Pétrus: minn Yorgen għal Joseph: u ejja, b’daqshekk x’ġara?

Il-politiċi għandhom iżommu distanza soċjali min-nies tan-negozju, u dan mhux biss waqt pandemija. Dan kien rappurtat li ntqal minn George Hyzler, il-Kummissarju tal-Istandards fil-Ħajja Pubblika, iktar kmieni din il-ġimgħa, waqt seduta ta’ kumitat parlamentari li kien qed jiddiskuti r-rapport tiegħu dwar investigazzjoni li għamel fuq Joseph Muscat, ex-Prim Ministru. Ir-rapport ta’ Hyzler hu dwar ir-rigal li Joseph Muscat irċieva mingħand Yorgen Fenech li kien jikkonsisti fi tlett fliexken inbid prim, Château Pétrus, mingħand min hu presentement akkużat li kien il-moħħ wara l-assassinazzjoni ta’ Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Joseph Muscat mhux l-ewwel politiku li irċieva rigali kompromettenti. L-ex Ministru tal-Finanzi Tonio Fenech kien aċċetta rikba bla ħlas (bejn Malta u Madrid u lura) fuq jet privat flimkien ma żewġ negozjanti biex jara logħba futbal taċ-Champon’s League (l-Arsenal f’Madrid).  Tonio Fenech, li anke rċieva rigali kontroversjali oħra, dakinhar kien soġġett għal kritika qawwija, avolja l-kariga ta’ Kummissarju dwar l-Istandards fil-Ħajja Pubblika ma kienitx teżisti!  Anke kellu l-barka tal-Prim Ministru ta’ dakinnhar, “ir-rett” Lawrence Gonzi. U ejja, b’daqshekk x’ġara?

Fl-2015 kellna ukoll il-każ tal-ex-Ministru tas-Saħħa  Joe Cassar li, kif kien sar magħruf, kien aċċetta numru ta’ rigali mingħand negozjant ieħor kontroversjali: Joseph Gaffarena. Dakinhar ukoll ma kellniex Kummissarju dwar l-Istandards fil-Ħajja Pubblika, imma  Joe Cassar ħa deċiżjoni korretta u irreżenja wara li ammetta li żbalja. Cassar ma irrealizzax mill-ewwel bil-gravità ta’ dak li ġara. Imma fl-ebda ħin ma qal: u ejja, b’daqshekk x’ġara?

Meta dawk li jkollhom kariga politika jirċievu rigali li jiswew il-flus ikunu qed joħolqu sitwazzjoni li biha faċilment jikkompromettu l-kariga pubblika li jokkupaw. Il-posizzjoni kompromettenti tkun ferm iktar gravi jekk dak li jġib ir-rigal ikun jiddependi mill-politiku  minħabba deċiżjonijiet li jkunu għadhom pendenti, u ferm agħar jekk ikun jew tkun diġa ibbenefika minn deċiżjonijiet li diġa ttieħdu.

Nifhem li għal uħud mill-politiċi din tista’ tkun sitwazzjoni diffiċli ħafna, b’mod partikolari jekk il-politiku nvolut ma jkunx imdorri jaġixxi b’mod etiku saħansitra f’affarijiet żgħar li niffaċċjaw fil-ħajja ta’ kuljum.  L-imġieba etika mhiex switch li tixgħel jew titfi skond jekk tkunx attiv fil-politika jew le.  Il-politiku qiegħed taħt il-lenti pubblika u l-pubbliku, illum jew għada, jiskopri l-imġieba mhux korretta ta’ dak li jkun.  L-attitudni ta’ uħud ġeneralment hi rifless ta’ imġieba mhux etika li saret tant komuni fis-soċjetà tagħna: fil-professjonijiet, fin-negozju (żgħir u kbir), fis-servizzi, fis-settur pubbliku u f’kull qasam tal-ħajja ta’ kuljum. Is-soċjetà tagħna żviluppat attitudni ta’ “u ejja, b’daqshekk x’ġara?”. Kollox, jew kważi kollox jgħaddi.  Allura m’hemmx għalfejn nistgħaġbu jekk din l-attitudni hi riflessa ukoll f’dawk eletti f’karigi pubbliċi!

Ir-rapport dwar l-inbid Château Pétrus li Yorgen ta’ lil Joseph hu biss każ wieħed li spikka.  Bla dubju hemm kwantità ta’ każijiet ta’ għoti ta’ rigali lil politiċi konnessi ma’ deċiżjonijiet speċifiċi  inkella li kellhom impatt fuq il-proċess ta’ teħid ta’ deċiżjonijiet.  F’xi każi il-linja li tifred rigal minn  attentat ta’ korruzzjoni hi waħda fina ħafna. Il-parti l-kbira tal-każi imma, diffiċli li jkunu ppruvati.  Huwa għalhekk essenzjali li l-ftit każi li dwarhom hemm il-provi jittieħdu passi dwarhom.

L-uffiċċju tal-Kummissarju tal-iStandards fil-Ħajja Pubblika hu essenzjali fil-bini tal-infrastruttura etika tant meħtieġa biex ikunu regolati dawk f’ħatriet politiċi.  Hu għal din ir-raġuni li kien hemm elf skuża u dewmien sostanzjali biex din il-kariga inħolqot.

Ir-rapporti tal-Kummissarju dwar l-Standards fil-Ħajja Pubblika dejjem ser ikunu kontroversjali. Waqt li wieħed jirrispetta l-ġudizzju tal-Kummissarju, huwa għandu jifhem li l-konsiderazzjonijiet tiegħu dejjem ser ikunu taħt il-lenti. Bħalissa, f’xi waqtiet jidher li qed joqgħod lura bħalma għamel fl-investigazzjoni riċenti dwar il-vjaġġ ta’ Joseph Muscat f’Dubai.

Dawn huma materji li dwarhom bħalissa għadna qed nitgħallmu. Anke l-Kummissarju dwar l-iStandards fil-Ħajja Pubblika nnifsu għadu qed isib saqajħ f’mixja li forsi twassalna biex xi darba neliminaw mill-vokabolarju tagħna espressjonijiet bħal “u ejja, b’daqshekk x’ġara?”.

Kultant, imma, naħseb li diġa qegħdin tard wisq!

ippubblikat fuq Illum : il-Ħadd 26 ta’ Lulju 2020

Château Pétrus and the “anything goes” syndrome

Politicians should keep a social distance from big business, always, not only during a pandemic. This was reportedly stated by George Hyzler, the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life earlier this week during a parliamentary committee sitting, when discussing the contents of his report concluding an investigation of Joseph Muscat, former Prime Minister. Hyzler’s report dealt with the receipt by Joseph Muscat of a gift consisting of three bottles of the premier Bordeaux red wine, Château Pétrus, from Yorgen Fenech, entrepreneur, currently defending himself from the criminal charge of masterminding the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Joseph Muscat is not the first politician to receive such compromising gifts. Former Finance Minister Tonio Fenech had accepted a free ride to join a couple of entrepreneurs to watch an Arsenal Champion’s League match in Madrid on a private jet belonging to one of the entrepreneurs. Tonio Fenech, who also received other controversial gifts, was heavily criticised, even though unfortunately there was no Standards Commissioner to investigate back then! He even had the blessing of his boss, the sanctimonious Lawrence Gonzi.

In 2015 we also had the case of former Health Minister Joe Cassar who, it was revealed, had accepted a series of gifts from another controversial business man: Joseph Gaffarena. There was no Commissioner for Standards in Public Life then, but Joe Cassar took the right decision and resigned after publicly accepting that he had committed a serious error of judgement.

When holders of political office accept expensive gifts, they are placing themselves in a position which could easily compromise the public office which they occupy. The seriousness of the compromising situation created increases exponentially if the gift bearer is dependent on the holder of political office for decisions yet to be taken or worse, if he/she has already benefitted from decisions taken.

It is acknowledged that at times the holder of political office may be in a very awkward situation, especially if he is not accustomed to behaving ethically even in minor everyday matters. Ethical behaviour is not a switch-on/switch-off matter dependent on whether one is involved in politics. Holders of political office are under the glare of the public spotlight, which, sooner or later discovers their misdemeanours. Their attitude is however generally a reflection of the unethical behaviour prevalent throughout society: in the professions, in business, in all sectors of everyday life. Our society has developed an attitude that “anything goes”. Consequently, it is no wonder that this is also reflected in those elected to public office!

The Château Pétrus report is just one case which has made it to the headlines. There are undoubtedly countless of other cases of gifts to holders of political office which were the result of specific decisions or else had a material impact on decision-taking. In some cases, the gift bearing borders on corruption. Most of them are however difficult to identify or prove. It is hence imperative that action is taken in respect of the few provable cases.

The Office of the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life is an essential building block of the ethical infrastructure required for the regulation of holders of political office. For this specific reason, it took ages to be implemented with a multitude of excuses continuously piling up in order to justify substantial delays.   The reports of the Standards Commissioner will always be controversial. Whilst respecting his judgement he will undoubtedly realise that his considerations will always be subject to scrutiny as at times he appears to be applying excessive self-restraint as he has done in the investigation relative to the recent Muscat Dubai trip.

We are currently riding a steep ethical learning curve. Even the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life himself is on this ethical learning trip at the end of which it may be possible to consign the “anything goes” syndrome to the dustbin of history, even though at times it seems that it may be already too late!

 

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 26 July 2020

L-avukat tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar m’għandux kredibilità dwar l-ambjent

Wara li qatta’ snin jiddefendi kull xorta ta’ ħniezrijiet imwettqa mill-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar, il-Prim Ministru Robert Abela hu l-inqas persuna li jista’ jitwemmen meta jitkellem favur l-ambjent. Bir-rieda tajba kollha li jista’ jkollu, dan hu qasam li fih m’għandux kredibità.

Xi ħaġa ġdida li għamel din il-ġimgħa, qal Robert Abela f’Bormla illum, hu l-mod kif qassam il-Ministeri. Fost id-diversi affarijiet “ġodda” li għamel, qal, l-ambjent u l-ippjanar ser ikunu fl-istess Ministeru, biex jissaħħaħ l-ambjent.

Tajjeb li jiftakar li sal-2016 l-ambjent u l-ippjanar kienu flimkien fl-istess Awtorità sakemm il-Gvern tal-predeċessur tiegħu firidhom. Anke dakinnhar kienu qalu li dan kien qed isir biex jissaħħaħ l-ambjent.

L-ambjent mhux ser ikun iktar il-ħaruf tas-sagrifiċċju tal-iżvilupp, kif fl-istess waqt imma l-iżvilupp mhux ser ikun iktar il-ħaruf tas-sagrifiċċju tal-ambjent qal Robert Abela. Għax Abela jrid irid jara bilanċ billi skontu l-iżvilupp jrid isir u jista’ jsir mingħajr ma ssir ħsara lill-ambjent.

Minn meta l-hawn kellna l-żvilupp bħala l-ħaruf tas-sagrifiċċju tal-ambjent? Robert Abela li għal snin twal, sa ġimgħa ilu, kien l-avukat tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar, bla dubju jaf li qed iħarref! Mhux biss. Imma kien hu stess, direttament kif ukoll permezz tal-uffiċċju legali tiegħu li iddefenda l-ħniżrijiet kollha li wettqet l-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar tul dawn l-aħħar snin! U ma kienx hemm każ wieħed jew tnejn, iżda bosta.

Ilna nisimgħu dawn il-ħrejjef bla sens minn min moħħu biss biex idawwar lira. Mingħand min moħħu biex jaġevola lill-industrija tal-kostruzzjoni. Għax din toħloq ix-xogħol, jgħidu, u in-nies kull ma trid hu l-flus fil-but.

Xejn ġdid dan Robert. Miexi fuq il-passi ta’ dawk li ġew qablek: Joseph Muscat u Lawrence Gonzi. Għax anke dawn tkellmu fuq bilanċ bejn l-ambjent u l-iżvilupp, u nisslu l-ħerba kullimkien. Iffaċilitaw l-iżvilupp bla rażan li r-riżultat tiegħu naraw madwarna.

L-iżvilupp sostenibbli hu ferm iktar minn hekk. Jirrikjedi impenn ferm ikbar fl-oqsma kollha. Impenn li s’issa ma jidhirx.

Vot ta’ fiduċja li ma jfisser xejn

Il-Grupp Parlamentari Laburista iktar kmieni approva vot ta’ fiduċja f’Joseph Muscat b’mod unanimu. Xejn ma għandna nkunu sorpriżi b’dan. Min ħaseb li ser ikun hemm xi riżultat ieħor mhux jgħix f’dinja.

Dan seħħ minkejja li privatament il-parti l-kbira jindikaw mod ieħor. Imma fl-aħħar kollha jafu li fiċ-ċirkustanzi kif inhuma, jekk jinżel il-Mexxej, jinżlu kollha miegħu. Vot favur il-Mexxej hu għaldaqstant vot favur tagħhom stess, vot favur l-istatus quo.

Imma mhux l-istess ħaġa jista’ jingħad għall-bqija. Dawk li tkellmu kollha qalu li huma mħassbin bis-sitwazzjoni, anke jekk ma assoċjawx ruħhom pubblikament ma kritika immirata lejn persuni partikolari.

Imma ilkoll jafu li d-deċiżjoni li jkunu mwarrba dawk li għamlu u qed ikomplu jagħmlu ħsara lir-reputazzjoni tal-pajjiż tiddependi biss fuq deċiżjoni ta’ Joseph! Fl-aħħar minn l-aħħar, għaldaqstant, jekk għandhom fiduċja f’Joseph ikollhom joqgħodu u jigdmu lsienhom ukoll. Ir-reputazzjoni tal-pajjiż qed jissagrifikawha fl-interess tal-partit bil-konsegwenza li din qed timmultiplika ruħha bil-minuti.

Niftakru li anke Lawrence Gonzi rebaħ “bl-unuri” il-vot ta’ fiduċja li sejjaħ. Imma wara qala’ tkaxkira kbira. Jiġifieri l-vot ta’ fiduċja fl-aħħar mill-aħħar ma jfisser xejn.

Il-gwerra ċivili fil-Partit Nazzjonalista

Il-gwerra ċivili li bħalissa għaddejja fil-PN ma hi ser tagħmel ġid lil ħadd. La fil-PN u l-anqas barra minnu.

Kuntrarju għal dak li jingħad minn uħud f’mumenti ta’ saħna u rabja, l-qagħda attwali tal-PN la ħi ħtija ta’ Adrian Delia u l-anqas ma hi ħtija ta’ Simon Busuttil. Għalkemm it-tnejn li huma ikkontribwew għad-diżintegrazzjoni tal-partit, pass wara pass, fl-aħħar it-tnejn huma ukoll vittmi ta’ ċirkustanzi li ilhom jiżviluppaw sa minn l-aħħar leġislatura li fiha l-Partit Nazzjonalista kien fil-Gvern.

Kien żmien li l-PN fil-Parlament iffaċċa rewwixta fil-grupp parlamentari. Irribellaw mhux biss dawk li eventwalment ivvutaw kontra l-PN fil-Gvern, jiġifieri Franco Debono, Jeffrey Pullicino-Orlando u Jesmond Mugliett, imma bosta oħrajn fuq materji serji ħafna. Xi darba l-istorja reali tinkiteb.

Tiftakru, per eżempju lil Robert Arrigo, illum Viċi Kap, iqabbel lit-tmexxija tal-PN (ta’ Lawrence Gonzi) ma karozza miexja fuq 4 flat tyres?

Hu ċar ħafna li l-kriżi tal-lum fil-PN għandha egħruq fondi li jmorru lura s-snin. Kriżi li tħalliet tikber mingħajr ma tkun indirizzata sakemm issa tant kibret bil-konsegwenzi disastrużi li qed naraw jiżviluppaw.

Ir-riżenji u l-isfiduċja ma huma ser isolvu xejn. Il-PN għandu bżonn li jfittex il-kawża vera u jindirizzha. Sakemm jagħmel hekk ser ikompli jitmermer biċċa biċċa.

(żieda: qed inżid kumment li għamilt fuq facebook bħala parti minn diskussjoni għaddejja fuq dan il-blogpost)

Il-problema hi kbira għax ma ġietx indirizzata għal snin twal.

Kien hemm żmien meta setgħet tissolva bi ftit ħsara. Issa, naħseb li tkun xi tkun is-soluzzjoni, l-ħsara hi enormi. Dan jgħodd ukoll f’kaz li ma jsir xejn, f’liema każ il-ħsara hi ikbar.

Dawn tiegħi huma riflessjonijiet minn barra. Minn barra ma nippretendix li nista’ nidentifika l-aħjar soluzzjoni imma biss li niġbed l-attenzjoni li din is-soluzzjoni tista’ tkun identifikata biss bħala riżultat ta’ analiżi serja.

L-eserċizzju m’għandux ikun dwar min għandu t-tort jew ir-raġun iżda dwar soluzzjonijiet prattiċi.

Hu ovvju li kull min qed jitkellem għandu l-preġudizzji tiegħu jew tagħha. Imma hu importanti li fid-diskussjoni li qed tiżviluppa jonqos (preferibilment jieqaf) il-kliem ta’ disprezz u insult għax jekk dan ser jibqa’ jikkarga mhux diffiċli ħafna biex tifhem x’ser ikunu l-konklużjonijiet.

Għalkemm jiena llum qiegħed immexxi partit politiku ieħor huwa fatt li l-parti l-kbira tal-ħidma politika tiegħi għamiltha fil-PN, li kien sostanzjalment differenti mill-PN tal-lum. Jiena konxju li t-tluq tiegħi mill-PN ftit iktar minn ħdax-il sena ilu kienet r-reazzjoni tiegħi għall-fażi inizzjali ta’ din is-saga. Dakinnhar jiena għamilt ġudizzju li l-affarijiet probabbilment imorru għall-agħar. Sfortunatament hekk ġara.

 

Mill-Kummissjoni Venezja: Malta demokrazija parlamentari?

Meta tipprova tifhem dak li ntqal mill-Kummissjoni Venezja tal-Kunsill tal-Ewropa tirriżulta preokkupazzjoni waħda bażika: Malta demokrazija parlamentari? Meta tgħarbel l-opinjoni li kienet ippubblikata iktar kmieni din il-ġimgħa tasal għal konkulżjoni loġika: id-demokrazija parlamentari f’Malta hi prattikament ineżistenti. Minflok għandna ċentraliżmu demokratiku bil-Kabinett jiddetta lill-Parlament. Dik li fuq il-karta hi l-ogħla istituzzjoni tal-pajjiż hi fil-fatt sudditu tal-Kabinett.

Wasal iż-żmien li l-Parliament jieħu l-mazz f’idejh. Din hi l-qalba ta’ dak li għandu jkun ikkunsidrat f’riforma kostituzzjonali massiċċa li hi meħtieġa.

L-opinjoni tal-Kummissjoni Venezja teżamina diversi materji. Hi intitolata “Malta: Opinion on Constitutional Arrangements and Separation of Powers and the Independence of the Judiciary and Law Enforcement.”

Dan mhu xejn ġdid għalina f’Alternattiva Demokratika. Jekk wieħed jgħarbel il-manifesti elettorali, stqarrijiet u artikli minn esponenti ta’ AD tul is-snin hu ċar li l-parti l-kbira ta’ dak li tgħid il-Kummissjoni Venezja ġie indirizzat minn Alternattiva Demokratika. Imma dak li qalet AD ġie repetutament injorat mill-klassi politika diriġenti li kontinwament injorat il-ħtieġa ta’ bidla. Qatt ma kellhom rieda tajba li jindirizzaw il-poteri kolonjali tal-gvernatur li fil-parti l-kbira tagħhom għaddew għand il-Prim Ministru u rabbew l-għeruq fil-kostituzzjoni u l-liġijiet tagħna. Il-mentalità li min jirbaħ ikaxkar kollox trid tispiċċa u tinbidel f’waħda fejn kull settur tas-soċjeta ikollu rwol fit-teħid tad-deċiżjonijiet u fejn il-Parlament ma jibqax servili lejn il-Kabinett imma jkun kapaċi li jieqaf fuq saqajh u jagħti direzzjoni hu lill-Kabinett.

Fl-opinjoni tiegħi mhux korrett li jingħad li d-demokrazija f’Malta hi pprattikata fuq il-mudell ta’ Westminister. Iktar inkunu korretti jekk nirrealizzaw li l-mudell hu dak imfassal mill-Uffiċċju tal-Kolonji imma mlibbes ilbies kostituzzjonali iktar riċenti: gvernatur liebes ta’ Prim Ministru.

Il-problema bażika hi li l-Parlament Malti ġie ikkastrat mill-PNPL. Hu Parlament ineffettiv għax m’għandux ir-rieda politika li jġiegħel lill-Gvern jagħti kont ta’ għemilu: la l-Gvern tal-lum u l-anqas lil dawk li ġew qabel .

Il-Kummissjoni Venezja tidħol fil-qalba tal-materja meta tipponta lejn żewġ punti fundamentali li jeħtieġ li jkunu indirizzati.

Id-defiċjenza kostituzzjonali bażika f’Malta hi li l-Prim Ministru għandu f’idejh poteri kbar, wirt mill-gvernaturi kolonjali u f’ħafna każi bla jedd tal-Parlament li jara x’inhu għaddej. Dan iżeblaħ dik li nirreferu għaliha bħala demokrazija parlamentari u hu l-kawża tal-problemi kollha indirizzati mill-opinjoni tal-Kummissjoni Venezja.

It-tieni problema hi l-membri parliamentari servili lejn l-eżekuttiv dejjem ifaqqsu: jistennew it-tqassim mill-Prim Ministru ta’ ħatrijiet intenzjonati biex iżommuhom okkupati u allura ma jkollomx il-ħin biex isaqsu u jgħarblu dwar il-ħidma tal-Gvern.
Dawn mhumiex problemi li ħoloqhom Joseph Muscat. Inħolqu minn ta’ qablu u ġew ipperfezzjonati tul is-snin biex ikun assigurat li ħadd ma jazzarda jaħseb b’moħħu. Il-ftit eċċezzjonijiet jippruvaw ir-regola!

L-aħħar tibdil sar mill-Parlament b’maġġoranza Laburista elett fl-2013 meta sar tibdil f’diversi liġijiet biex ikun possibli li membri parlamentari (laburisti) jkunu jistgħu jinħatru f’diversi karigi, bi ħlas sostanzjali. Dan jassigura li ħadd minnhom ma jiftaħ ħalqu biex ikun kritiku tal-Gvern għax kollha għandhom idhom fil-borma.

Lawrence Gonzi ipprattika dawn l-affarijiet, filwaqt li Joseph Muscat irfina s-sistema.

L-opinjoni tal-Kummissjoni Venezja titkellem dwar bosta materji oħra ta’importanza kbira. Imma fl-opinjoni tiegħi, fl-aħħar, dak kollu li jingħad hu rifless f’punt wieħed : it-tmexxija għandha tkun f’idejn il-Parlament li għandu jibni demokrazija parlamentari ta’ vera u jġiegħel lill-Kabinett jagħti kont ta’ egħmilu kontinwament. Il-kumplament ikun il-konsegwenza loġika ta’ dan.

Ippubblikat fuq Illum : Il-Ħadd 23 ta’ Diċembru 2018

Venice Commission opinion: is Malta a Parliamentary Democracy?

Reading between the lines of the Council of Europe Venice Commission’s opinion on Malta, one basic preoccupation sticks out: is Malta a parliamentary democracy? Perusal of the opinion, released earlier this week, leads to one logical conclusion: parliamentary democracy in Malta is practically nonexistent. Democratic centralism reigns supreme, with the Cabinet dictating to Parliament. What on paper is the “highest institution in the land” is in fact a vassal of Cabinet.

Is it not about time that Parliament takes control? This is the crux of the matter which needs to be addressed by a major constitutional overhaul.

The Venice Commission’s opinion is wide-ranging. It is in fact entitled “Malta: Opinion on Constitutional Arrangements and Separation of Powers and the Independence of the Judiciary and Law Enforcement.”

There is nothing new to Maltese Greens in all this. Going through Green election manifestos, statements and articles throughout the years clearly shows that most of the points raised by the Venice Commission’s opinion have been repeatedly addressed by Alternattiva Demokratika-The Green Party. Yet these green proposals have been ignored time and time again as the alternating ruling political classes have continuously manifested a glaring lack of good will to embrace change and remove the vestiges of colonial rule which are still entrenched in Malta’s constitutional and legal setup.

The “winner takes all” mentality has yet to give way to one where all sectors of society are involved in decision-taking and where, in particular, Parliament is not subservient to the tenant at the Auberge de Castille, but is capable of holding Cabinet on a leash.

It is, in my opinion, incorrect to state that democracy in Malta is practiced on the basis of a Westminister model. It is rather a Colonial Office model camouflaged in modern constitutional clothing: a governor in prim-ministerial clothing. The basic problem lies in the fact that Malta’s Parliament has been castrated by the PNPL. It is an ineffective Parliament, as there is no political will to hold any government to account: neither the present nor any previous other.

The Venice Commission’s opinion goes to the heart of the matter when it points out two fundamental issues that need to be addressed.

The basic constitutional deficiency in Malta is an all-powerful Prime Minister who has constitutionally inherited all the powers exercised by the colonial governors, many times without parliamentary oversight. This makes a mockery of our so-called parliamentary-democracy and is the source and cause of all the problems addressed by the Venice Commission opinion.

The second basic problem is a never-ending supply of servile Members of Parliament who look forward to the sinecures distributed by the Prime Minister to all (government) backbenchers, thereby ensuring that all or most of them are at his beck and call. They are thus kept busy and have no time to ask questions and demanding answers, thereby holding the executive to account.

These problems have not been created by Joseph Muscat. They have, however, been specifically designed by his predecessors in office, red and blue, and tweaked over the years to ensure that at no point would it be possible for anyone to upset the applecart. The few exceptions prove the rule.

The latest adjustments to the system were made by a Labour-controlled Parliament after the 2013 elections as a result of the amendments to various laws making it possible to assign various responsibilities, against substantial payments, to practically all Labour parliamentary backbenchers. This ensures that they each and every government backbencher is not in a position to call the government to account as they all have a finger in the pie!

Lawrence Gonzi had also practised the above, while Joseph Muscat perfected the system.

The Venice Commission opinion speaks on various other important topics. In my humble opinion, at the end of the day it only boils down to one point: Parliament should take full control: it should construct a real parliamentary democracy and hold the tenant at the Auberge de Castille and his associates to account, continuously. All the rest will necessarily follow.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday: 23 December 2018

Fil-PN: Lawrence Gonzi l-medjatur

 

Adrian Delia, Kap tal-Opposizzjoni, huwa u jistkenn bejn attakk u ieħor li huwa soġġett għalihom bħalissa, diversi drabi ġie rappurtat jgħid li ħadd mhu ikbar mill-partit. Naħseb li jemminha din id-dikjarazzjoni għax jidher li jgħidha b’ċerta konvinzjoni. Fir-realtá l-affarijiet huma ħafna differenti minn hekk. Għax ilu li spiċċa ż-żmien li l-mexxej jordna u l-bqija jimxu warajh b’għajnejhom magħluqa.

Partit politiku hu kbir jew żgħir skond kemm jirrispetta lil dawk fi ħdanu. Għax jekk ma jirrispettax lilhom, kif qatt jista’ jirrispetta lil dawk barra minnu?

Il-Partit Nazzjonalista jidher li għadu ma tgħallem xejn mill-esperjenzi tal-konfront li kellu ma’ Franco Debono li l-enerġija tiegħu, flok ma ġiet utilizzata favur inizjattivi kostruttivi spiċċat intużat biex toħloq ħerba. Kien hemm mumenti fis-saga Franco Debono li l-PN seta’ jevita din il-ħerba, jew tal-inqas inaqqas il-konsegwenzi negattivi, imma minflok, il-Kap tal-PN ta’ dakinnhar Lawrence Gonzi għamel żbalji wieħed wara l-ieħor: ipprova jpoġġi lil Franco Debono f’rokna u minflok spiċċa fir-rokna huwa.

Il-Parlament, dakinnhar, fl-2012, kellu quddiemu żewġ mozzjonijiet. Waħda kienet imressqa mill-membri parlamentari Josè Herrera u Michael Falzon għall-Opposizzjoni Laburista, liema mozzjoni kienet kritika tal-politika tal-Gvern immexxi mill-Partit Nazzjonalista fil-qasam tal-ġustizzja u l-intern u kienet tikkonkludi b’dikjarazzjoni ta’ sfiduċja f’Carm Mifsud Bonnici, dakinnhar Ministru. Il-mozzjoni l-oħra kienet imressqa minn Franco Debono u filwaqt li kienet ukoll kritika tal-politika tal-Gvern fil-qasam tal-ġustizzja u l-intern ma kienet titlob l-ebda sfiduċja iżda kienet titlob diskussjoni fuq numru ta’ inizjattivi f’dawn l-oqsma.

Is-sens komun iwasslek biex tikkonkludi li jekk kellek tagħżel bejn iż-żewġ mozzjonijiet kont tagħżel dik ta’ Franco Debono bl-intenzjoni li tnaqqas kemm tista’ l-konsegwenzi kif ukoll bit-tama li tiffoka fuq titjib fil-qasam taħt diskussjoni u forsi tikkontribwixxi biex tikkalma xi ftit is-sitwazzjoni. Nafu li Lawrence Gonzi poġġa fuq l-aġenda tal-Parlament il-mozzjoni ta’ sfiduċja mressqa mill-Opposizzjoni u dan, b’mod ċar, biex jisfida lil Debono. Iffaċċjat b’dan l-atteġġjament ta’ Lawrence Gonzi, Franco Debono ma kellux għażla, irvella u daħal għall-isfida bir-ras nhar it-30 ta’ Mejju 2012 meta ivvota favur il-mozzjoni mressqa mill-Opposizzjoni.

Dan l-iżball tattiku ta’ Lawrence Gonzi wassal għal konsegwenzi gravi fuq il-Partit Nazzjonalista fil-Gvern. Nafu kif is-seduti Parlamentari bejn Mejju 2012 u l-aħħar ta’ dik is-sena kienu battalja kontinwa li spiċċaw bin-nuqqas ta’ approvazzjoni tal-budget.

Jidher li l-PN ma tgħallem xejn minn dak l-iżball: forsi għalhekk Lawrence Gonzi jrid jagħmilha tal-medjatur biex jiggwida ftit lil Adrian Delia ‘l bogħod mill-periklu li jidher li daħal għalih meta stieden lil Simon Busuttil biex jissospendi ruħu mill-Grupp Parlamentari!

Lawrence Gonzi kellu Franco Debono wieħed. Wara żdiedlu Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando u mbagħad ingħaqad magħom ukoll Jesmond Mugliette. Kien hemm bosta oħrajn fil-grupp parlamentari li dakinnhar kienu kritiċi tat-tmexxija ta’ Lawrence Gonzi imma qatt, safejn naf jien, ma ippreżentaw front wieħed biex jikkontestaw l-arroganza fit-tmexxija tal-Partit. In parti dan kien minħabba li ma kellhomx uniformitá ta’ ħsieb u/jew viżjoni.

Jidher li l-affarijiet qed jinbidlu. Il-front komuni li qed jippreżenta parti mill-grupp parlamentari nazzjonalista, illum b’solidarjetá ma’ Simon Busuttil jista’ jwassal lill-PN biex jiġi f’sensieh u tal-inqas jibda jirrispetta lil dawk fi ħdanu.

Bla dubju hemm x’tgħid favur kif ukoll kontra dak li qed jinsisti dwaru Adrian Delia. Pero żgur li m’humiex deċiżjonijiet li l-ewwel tħabbarhom f’konferenza tal-aħbarijiet (ftit wara li jkun jħabbarhom Joseph Muscat) u mbagħad, iffaċċjat b’reazzjoni kuntrarja iddur fuq ta’ madwarek għall-appoġġ. Id-deċiżjonijiet li qiegħed jiffaċċja l-Partit Nazzjonalista jirrikjedu diskussjoni serja li minna ħadd ma għandu jkun eskluż. Forsi l-medjatur jgħallimhom, mill-esperjenza tal-iżbalji tiegħu.

Ippubblikat fuq Illum : il-Ħadd 29 ta’ Lulju 2018

Lawrence Gonzi the PN mediator

 

Adrian Delia, Leader of the Opposition, has many a time been reported as stating that “no one is greater than the Party”. It seems a basic article of his political faith. Unfortunately for him, nowadays reality is quite different. Gone are the days when the leader issues orders and everyone follows blindly because the party has spoken.

The greatness of a political party is not measured in such terms but more in terms of to what extent it is capable of respecting its own. If it is not capable of doing this, how on earth can it ever respect diverging and contrasting opinions out there?

Six years down the line, the PN, apparently, has not yet drawn any lessons from the Franco Debono debacle, whose energy and enthusiasm – instead of being used positively –  ended up causing extreme havoc. There were specific instances when the PN could have avoided most of the damage caused, if the then PN party leader, Lawrence Gonzi, had not embarked on a series of tactical errors: he tried to corner Franco Debono into submission but instead triggered an over-reaction which he was not capable of handling.

Two specific motions were pending on Parliament’s agenda in 2012. One of these motions, submitted on behalf of the Opposition by its MPs Josè Herrera and Michael Falzon, was critical of government policy in the areas of justice and home affairs and ended by requesting a vote of no confidence in then Minister Carm Mifsud Bonnici. Another motion, presented by Franco Debono himself, while being equally critical of the same policy areas, was limited to requesting a detailed discussion of deficiencies in these policy areas.

Common sense would have led anyone in a position to choose which of the motions was to be discussed to opt for the Franco Debono motion, as it was clearly the one that could cause the least collateral damage. It was also possible that the Franco Debono motion could develop into a serious discussion and consequently the situation could calm down.

Lawrence Gonzi then proceeded to place on the Parliamentary agenda the no confidence motion presented by the Opposition, consequently calling Franco Debono’s perceived bluff. Faced with Gonzi’s challenge Franco Debono bit the bullet and, on the 30 May 2012, voted in favour of the no confidence motion moved by the Opposition.

It was a tactical error by Lawrence Gonzi and led to very serious consequences for the PN in government. We remember that parliamentary sittings between May and December 2012 were a continuous battle that led to the government being defeated when it presented its budgetary estimates.

Apparently, the PN has not learned anything from these blunders: maybe this is why Lawrence Gonzi is offering his “mediation skills” to guide Adrian Delia away from the dangers that he has created for the PN with his invitation to Simon Busuttil to auto-suspend himself from the PN Parlamentary Group!

Lawrence Gonzi had one Franco Debono, who was subsequently joined by Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando and Jesmond Mugliette and there were various other members of the then PN parliamentary group who were very critical of Lawrence Gonzi’s leadership. However, as far as I am aware, they never presented a coordinated front to stand up to the leadership’s arrogance. This, most probably, was the direct consequence of the fact that there was a lack of a uniform vision among those dissenting.

Well, times are changing. The common front of the PN parliamentary dissidents supporting Simon Busuttil may bring the PN to its senses in order that it may start respecting its own.

There is, without any doubt, much to say – both in favour and against Adrian Delia’s invitation to Simon Busuttil. These matters are, however, not normally announced in a PN press conference (after being prompted by Joseph Muscat) and then, faced with opposition, being rubber-stamped by a party structure. The decisions faced by the PN require a serious internal debate from which no-one should be excluded. The mediator may, as a result of his experience, guide the PN to avoid the pitfalls ahead. Otherwise, interesting times lie beyond the horizon.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 29 July 2018

L-għassies taċ-ċimiterju

Malta, bir-raġun kollu, akkużat lill-Italja li kisret id-dritt internazzjonali meta iddikjarat li l-port ta’ Lampedusa kien magħluq għall-vapuri tal-għaqdiet mhux governattivi li kienu fuq missjoni ta’ salvataġġ fiċ-ċentru tal-Mediterran. Wara li faqqgħet l-istorja ta’ MV Lifeline, Malta, imbagħad, għamlet l-istess billi għalqet il-portijiet kollha għal dawn l-għaqdiet. Matteo Salvini, il-bully ta’ ħdejna, pubblikament sforza lill-Gvern Malti biex jaddotta l-valuri tiegħu: valuri li jinjoraw id-dinjitá tal-bniedem.

Ġejna ibbumardjati mill-aħbarijiet li l-Kunsill Ewropew kien jaqbel mal-posizzjoni ta’ Malta dwar l-immigrazzjoni. Imma l-qbil tal-Kunsill kien li l-prattika tas-solidarjetá fil-qasam tal-immigrazzjoni kellha tkun fuq bażi volontarja. Ma hemm xejn ġdid f’dan. Ilna nafu b’din il-posizzjoni żmien: sa minn meta Lawrence Gonzi kien għadu jokkupa l-Berġa ta’ Kastilja!

Il-Prim Ministru ta’ Malta Joseph Muscat issa huwa qrib fil-ħsieb mal-Prim Ministru Ungeriż Viktor Orban, il-Kanċellier Awstrijakk Sebastian Kurst u l-Prim Ministru pupazz tal-Italja Giuseppe Conte, li magħhom dal-waqt tingħaqad il-Kanċellier Ġermaniża Angela Merkel, li kellha ċċedi għat-talbiet ta’ Horst Seehofer, mis-CSU, Ministru tal-Intern fil-koalizzjoni tagħha. Ilkoll kemm huma “jittolleraw” is-solidarjetá, sakemm din tkun prattikata minn ħaddieħor.

Nifhem il-ħtiega għat-tejatrin li ħass Muscat biex iċaqlaq lil diversi pajjiżi ħalli jipparteċipaw biex joffru it-tama lill-immigranti fuq MV Lifeline, avolja l-234 persuna umana abbord bagħtew tul l-istennija f’nofs il-Baħar Mediterran, sakemm disa’ stati ddeċidew li kellhom jerfgħu r-responsabbiltajiet tagħhom.

Imma dan kollu kien segwit mill-azzjoni kriminali kontra l-kaptan tal-vapur MV Lifeline, il-ħaruf tas-sagrifiċċju fuq l-artal tal-populiżmu, kif prattikat minn Joseph Muscat. Għax donnu kien meħtieġ għal Joseph Muscat li jinnewtralizza l-azzjoni tajba li għamel meta aċċetta li l-MV Lifeline jorbot mal-moll tal-Isla.

Dawk li jissugraw ħajjithom biex isalvaw dik ta’ oħrajn jispiċċaw jaqilgħu fuq rashom. L-ordni biex il-vapuri f’idejn l-għaqdiet mhux governattivi ma jbaħħrux fl-ibħra ta’ salvataġġ responsabbiltá ta’ Malta, anke jekk taparsi hi ordni temporanja, tagħti l-mano libera lill-gwardja tal-kosta Libjana biex “twettaq dmirha” u tassigura li dawk li jitilqu mil-Libja ikollhom għażla bejn żewġ destinazzjonijiet : iċ-ċentri ta’ detenzjoni Libjani inkella qiegħ il-baħar.

Biex jassigura li l-mewt bl-għarqa tkun l-unika għażla realistika il-Gvern Malti issa ipprojibixxa ukoll li ajruplani għat-tiftix u is-salvataġġ operati mill-għaqdiet mhux governattivi Sea Watch u Swiss Humanitarian Pilots Initiative jitwaqqfu immedjatament. Dan wara li diġa wasslu biex ġew salvati madwar 20,000 persuna umana.

Il-mistoqsija inevitabbli hi: dan kollu għaliex?

Is-soċjoloġi Ungeriżi Vera Messing u Bence Ságvári fl-istudju tagħhom intitolat Looking behind the Culture of Fear. Cross-national analysis of attitudes towards migration. li kien ippubblikat bl-għajnuna tal-Fondazzjoni soċjaldemokratika Ġermaniza Friedrich Ebert Stiftung u l-European Social Survey, f’Marzu li għadda, jistħarreġ tweġiba għal din il-mistoqsija.

“L-attitudni kontra l-immigranti, ftit li xejn għandha x’taqsam mal-immigranti”, ikkonkludew Messing u Ságvári. “Dawk f’pajjiżi b’livell għoli ta’ fiduċja fl-istituzzjonijiet, ftit li xejn korruzzjoni, ekonomija stabbli u li taħdem tajjeb, livell għoli ta’ koeżjoni u inklużjoni soċjali (inkluż tal-immigranti) jibżgħu l-inqas mill-immigrazzjoni” jinnotaw l-awturi. Min-naħa l-oħra jibżgħu dawk li “qegħdin f’pajjiżi fejn in-nies ma tafdax, la lil xulxin u l-anqas l-istituzzjonijiet tal-istat u fejn il-koeżjoni soċjali u s-solidarjetá huma dgħajfa.”

Hi tabilħaqq sfortuna li l-familji politiċi ewlenin ġew kontaminati minn din il-kultura tal-biża’ u b’hekk irrendew ruħhom ostaġġi tal-bulijiet li hawn madwarna.

Il-posizzjoni ġejografika ta’ Malta ma tinbidilx: mhiex negozjabbli. Flok ma niġu mbeżża’ biex b’mod passiv nagħmluha tal-għassiesa taċ-ċimiterju li qed jiżviluppa madwarna nistgħu inkunu proattivi u nfittxu li ninkoraġixxu oħrajn biex jingħaqdu magħna biex inkunu l-port tat-tama fiċ-ċentru tal-Mediterran. Dik dejjem kienet il-missjoni tagħna tant li wieħed mill-isbaħ ċertifikati li għandu pajjiżna huwa dak iffirmat minn San Luqa fl-Atti tal-Appostli meta huwa u jiddeskrivi n-nawfraġju ta’ San Pawl jgħid li l-Maltin “ġiebu ruħhom magħna bi ħlewwa liema bħalha. Laqgħuna tajjeb lilna lkoll ……..”

Sfortunatament l-egħluq tal-portijiet tagħna għall-vapuri operati mill-għaqdiet mhux governattivi fuq missjoni ta’ salvataġġ (wara l-eċċezzjoni tal-MV Lifeline) tindika li Joseph Muscat, imniġġeż kif inhu minn Matteo Salvini, abbanduna kull tama u minflok għażel ir-rwol ta’ għassies taċ-ċimiterju.

ippubblikat fuq Illum il-Ħadd 8 ta’ Lulju 2018