Is the abrogative referendum under threat ?

article 14. Referenda Act

 

Until Alternattiva Demokratika announced the abrogative referendum campaign  on spring hunting almost two years ago, few Maltese citizens were aware that they had such a right.  Now that this right has been used for the first time since it has been placed on the statute book, it is apparently under threat.

The hunters’ lobby is now aiming at curtailing the right to an abrogative referendum. The hunters maintain that when the Referenda Act was applied in trying to abrogate the regulations permitting spring hunting it was aiming at their rights – “minority rights” they said.

Hunters had presented these same arguments though their representatives for the consideration of the Constitutional Court, which shot them down last January. In fact the Constitutional Court in paragraphs 51 to 54 of its 24-page decision, considers this very point. The hunters, said the Constitutional Court, claim that their rights are minority rights. However no potential breach of a provision of the Constitution of Malta or of the European Convention of Human Rights have been indicated in their submissions. The Constitutional Court goes on to say the following :

“It is right to emphasise that in implementing majority rule the rights of the minority should be respected. However this respect is not attained, as suggested by the Federation [FKNK] by obstructing people from expressing themselves through a referendum.”  [Tassew illi d-dritt tal-maġġoranza għandu jitwettaq b’rispett lejn id-dritt tal-minoranza, iżda dan ir-rispett ma jinkisibx billi, kif trid il-Federazzjoni, il-poplu ma jitħalliex isemma’ leħnu f’referendum.]

This same argument  was also the subject of a petition to Parliament organised by the hunters’ lobby and presented in Parliament by Parliamentary Secretary Michael Falzon some months ago.  In recent days, comments have been made indicating that shortly we may be hearing of the government’s reactions to this petition. These reactions will most probably be in the form of proposals for amendments to the Referenda Act of 1973, in particular amendments to the provisions regulating the holding of an abrogative referendum – provisions which were originally approved by Parliament in 1996 and brought in force in 1998.

The provisions of  the Referenda Act in Malta providing for the holding of an abrogative referendum are already very restrictive.  From what has been stated, hunters want such provisions to be even more restrictive.  In this sense they have already made public a proposal that a definite time window within which signatures for an abrogative referendum have to be collected has to be established.  In Italian legislation, for example, there exists a 90-day window within which the collection of signatures has to be carried out. Such a time window may be a reasonable proposal within the Italian legal system, but then in Italy the number of voter signatures required to trigger the abrogative referendum process is proportionately much lower than that required in Malta.

The number of signatures required to kick-start the abrogative referendum process in Malta is 10 per cent of the registered voters. This currently stands at slightly under 34,000 signatures. In Italy, by contrast, half-a-million signatures – or the consent of five regional councils – is required. The number  of signatures required in Italy amount to approximately one per cent of the electorate, meaning that the corresponding requirement in Malta is ten times as much!

I will not speculate over how the government will seek to translate the hunters’ petition into legislation. I have limited myself to one specific proposal.

It is still unclear as to what type of amendments to the Referenda Act will be submitted by government. One thing is, however, very clear:  we need to keep our eyes wide open to ensure that our rights are not reduced.

The abrogative referendum is an important tool in our democratic society, even though it has been made use of only once in its 19-year existence.  Let us hope that government will not succumb to pressures to have it diluted or removed.

published in The Malta Indpendent on Sunday : 19 April 2015

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Taking back control

turtle dove

 

Throughout this Sunday morning the Electoral Commission will supervise the counting of the votes cast  in yesterday’s  spring hunting abrogative referendum. The first reliable projections of the result should be available at around  10.00am with a final result early in the afternoon.

Irrespective of the result, this is history in the making as, for the first time ever, Maltese voters will be directly taking a decision on environmental policy. They will decide whether spring hunting in the Maltese islands will be consigned to the history books.

This is the end of a two year journey that began in  April 2013 when the first steps were taken to form a broad-based anti-spring hunting Coalition of  environmental NGOs together with Alternattiva Demokratika-The Green Party in Malta. Initially, Alternattiva Demokratika’s initiative was met with scepticism: there was widespread fear of confronting the parliamentary political parties which had created the current spring hunting mess.

Constructive dialogue with both the Maltese authorities as well as with the EU Commission had failed to yield results, yet when push came to shove there was still considerable reluctance to think outside the box.  This mess could not be cleared by applying the same thinking that led to its creation. The spring hunting mess was created by successive governments that were held to ransom by the hunting lobby. There was only one solution: government was the problem so it could never be part of the solution – civil society had to take back control of the decision-making process to have order restored.

This was going to be a mammoth task. The fact that the abrogative referendum tool had never been used since its introduction in 1998 understandably added to the reluctance.

As late as 18 June 2013, some environmental NGOs were still hoping that the Maltese Government, or the EU Commission itself, would act in a reasonable manner and stop spring hunting.  In fact, reports in the press at that time were speculating on then EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik initiating an inquiry into spring hunting in Malta.

Early in the day, few people were conscious of the empowerment potential of the abrogative referendum. Almost none of the eNGOs was aware that the abrogative referendum process is independent  of government or Parliament.  Some eNGOs  supported the initiative almost immediately but it was an uphill struggle to convince others, taking weeks and a great deal of patience until practically all eNGOs were on board.

The collection of signatures to initiate the process for calling this abrogative referendum was launched on 10 August 2013 at Il-Buskett. Initially the uptake was very slow, as voters took some time to understand that this was no ordinary petition.

Then, on 23 and 24 October 2013, one of the worst massacres of wild birds in Malta took place. It is best described in a Birdlife Press release which stated  as follows :

“Despite the presence of six BirdLife Malta teams and as many ALE units in the Buskett area this morning at least one Booted Eagle, Ajkla tal-Kalzetti, was shot down inside Buskett Gardens as it left its roost this morning. Several others, including Short-toed and Booted Eagles, were shot at and many more were seen carrying injuries after last night’s shooting spree by hunters in Dingli, Buskett, Girgenti, Siġġiewi and Zebbuġ.

This morning’s second confirmed victim was a Short-toed Eagle, Ajkla Bajda, shot down in Gozo.

The shootings follow what can only be described as a massacre yesterday evening, after more than 50 eagles were seen by birdwatchers counting passing migrating birds in their regular watch-point above the wooded valley of Buskett. At least 10 eagles are known to have been shot down and many more targeted by dozens of hunters in locations around Buskett. Several as yet unconfirmed reports were also received from members of the public who saw eagles and other large birds of prey being shot at and shot down.”

This marked the turning point in signature collection as within ten days of the massacre of these eagles the required number of signatures had been received . The verification process was commenced immediately and the petition was finalised for submission to the Electoral Commission.

By July 2014, the Electoral Commission had concluded its vetting of the signatures submitted and six months later, in January this year, the Constitutional Court threw out the hunters’ objections.

For the past three months we have been actively campaigning to drive the message home: spring is the time when birds are on the way to their breeding grounds. They need to be protected. This message has been conveyed through the different spokesman and women ambassadors who, together with hundreds of volunteers, have done wonders to ensure that practically every voter is aware the he or she has the power to take a decision in order to clean up the mess which Parliament and the government have created over the years.

Today we will know what the decision is.  Saving any last minute surprises, it is clear that after today’s result Maltese civil society will cherish its newly discovered empowerment. Tomorrow, Monday, will not be just the start of a new week.  Hopefully, it be the start of a new era of ever-vigilant NGOs, now armed with the knowledge that they can hold government to account for inadequate legislation whenever they consider that this is necessary.

The abrogative referendum is the tool through which civil society can bring government to order. Today’s result will just confirm whether it can make use of it.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 11 April 2015

Il-Ġimgħa 10 t’April hu jum ir-riflessjoni dwar ir-referendum abrogattiv

turtle doves just shot         submission of referendum signature requests

 

Qed nikteb dan l-artiklu ftit qabel ma jibda l-jum tal-Ġimgħa. Jum ir-riflessjoni. Nirriflettu dwar dak li smajna matul l-aħħar ġranet, ġimgħat u xhur.

Kif wasalna s’hawn?

Wara snin twal li fihom il-kaċċaturi mexxew lill-Gvern Malti minn imnieħru kellhom ikunu l-firem ta’ 41494 il-ċittadin Malti li poġġew il-kaċċa fir-rebbiegħa fuq l-agenda nazzjonali. Dan sar billi talbu li jsir referendum abrogattiv biex jispiċċaw ir-regolamenti li jippermettu l-kaċċa tal-gamiem u tas-summien fir-rebbiegħa.

Il-kaċċaturi u l-għaqdiet tagħhom, kif kellhom kull dritt li jagħmlu, marru l-Qorti Kostituzzjonali bit-tama li jsibu x-xagħra fl-għaġina u b’hekk iżommu r-referendum abrogattiv milli jsir.

Il-Qorti Kostituzzjonali f’deċiżjoni li tat f’Jannar li għadda qalet li ma hemm l-ebda raġuni li tista’ żżomm lir-referendum milli jsir. Fuq dan il-blog ktibt sitt artikli li fihom spjegati fil-qosor dak li qalet il-Qorti. Dawn l-artikli tista taqrahom hawn : 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 u 6.  Jekk trid tista’ taqra ukoll id-deċiżjoni sħiħa tal-Qorti Kostituzzjonali hawn.

Fis-sentenza tal-Qorti Kostituzzjonali għandkom spjegat l-istorja kollha f’dawn is-siegħat ta’ skiet u riflessjoni.

Nerġgħu nitkellmu wara l-10.00pm tas-Sibt meta tieqaf il-votazzjoni.

Ftakru ħaġa waħda : huwa l-vot LE biss li permezz tiegħu tista’ twaqqaf il-kaċċa fir-rebbiegħa.

A future for the birds

sample ballot

 

Next Saturday we will be voting to give a future to the wild birds that migrate to Malta. By removing from Malta’s statute book the legal notice that permits the spring hunting of quail and turtle dove, Maltese voters will bring Malta in line with its obligations.

Nowhere does the Conservation of Wild Birds Directive of the European Union or Malta’s treaty of adhesion to the European Union permit spring hunting as a sport. The basic rules in the Directive, in fact,  prohibit the killing of wild birds in spring. The only permissible exceptions are related to aviation safety, the protection of public health and safety, and the prevention of serious damage to livestock, agricultural crops, fisheries and water as well as the protection of flora and fauna. Hunting as a sport does not feature anywhere in the list of reasons as a result of which a derogation from the duties spelt out in the EU Directive is permissible. It is a Directive that deals with the conservation of wild birds and not with hunting!

The Conservation of Wild Birds Directive of the European Union has been an integral part of Maltese law since – and as a result of – Malta’s  accession to the EU in 2004. It expressly states that EU Member States along migratory bird routes have a far greater responsibility for the conservation of wild birds. This  responsibility is very clearly spelled out in article 7(4) of the Directive, where it is stated that : “In the case of migratory species, [Member States] shall see in particular that the species to which hunting regulations apply are not hunted during their period of reproduction or during their return to their rearing grounds.” This applies to all bird migratory routes throughout  EU territory without exception.

Prohibiting spring hunting is not a question of numbers. It is not an issue of establishing a number of birds that can be shot without such a shoot-out having an impact on the bird population. It is an issue of principle. And there should be no playing around with principles. Wild birds require protection during the time of year when they are most vulnerable – in the period leading up to, and during,  the breeding season, that is spring.

Besides, the populations of both quail and turtle dove do not have a favourable conservation status in the EU and, as a result, are subject to  management plans. The aim of these management plans is to restore the species to a favourable conservation status. The EU management plan for quail, for example, specifically states that “Spring hunting that overlaps with the return migration or the start of breeding should not be permitted under any circumstances.”

The EU Management Plan for turtle dove, on the other hand, states: “of particular concern is hunting during the spring migration, which is practiced outside the EU and (illegally) in some other Mediterranean countries.”

This is the subject of the referendum: the future of wild birds in Malta in the spring.

There are, however, other issues that will be decided as a result of the 11 April referendum. Banning spring hunting on Maltese territory will remove a major obstacle which is impeding  access to the countryside to our families because of the dangers and arrogance of the men with the guns.  It will put the bullies roaming the countryside in the spring in their proper place.

This bullying is still going on, because in recent days we have had one of the leaders of the hunting lobby stating that, in the event of a victory for the NO vote in the referendum, the abolition of spring hunting might be contested. It comes as no surprise that the hunting lobby has no respect for the democratic will of Malta’s voters. Its members have repeatedly been sending clear signals that they are allergic to the democratic process. For years, they have  been holding  the parliamentary political parties to ransom. They have also presented a petition requesting the practical abolition of the right to call an abrogative referendum. Fortunately, the government had the good sense to ignore that petition!

A No vote on 11 April is hence also a vote on democracy. It will give a clear message to everyone of the ability of Maltese voters to decide. In the process it will liberate the parliamentary political parties from the clutches of their blackmailers.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday: 5 April 2015

L-FKNK: tad-daħq, kieku mhux tal-biki

referendums

 

 

Tal-IVA isselfu ritratt tiegħi u Arnold li użajna fil-kampanja għall-Parlament Ewropewf’Mejju 2014. Qed ixerrdu riklam li fih qed jgħidu “Tħallihomx jużawk”. Iktar minn hekk wieħed jismu Jonathan  Bonnici għoġbu jżejjen  ir-ritratt tiegħi u ta’ Arnold bil-kumment “ma telawx fil gvern u jridu jiggvernaw bir-referendums! Thallijomx”.

Ilna nafu li l-lobby tal-kaċċa huma kontra l-kunċett tar-referendum. Għax jidhrilhom li hu iktar faċli tagħmilha ta’ bully ma partit politiku u tieħu minn għandu dak li trid milli tagħmel l–argument tiegħek mal-poplu u tbaxxi rasek għar-rieda tiegħu f’referendum.

Ir-referendum li jsir bħala riżultat tal-ġbir tal-firem huwa għodda demokratika li f’Malta ilu magħna 19-il sena imma qatt ma intuża.

Dan id-dritt demokratiku ser nagħmlu użu minnu għall-ewwel darba nhar il-11 t’April .

Bir-referendum ma tiggvernax! Imma bir-referendum (abrogattiv) hu possibli li l-poplu Malti jibdel id-deċiżjoni żbaljata li ħadu l-Gvernijiet Maltin dwar il-kaċċa fir-rebbiegħa.

Nhar il-11 t’April il-poplu Malti jiddeċiedi bil-vot tiegħu. U kulħadd ibaxxi rasu.

Joseph u l-kaċċa: l-għasafar tagħna lkoll

Joseph Muscat.Qala.220315

Il-bieraħ fil-Qala Joseph Muscat fetħilha dwar kif għandu qalbu ġunġliena. Għandu qalbu taħarqu għall-kaċċaturi. Hemm bżonn iktar rispett u tolleranza qal, lejn il-kaċaturi! Xejn ma jimporta għal Joseph li bosta mill-kaċċaturi m’għandhom rispett lejn xejn u lejn ħadd. Għandhom ukoll tolleranza zero fil-konfront ta’ min ma jaqbilx magħhom.

Imma wara li qal dan kollu Joseph Muscat irrikonoxxa li hu qiegħed fil-minoranza u ilmenta li mhux sewwa illi minħabba l-arja li rabbew uħud mill-bulijiet li hawn jiġru mas-saqajn ser “jeħel kulħadd”.

Joseph għad jeħtieġlu jifhem li r-rispett għandu jintwera lejn kulħadd, mhux lejn il-kaċċaturi biss. L-ewwel rispett li nistennew hu rispett lejn in-natura fl-iktar mument li din hi dgħajfa. Ir-referendum tal-11 t’April hu fil-fatt dwar dan ir-rispett li hu ferm nieqes.  Ir-referendum ifittex li kulħadd jirrispetta lin-natura billi l-kaċċa fir-rebbiegħa tieqaf darba għal dejjem.

Min irid ir-rispett jeħtieġ li l-ewwel jirrispetta. Min irid li jkun ittollerat jeħtieġlu illi l-ewwel jittollera. Huma l-bulijiet li jeħtieġ li juru ftit rispett u tolleranza lejn min ma jaqbilx magħhom. Dawn il-bulijiet jinkludu uħud minn dawk li jċapċpu lil Joseph. Ġieli jgħajjruh ukoll, bħalma għamlu l-Belt xi xhur ilu.

Imma dawn tant draw jagħmlu li jridu illi jippretendu li l-anqas ir-referendum ma jsir!

Ir-rispett u t-tolleranza jeħtieġ li Joseph jipprietka dwarhom ftit iktar. Imma dawn fil-prattika jfissru ħaġa waħda: l-għasafar tagħna lkoll, mhux tagħhom biss.

Għalhekk ser nivvutaw LE nhar il-11 t’April .

The bullying continues

turtle doves just shot

 

Earlier this week the Ornis Committee recommended that the next spring hunting season should be opened. The government  obliged on  Thursday by declaring that, subject to the result of the abrogative referendum, the spring  hunting season for turtle dove and quail will open on Tuesday 14 April and will close on Thursday 30 April.

The Ornis Committee is appointed by the government in terms of regulation 10(2) of the Conservation of Wild Birds Regulations. Its role is one of advising the Minister for the Environment on various aspects relative to the implementation of the regulations.

The Ornis Committee decided to recommend in favour of the opening of the spring hunting season by three votes in favour with a solitary vote against. The hunters’ representatives on the Ornis Committee voted in favour, whilst those from Birdlife voted against the opening of the spring hunting season. The additional support for spring hunting came from two “independent” members appointed by the government on the Ornis Committee. The chairman and the MEPA representative both  abstained from voting.

Why all this fuss?

It is because on the eve of an abrogative referendum the recommendation is unethical. In addition, it flies straight in the face of scientific evidence which, without a shadow of doubt, proves (if any such proof was ever required)  that the hunting of turtle dove and quail in spring is unsustainable.

The evidence comes from official reports released by the Ministry for Sustainable Development, the Environment and Climate Change, confirming that both quail and turtle dove numbers are at an all time low across Europe. The reports further show that the numbers of quail migrating over Malta are actually higher in autumn than in spring, negating two common arguments made use of by those lobbing in favour of  spring hunting.

The official report compiled by the Wild Birds Regulation Unit on the conservation status of quail and turtle dove gives the most recent data on the two species, showing that the turtle dove have even declined again in recent years. A decrease of a further three per cent since 2012 brings the total reduction in their European population to 77% since 1980.

This report confirms that both quail and turtle dove are in decline across Europe, with their numbers at an all time low. It therefore doesn’t make sense to shoot them in spring when they are on their way to breed, as their numbers don’t get a chance to recover.

Malta is the only country in Europe to shoot migrating turtle dove and quail on their way to breed … and this just for pleasure. Official scientific reports now make it clear that these species are in trouble across Europe and we need to give them a chance. There is no justification for spring hunting

A second report, with the results of a government commissioned study on the migration of turtle dove and quail during the autumn 2014 hunting season, was published on 2 March. One of the arguments for spring shooting is that hunters claim not enough of the birds pass over Malta in autumn for them to shoot. Yet the independent study shows that more quail actually migrate through Malta during the autumn season than in spring.

This scientific study concludes that the numbers of quail flying over Malta during the autumn hunting season are actually higher than in spring, completely undermining one of the hunters’ arguments for a spring hunting season.

The report concluded that 45,683 quail and 7,956 turtle dove migrated over Malta during September and October 2014, during an autumn hunting season.  In spring, hunters are allowed to shoot a total of 16,000 of both species combined because they have argued that they do not have enough birds to shoot in autumn.

Faced with this scientific evidence, which confirms what we have known all along, the recommendation of the Ornis Committee does not make sense. It can only be interpreted as a last stand of defiance. Hunting sympathisers still believe that they can bully their way through.

Voters have only one way of stopping this bullying: voting NO on 11 April.

 

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday 15 March 2015

Permezz tal-arti napprezzaw in-natura u nsaħħu d-demokrazija

Giovanni Bonello.130315

 

Id-diskors li għamel il-bieraħ l-Imħallef Giovanni Bonello intlaqa’ tajjeb minn kulħadd. Id-diskors ta’ Vanni Bonello kien ċelebrazzjoni tad-demokrazija permezz tal-arti u l-apprezzament tan-natura.

Tkellem fit-tul dwar kif permezz tal-arti nistgħu napprezzaw iktar in-natura. Kienet opportunità ukoll biex sellem il-memorja ta’ Maurice Caruana Curran li miet iktar kmieni din il-ġimgħa. L-Imħallef Maurice Caruana Curran kien wieħed mill-pijunieri f’Malta tal-attiviżmu ambjentali bit-twaqqif 50 sena ilu ta’ Din l-Art Ħelwa.

Giovanni Bonello emfasizza l-importanza tar-rwol tas-soċjeta ċivili li bl-użu tal-għodda demokratika tar-referendum abrogattiv qed tieħu lura l-poter li tiddeċiedi mingħand il-politiċi li tul is-snin kienu mhedda u rikattati kontinwament mil-lobby tal-kaċċaturi.

Vanni Bonello kien imdawwar mill-artisti li b’ġenerosita kbira irregalaw il-pitturi tagħhom lill-kampanja kontra l-kaċċa fir-rebbiegħa . Kien f’waqtu ukoll għalhekk il-kumment ta’ Vanni Bonello illi l-ebda delizzju m’hu mhedded mir-referendum abrogattiv.

Baqa’ ftit ieħor. 4 ġimgħat oħra u nivvutaw.  Grazzi lil kulħadd tal-impenn. Għax il-messaġġ qiegħed jasal.

Il-ħrafa tal-kaċċaturi

 

bird votingTorca.011215

 

F’dawn l-ewwel ħmistax tal-kampanja dwar ir-Referendum tal-11 t’April biex tispiċċa l-kaċċa fir-Rebbiegħa spikkat il-ħrafa dwar dik li qed tissejjaħ “theddida” għal delizzji oħra.

Fir-referendum abrogattiv tal-11 t’April ser inkunu mitlubin jekk naqblux mar-regolamenti li jippermettu l-kaċċa fir-Rebbiegħa. IVA tfisser li taqbel, u LE tfisser li ma taqbilx. Jekk jirbaħ l-IVA nibqgħu bil-kaċċa fir-Rebbiegħa, jekk jirbaħ il-LE, il-kaċċa fir-Rebbiegħa tispiċċa.  Dan iseħħ minħabba li rebħa għal-LE tkun tfisser li r-regolamenti li jippermettu l-kaċċa fir-Rebbiegħa jispiċċaw. Ir-regolamenti l-oħra kollha dwar il-kaċċa jibqgħu hemm. L-effett tar-referendum abrogattiv ikun biss fuq il-kaċċa fir-rebbiegħa li ma tkunx tista’ terġa’ tiftaħ b’effett immedjat.

L-għaqdiet tal-kaċċaturi qed jgħidu li wara dan ir-referendum ser ikun imiss delizzji oħra. Din hi ħrafa kbira.

Ħafna mid-delizzji huma regolati b’regolamenti/liġijiet li jispjegaw min għandu l-awtorità li joħroġ permessi jew liċenzji dwar kif dak id-delizzju tista’ tipprattikah. Referendum abrogattiv hu proposta eżatta biex titħassar liġi jew regolamenti jew parti minnhom. Jekk referendum abrogattiv jgħaddi hi biss il-liġi jew regolamenti li jkunu imsemmija fil-mistoqsija li fuqha jivvutaw in-nies li ma tibqax fis-seħħ.

Ħa nagħti żewġ eżempji.

Il-logħob tan-nar, il-manifattura u l-ħażna tiegħu, huma regolati mill-Ordinanza dwar l-Esplożivi u mir-Regolamenti dwar Kontroll ta’ Xogħolijiet tan-Nar u Esplożivi Oħra.

Kemm l-Ordinanza (artiklu 3) kif ukoll ir-regolamenti (regolament 4) jipprovdu li ħadd ma jista’ jipproduċi logħob tan-nar jew jaħraq xogħol tan-nar jekk ma jkollux liċenzja li joħroġ il-Kummissarju tal-Pulizija. Ir-regolamenti jipprovdu ukoll għat-taħriġ neċessarju qabel ma tista’ tagħmel eżami biex il-Kummissarju tal-Pulizija jiddeċiedi jekk għandux joħroġ liċenzja. Hemm ukoll il-ħtieġa ta’ liċenzja għal kamra fejn jinħadem in-nar.

Referendum abrogattiv dwar il-logħob tan-nar jista’ jsir biss biex jitneħħew dawn l-artikli fil-liġi (l-Ordinanza) u fir-regolamenti. Il-konsegwenza jekk referendum bħal dan jgħaddi tkun li ħadd ma jkollu bżonn liċenzja, u allura kulħadd ikun jista’ jagħmel li jrid. Nafu li l-iskop tar-regolamenti u l-liġijiet dwar il-logħob tan-nar qegħdin hemm biex jgħinu fil-protezzjoni tal-ħajja u s-saħħa, in partikolari  ta’ dawk li jaħdmu il-logħob tan-nar.

L-istess jgħodd għaż-żwiemel.

Il-Kodiċi tal-Liġijiet tal-Pulizija jistabilixxi li ħadd ma jista’ jżomm żiemel sakemm ma jkollux liċenzja. L-Ordinanza dwar Imħatri f’tiġrijiet tittratta il-post fejn isiru it-tiġrijiet (racecourses). Tipprovdi li l-Ministru tal-Pulizija jista’ jagħti (jew jirtira) liċenzji.

Referendum abrogattiv dwar iż-żwiemel ikun jista’ jsir biss biex jitneħħew dawn l-artikli fil-liġi. Il-konsegwenza jekk referendum abrogattiv bħal dan jgħaddi tkun li ħadd ma jkollu bżonn liċenzja, u allura kulħadd ikun jista’ jagħmel li jrid.

Il-parti l-kbira tad-delizzji l-oħra huma fl-istess sitwazzjoni.

Fi ftit kliem ma jistgħux jinġabru l-firem biex nivvutaw favur jew kontra xi delizzju partikolari. L-anqas kontra l-kaċċa m’hu permess li jsir dan għax il-firem li inġabru huma biss dwar id-deroga għall-kaċċa fir-rebbiegħa.

Hemm imbagħad delizzji li dwarhom m’hemm l-ebda regola jew liġi u fil-fatt dwar dawn ħadd ma jitlob permess jew liċenzja biex jipprattikhom. Dwar kull delizzju li m’hemmx ligi/regolamenti, ma jista’ jsir l-ebda referendum abrogattiv.

Hi għalhekk ħrafa li jingħad illi jista’ jsir xi referendum biex jinqata’ xi delizzju. Min qed jgħidilkom mod ieħor qed jgħaddikom biż-żmien.

L-argumenti dwar ir-referendum ma jintrebħux bil-ħrejjef, iżda bil-fatti.

 

ippubblikat fit-Torċa, l-Ħadd 1 ta’ Frar 2015

 

 

11 April 2015 : Empowerment Day

empowerment

The spring hunting referendum called as result of a citizens’ petition and scheduled for 11 April 2015 will protect birds. It will honour a basic requirement spelled out in the EU’s Birds Directive, which insists on this protection along birds’ migratory routes on the way to their breeding grounds.

The spring hunting referendum signifies different things to different persons. It is first and foremost a concrete step in addressing a bird conservation issue which has been ignored throughout the years, despite Malta’s international obligations. It will also facilitate access to the countryside for one and all throughout spring. In addition it is also a democratic tool through which civil society stands up to the countryside bullies. When all three achievements are attained, and eventually taken for granted, there will be one lasting consequence: the spring hunting referendum will be the defining moment of empowerment of Maltese civil society.  It will be the gift of present day civil society to future generations.

When addressing Parliament on the abrogative referendum on 12 January, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat recognised this fact and declared that the dominant role of politicians in decision taking is changing (“naħseb li bħala politiċi irridu nifhmu li l-proċess li wassal għal dan ir-referendum huwa sinjal taż-żminijiet. Huwa sinjal li d-dominanza tal-politiċi fit-teħid tad-deċiżjonijiet qed tonqos.”)

On the 11 April civil society in Malta will come of age.

11 April will be the point when civil society realises that, at the end of the day, it is the source of all authority in decision taking structures. 11 April can be the day when this authority is  made use of to rectify past mistaken decisions.  In so doing, civil society in Malta will be giving notice to one and all that ultimately the common good can and will prevail.

When the petition calling for the abrogative referendum on spring hunting was doing the rounds, some thought that it was just another petition, which would be forgotten as soon as it was submitted. However, when the Constitutional Court delivered its decision on the 9 January giving the green light to the first abrogative referendum in the Maltese islands, the message was received clearly by one and all.

11 April means that change is possible. Moreover it also means that change is not dependent on general election results. The dormant authority of civil society is being reactivated.

Last Wednesday, a group of jurists led by former European Court of Human Rights Judge Giovanni Bonello explained to the press that the spring hunting referendum posed no threat to any hobby. In practically all cases which were listed in a study released by the group of jurists, it is evident that the abrogative referendum itself cannot even be applied to the said hobbies. Most hobbies are unregulated, meaning that there is no legislation of relevance to abrogate. In this respect the abrogative referendum procedure is not applicable!

As regards other hobbies like horse racing, the manufacture and letting off of fireworks and off-roading, existing laws and regulations specify who the licensing authorities are, and the rules to be followed. Subjecting these rules to an abrogative referendum would mean that these activities would be unfettered by regulations, if a hypothetical referendum were approved. That could not in any way be construed as a threat to such hobbies or pastimes.

The jurists were replying to the scaremongering campaign of the hunting lobby.

It is pretty obvious that the hunting lobby is not enthusiastic about citizens being empowered to call an abrogative referendum and decide, where applicable, contentious issues. They prefer to discuss issues behind closed doors, where they can lobby and barter their votes for concessions. This is what they did throughout the years and this is the essential background to the present state of affairs.

This is the reason why some months back the hunting lobby petitioned Parliament to overhaul the referendum legislation. In their petition they asked for protection of some imaginary “minority rights” which the Constitutional Court on 9 January, declared as being inexistent.

On 11 April, we will for the first time ever vote in an abrogative referendum called through a citizens’ initiative. We will decide whether we agree or not with the regulations which permit hunting of quail and turtledove in spring on their way to breed. I do not agree with spring hunting and will be voting NO.

I invite you to join me in voting NO, thereby abolishing spring hunting in Malta for the benefit of birds and future generations.

 

Published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 1 February 2015