Wara d-dibattitu fi Strasburgu

 

Id-dibattitu tal-ġimgħa l-oħra fil-Parlament Ewropew dwar is-saltna tad-dritt wera li prattikament il-partiti politiċi kollha huma mħassba dwar is-saltna tad-dritt f’Malta. Il-qtil ta’ Daphne Caruana Galizia jkompli jżid ma dan it-tħassib.

It-tħassib hu wieħed akkumulat u huwa ġġustifikat minħabba diversi affarijiet li ġraw fuq tul ta’ żmien.

Il-ħatra u r-riżenja ta’ diversi Kummissarji tal-Pulizija matul dawn il-ħames snin xejn ma għen f’dan il-kuntest.

Ir-rapporti tal-FIAU (Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit) li waslu għand il-Kummissarju tal-Pulizija u ma ittieħdu l-ebda passi dwarhom ukoll wasslu l-messaġġ li f’dan il-pajjiż xejn m’hu xejn: li l-liġi hi bla siwi.

Jekk il-liġi hi bla siwi għax l-awtorijtajiet li għandhom l-obbligu li jimplimentawha jagħlqu għajnejhom, daqqa waħda u drabi oħra t-tnejn, hu ġustifikat li jingħad li s-saltna tad-dritt hi mhedda.

F’dan il-kuntest ma tista’ tagħti tort lil ħadd li jissuspetta illi l-awtoritajiet kollha ħaġa waħda, jħokku dahar xulxin. Anke jekk mhux neċessarjament hekk.

Imma hemm min qiegħed japprofitta ruħu minn din is-sitwazzjoni biex jiżra’ sfiduċja iktar milli diġa hawn. Ilkoll kemm aħna, fuq quddiem nett il-partiti politiċi, għandna l-obbligu li f’din is-siegħa delikata ma nesagerawx fil-kritika li nagħmlu. Anke fejn il-kritika hi ġustifikata. Il-kritika li issir hemm bżonn li tkun waħda responsabbli avolja jkun hemm min ma jagħtix każ, jew inkella jipprova jagħti l-impressjoni li mhux qed jagħti każ.

Il-fatti jibqgħu dejjem fatti.

Il-Prim Ministru żbalja meta ma tajjarx lill-Konrad Mizzi mill-Kabinett u lil Keith Schembri minn Chief of Staff fl-uffiċċju tiegħu wara li isimhom deher fil-lista magħrufa bħala Panama Papers. Kien żball oħxon li anke fil-Partit Laburista stess kien hemm dibattitu jaħraq dwaru. Fil-Partit Laburista kien hemm min kellu l-kuraġġ li jesprimi fehmtu dwar dan fil-pubbliku. Hekk għamlu s-sena l-oħra Evarist Bartolo u Godfrey Farrugia. Kien hemm oħrajn li tkellmu fil-magħluq waqt laqgħat tal-Grupp Parlamentari. Fil-gazzetti kienu ssemmew l-ismijiet tad-Deputat Prim Ministru ta’ dak iż-żmien Louis Grech u tal-Ministri Leo Brincat, Edward Scicluna u George Vella. Hemm ukoll id-dikjarazzjoni ċara pubblika ta’ Alfred Sant, avolja dan issa qed jitkellem ftit differenti. Naf li hemm oħrajn. Kollha talbu r-riżenja ta’ Konrad Mizzi.

Il-preokkupazzjoni tal-lum hi in parti riżultat ta’ din id-deċiżjoni żbaljata tal-Prim Ministru Joseph Muscat.

Il-kobba issa kompliet titħabbel bil-qtil ta’ Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Sfortunatament hemm min qed jitfa l-argumenti kollha f’borma waħda u jgħaqqad, b’mod irresponsabbli l-affarijiet, meta s’issa għad ma hemm l-ebda prova dwar min wettaq dan id-delitt u għal liema raġuni. L-iżbalji li saru fil-kors tal-investigazzjoni xejn m’huma ta’ għajnuna. La d-dewmien tal-Maġistrat Consuelo Scerri Herrera biex ma tibqax tmexxi l-investigazzjoni Maġisterjali u l-anqas li d-Deputat Kummissarju Silvio Valletta ma fehemx li l-presenza tiegħu fl-investigazzjoni tista’ tkun ta’ xkiel għall-kredibilita tal-konkluzjonijiet m’huma ser jgħinu.

F’dan il-kuntest il-kummenti ta’ Frans Timmermans Viċi President Ewlieni tal-Kummissjoni Ewropea huma ta’ validità kbira: “Let the investigation run its full course. What is not on is to start with a conclusion and look for facts to support that conclusion.”

Il-preokkupazzjoni tagħna lkoll hi ġustifikata. Imma tajjeb li nżommu quddiem għajnejna li t-taħwid kollu li għandna quddiemna ma tfaċċax f’daqqa, ilu jinġabar ftit ftit. Biex dan jingħeleb jeħtieġ l-isforz flimkien ta’ kull min hu ta’ rieda tajba.

 

ippubblikat f’Illum – Il-Ħadd 19 ta’ Novembru 2017

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Beyond the Strasbourg debate

Last week’s debate in the European Parliament on the rule of law in Malta revealed that all political parties are preoccupied with the matter and the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia has made a bad situation worse.

This preoccupation has not developed overnight, it has accumulated over time. The appointment of various Commissioners of Police and their subsequent resignation for a variety of reasons has not been helpful: it has reinforced the perception that “all is not well in the state of Denmark”.

The Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit reports received by the Commissioner of Police, and in respect of which no investigation was carried out, sent out one clear message: in this country, some people are clearly not subject to the rule of law. Can anyone be blamed if this message – sent by the Commissioner of Police – was clearly understood by one and all?

This transmits an additional clear message: the authorities are in cahoots; they are scratching each other’s back. Even though reality may be different, this is the message which has gone through.

Unfortunately, some people may be cashing in on these developments and, as a result, increasing exponentially the lack of trust in public authorities in Malta. This is a very dangerous development and calls for responsible action on the part of one and all, primarily political parties. Speaking out publicly about these developments is justified, notwithstanding the continuous insults which keep being levelled against such a stand. It is time to stand up and be counted.

The Prime Minister erred when he did not dismiss Minister Konrad Mizzi and Chief of Staff at the OPM Keith Schembri on the spot, after it was clear that their names featured prominently in the Panama Papers. This serious error by the Prime Minister triggered a debate about the matter in the Labour Party. Some even had the courage to speak publicly: Evarist Bartolo and Godfrey Farrugia did so. Others participated actively in the internal debates within the Labour Party, in particular during meetings of the Parliamentary Group. Last year, the media had mentioned various Labour MPs as having been vociferous in internal debates on the matter: it was reported that former Deputy Prime Minister Louis Grech and senior Ministers Leo Brincat, Edward Scicluna and George Vella took the lead.

Even former Labour Leader Alfred Sant made public declarations in support of required resignations. This week, Sant sought to change his tune in a hysterical contribution to the Strasbourg debate. Others have preferred silence.

The Prime Minister’s erroneous position in refusing to fire Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri has been a major contributor to the present state of affairs. The murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia has made matters worse and has, justifiably, led to the current preoccupation with the question of whether the rule of law is still effective in Malta at all.

Unfortunately some individuals begin linking all the incidents together – in the process, weaving a story which is quite different from reality, at least that which is known so far. Some claim to be able to joint the dots, thereby creating a narrative unknown to the rest of us, because the dots can be joined in many different ways.

Mistakes made during the initial stages of the investigation of the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder further reinforce the perceptions that all is not well. When Magistrate Consuelo Scerri Herrera took quite some time to realise that it was not right for her to lead the investigation into the murder of a journalist who had been the prime mover in torpedoing her elevation to the position of a Judge in the Superior Courts, everyone was shocked.

Even the failure of Deputy Police Commissioner Silvio Valletta to realise that for him to lead the police investigation into Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder could dent the credibility of the police investigation in view of his marriage to a Cabinet Minister was another serious mistake. This is no reflection on the couple’s integrity but an ethical consideration which should have been taken into consideration in the first seconds of the investigation.

In this context, the comments of European Commission Senior Vice President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans assume greater importance “Let the investigation run its  full course. What is not on is to start with a conclusion and look for facts to support that conclusion.”

It is reasonable that all of us are seriously preoccupied. The present state of affairs did not develop overnight. It requires the concerted efforts of all of us to be put right.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 19 November 2017 

Through the revolving door: politicians for sale at a discount

Barroso.GoldmanSachs

 

US Investment Bank Goldman Sachs announced last week that it had “hired” former EU Commission Chairman Josè Manuel Barroso as an advisor and non-executive Chairman of the Goldman Sachs International arm.

The New York Times quoting co-CEOs of Goldman Sachs International Michael Sherwood and Richard J. Gnoddle explained the relevance of the appointment as being “Josè Manuel’s immense insights and experience including a deep understanding of Europe”. Earlier this week, the EU Observer  further commented that Goldman Sachs hired Barroso “as it struggles with the fallout from Britain’s vote to leave the EU”.

Based in London but offering services across Europe, Goldman Sachs may be faced with limited or no access to the EU’s single market as a result of Brexit. Hence the need to hire Barroso as an advisor and lobbyist as the United Kingdom and the European Union prepare for the negotiations leading to the UK’s exit from the European Union which can be triggered any time in the forthcoming weeks through a declaration in terms of article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

Barroso’s engagement with Goldman Sachs is one which will be much debated as, like nine other members of the Commission which he led between 2009 and 2014, he has been catapulted into the corporate boardroom through the revolving door. His value to Goldman Sachs is his knowledge of the privileged information to which he had access during his 10-year tenure as President of the EU Commission and, the influence which he may still have on a number of key EU officials.  This gives great value to his advisory/lobbying role with Goldman Sachs.

European Union regulations on the possible activities of its former Commission members draw a cut-off line after an 18-month cooling-off period at the end of their tenure when, as stated by an EU Commission spokesperson, “there is a reasonable assumption that the access to privileged information or possible influence are no longer an issue”.   This is contested by the different political groupings in the EU Parliament who maintain that the cooling-off period for EU Commissioners taking up sensitive jobs after ceasing their duties as Commissioners should be extended from 18 months to five years as the present length of time is insufficient to ensure that the EU is really the servant of ordinary people and not of multinational corporations or international financial institutions.

This debate at a European Union level contrasts to the provisions of the Standards in Public Life Bill currently being debated by the Maltese Parliament which Bill, so far, does not make any provision on the regulation of lobbying in Malta in any form or format.

It is not unheard of in Malta for politicians to move through the revolving door from the Cabinet to the private sector boardroom or its anteroom, and back again. Three such cases of former Cabinet Ministers in Malta in the recent past come to mind : John Dalli and his involvement with the Corinthia Group and later the Marsovin Group, Karmenu Vella who similarly was heavily involved first with the Corinthia Group and subsequently with the Orange Travel Group as well as with Betfair and finally Tonio Fenech’s recent involvement in the financial industry.

Being unregulated, lobbying through the revolving door is not illegal but it can still be unethical and unacceptable in a modern democratic society as it can result in undue influence of corporations over the regulatory authorities.

Piloting the debate on the Standards in Public Life Bill on Monday 11 July, Deputy Prime Minister Louis Grech recognised the deficiencies of the Bill and declared that a register of lobbyists in Malta was a necessity. While this is a welcome statement and a significant first step forward, it is certainly not enough, as a proper regulation of lobbying in Malta is long overdue. This involves much more than registration of lobbyists or even the regulation of revolving door recruitment in both the private and the public sector.

If done properly, lobbying is perfectly legitimate. It is perfectly reasonable for any citizen, group of citizens, corporations or even NGOs to seek to influence decision-taking. In fact it is done continuously and involves the communication of views and information to legislators and administrators by those who have an interest in informing them of the impacts of the decisions under consideration. It is perfectly legitimate that individuals, acting on their own behalf or else acting on behalf of third parties, should seek to ensure that decision-takers are well informed before taking the required decisions.

However, for lobbying to be acceptable in a democratic society, it must be done transparently. In particular, through regulation it must be ensured  that lobbying should not be transformed into a  process through which the decision-takers make way for the representatives or advisors of corporations to take their place. Lobbying activities must be properly documented and the resulting documentation must be publicly accessible.

Hopefully, Parliament will take note and act.

 

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday: 17 July 2016

Il-Grupp Parlamentari Laburista u l-iskandlu tal-Panama

Joseph Muscat +

Id-dimostrazzjoni tal-Partit Laburista li saret fuq Kastilja nhar il-Ħadd l-1 ta’ Mejju ma kienitx dwar l-iskandlu tal-Panama. Bħal kull attività politika pubblika tingħata t-tifsira li jkun l-aktar jaqbel. Għalhekk naturali, u nifhem li l-Partit Laburista, taħt assedju tul dawn l-aħħar tmien ġimgħat, jinterpreta d-daqs tal-folla fuq Kastilja bħala waħda li tagħtih appoġġ f’dan il-mument diffiċli.

Peró, fir-realtà, x’appoġġ qed tagħti l-folla lill-partit f’dan il-mument kritiku?

Il-Prim Ministru Joseph Muscat innifsu mhuwiex ċert. Ġie ikkwota jgħid li jekk il-każ Panama huwiex magħluq jew le, iridu jkunu in-nies li jiddeċiedu. Ma kienx qed jirreferi biss għal dawk li kellu quddiemu. Muscat hu konxju li kemm Konrad Mizzi kif ukoll Keith Schembri l-Kasco għamlu gaffe kbir. Imma Konrad u Keith ħadmu miegħu mill-qrib u hu ovvju li jħossu obbligat mhux ftit lejhom. Għalhekk dam biex iddeċieda u meta iddeċieda iċċaqlaq mill-inqas u effettivament ma ddeċieda xejn.

Ittieħdu żewġ miżuri : Konrad ma baqax direttament responsabbli għall-enerġija imma tħalla membru tal-Kabinett bħala Ministru bla portafoll. Kien ġest simboliku li bih Joseph Muscat qed jirrikonoxxi li sar żball imma mhux qiegħed jaċċetta li l-iżball hu gravi biżżejjed li jimmerita tkeċċija. L-iskuża fjakka li qed iġib Muscat hi li ħadd ma qiegħed jallega llegalità. Li mhux qiegħed jgħid Muscat hu li dwar allegazzjonijiet ta’ illegalità ma hemmx ħtieġa ta’ intervent tiegħu għax jeżistu mekkaniżmi legali li jipprovdu għal dan l-intervent min-naħa tal-awtoritajiet. L-issue reali, a bażi ta’ dak li hu magħruf s’issa pubblikament hi waħda ta’ imġieba u ta’ serjetà fit-tmexxija [good governance].

Konrad irriżenja [jew ġie mitlub jirriżenja] minn Deputy Leader tal-Partit ftit ġimgħat wara li inħatar f’elezzjoni fejn kien jidher li kien il-magħżul u tellaq waħdu.

Il-mistoqsija inevitabbli hi : għalfejn ma rriżenjax minn kollox? Dak li għamel [li għandu kumpanija fil-Panama] għandu jkun tal-mistħija għalih, għall-partit u għall-pajjiż. Dwar l-istess ħaġa irriżenja l-Prim Ministru tal-Iżlanda kif ukoll Ministru Spanjol. Imma Konrad le, għax skond Joseph, fil-waqt li l-affarijiet setgħu saru aħjar, ma sar xejn ħażin.

Din hi l-qalba tal-problema. Li Joseph Muscat hu amorali. L-etika għalih hi irrelevanti. Jgħodd x’inhu legali jew illegali imma mhux x’inhu tajjeb jew ħażin.

Fortunatament bosta membri tal-grupp parlamentari jaħsbuha differenti minn hekk. Hemm min tkellem fil-pubbliku bħalma għamlu Evarist Bartolo u Godfrey Farrugia. Hemm oħrajn li tkellmu fil-magħluq waqt laqgħa tal-Grupp Parlamentari. Issemmew l-ismijiet tad-Deputat Prim Ministru Louis Grech u tal-Ministri Leo Brincat, Edward Scicluna u George Vella. Hemm ukoll id-dikjarazzjoni ċara ta’ Alfred Sant. Naf li hemm oħrajn. Kollha talbu r-riżenja ta’ Konrad Mizzi.

Il-grupp parlamentari laburista m’huwiex kuntent bis-sitwazzjoni. Huwa konxju li s-skiet tal-Partit Laburista quddiem it-taħwid tal-Gvernijiet tas-snin 70 u 80 kienet raġuni ewlenija li kkundannat lill-partit għal 25 sena fl-Opposizzjoni. Illum jirrealizzzaw li hu kmieni wisq, wara biss tlett snin, biex il-partit laburista jsib ruħu f’dan it-taħwid kollu. Il-ftit li għamel Joseph dwar il-kaz (anke jekk kosmetiku) għamlu biex jipprova jissodisfa lill-grupp parlamentari tiegħu. Imma xorta ħadd ma hu sodisfatt. Dan kien jidher anke nhar il-Ħadd mill-body language ta’ Joseph x’ħin kien qed jindirizza l-folla fuq Kastilja.

Iċ-ċavetta qegħda f’idejn il-grupp parlamentari laburista biex dan iwassal lill-partit forsi jiġi f’sensieh. Is-soċjetà ċivili ukoll għandha responsabbiltà kbira li tibqa’ ssemma’ leħinha biex tkompli tagħmel il-kuraġġ lil dawk li fil-Partit Laburista qed jinsistu li Konrad (u Keith) għandhom jirriżenjaw. L-intellettwali tal-pajjiż hemm bżonn ukoll li joħorġu mill-friża u jiftħu ħalqhom flok ma jillimitaw ruħhom għat-tfesfis fil-widnejn.

Għax il-folol preżenti għad-dimostrazzjonijiet m’humiex biżżejjed biex tirbaħ l-elezzjonijiet. Hemm bżonn ferm iktar minn hekk. L-imġieba tajba tal-Gvern hi element essenzjali. U dan il-Gvern, bħal ta’ qablu qiegħed iġib ruħu ħażin.

Quddiem il-ħmieġ ma tistax tiċċassa

 new parliament building Malta2

Kelliemi wieħed wara l-ieħor min-naħa tal-Membri Parlamentari Laburisti ħassew il-ħtieġa li jfakkruna li huma solidali mal-Prim Ministru fid-dibattitu tal-bieraħ fil-għaxija fil-Parlament, huma u jiddiskutu l-mozzjoni ta’ sfiduċja fil-Gvern.

Dawk li hu magħruf illi internament kienu kritiċi tal-mod kif aġixxa l-Gvern (u l-Partit Laburista) gidmu ilsienhom u minflok dak li qalu internament, daqqew diska oħra b’melodija iktar addattata. Favur il-Gvern, imma ukoll bi ftit inċens għas-serjetà.

Il-Membri Parlamentari tan-naħa tal-Gvern ħadu d-deċiżjoni politika li b’risposta għall-mozzjoni ta’ sfiduċja jsemmu lista twila ta’ affarijiet li għamel il-Gvern. F’numru min dawn il-każi, bla dubju, għandhom raġun. Imma d-diskussjoni ma’ kienitx dwar jekk il-Gvern għamilx tajjeb fid-diversi miżuri li ħa [hemm bosta tajjeb, bħalma hemm ukoll il-ħażin] imma dwar kemm għamel ħażin meta baqa’ tmien ġimgħat ċass fil-każ tal-kumpaniji li Konrad Mizzi u Keith Schembri l-Kasco rriżulta li għandhom fil-Panama.

Ħadd fil-Parlament ma iddefenda dak li għamlu Konrad Mizzi u Keith Schembri l-Kasco. Anzi, Evarist Bartolo qal li mhux biżżejjed li dak li jsir ma jkunx bi ksur tal-liġi imma jeħtieġ li jkun ukoll sewwa. It-tmexxija, żied Varist trid tkun ukoll permezz tal-eżempju. Kumment li irrefera għalih ukoll Joseph Muscat li żied jgħid li n-nies kienu jistennew aħjar. Imma ma tantx instema konvinċenti Joseph Muscat, għax ma tantx jidher li jemmen dak li kien qed jgħid.

Ma kien hemm l-ebda sorpriża la fil-mod kif tkellmu l-Membri Parlamentari u l-anqas fir-riżultat tal-votazzjoni. Fost id-diskorsi li kien fihom x’tomgħod, kien hemm dawk ta’ Marlene Farrugia, ta’ Louis Grech u ta’ Mario de Marco. Marlene tkellmet mill-qalb. Louis u Mario appellaw għas-sens komun u għar-rieda tajba. Imma sfortunatament ma hemmx rieda tajba.

Fl-ebda ħin ma ippretendejt lil dawk fost il-Membri Parlamentari fuq in-naħa tal-Gvern li ma jaqblux mal-imġieba ta’ Konrad Mizzi u Keith Schembri l-Kasco kienu ser ipoġġu ruħhom fuq l-artal tas-sagrifiċċju billi jivvutaw kontra l-Gvern. Il-kontribut tagħhom qed jagħtuh bil-għaqal mod ieħor. S’issa għadhom ma waslux imma għad jistgħu jaslu fil-futur.

L-istorja naturalment ma tieqafx hawn. Għax min hu serju ma jiċċassax quddiem il-ħmieġ. Imma hemm l-obbligu tattiku li jinstab l-iktar mument addattat, mument li ċertament għadu ma wasalx, għax in-numri għad m’humiex hemm! Hu mument li jista’ jasal meta jikber in-numru ta’ dawk li jirrealizzaw internament fil-Partit Laburista illi l-indeċizjoni biex jiffaċċjaw ir-realtà twassal għal konsegwenzi gravi kemm għall-pajjiż kif ukoll għall-partit.

Esperjenza li ta’ qabilhom diġà iffaċċjaw u wasslithom għal 25 sena fl-Opposizzjoni.  Matul dawn it-8 ġimgħat li għaddew il-Partit Laburista jidher li qabad l-istess triq. Diġà hu tard pero għad baqa’ ftit ċans li jibdel ir-rotta. Għalkemm diġà saret ħafna ħsara li mhux faċli li tissewwa.

Il-Grupp Parlamentari Laburista ………..beda jistenbaħ

 muscat_j_signing_election_1st_billboard

Kienet aħbar tajba fl-Independent il-bieraħ li l-laqgħa tal-Grupp Parlamentari Laburista kienet waħda imqanqla. Issemmew diversi ismijiet li insistew għar-riżenja tal-Ministru Konrad Mizzi. Issemmew l-ismijiet ta’ tlett Ministri li qablu li Konrad Mizzi għandu jirriżenja. [Varist Bartolo, Louis Grech u Leo Brincat – dal-għodu l-Malta Today semmew ukoll lil George Vella]

Bla dubju hemm oħrajn li s’issa għad ma kellhomx il-kuraġġ li jsemmgħu leħinhom. Fil-Parlament il-bieraħ beda jiċċaqlaq ukoll Edward Scicluna l-Ministru tal-Finanzi.

Konrad (u miegħu Keith Mizzi) żbalja li mar il-Panama, anke jekk il-kumpanija tiegħu ma laħqitx bdiet topera. Il-fatt biss li mar hemm hu ġustifikazzjoni biex jirriżenja.

Hi issue ta’ imġieba ħażina ta’ Konrad (u Keith).

Qegħdin nitkellmu dwar responsabbiltà politika li Konrad (u Keith) għandu jerfa’ talli fetaħ il-kumpanija fil-Panama.

Fl-aħħar, huwa ta’ inkuraġġiment li anke fil-Grupp Parlamentari Laburista hemm min jaħsibha b’dan il-mod. Fl-aħħar fil-Grupp Parlamentari tal-Partit Laburista hemm min stenbaħ u beda jaħseb b’moħħu. Avolja daqsxejn tard.

Il-ħsara li saret lill-pajjiż hi issa irreparabbli.

 

The citizenship bubble of Malta

Malta golden passport 1

Many issues are involved in the citizenship debate.

The government clearly considers Maltese citizenship as just another commodity, which it can milk. Initially it even removed the transparency rule from the statute book, which rule ensured the publication of the names of all those who acquired Maltese citizenship.

Whereas local public opinion was completely ignored, the Labour government reacted to the international media coverage by announcing that it will reverse its ditching of transparency. Yet its reaction may be too late as the damage done to Malta’s reputation is not easily reversed.

The international media queried the unconventional methods used to generate the finance required by the Maltese state.

Within EU circles it is clear that issues concerning citizenship are a competence reserved to member states. Yet the  Schengen dimension of EU citizenship cannot be ignored.

The citizenship scheme is attractive because, through it, the prospective citizen attains freedom of movement within the EU.

It is a very serious concern which can only be adequately addressed if the due diligence process is foolproof.

The problem is that, to date, the Maltese Government has already signalled that it is not that much concerned by the impact of persons who are associated with a fraudulent past, a case in point being government advisor Shiv Nair who is listed permanently on the World’s Bank blacklist.

Another recent example is China Communications Construction Company Limited, also on the World Bank blacklist. This Chinese Company will carry out (gratis) the feasibility study for a Malta-Gozo bridge on the basis of the very friendly relations between the two republics, we were told. (I had the impression that countries had no friends, they just have interests!)

This follows the earlier selection of Lahmeyer International as an advisor to the Gonzi Government. Lahmeyer International too was on the World Bank’s  blacklist.

Past performance indicates that due diligence is not an area in which the Republic of Malta has excelled.

Is it a sale or is it an investment? In fact it is a bit of both. It is surely an unconventional way of raising finance. Its major characteristic is that it focuses on the short term benefits and ignores the long term impacts.  The selling price can give immediate results: it can finance the start-up of specific projects. Whether these will be successful is another matter altogether. The impacts of an investment scheme will take more time, its a long term exercise.

The method of payment selected for the purchase of citizenship is clearly based on the St Kitts and Nevis model in the Caribbean.  In St Kitts and Nevis, payment for citizenship is received by the Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation and, subsequently, invested. The investment made is not at the discretion of the applicant for citizenship but a decision by the country dishing out the citizenship.

Public opinion considers that citizenship should be acquired through establishing solid roots in the country. Establishing minimum residence criteria and committment to the economic development of Malta through investment and job creation are essential criteria to be linked to the award of economic citizenship.

Government has done well, even though late in the day, to declare that it will reverse its secrecy stance. The declaration by Deputy Prime Minister Louis Grech that the regulations being drafted to implement government’s proposal will ensure that the names of those granted citizenship under the new legislation are public is welcome. This new position adopted by the government links with and reinforces the public committments made on the need for more robust due diligence.

It is, however, clear  that regulations alone will not suffice to entrench transparency in the citizenship scheme.  Amendments will also be necessary to the main legislation, in particular to remove reporting restrictions imposed by Parliament on the regulator.

The citizenship debate was also characteristed by the radical position taken by the Nationalist Party that, once back in office, it would not only take steps to scrap the new citizenship scheme but that it would, moreover, withdraw citizenship granted under the provisions of the scheme.

The Attorney General has advised the government that the PN’s proposal would be unconstitutional and would infringe human rights. Such advice was confirmed by the Dean of the Faculty of Law and by constitutional expert Ian Refalo.

The PN has declared that it is in receipt of legal advice reinforcing its position on the withdrawal of citizenship granted.

Whilst the Prime Minister has published the advice received from the Attorney General, the Leader of the Opposition has failed to follow suit. The Leader of the Opposition needs to be consistent. He cannot chastise the government for being secretive whilst simultaneously withholding important information from the public. It is not just the government which needs to be transparent.

The availability of both government and opposition to meet and discuss possible modifications to the citizenship scheme is welcome. Hopefully the wider national interest will prevail.

published in The Times Saturday, 23 November 2013

Id-demokrazija tal-Labour …………… bit-telefon ta’ Joseph

telphone 3

Id-deċiżjoni tal-Gvern li jneħħi l-obbligu mill-liġi taċ-ċittadinanza illi jkunu ippubblikati l-ismijiet tal-persuni kollha li jingħataw iċ-ċittadinanza għamlet ħsara kbira lill-pajjiż.

Il-ħsara saret mid-deċiżjoni innifisha u min-nuqqas tal-Gvern li jkun sensittiv għall-opinjoni pubblika f’Malta stess. Ħsara li ġiet riflessa fil-kummenti fil-media internazzjonali.

Il-kritika li saret fil-pubbliku minn diversi kien obbligu. Kien nuqqas tal-Gvern li injora din il-kritika għax dehrlu li kellu s-saħħa li jirrombla minn fuq kulħadd.

Issa l-Gvern iċċaqlaq. Louis Grech Deputat Prim Ministru qal li ċempillu l-Prim Ministru Joseph Muscat u qallu bil-posizzjoni l-ġdida.

Possibli li l-Partit Laburista jaċċetta dan il-mod kif jittieħdu d-deċiżjonijiet? Dan hu l-mod kif jiddeċiedi il-Labour? Jiddeċiedi Joseph u jikkomunika d-deċiżjoni  tiegħu bit-telefon. Possibli li dan hu l-livell ta’ diskussjoni politika fil-Partit Laburista?

Sal-lum jiena kont qed inqis li l-liġi taċ-ċittadinanza hu kaz ta’ġudizzju politiku (tal-Labour) żbaljat. Imma issa jidher li hu ħafna agħar minn hekk. Donnu li fil-Labour Party ta’ Malta wieħed jiddeċiedi u l-oħrajn ibaxxu rashom wara li jirċievu telefonata.

Il-ħsara li saret hi kbira. Hu ċar kif il-Labour jiddeċiedi: bit-telfon. Imma agħar minn hekk ġiet imtappna r-reputazzjoni ta’ Malta. Din hi ħsara kbira li l-effetti tagħha għad irridu inħossuhom.

AIR MALTA : a reminder is always useful

 
 
The Times Logo

Thursday, February 17, 2011 ,

by

Michael Mallia

Air Malta: The politicians’ milch cow

Finally, the Air Malta pigeons, whether leaded or otherwise, are coming home to roost. And during their flight over the years, starting from the early 1970s to date, we, the public, have had to pay the price to nurture what has been also a prime politicians’ cow, serving as one of the major founts of political (and vote-getting) patronage.

Yes. it is the politicians and not its employees who made the airline into what it has sadly become, verging on the brink of extinction. The concept of setting it up was very sound and far-sighted, indeed one major political plus. But the subsequent “use” of the airline as a politicians’ milch cow eroded the originally very sound idea.

I was asked into Air Malta’s board of directors in July 1987 by the late Joseph Fenech, then responsible for the airline. The 1987 board, chaired like most of those before it by Albert Mizzi, had to deal with two major political scandals. One was that some 250 or so employees (totally unrequired) were taken on by Minister Wistin Abela in the run up to the 1987 election. Two was the fact that a substantial number of the lowest level employees were given promotions in the same 1987 electoral run-up. This was done on the strength of a flimsy excuse for an interview, in each case, where employees were asked the equivalent of name, rank and serial number and, subsequently, promoted.

Just stop and add up what the 250 odd extras employed in early 1987 as well as those promoted at the same time have amounted to in cost and your mind starts to boggle.

But there is more, much more.

First of all, our 1987 board could perforce only do justice by those not promoted pre-1987 elections, of various hues and colours, by upgrading them to the level of those irregularly promoted. Even in so doing we found massive resistance from the resident trade union supposed to defend the rights of and rectify the wrongs and injustices done to employees.

As a board we also found something, if my memory serves me right, like 1,420 employees and we determined not to let this number rise despite substantial political pressure to the contrary. When we were removed in 1992 I believe we more or less left the employee level around the same we had found it; believe me a remarkable achievement!

I must add that, in 1987, I was one of the persons who was stating the airline should do with half of its workforce if it were to survive and this is quite close to the figure being mooted today – of about 700! I got to this figure simply by looking at the operations of other airlines of the time, such as Air Europe. Obviously, in those better times a gradual workforce reduction would have been planned.

In 1992, the mathematics started to take off again. The board of 1992-1997, chaired by Joseph N. Tabone, left the airline with some 1,750 employees, another massive increase of 300 employees plus. Now work out the figures for that too!

Then comes along the next board following the Labour Party electoral victory of 1996, chaired by Louis Grech, now of Euro parliamentary fame. This chairman was retained by the Nationalist government of 1998 till the switch of Air Malta minister, from Josef Bonnici to Austin Gatt. Some shocking financial remuneration numbers came out at this point of ministerial change, a far cry from the few hundred of Malta liri we received per annum as board members (which I ensured were paid to a charity). And, in Mr Grech’s tenure, Air Malta’s workforce rose to over 2,000 employees. Now work that out too!

The end result: an airline that should have functioned with some 600 to 700 employees ended up with a workforce of over 2,000 employees! Now that is really something.

Well done to all concerned!