Iż-żiemel ta’ Trojja

Il-mitoloġija Griega tgħallimna ħafna: tajjeb li kultant nagħtu ftit każ. Waħda minn dawn it-tagħlimiet  hi dwar ir-rigali: kuntant dawn ikunu rigali finta għax, xi drabi, warajhom jinħbew motivi li xejn ma jkunu sbieħ!  Tagħlima partikolari toħroġ fl-Ilijade, ir-rakkont ta’ Omeru dwar il-gwerra ta’ Trojja, rakkuntata ukoll fl-Anejadi, kapulavur tal-poeta Ruman Virgilju. 

Virgilju jagħtina l-parir biex noqgħodu attenti mill-Griegi meta dawn b’ħafna ħlewwa jiġu joffru r-rigali. L-osservazzjoni ta’  Virgilju hi referenza għaż-żiemel ta’ Trojja, żiemel tal-injam li s-suldati Griegi ħallew barra s-swar tal-Belt assedjata ta’ Trojja.

Kif nafu, moħbija f’dan iż-żiemel/rigal kien hemm suldati armati Griegi li matul il-lejl, meta fi tmiem l-assedju ta’ Trojja iddaħħal fil-belt b’ċelbrazzjoni, issarraf f’ħerba għax minnu ħargu s-suldati armati.  Dan hu t-tifsira taż-żiemel ta’ Trojja!

In-nomina xi xhur ilu ta’ George Hyzler minn Robert Abela, għan-nom tal-Gvern, biex Hyzler ikun membru tal-Qorti Ewropeja tal-Awdituri hu rigal minn dawn. Bħaż-żiemel ta’ Trojja dan kien rigal li l-Opposizzjoni kellha toqgħod attentat minnu: kien intenzjonat li jkollu effetti oħra li mal-ewwel daqqa t’għajn ma jidhrux.

Kważi kulħadd jaqbel li George Hyzler ħadem sewwa bħala Kummissarju dwar l-iStandards fil-Ħajja Pubblika. Anke l-Gvern jaqbel! Tant qabel li offrielu promozzjoni: karrotta tad-deheb li kien diffiċli li jirrifjuta. Hyzler ingħata promozzjoni biex ikun jista’ jitwarrab minn fejn kien u riżultat ta’ hekk ikun hemm xewka inqas tiġri mas-saqajn. Fil-fehma tiegħi ma hemm l-ebda mod ieħor kif tista’ tinterpreta dak li ġara.  

In-nomina ta’ Hyzler bħala membru tal-Qorti Ewropeja tal-Awdituri hi parti mill-logħba ta’ manuvri politiċi ta’ Abela. Ħafna drabi jimmanuvra b’ta’ madwaru. Permezz tan-nomina ta’ Hyzler, imma, irnexxielu jpoġġi lill-Oppożizzjoni f’posizzjoni ta’ diffikultà li Bernard Grech ma rnexxielux jinduna biha minn kmieni u allura ma rnexxielux jevita.  

L-Oppożizzjoni messa ġibdet l-attenzjoni ta’ Hyzler li kien mistenni li hu jservi t-terminu kollu li għalih inħatar bħala Kummissarju għall-Istandards fil-Ħajja Pubblika. Fiċ-ċirkustanzi politiċi tal-lum Hyzler qatt ma messu aċċetta n-nomina bħala membru tal-Qorti Ewropeja tal-Awdituri. L-iskop tan-nomina messu kien ċar anke għal min għadu jibda fil-politika! Sfortunatament donnu li kulħadd induna x’kien qed jiġri, ħlief l-Opposizzjoni.

Dan hu l-kuntest għad-dibattitu parlamentari kurrenti dwar l-emendi proposti għall-liġi dwar l-iStandards fil-Ħajja Pubblika.

Uffiċjalment l-emendi proposti kellhom l-iskop li jħollu l-problema f’każ li ż-żewġ terzi ma jintlaħqux (anti-deadlock mechanism). Meta ż-żewġ terzi meħtieġa biex jinħatar il-Kummissarju għall-Istandards fil-Ħajja Pubblika ma jintlaħqux f’żewġ votazzjonijiet konsekuttivi,  b’ġimgħa bejniethom, hu propost li minn hemm il-quddiem tkun meħtieġa  maġġoranza sempliċi biss biex tkun approvata l-ħatra.

L-emendi proposti qed ifittxu li jeliminaw oġġettiv ewlieni tal-liġi eżistenti. Dan hu li, għalkemm il-Kummissarju tal-Istandards fil-Hajja Pubblika hu approvat mill-Parlament, hu għandu jgawdi ukoll il-fiduċja tal-Opposizzjoni.  (Jeżistu liġijiet oħra li jipprovdu posizzjoni ċentrali garantita għall-Opposizzjoni: fost dawn hemm il-Presidenza tal-Kumitat Parlamentari dwar il-Kontijiet Pubbliċi kif ukoll ir-rwol ta’ Deputat Speaker.)

Li l-persuna nominata tkun persuna ta’ integrità bħalma hu Joe Azzopardi l-Prim Imħallef Emeritu, mhux biżżejjed. Il-fatt li mhux aċċettabbli għall-Opposizzjoni hu minnu innifsu raġuni suffiċjenti u valida biex ma jkunx addattat għall-ħatra, sakemm hemm raġuni valida għal din l-opposizzjoni.  Ma hemmx ħtieġa li jkun nominat mill-Opposizzjoni, imma għandu jkun persuna aċċettabbli għaliha.

Il-Gvern qal li Bernard Grech l-ewwel qabel man-nomina u mbagħad bidel fehemtu. Anke kieku dan kien minnu, dan hu irrelevanti, għax il-persuna nominata għandha tkun aċċettabbli għall-Opposizzjoni kollha u mhux biss għall-Kap tal-Opposizzjoni. Il-Grupp Parlamentari għandu kull dritt li ma jaqbilx mal-Kap tiegħu kull meta jħoss il-ħtieġa għal dan. F’partiti politiċi demokratiċi, din mhiex xi ħaġa rari li issir.

L-iskop kollu li l-ħatra tikseb l-approvazzjoni ta’ żewġ terzi hu li jinħoloq l-iktar kunsens wiesa’ possibli meta jinħatar Kummissarju għall-iStandards fil-Ħajja Pubblika. Li titneħħa din il-ħtieġa għall-kunsens iwassal biex ikun imminat il-proċess kollu.

Riżultat tal-ħtieġa ta’ żewġ terzi biex tkun approvata l-ħatra, l-Opposizzjoni m’għandiex biss is-saħħa li tkun determinanti fid-deċiżjoni: għandha ukoll l-obbligu li taġixxi b’mod responsabbli. Jiġifieri għandha l-obbligu li iġgib il-quddiem raġunijiet validi biex issostni l-posizzjoni tagħha.  Anke l-Opposizzjoni hi soġġetta għall-kontabilità.

Id-dibattitu parlamentari sadanittant qed idur mal-lewża. L-Gvern irid jikkontrolla l-proċess kollu waħdu. Dan minkejja li diġa fil-prattika jikkontrolla d-deċiżjoni finali dwar kull investigazzjoni: kemm riżultat tal-maġġoranza parlamentari kif ukoll in vista tal-komposizzjoni tal-Kumitat Parlamentari dwar l-iStandards fil-Ħajja Pubblika. Il-Partit Laburista fil-Gvern  donnu ddeċieda li m’għadux essenzjali li min jinħatar tkun persuna aċċettabbli għall-Opposizzjoni Parlamentari. Il-ħtieġa li jkun hemm kunsens qiegħed jitwarrab. Dan jimmina  l-integrità tal-proċess kollu li bih huma regolati l-iStandards fil-Ħajja Pubblika.  L-Opposizzjoni, s’issa, għadha ma spjegatx  il-għala qed topponi n-nomina tal-ħatra tal-Prim Imħallef Emeritu Joe Azzopardi. Għandha obbligu politiku li dan tagħmlu.

Kemm il-Partit Laburista kif ukoll il-PN ħadu posizzjoni intransiġenti: jew kif ngħid jien, inkella insa kollox, qed jgħidu. Flimkien qed iżarmaw dak li ħa ħafna żmien biex inbena.

Dan hu li kapaċi tagħtina sistema Parlamentari ta’ żewġ partiti!

ippubblikat fuq Illum: 22 ta’ Jannar 2023

The Trojan gift

photo:The Procession of the Trojan horse into Troy: Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo(1727-1804)

Greek mythology conveys a multitude of lessons which we could do well to ponder on. One of them refers to gifts that mask a hidden, and generally destructive, agenda. One such lesson results from the account of the Trojan war in Homer’s Iliad and its retelling in Virgil’s masterpiece Aeneid.

Virgil advises us that we should beware of Greeks bearing gifts. Virgil’s observation is with reference to the “gift” of a wooden horse left by the Greek warriors outside the walls of the besieged city of Troy! As we know the actual hidden element attached to the Greek gift was the armed soldiers hidden within the wooden horse!

The Trojan horse was pulled within the city of Troy as part of the celebrations for the lifting of the city’s siege. When the celebrations had subsided, during the night, out came the surprise from within the wooden horse, armed Greek soldiers which devastated the city. This is the proverbial Trojan horse!

The nomination by Robert Abela of George Hyzler some months ago as a member of the European Court of Auditors is precisely one such gift of the Labour leader to the Opposition.

Most would agree that George Hyzler performed well as Commissioner for Standards in Public Life. Even government shares this view. As a result, it has gone out of its way to offer him a gilded carrot which he could not easily refuse. Hyzler was kicked upstairs as a result of his performance. In my opinion there is no other realistic way of interpreting the nomination.

Hyzler’s nomination to the European Court of Auditors is part of the Abela chess game of political manoeuvring. Generally, he moves about Labour pawns along the political chessboard. Through Hyzler’s nomination he has also succeeded in placing the Opposition in an awkward corner which, so far, Bernard Grech has proved to be incapable of avoiding.

The Opposition should have advised Hyzler that he ought to serve his full term as Commissioner for Standards in Public Life. Given the prevailing political circumstances, Hyzler should have never accepted the nomination to the European Court of Auditors. Its Trojan purpose should have been clear enough even to the most junior of political novices. Unfortunately, everyone was aware of this except, apparently, the Opposition, which was once more outmanoeuvred by Labour.

This is the essential and basic background to the current parliamentary debate on the proposed amendments to the legislation relative to the regulation of Standards in Public Life.

Officially the proposed amendments seek to introduce an anti-deadlock mechanism. Whenever the two-thirds majority required to approve the appointment of a Standards in Public Life Commissioner is not attained in two consecutive ballots, a week apart, it is being proposed that thereafter, the required threshold would be reduced to that of a simple majority.

The proposed amendments seek to eliminate a basic objective of the existing legislation, this being that the Standards Commissioner, though approved by Parliament, must enjoy the confidence of the Parliamentary Opposition. (Our laws provide other instances where the Opposition is guaranteed a central role: the Chairmanship of the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee and the role of Deputy Speaker come to mind.)

Having a nominee of integrity, such as former Chief Justice Joseph Azzopardi, is not sufficient. The fact that he is not acceptable to the Opposition is in itself a sufficient (and valid) reason justifying his non-suitability to the post, provided a valid reason for such an objection exists. It is not required that the person be an Opposition nominee: he or she should however be a person whom the Opposition accepts.

The point made by government that Bernard Grech first accepted the nomination and then changed his view, even if correct, is irrelevant, as the proposed candidate needs to be acceptable to the Opposition as a whole and not just to its Leader. His Parliamentary Group is within its rights in over-ruling him whenever it considers that this is necessary. This is not a rare occurrence in democratic political parties!

The whole purpose of the two-thirds requirement is to have as wide a consensus as possible when appointing a Commissioner for Standards in Public Life. Removal of the broad consensus requirement undermines the whole process.

As a result of the two-thirds requirement the Opposition does not just have a major determining say: it also has the duty to act in a responsible manner. It must as a consequence have valid reasons justifying its decision. Even the Opposition is accountable.

The parliamentary debate is currently going round in circles. Government wants to control the whole process on its own. It already enjoys the final say on deciding on each and every investigation, through its parliamentary majority as well as a direct result of the composition of the parliamentary committee on Standards in Public Life. Labour has apparently decided that it is no longer essential to ensure that the eventual appointee is acceptable to the Parliamentary Opposition. It has decided to discard the consensus requirement. This will undermine the integrity of the oversight required on the regulation of Standards in Public Life. The Opposition, has, so far, not explained why it is opposing the nomination of former Chief Justice Joseph Azzopardi.

Both Labour and the PN have taken an intransigent position: my way or no way. Together they are demolishing what has been slowly developed over the years. This is what a two party system is capable of producing!

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday: 22 January 2023

Ikla tajba tiftaħ l-aptit ta’ Bernard Grech

Ikla tajba tiftaħlek l-aptit sewwa. Hekk jidher li ġara lill-Kap tal-Opposizzjoni Bernard Grech f’ikla li kellu waqt il-kampanja elettorali ma’ numru ta’ negozjanti. Hi ikla li għaliha mar bis-sasla biex jiġbor flejjes kbar. Għax għandu bżonn il-miljuni. Ġew imwegħda somom kbar, mid-dehra. Imma jidher li kien hemm ukoll il-kundizzjonijiet.

Intqal li hemm min ried proklama għal tal-familja. Hemm min ried jagħlaq ħalq uħud mill-kandidati tal-PN. Għax qed idejquh!

Diġa saru dikjarazzjonijiet dwar dak li ġara, għax uħud li kienu hemm, għall-ikla, tkellmu.

Il-verità kollha mhux ser inkunu nafuha qabel ma jkun hemm min jgħid l-istorja kollha. S’issa nafu biss biċċiet. Kull min tkellem qal il-biċċa li taqbillu.

Li jkun hemm min jagħmel talbiet lill-Kap tal-Opposizzjoni bħal dawk li issemmew hu possibli. Li hu ta’ interess pubbliku iżda hu x’wieġeb il-Kap tal-Opposizzjoni għat-talbiet li sarulu. Kemm dawk (it-talbiet) li nafu bihom kif ukoll dawk li għad ma nafux!

Iċ-ċaħda li saru t-talbiet ma tantx titwemmen. Għalhekk hu iktar importanti li tingħata spjegazzjoni ċara ta’ x’ġara eżattament. Illum jew għada nkunu nafu, imma l-verzjoni li toħroġ bil-mod qatt ma tkun preċiża, dejjem tkun imlewwna. Il-kuluri żejda, kif tafu, ma jagħmlu ġid lil ħadd.

It-trasparenza u l-kontabilità vera jesiġu li Bernard Grech jagħti kont ta’ għemilu. Illum qabel għada.

Bejgħ tal-passaporti u l-prinċpju ta’ lealtà fl-Unjoni Ewropea

Iktar kmieni din il-ġimgħa, l-kumitat tal-Parlament Ewropew dwar il-libertajiet ċivili u l-ġustizzja,  huwa u jiddiskuti rapport dwar il-bejgħ tal-passaporti (jirreferu għalihom bħala golden passports) mill-istati membri, jemfasizza li dan hu oġġezzjonabbli etikament, legalment u ekonomikament u dan apparti li dan joħloq bosta riskji għas-sigurtà.

Tul is-snin, il-Ministri, kemm f’Malta kif ukoll barra, emfasizzaw li ċ-ċittadinanza, fl-Unjoni Ewropeja, hi materja riżervata għall-istati membri. Hekk hu, imma mhux b’mod assolut. Il-prinċipju ta’ lealtà fit-trattati Ewropej ilewwen il-ħidma tal-istati membri fl-Unjoni. Anke l-oqsma li huma kompetenza nazzjonali għandhom ikunu meqjusa f’dan id-dawl.

Ħadd ma jikkontesta li ċ-ċittadinanza hi kompetenza tal-pajjiżi membri. Hekk għandu jkun. Imma meta nikkunsidraw il-bejgħ taċ-ċittadinaza hemm ħafna implikazzjonijiet oħra, ta’ gravità mhux żgħira. It-trattati tal-Unjoni Ewropeja dan jispjegawh bħala obbligu ta’ kooperazzjoni sinċiera  bejn il-pajjiżi membri, obbligu li bosta drabi huwa mfisser bħala l-prinċipju ta’ lejaltà:  lejaltà, jiġifieri bejn il-pajjiżi membri infushom.

Riċentment, l-amministrazzjoni immexxija minn Robert Abela fasslet emendi mhux żgħar għall-proċess li bih tkun akkwistata ċ-ċittadinanza b’investiment. Il-programm (Individual Investor Programme) inbidel ma skema residenzjali li eventwalment tista’ twassal għal ċittadinanza. Għalkemm l-Unjoni Ewropeja kienet infurmat b’dan it-tibdil, is-Segretarju Parlamentari responsabbli għaċ-ċittadinanza, Alex Muscat, indika li ma kien hemm l-ebda rispons mill-Kummissjoni Ewropeja.

Il-Parlament Ewropew ser jiddiskuti dan kollu fil-plenarja tiegħu tax-xahar id-dieħel.  L-abbozz tar-rapport, b’numru ndaqqas ta’ emendi, jemfasizza li l-iskemi taċ-ċittadinanza b’investiment “hemm it-tendenza li jkunu f’dawk l-istati membri li huma l-iktar esposti għal riskji konnessi mas-segretezza finanzjarja, bħall-evażjoni tat-taxxa, l-ħasil tal-flus u l-korruzzjoni.” 

Fost dawk li kisbu ċ-ċittadinanza Maltija b’investiment insibu lil: Anatoly Hurgin, akkużat bi frodi, kuntrabandu u ħasil ta’ flus kemm fl-Istati Uniti kif ukoll fl-Iżrael, Liu Zhongtian, biljunarju involut fl-aluminju, għaddej proċeduri kriminali fl-Istati Uniti dwar evażjoni  ta’ madwar żewġ biljun euro f’tariffi  Amerikani,  Boris Mints, biljunarju ieħor li qiegħed jiffaċċja akkużi dwar frodi fir-Renju Unit,  Pavel Melnikov, ukoll biljunarju li qiegħed ikun investigat fil-Finlandja dwar ħasil ta’ flus u frodi, u Mustafa Abdel-Wadood li ammetta akkuzi dwar frodi fl-Istati Uniti. Dawn ġew identifikati mill-istampa f’Malta bħala lihumafost dawk li xtraw passaport Malti. Ħadd mhu ser jeskludi li hemm iktar, għax dawn it-tip ta’ skemi huma kalamita għal dawn it-tip ta’ nies..

Dawn, u oħrajn, ħadu iċ-ċittadinanza minkejja li suppost li l-applikazzjonijiet tagħhom kienu eżaminati b’reqqa liema bħala!

Fid-dawl ta’ dan kollu l-logħob ta’ Bernard Grech li jirrifjuta li jieħu sehem fi proċess ta’ konsultazzjoni dwar il-ħatra ta’ regulatur ġdid għall-iskema ta’ ċittadinanza b’investiment tibgħat messaġġ żbaljat. Regulatur li jkollu l-barka ta’ Bernard Grech mhux ser itejjeb l-iskema taċ-ċittadinanza.

Irrispettivament minn kemm jinbidlu r-regoli dwar l-iskema tal-bejgħ tal-passaporti, din tibqa’ mhux aċċettabbli fil-prinċipju. Kif jingħad fir-rapport pendenti quddiem il-Parlament Ewropew iċ-ċittadinanza Ewropeja mhiex għall-biegħ.

Ir-rapport quddiem il-Parlament Ewropew jgħid li l-iskemi taċ-ċittadinanza b’investiment fihom ħafna riskji u mhumiex kompatibbli mal-prinċipju ta’ kooperazzjoni meħtieġa bejn l-istati membri tal-Unjoni Ewropeja. Fid-dawl ta’ dan għandhom jispiċċaw sa mhux iktar tard mis-sena 2025 jgħidilna ir-rapport tal-Parlament Ewropew..

Il-flus jistgħu jkun utli, jgħid Bernard Grech, kieku l-iskemi jkunu trasparenti.  Hi l-istess attitudni li l-PN fil-Gvern daħħal fis-sistema ta’ tassazzjoni meta spiċċa daħħal proposti li jinkoraġixxu l-evażjoni tat-taxxa.  

L-iskema tal-bejgħ tal-passaporti  flimkien mal-abbuż kontinwu tas-sovranità tal-pajjiż fil-qasam tat-tassazzjoni bit-tnaqqis fir-rati ta’ taxxa għal kumpaniji barranin li b’hekk ġew inkoraġġiti jevadu t-taxxi ta’ pajjiżhom huma uħud mir-raġunijiet li wassluna sal-lista l-griża. Tul dawn l-aħħar xhur imma, l-Ministru tal-Fnanzi beda jċedi u jidher li issa mexjin lejn li naċċettaw rata minima u armonizzat ta’ taxxa.

Bħala partit ilna ninsitu fuq din it-triq. Sfortunatament b’wiċċna minn quddiem nistgħu ngħidu li ghidna ċar u tond kif kienu l-affarijiet. Issa jmiss li tispiċċa l-iskema tal-bejgħ tal-passaporti ukoll. M’għandniex bżonn li jkunu istituzzjonijiet barranin li jgħidulna x’inhu tajjeb u x’inhu ħażin. Kapaċi, jekk irridu, li dan nagħmluh aħna stess. 

Huma biss membri parlamentari eletti mill-lista tal-kandidati ta’ ADPD li jistgħu jassiguraw li jsir it-tibdil kollu li hu meħtieġ. Bernard Grech u l-PN ma jistgħux ikunu is-soluzzjoni. Huma parti mill-problema.

ippubblikat fuq Illum: il-Ħadd 20 ta’ Frar 2022

Golden passports & the EU’s loyalty principle

Earlier this week, the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, when discussing a draft legislative initiative report emphasised that golden passports are objectionable ethically, legally and economically and pose several serious security risks.

Over the years government Ministers, in Malta and elsewhere, have emphasised that issues of citizenship and passports are a national reserved matter, within the European Union.  They are right, but, only to a certain extent. The principle of loyalty in the EU treaties underpins the functioning of the individual member states within the Union. Even the national competencies have to be implemented with this principle in mind.

No one contests that nationality issues are a national competence. They should remain so. There is however much more than state competence at stake. Article 4.3 of the Treaty on the European Union explain this as the principle of sincere cooperation, at times referred to as the loyalty principle: loyalty, that is, towards the other European member states.

Recently, the Robert Abela administration has sought to reform the process of acquiring citizenship by investment. The original rules were overhauled. The IIP (Individual Investor Programme) was replaced by a residency scheme which could, eventually lead to acquiring citizenship. The EU was informed of all this and Parliamentary Secretary Alex Muscat, responsible for citizenship has indicated that there has been no feedback on the matter from the EU Commission.

The EU Parliament will discuss the matter in plenary next month. The draft report which, with a multitude of amendments proposed, will be considered, emphasises among other matters that such Citizenship by Investment (CBI) “schemes tend to be located in Member States that are particularly prone to risks related to financial secrecy, such as tax avoidance and money laundering, and corruption.”

Among the new Maltese citizens by investment, one finds: Anatoly Hurgin, charged with fraud, smuggling and money laundering in the US and Israel, Liu Zhongtian, an aluminium billionaire indicted in the US on avoidance of €2 billion in American tariffs, Boris Mints, a billionaire facing fraud charges in the UK, Pavel Melnikov, another billionaire under investigation in Finland for money laundering and tax fraud and Mustafa Abdel-Wadood who pleaded guilty to conspiracy and fraud charges in the United States. These have been identified by the Maltese press. I would not exclude that there are more of them as such schemes are a natural attraction to them. So far they have avoided the radar of public scrutiny.

Quite a collection! All of them were okayed by Malta’s “rigorous due diligence”!

In view of the above, Bernard Grech’s postering through his refusal to engage in consultation on the appointment of a new regulator for golden citizenship sends a wrong message. A regulator acceptable to Bernard Grech will not make the citizenship by investment scheme any better.

The golden passport scheme, irrespective of the tinkering with the rules carried out, is unacceptable in principle. EU citizenship, says the EU Parliament report currently under consideration “is not a commodity that can be marketed or sold and has never been conceived as such by the Treaties.”

European values are not for sale, says the said report: “in the light of the particular risks posed by CBI schemes and their inherent incompatibility with the principle of sincere cooperation, CBI schemes should be phased out fully across the Member States”. The proposal before the EU Parliament is that these should be phased out by 2025.

The money justifies it, says Bernard Grech, if only it were more transparent. It is the same attitude which the PN-led government built into our taxation system, when it introduced measures encouraging tax avoidance.

The golden passport scheme coupled with the continuous abuse of Malta’s tax sovereignty through offering substantial tax discounts to foreign commercial entities, encouraging tax avoidance, are part of the reasons which have led to Malta’s grey-listing. During the last months, Malta’s Finance Minister has finally capitulated and he is now steering the country towards the acceptance of a harmonised minimum tax rate.

Greens have been advocating this course of action for ages. Unfortunately, we can hold our heads high and state: we told you so! The golden passport scheme should be next for the chop. We do not need foreign institutions to tell us what is right or wrong. We can do it ourselves.

Only members of parliament elected from the list of ADPD candidates can ensure that the required overhaul is carried out. Bernard Grech and his PN cannot be the solution. They are part of the problem.

published on The Malta Independent on Sunday : 20 February 2022

The resignation of David Thake

The resignation of David Thake is a positive step.  It takes courage to admit to having acted incorrectly and shoulder the political responsibility for your actions. There are others who should follow in his footsteps. Parliament, as a result would be a much better place.

The fact that the tax misdemeanours of the companies owned by David Thake were revealed through media leaks does not make the case any less serious. It however adds another worrying dimension to the saga: institutional breach of ethics, this time by the tax authorities. The Minister for Finance Clyde Caruana is politically responsible for this. He has to act fast to address the matter.

Registered editors already have a right to request income tax returns of sitting MPs. This right should be extended to VAT returns, not only those submitted personally by sitting MPs but also by companies in which they have a controlling interest. This would do away with selective leaking of damaging tax information which generally targets those who those close to government seek to damage or destroy!

It has been established that the two companies owned by David Thake, namely Vanilla Telecoms Limited and Maltashopper Limited have collected Value Added Tax due on their services and retained the tax collected for a long period of time. His companies, stated David Thake, had a problem with their cash flow and thus they were not in a position to pay up the taxes they had collected.

Vanilla Telecoms Limited owes the exchequer €270,000 while Maltashopper Limited owes another €550,000. This is a substantial sum which has been collected from taxpayers through VAT and includes fines and interest due for non-payment.

There are serious doubts as to whether Thake’s claim that he was simply applying the Covid-19 tax deferral scheme is correct.

Given that most of the pending VAT dues of Thake’s companies date back to substantially before the outbreak of Covid-19 Thake has yet to explain as to why it took him so much time to address the cash flow problems of his companies. He has shed too many crocodile tears in emphasising that faced with cash flow problems he opted to pay his employees rather than the VAT office. His delay in acting to address his cash flow problems has the specific consequence of endangering the livelihood of the very employees, which he is so keen to protect!

It is not correct to describe David Thake as a tax evader. It is unfair to compare him to Bernard Grech, his party leader, who was investigated for tax evasion over the years and opted to pay up on the eve of the PN leadership contest.

In view of the fact that Thake’s companies have yet to submit their accounts it is not yet clear as to the actual cause of his cashflow problems.

The point at issue is whether it is right for David Thake to bankroll his companies through the taxes they have collected as economic operators. The fact that there are others who do likewise, and maybe worse, is no consolation!  He was a member of parliament elected on a good governance platform. The mismatch between his behaviour and his stated beliefs cannot be clearer than this.  This is no minor administrative omission as David Thake emphasised when he announced his resignation.

Its fine to preach good governance. Putting this into practice is a completely different matter. Thake’s resignation, even though he took some time to decide that he should resign, puts some sense back into local politics. Thake’s resignation is a positive contribution to improve standards. Ian Castaldi Paris and Rosianne Cutajar should be next.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday: 16 January 2022

An invitation: keep the doors open

The abortion debate gets nastier by the minute. This was expected. It may even get worse!

The priest who described pro-choice PN candidate Emma Portelli Bonnici as a later day Hitler, kicked off this week’s instalment! The Archbishop’s Curia at Floriana forced the removal of the facebook post where he published these views: yet the damage was done. Will we ever learn to discuss anything respectfully? Is this too difficult to expect?

The Labour Party is being extremely cautious. It is very rare to hear any Labour Party speaker express himself or herself on the subject of abortion. Labour is aware of the different and contrasting views within its ranks when debating abortion. That in itself is healthy and could potentially lead to a mature debate. The current Labour Party leadership, however, as readers are aware, is acutely conservative on the matter even though there is a progressive element among its voters which is of the opposite view. This includes a couple of present and former electoral candidates and MPs/MEPs.

The PN on the other hand, going by Bernard Grech’s declaration earlier this week has not yet learnt its lessons from the divorce referendum campaign, ten years ago. I respect its political position on the matter but I still cannot understand its constant denigration of those within its ranks who have the courage to speak their mind. Stifling political debate is very damaging.  It has long-term effects which go much beyond the current debate!

As pointed out elsewhere, Bernard Grech’s declaration signifies one thing: the abortion debate is closed within the PN ranks, and anybody who dares think otherwise should start packing. From where I stand that is the clear message conveyed by Bernard Grech.

Within ADPD, the Green Party, last May, after a three year long internal debate, we approved a clear political position in favour of decriminalisation of abortion, as a result of which any woman opting for an abortion would not be subject to criminal action. We further emphasise that abortion should not be normalised but that it should be limited to specific, extraordinary and well-defined circumstances.

We have highlighted that Maltese legislation on abortion is not fit for purpose. It needs to be brought up to date after more than 160 years since its enactment. It requires to be brought in line with medical and scientific progress over the years.

We identify three such extraordinary circumstances in which abortion is justified, namely, when the life of the pregnant woman is in danger, when a pregnancy is the result of violence (rape and incest) and when faced with a pregnancy which is not viable.

There is definitely an urgent need for more emphasis on reproductive and sexual health education at all levels of our educational structures. This is a gap which needs plugging at the earliest!

We have been criticised by some as not going far enough. Others have stated that we have gone much too far.

Empathy, the ability to understand and share the feelings of others, is key in the abortion debate. It is essential that women who undergo abortion are not threatened any more with persecution and prosecution. They need the state’s protection as a result of which more will seek help before taking critical decisions. This will save lives as well as avoid unnecessary medical complications.

The abortion debate in Malta is unfortunately characterised by long periods of silence, alternating with outbursts of hate, insults and extreme intolerance. This is definitely not on. Political parties should take the lead by encouraging contributions to a clear and objective debate.

While others close their doors to the debate, ours will remain wide open.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 14 November 2021

Il-PN, Chris Peregin u l-imparzjalità fix-xandir

Il-Partit Nazzjonalista qed jilmenta dwar l-imparzjalità fix-xandir pubbliku. Anke aħna, ilna ħafna nilmentaw. Mhux illum biss. Ilna għaddejjin biha. Ix-xandir pubbliku, b’mod sfaċċat jew inkella b’mod iktar fin dejjem qeda lill-partit fil-Gvern. Il-Gvern tal-lum u l-Gvern tal-bieraħ!

Il-PN qed jilmenta minkejja li għandu l-istazzjoni tiegħu, kemm tat-TV kif ukoll tar-radju. Hemm il-gazzetti ukoll. Ma dawn żid ukoll xi palata minn xi “indipendenti”. Il-PN qed iħossa, aħseb u ara aħna li m’għandiex TV, radju jew gazzetti.

Il-PN imma għandu opportunità, kieku jrid, biex juri lil kulħadd kif ikun ix-xandir imparzjali. Jekk irid jista’ mil-lum għal għada jittrasforma in-NET, il-101 u l-gazzetti tiegħu f’mezzi fejn l-imparzjalità tirrenja. Minflok għandna propaganda partiġjana li ma tieqaf qatt.

Il-konsulent strateġiku tal-PN, Chris Peregin, xi żmien ilu ukoll kien jitkellem favur l-imparzjalità. Mhux ħafna ilu, iżda biss ftit xhur. Jekk tiftakru kien fetaħ kawża kostituzzjonali biex l-Awtorità tax-Xandir tagħmel dmirha u tara li l-istazzjonjijiet politiċi ukoll iħaddnu l-imparzjalità. In-NET u l-ONE jiġifieri.

Issa suppost li Peregin għandu l-possibilità li jinfluwenza l-mixja tal-PN lejn l-imparzjalità: biex mill-paroli jgħaddi għall-fatti!

Hemm kompetizzjoni ghaddejja bejn liema mill-istazzjonijiet hu l-iktar partiġjan! Kompetizzjoni bejn il-ONE, in-NET u TVM. Għax in-nuqqas tal-imparzjalità tax-xandir pubblika hi mmultiplikata fl-istazzjonijiet politiċi li huma għodda ta’propaganda kontinwa li m’għandux ikun hemm post għalihom f’demokrazija moderna fl-Unjoni Ewropea.

Kif għidna fil-konferenza stampa iktar kmieni illum hemm ħtieġa ta’ riforma mill-qiegħ tax-xandir pubbliku li għandu jwassal biex dan ma jibqax ir-responsabbiltà diretta ta’ Ministru iżda għandu jitmexxa b’mod li jkun indipendenti mill-Gvern tal-ġurnata. Dan jgħodd ukoll għar-regolatur (l-Awtorità tax-Xandir) li m’għandux jibqa’ dominat minn ħatriet li jsiru mill-Gvern.

Jeżistu mudelli differenti f’diversi pajjiżi fejn huwa l-Parlament li b’mod responsabbli jassigura li x-xandir pubbliku jkun ta’ servizz lejn il-pajjiz kollu u mhux lejn il-partit fil-Gvern. Dan jista’ jsir biss meta l-Parlament ma jibqax iddominat mill-PLPN izda jkun hemm spazju għal ilħna oħra.

Bernard Grech irid iżomm il-ħerba li ħalla Gonzi

Bernard Grech illum qal li mhux sejjer lura mid-deċiżjoni tal-Gvern ta’ Gonzi li jestendi ż-żoni tal-iżvilupp.

Xejn ġdid li ma konniex nafu!  Il-PN u l-PL bl-istess politika ta’ ibni kemm tiflaħ. Sadanittant il-ħsara tibqa’ tikber.

Il-Partit Nazzjonalista ma jitgħallem qatt!

Il-pjani lokali jeħtieġu bidla mill-qiegħ u l-art ODZ li saret tajba għall-iżvilupp tmur lura bħala art ODZ mhux tajba għall-iżvilupp. Ma jeżisti l-ebda dritt li tiżviluppa bl-addoċċ kif iridu l-PN u l-PL

L-unika konsolazzjoni f’dan kollu hi li l-membri tal-Kabinett Nazzjonalista li jmiss jidher li għadhom ma twieldux!

Ftit ħsibijiet tal-parker ta’ Chris Peregin

Wara l-intervista ta’ Chris Peregin fuq is-Sunday Times ta’ illum interessanti l-għazliet tiegħu tul dawn l-aħħar snin.

Fl-2013 għażel li jkollna Gvern tal-Labour, għax saħħru Joseph Muscat.

Għażel li jissieħeb bħala membru kemm tal-Partit Nazzjonalista kif ukoll tal-Partit Laburista għax għoġbitu l-idea li bħala membru tal-partit seta jkollu sehem fl-għażla tal-Kap/Mexxej. Laħaq ivvota għall-Kap tal-PN u għażel lil Adrian Delia.

Xi żmien ilu Chris Peregin kien qalilna li l-logħob ta’ Bernard Grech biex iħallas it-taxxa kien wieħed problematiku għal bniedem fil-politika. Issa Peregin beda jdur mal-lewża, għax, taf int, din ma tiġrix lil Bernard Grech biss.

Peregin għad ma irrealizzax li fis-siegħa tal-prova Bernard Grech naqas bil-kbir. Il-valuri etiċi tiegħu irmihom il-baħar!

Issa, wara dan kollu, Peregin iħossu b’esperjenza biżżejjed biex jgħin lilna ukoll biex nagħmlu l-għażliet tagħna.

Ħaġa waħda ma qalx: li partit politiku bħall-PN, li hu parti mill-problema, qatt ma jista’ jkun is-soluzzjoni.

Il-merċinarju ma jsolvix problemi, iżda jipprova jaħbihom.