-argumenti kontra l-proposta li l-Kummissjoni Elettorali tkun ir-regolatur kien wieħed ta’ preġudizzju fil-liġi innifisha. Dan il-preġudizzju hu wieħed doppju. Hu preġudizzju favur il-partiti fil-parlament (għax teskludi l-partiti l-oħra kollha) u huwa ukoll preġudizzju favur il-Gvern tal-ġurnata.

Il-komposizzjoni tal-Kummissjoni Elettorali għalhekk tagħmilha mhiex addatta biex tkun ir-regolatur, għax hu diffiċli tkun imparzjali.

Min-naħa l-oħra dwar it-tieni kawza ma jidhirlix li rajt kummenti fl-istampa. Din hi issue li tqajjmet fl-aħħar seduta tad-diskussjoni fil-kumitat parlamentari.

Meta konna qed niddiskutu d-definizzjoni ta’ “donazzjoni” qam il-punt li meta partit politiku jingħata servizz bi prezz ridott, it-tnaqqis fil-prezz għandu jitqies bħala donazzjoni. Mela jekk, per eżempju, partit politiku jikri mingħand il-privat binja li l-kera kummerċjali tagħha hi €100,000 fis-sena, imma jiftiehem biex iħallas €50,000 , id-differenza titqies bħala donazzjoni. F’dan il-kaz tkun donazzjoni illegali għax donazzjoni ma tistax taqbeż il-€25,000 fis-sena.

Allura qal Chris Said fil-kumitat parlamentari: x’inhi l-posizzjoni tal-Partit Laburista li għandu l-fuq minn tletin post (ankè l-PN għandu, imma numru inqas) propjeta’ tal-Gvern mikrijin għandu bis-soldi?

 

Owen Bonnici wieġeb li dawk il-propjetajiet f’idejn il-Partit Laburista  jiddependu minn arranġamenti li saru qabel daħlet fis-seħħ il-liġi dwar il-finanzjament tal-partiti politiċi u allura l-argument ta’ Chris Said ma kienx wieħed tajjeb.  L-Avukat Ġenerali ta’ xi spjegazzjonijiet legali li fil-fehma tiegħi ma ikkonvinċew lil ħadd. Iktar kien qiesu tidwir mal-lewza. Chris Said ressaq emenda biex jiċċara dan il-punt. L-emenda m’għaddietx.

Jiena esprimejt l-opinjoni li l-emenda ta’ Chris Said ma kienx hemm bżonnha għax id-definizzjoni tal-kelma donazzjoni hi ċara ħafna fil-liġi u bl-ebda mod ma teskludi propjeta tal-Gvern. Fil-fatt id-definizzjoni ta’ donazzjoni tibda b’dawn il-kelmiet:

“donazzjoni” tfisser kull benefiċċju riċevut fir-rigward tal-attivitajiet jew il-funzjonijiet ta’ partit politiku, minn jew f’isem partit politiku, minn membru ta’ partit politiku, minn kandidat jew minn xi organizzazzjoni, kemm jekk tkun korporata jew le li fiha l-partit politiku, direttament jew indirettament jeżerċita amministrazzjoni effettiva u kontoll u għandha tinkludi, sakemm ma jiġix provdut mod ieħor………….:”

 

Dawn huma tnejn mill-affarijiet li l-liġi dwar il-finanzjament tal-partiti politiċi ma tikkunsidrax sewwa. Ħasra kbira. Għax l-isforz kbir li sar minn bosta seta ta’ riżultati aħjar.