Kunsilli Lokali u Referendum : jirbaħ is-sens komun

Local Councils Malta

F’Alternattiva Demokratika ilna mill-2009 li ipproponejna li l-elezzjonijiet tal-Kunsilli Lokali jsiru kull 5 snin flimkien ma dawk tal-Parlament Ewropew. Il-Gvern immexxi mill-PN ma kienx qabel u kien iddeċieda li dawn isiru kull 4 snin. Issa l-Gvern immexxi mill-PL qed jaqbel.

Sa hawn tajjeb.

Li għamel ħażin kien il-ħafna tejatrin li rriduċa dak li seta kien djalogu politiku serju f’eżerċiżżju partiġjan. Il-Gvern fil-pubbliku seta mexxa id-diskussjoni aħjar. Fil-privat min-naħa l-oħra nista’ ngħid li jiena u Arnold iltqajna ma delegazzjoni tal-Gvern immexxija minn Owen Bonnici Ministru, flimkien ma Stefan Buontempo Segretarju Parlamentari u Michael Cohen konsulent. Id-delegazzjoni tal-Gvern fid-diskussjonijiet li kellna imxew ħafna aħjar.

Il-posizzjoni tagħna l-AD fissirniha bil-kalma u anke dakinnhar il-Ministru Owen Bonnici kien diġa wera li l-proposta ta’ AD kienet raġjonevoli ħafna.

Issa nista’ ngħid li l-proposta ta’ AD hi riflessa kompletament fid-deċiżjoni li ħabbar il-Gvern. Jiġifieri AD ipproponiet li l-elezzjonijiet tal-2015 isiru fi żmienhom u li dawk tal-2017 ikun posposti sal-2019 flimkien mal-elezzjonijiet tal-Parlament Ewropew, meta jsiru l-elezzjonijiet kollha.

Id-diskussjoni bil-kalma dejjem twassal għal soluzzjoni li anke’ jekk mhux kulħadd jaqbel magħha, tal-inqas tkun raġjonevoli u ġusta.

Kien floku ukoll li smajna lill-Ministru Owen Bonnici jiddikjara li jekk il-Qorti Kostituzzjonali tiddeċiedi favur li r-referendum abrogattiv dwar il-kaċċa fir-rebbiegħa jsir, dan isir mal-elezzjonijiet tal-Kunsilli Lokali skedati għal Marzu 2015.

Xejn speċjali.  Imma rebaħ is-sens komun.

Huwa ta’ pjaċir għalina f’Alternattiva Demokratika li tajna kontribut biex wasalna għal din id-deċiżjoni.

Advertisements

Ir-riżultat elettorali s’issa

referendum.EU

Riżultat elettorali ma targumentax miegħu. Taċċettah u tipprova tifhmu.

Alternattiva Demokratika żiedet il-voti minn l-aħħar elezzjonijiet għall-Parlament Ewropew b’madwar 30%. Fih innifsu mhux ħażin. Imma meta tqabblu mal-bqija tar-riżultat mhux wieħed sodisfaċenti.

Huwa inkwetanti li żdiedu sewwa l-voti ta’ min imexxi l-quddiem politika ta’ vjolenza fil-konfront tal-immigrazzjoni. Dan hu rifless tal-biża’ illi l-immigrazzjoni nisslet fost uħud. Hi ukoll in parti riżultat tal-waqtiet meta mexxejja politiċi f’Malta ma ħadux posizzjoni ċara u mexxew il-quddiem politika, li, anke jekk temporanjament, ma kienet bl-ebda mod tirrispetta d-dinjita’ tal-bniedem.

Mill-bqija r-riżultat irrifletta konsiderazzjonijiet ta’ politika lokali u injora kompletament il-posizzjonijiet kemm tal-Partiti kif ukoll tal-kandidati individwali dwar issues Ewropej.

Matul is-siegħat li ġejjin ikompli l-għadd u iktar tard illum ikunu magħrufa l-ewwel ħames kandidati eletti. Dwar is-sitt wieħed jew waħda ikollna nistennew ftit iktar għax dan ser ikun jiddependi mit-trasferiment tal-voti tal-partiti ż-żgħar.

Fuq livell Ewropew, meta wieħed iqis ir-riżultati li deħlin mis-27 pajjiż l-ieħor, jidher li s-Soċjalisti Ewropej ma rebħux dawn l-elezzjonijiet. Dan iwassal għal ħaġa waħda ċara: huwa improbabbli li Martin Schultz imexxi l-Kummissjoni Ewropeja.

Nistennew.

The Europe we want

Cacopardo Cassola 2

The European Parliament campaign for the next Parliament has now come to an end. We have voted. As I write the counting hall is being prepared for the final scene: the counting of the votes. We will now be informed of the verdict.

Around 75% of those entitled to vote have cast their vote. A high percentage by European standards, but maybe slightly low by what we are used to in Malta.

It was a campaign, supposedly about Europe. That is what I tried to do together with Arnold my AD colleague. We tried to frame local issues within the current and future EU agenda. Unfortunately we had little or no response on European issues. The reaction was so scant that we could not expand on other important issues.

We discussed issues of transparency and accountability related to the European Commission and other European institutions. No response, except that the price of petrol was down by 2 euro cents!

We discussed the safety of residents from industrial mishaps (Seveso Directive), bathing water quality (Bathing Water Directive and Urban Wastewater Directive) as well as whisteblowing and the voting patterns of Maltese MEPs.

We had no reaction except on water and electricity bills or Simon’s direct orders!

Maltese MEPs did not explain why 4 of them opposed the proposal to grant protection to Edward Snowdon, with the other two not even bothering to vote!

There were no reactions to the Greens’ proposal to have Digital Rights defined on an EU level, applicable to one and all. Nor were there any tangible reactions to the Green’s position on the threats to democracy posed by the TTIP process [TTIP is the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Protection negotiations currently in hand between the EU and the US].

What about immigration and the EU New Deal for Somalia? Or the fact that Martin Schultz and Jean Claude Junker will have considerable difficulty in delivering their promises until they have the cooperation of the governments of the EU member states which have been less than forthcoming to date?

We await the results to know the verdict: who will be selected? Will those who have no interest in European issues remain on top? We await the verdict which will certainly impact our vision of the Europe we want.

Għall-elezzjonijiet tal-Parlament Ewropew : f’isem Alternattiva Demokratika

Cassola + Cacopardo

Alternattiva Demokratika illum ħabbret li ż-żewġ kandidati tagħha għall-elezzjonijiet għall-Parlament Ewropew ser ikunu jiena u Arnold.

Għal Arnold din ser tkun it-tielet esperjenza, għalija l-ewwel waħda.

Il-Parlament Ewropew qed jassumi importanza dejjem ikbar mhux biss fit-tfassil tal-politika Ewropeja fl-oqsma kollha tagħha. Fuq numru ferm ikbar ta’ issues id-deċiżjoni tal-Parlament Ewropew hi determinanti. Hi saħħa akkumulata mill-Parlament minħabba li hu elett demokratikament u direttament miċ-ċittadin Ewropej. F’kull nifs li jieħu l-Parlament Ewropew jeffettwa dak kollu li nagħmlu aħna ukoll.

Matul il-ġimgħat li ġejjin ser ikollna l-opportunita’ li f’din il-blog niddiskutu dawn l-issues, b’mod partikolari kif dawn jolqtu lill-Malta.

L-Ewropa m’hiex dawk jew huma, iżda hi aħna ukoll.

Għax l-Ewropa hi aħna ukoll għandna l-obbligu ta’ parteċipazzjoni kritika f’dak kollu li jiġri fl-istituzzjonijiet Ewropej. Mhux appoġġ servili, iżda appoġg kritiku li jfittex li jmexxi l-quddiem politika responsabbli. Dejjem.

Dan li dejjem għamlet Alternattiva Demokratika. Dan ser tibqa’ taghmel.

 

The Wied il-Buni Buffer Zone

When the current parliamentary session was inaugurated in May 2008 the then President of the Republic read the government’s programme listing those of its political pledges it felt safe to announce.

The President had informed Parliament that: “The government’s plans and actions are to be underpinned by the notion of sustainable development of the economy, of society and of the environment. When making decisions today, serious consideration will be given to the generations of tomorrow.”

He further emphasised that “Sustainable development has three main dimensions: economic, social and environmental. Our challenge is to ensure continuous economic development, promoted by education, social development, with particular attention to environmental protection. When we evaluate our activities in view of these three interrelated dimensions, we would be placing every person at the heart of the government’s actions”.

Now consider this policy direction and apply it to the Freeport at Birżebbuġa.

Had the Freeport been designed today it would have a much smaller footprint. When the Freeport was designed in the 1980s such large-scale projects were not subject to any land use planning control. Nor were any environmental criteria relative to the impacts on the Birżebbuġa community given any weight. (Some would justifiably argue that not much has changed since.)

When, in the early 1990s, the then Planning Authority was faced with a Freeport already in operation (even though it was still in its initial stages) it sought to contain its spread through the policies which it approved.

One important policy contained in the Marsaxlokk Bay Local Plan creates a buffer zone between the Freeport and Birżebbuġa. In fact, Marsaxlokk Bay Local Plan policy MB 28 states: “Any use allocated to the area of land at Wied il-Buni should act as a buffer to shield the leisure activity along the seafront from the industry of the Freeport and, in any case, must not cause inconvenience to nearby residents due to noise, fumes, vibrations and/or hours of work. The preferred use is public open space.”

Policy could not be any clearer, yet, notwithstanding this, the Malta Environment and Planning Authority board last month approved an extension to the Freeport Terminal using part of this buffer zone. As a result, the Freeport’s increased activity in the future is possible but the welfare of the community was thrown overboard by a Mepa board which felt it could ignore the regulator’s own policies. They did not only ignore the above local plan policy but, in addition, they also ignored the social and environmental impacts of the terminal extension focusing only on perceived economic benefits. In so doing, they also threw overboard the government’s declarations in favour of sustainable development and future generations.

In an explanatory note immediately after the above-quoted policy, the Marsaxlokk Bay Local Plan further explains as follows: “The site referred to (the buffer zone) is immediately adjacent to Freeport Terminal between Triq San Patrizju and the shore.

“The site is currently used partly as a sailing club and the rest as a dump-yard. It is close to houses along Triq San Patrizju and, if not carefully controlled, its eventual use could have a detrimental impact on local residents.

“It also presents an opportunity to assist in reducing the effects of the industrial activity of the Freeport.”

This was approved and published by the then Planning Authority in May 1995.

An increased environmental sensitivity of the community since 1995 should have led Mepa to observe its own rules. In fact, the first decision taken relative to the Freeport Terminal extension was to refuse it. This the Mepa board did on February 26, 2009. However, after it was requested to reconsider this refusal, the Mepa board overturned its original decision on January 21, 2010. There were no changes to the project between the two dates.

There was only one occurrence which could be of relevance: the elections of the Maltese members of the European Parliament in June 2009. Whether this had any bearing on the decision of the individual Mepa board members is difficult to say, as none gave any indication. It is, however, a fact that some Mepa board members had second thoughts and changed the manner in which they voted. Being independent, they are obviously entitled to change their mind. One wonders, however, why none considered it ethical to give a reasonable explanation. Those who will have to bear the brunt of their decision are entitled to such an explanation.

The decision is now being contested in the Planning Appeals Board by the local NGO, Birżebbuġa Environmental Action Group.

Until such time as a definite decision is taken, it may be opportune to ponder as to why it is possible that this country can have clear and specific policies but then cannot identify competent boards capable of ensuring that they are applied as originally intended.

published in The Times today,July 24, 2010

_________________________________________________________________

On this blog you can also see the following posts on the same subject :

17th July 2010 : Wara l-Bieb.

12th June 2010 : Past Mistakes ……. Present Day Decisions.

1st February 2010 : Malta Freeport : Impacts on Residents should be dealt with effectively.

21st March 2009 : The Freeport : Will MEPA backtrack ?

26th February 2009 : Kisba Importanti wara suġġeriment ta’ AD – MEPA accepts AD proposal.

5th March 2008 : Birżebbuġa u l-Port Ħieles

What’s Happening to the Green Vote

times_of_malta196x703by Carmel Cacopardo

published Saturday June 13, 2009

____________________________________________________________

Various columnists have commented on what they have termed as the “collapse” of the Green vote in the EU parliamentary elections. This conclusion has been arrived at by comparing the EU electoral results for 2004 with those for 2009.

I consider that the conclusion of a Green vote “collapse” is the result of a superficial analysis. One needs to go much deeper and consider whether the 2004 Green share of the vote was in reality a Green vote, or whether it was a one-time occurrence as a direct result of the prevailing political climate in 2004.

I tend to agree with Austin Bencini (The Times, June 10) that the larger chunk of the AD vote in 2004 was pro-EU support, which found its way to the Greens as a direct result of the Labour Party’s Euro-scepticism. Five years down the line the electorate has concluded that there is no going back on EU membership and that today’s Labour Party (PL) leadership has generally accepted EU membership as irreversible.

It is also very obvious that having a pro-EU stance entails much more than just being in favour of EU accession! Euro credentials are also measured through other parameters, among which the inertia in implementing the EU acquis. An obvious example is the prolonged reluctance to implement the provisions of the Birds Directive.

Known for a long time, this was confirmed through the proceedings of the meeting which PN leader Lawrence Gonzi together with MEP candidate Alex Perici Calascione had with hunters and trappers at Buskett behind closed doors during the electoral campaign. The PN-led government is still reluctant to accept publicly what has actually been negotiated with the EU. During the Buskett meeting, Dr Gonzi was very clear in stating that, while the government he leads was “helping” hunters and trappers, their perceived threat of not voting would indirectly help the Greens.

There are countless other examples.

Infringement procedures for failure to implement EU directives could also shed some light on effective PN commitment to EU values and policies.

AD’s vote share was reduced substantially in size primarily for two reasons. Firstly, the changes in the PL leadership and its policies have attracted back to its fold a large part of those voters who had migrated from Labour to AD in the 2004 EU elections. Secondly, AD has not yet developed a national network that could interact with its 2004 voter avalanche.

It is an open secret that while AD has sound policies it has never had an adequate organisational set-up. It lacks finances and adequate access to the media. Moreover, AD did not interact sufficiently with its new voters, such that they returned to their roots when the reasons for their migration ceased to exist.

At the counting hall I noted that support for AD even in EU elections was at its best in those electoral districts where Greens have been represented in local councils. This vindicates the proposal made by the AD commission I led, analysing the 2008 general election results: that participation by Greens in all the local councils is an essential building block required to ascertain an AD presence at the national level. The three candidates AD presented for this year’s local elections is a small first step. It is not sufficient. Much more requires to be done in order for Green voters and ideas to be adequately represented at the local level.

A Green vote is a vote for the Greens and not a vote for somebody else by proxy! This does not exclude the possibility that Greens elected at any level enter into a coalition with another party on the basis of mutually-agreed objectives. This has already been done once in AD’s 20-year history when AD entered into a coalition with the PN and the greater part of civil society during 1998-2003 in support of EU accession. Subsequently, the AD leadership is on record as stating that the PN wanted to develop further this coalition: it invited AD to refrain from contesting the 2003 general election in return for the appointment of the Speaker of the House of Representatives as well as the possible co-option of an MP from AD’s ranks. This offer, which was declined by AD, illustrates the significance of a coalition to the PN: the complete subjugation of a junior partner. AD thinks otherwise and will not trade its autonomy.

If one were to set aside the one-time occurrence of the 2004 Euro-vote for AD, the Green vote in June 2009 was a slight increase over the performance in other nation-wide elections. Though it is not much in numerical terms it further consolidates the core support of the Maltese Greens. Whether this will increase at a faster rate in the future depends on whether AD successfully establishes a foothold in more local councils, thereby ensuring a constant Green presence in the service of our communities.

Sixth Seat Gymnastics

times_of_malta196x70

The EU has paved the way for an agreement on Ireland holding a second referendum on the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty by October 31, 2009.

Generally speaking, this referendum will be introducing four new main guarantees for the Irish people: These consist in the following: 1. retention of one EU commissioner per member country; 2. full national autonomy in applying tax rates; 3. retention of the Irish concept of neutrality: 4. autonomy in the implementation of any laws related to the right to life, education and family values.

Nobody can foretell the outcome of next year’s Irish referendum result in October. However, if the Irish people vote in favour of ratifying the Lisbon Treaty, this would have two immediate institutional repercussions on our country.

The first thing is that Malta would maintain its right to have a permanent commissioner in the EU Commission. Which means that, by January 2010, we would have a new commissioner in place of Joe Borg who has already announced that he is not interested in serving a second term.

The second institutional implication would mean that Malta would get an added sixth seat in the European Parliament, to be taken up also probably as from January 2010.

We Maltese and Gozitans shall be electing our members of the European Parliament on June 6. When we go to the vote, all Maltese citizens will know that they are voting for five MEPs who will take up their seats in July 2009 and for a possible sixth MEP who, pending the result of the referendum in Ireland, would take up the seat six months later, in January 2010.

It is obvious that all Maltese electors will be going to the vote with this frame of mind. Which is why it would be very unseemly and untoward for the Maltese government to try and disallow the citizens to elect the prospective sixth Maltese MEP, through their vote, as from June 2009. The Prime Minister’s utterances in this regard raise grave concerns as to his intentions. Following the agreement at the latest EU summit, he was asked whether this meant Malta would be voting for six MEPs next June. He immediately answered that “this would still not be the case if the treaty is not in place by June. In the current undecided scenario, it was still too early to say how the eventual sixth MEP would be chosen”.

He added: “Let’s not jump the gun”, reminding journalists that the treaty’s ratification was not a foregone conclusion. “We will decide when we get there. The most important thing is that we have been assured that our sixth MEP will be in place as soon as the treaty is ratified.”

In this first declaration to The Times, Dr Gonzi already puts in doubt the Maltese people’s right to indicate their sixth MEP preference as from the June elections.

In his declaration to The Malta Independent, the Prime Minister went a sure step further: “Dr Gonzi confirmed that, come June MEP elections, Malta will be voting for a total of five European parliamentarians while the ways and means of electing an MEP for the sixth additional seat would be decided upon at a later date”.

Here, the Prime Minister’s views are clearly exposed. He is openly stating that on June 6 the Maltese people will be called upon to indicate their preference only for five MEPs. Then, four months later, he will decide “the ways and means of electing the sixth additional seat”.

Can you imagine the scenario? Spending around €1 million of citizens’ tax money to hold elections on June 6 and then spending another considerable amount to elect another MEP in another election four months later? Or is the Prime Minister already thinking of depriving the people of their right to choose by nominating somebody directly through Parliament?

These suspicions are further strengthened when one reads what Simon Busuttil, the Prime Minister’s right hand-man, his favoured one for the PN secretary general post, has to say about the subject: “But once the Lisbon Treaty will not be in force by next June, when the next European Parliament elections are due, we will still be electing five members, not six” (The Times, December 17).

Such declarations are not said off the cuff but reveal a readiness to deprive the people of their democratic right to choose a sixth elected representative. It is obvious that, legally, if things stay as they are, the electoral office can issue a writ only for the election of five MEP seats next June. But, knowing that a few months later there is the possibility that a sixth seat comes up, this can be remedied through a resolution in the Maltese Parliament, which allows the Maltese and Gozitan electors to decide also on June 6 for the possible sixth seat, when and if this comes up.

Since we are living in a democratic country, where it is the voters who choose their representatives and not the government or the Parliament of the day, I am expecting the Prime Minister to table this resolution in the Maltese Parliament as soon as the House reconvenes in January.

Failure to do so would mean complete disrespect of the people’s will.

At this stage, the onus of re-establishing the people’s sovereignty would lie in the hands of the Leader of the Opposition, Joseph Muscat, who should table the resolution himself.

I look forward to seeing whether we shall be regaled with further sixth seat gymnastics following the Christmas recess.

Dr Cassola is chairman of Alternattiva Demokratika – the Green party.

arnoldcassola@gmail.com, www.arnoldcassola.wordpress.com