Corruption: the institutions are not working

Reading through the media court reports on the Qormi murder earlier this week confirms that the Police in Malta can carry out crime investigations assiduously and bring them to their logical conclusions when they are left to carry out their work free from any pressures whatsoever.

The same, unfortunately, cannot be said on Police investigations relative to corruption.

Last week, in my article (Phone call from the Ministry: TMIS 4 September 2022) I referred to the cryptic language used in the evidence delivered in Court by the Police Inspector in the car licence corruption case. This, I argued, is conveying the unmistakable message that holders of political office and their hangers-on are dealt with kids gloves by the police investigators, thereby facilitating the development of clientelism into corruption.

During the public protest held last Tuesday against corruption organised by the NGO Repubblika it was once more explained as to how the authorities (that is the Commissioner of Police and the Attorney General’s office) have failed to act on the conclusions of the report of the magisterial inquiry into the operations of Pilatus Bank.

Repubblika President, Robert Aquilina, quoting chapter and verse from the magisterial inquiry report, explained how the Courts have instructed the said authorities to take criminal action against various former officials of Pilatus Bank. However only one former official was arraigned. All the others whom the inquiring magistrate pointed out have not been arraigned to account for their actions.

This has led to the unprecedented step of NGO Repubblika challenging the police authorities and the Attorney General in Court for failing to carrying out their duties. The authorities, are not functioning, Robert Aquilina rightfully claimed!

To substantiate his claim, he presented the relevant extracts from the report of the magisterial inquiry on the operations of Pilatus Bank.

To add insult to injury, the magistrate examining the challenge in Court, instead of requesting the police and the Attorney General to explain their “ifs” and “whys” turned on the NGO leadership in order to identify how the magisterial inquiry report came into their possession. Instead of shielding citizens seeking justice, unfortunately, the magistrate is shielding those who are sending out the clear message that, after all, crime pays, if you have friends located in the right places.

Instead of acting against the corrupt the courts are acting against those who are vigilant enough to note that the institutions are failing to carry out their basic duties.

This is the basic message being conveyed. The institutions are not working as they are not taking the necessary action to ensure that justice is done and that our society is defended against corruption. In addition to this blatant breach of trust, the institutions are also obstructing those who, notwithstanding the odds stacked against them are seeking to remedy the situation.

If this was not enough, we have just learnt of a secret agreement between the Azeri company SOCAR and the Maltese government, then represented by Konrad Mizzi. Irrespective of whether this agreement was implemented or not, it is another case of abusive use of Ministerial powers and should be properly investigated.

Faced with all this, nobody can remain passive. This is the tip of the corruption iceberg that has stifled our country and has been doing so for quite some time.

It is no wonder that Malta’s reputation has gone to the dogs!

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday: 11 September 2022

Beyond 26 March

Increasing our vote tally by almost doubling it between general elections is no mean feat. That is what has been achieved by ADPD-The Green Party on 26 March. Notwithstanding the small numbers involved, the achievement is substantial, getting close to the best green result achieved in the 2013 general election. 

The 26 March electoral result, however, once more, exposes an electoral system which does not deliver proportional results when it really matters: results that is, supporting minority views. Political parties representing the PLPN establishment, have continuously benefitted from various adjustments to the electoral system, from which they obtain one proportional result after the other: proportionality which they benefit from but simultaneously, continuously and consistently deny to others.

Fair treatment would possibly have seen us achieve much better results than we have achieved so far. Unfortunately, the electoral system is designed to be discriminatory. This includes the setup of the Electoral Commission itself as well as the manner in which it operates under the continuous remote control of the PLPN. Even simple access to the individual district provisional results, which I requested, was continuously obstructed and objected to by the Electoral Commission late on Sunday 27 March when the counting process was still in progress.

Furthermore, PLPN have normal access to electronic counting data held by the Electoral Commission in order to be able to vet the validity of the final results. Repeated requests to extend such access to the green monitoring team in the counting hall were ignored. Even the OSCE election observation team present in the counting hall found this very strange and queried our monitoring team continuously on the matter.

Tomorrow, we will start the long process in court which could deliver some form of justice: the restitution of the parliamentary seats which our party has been robbed of by the PLPN political establishment throughout the years.

Normally, after elections, we waste a lot of time engaged in soul searching discussing whether taking the PLPN establishment head-on, one election after another, is worth the effort. This time we are immediately taking the plunge to ensure once and for all that each vote cast in Maltese general elections, irrespective of whom it is cast for, has an equal value. It is a long journey which may possibly take us to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, if this is considered essential, in order to settle the issue of electoral justice in these islands once and for all.

We have had to take this line of action as parliament in Malta has been consistently incapable of acting fairly. Parliament is, since 1966 under the complete control of the establishment political parties: PLPN.

By next Tuesday all bye-election results will be known. Subsequently the constitutional gender balance mechanism will be applied in favour of the establishment PLPN. This will be limited in implementation, similarly to the proportionality mechanism: limited in favour of the PLPN

The PLPN duopoly which has completely hijacked the institutions wants to be sure that its control is adequately embedded such that it can withstand any future shocks.

It is unacceptable that electoral legislation treats us in this despicable manner: differently from the manner in which it treats the establishment political parties. Unfortunately, the PLPN duopoly have not been able to deliver any semblance of fairness in our electoral system. The Courts, consequently, are our only remaining hope to address and start removing discrimination from electoral legislation, which is why tomorrow we will embark on our long overdue Court case.

The team we have built in the past months at ADPD has functioned quite well in achieving one of our best electoral results. It is now making the necessary preparations to ensure a better Green presence in our towns and villages in the months ahead. As a result of the excellent teamwork developed, we have starting preparing plans for the future which should lead to an organic growth of the party. This will make it possible for us to achieve even better results in the next political cycle.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 10 April 2022

Il-jott tal-Imħallef Giovanni Grixti

Diġa ntqal ħafna fuq il-jott tal-Imħallef Giovanni Grixti.

L-aħbar ixxokkjat lil ħafna.

Għaliex l-imħallef ma qal xejn? Għaliex l-imħallef ma poġġiex il-karti fuq il-mejda u astjena? Hu biss jista’ jagħti tweġiba dwar dan.

Min-naħa l-oħra, l-aħbar għax ħarġet tard? Ma setgħetx tħabbret fl-awla, f’wiċċ l-imħallef, biex irid jew ma jridx ikollu jwieġeb u jirreaġixxi?

L-avukati ta’ Yorgen Fenech qalu li l-fatt li snin ilu, meta l-Imħallef Grixti kien għadu Magistrat xtara l-jott mingħand missier l-akkużat ma jfissirx li hemm raġuni għal rikuża jew astensjoni, għax din bħala raġuni ma tissemmiex fost il-lista ta’ raġunijiet li minħabba fihom ġudikant għandu jastjeni jew inkella jista’ jkun rikużat.

Il-każ quddiem l-Imħallef Grixti dwar il-pleġġ għal Yorgen Fenech kien wieħed ta’ sensittività kbira. Kien essenzjali li jkun assigurat li l-ġustizzja mhux biss qed issir iżda tidher li qed issir. Għal waqtiet twal dan ma kienx ċar. Għal waqtiet twal kien hemm dubju kbir dwar x’kien ser jiġri. Il-jott tal-imħallef nissel ħafna dubji.

Id-deċiżjoni issa ittieħdet u mad-daqqa t’għajn (għalina li m’aħniex avukati) tidher tajba. Imma tibqa’ t-togħma morra: kien hemm waqtiet kbar ta’ dubju. Dubju li ma jagħmilx ġid la lill-ġustizzja u l-anqas lill-Qrati.

Hemm ħtieġa li jkunu investigati ċ-ċirkustanzi kollha li wasslu għal dak li ġara. Biex mhux biss jiġu ndirizzati d-dubji tal-lum imma fuq kollox biex jonqsu d-dubji għada.

Dak li ġara f’dawn l-aħħar siegħat ma żiedx il-fiduċja tal-Maltin fil-Qrati. Il-każ ma jistax jieqaf hawn. Il-mistoqsijiet li jeħtieġu tweġiba huma bosta. Huma ukoll inkrepattivi għax ġaladarba l-Imħallef s’issa baqa’ sieket għandu ikun obbligat jitkellem, u jitkellem ċar. L-imħallef jaf x’għamel u bla dubju hu konxju li l-mod kif ġieb ruħu mhux aċċettabbli.

Il-Prim Imħallef għandu l-obbligu li jara li l-Kummissjoni għall-Amministrazzjoni tal-Ġustizzja tistħarreg sew il-kaz u tieħu l-passi meħtieġa, mingħajr dewmien.

It-taħwid fl-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar

Qatt ħsibt ftit dwar kif inhu possibli li r-regolatur tal-ippjanar tal-użu tal-art f’Malta jinsab fl-istat ta’ taħwid li qiegħed? Ħarsu ftit lejn il-proċeduri kriminali li għaddejjin bħalissa dwar il-ħasil tal-flus. Wieħed mill-akkużati hu Matthew Pace li sa ftit ilu kien membru tal-Bord tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar. Spettur tal-Pulizija li kien qed jixhed fil-każ iddeskrivieh bħala professjonist tal-ħasil tal-flus:  a professional money launderer.

Ftit jiftakru li f’Ġunju 2018 kellna aħbar li l-FIAU (Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit) kienet immultat lil  Matthew Pace is-somma ta’ €38,750 minħabba li ma segwiex il-liġijiet kontra l-ħasil tal-flus meta kien qed jieħu ħsieb l-investimenti tal-klijent tiegħu Keith Schembri. Dan kien fatt magħruf. Mid-dehra l-Gvern kien kuntent bih, għax ma għamel xejn dwaru. Qiesu ma ġara xejn.

Ikun interessanti nkunu nafu jekk il-konsulent legali tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar, ċertu Dr Robert Abela, ġibitx l-attenzjoni tal-Awtorità dwar il-ħtieġa li taġixxi dwar dan. Jekk le, forsi l-istess Dr Robert Abela bħala l-konsulent legali ta’ Joseph Muscat ġibidlu l-attenzjoni dwar dan? Ma smajna xejn dwar dan kollu.  ilkoll kompromessi. Governanza tajba? U mhux hekk tgħid.

Matthew Pace għamel snin membru tal-Bord tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar. Kien biss wara l-każ ċar ta’ kunflitt ta’interess tiegħu  fil-każ tal-applikazzjoni ta’żvilupp mill-Grupp dB f’Pembroke li kien sfurzat jirreżenja u dan wara pressjoni pubblika minn ambjentalisti. Ngħid li kien “sfurzat” għax wara li l-Qorti annullat il-permess mogħti lill-Grupp dB fuq il-kunflitt ta’ interess ta’ Matthew Pace hu kien għall-ewwel irrifjuta li jwarrab. Kien ippruvat li huwa ħa sehem fil-laqgħat li wasslu għal deċiżjoni dwar il-permess tad-dB f’Pembroke, u ivvota favur din l-applikazzjoni.  Fl-istess ħin kellu interess f’aġenzija tal-propjetà li kienet qed tbiegħ  partijiet minn dan l-iżvilupp sa minn qabel mal-Bord tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar, bil-vot tiegħu stess favur, approva din l-applikazzjoni! Dik governanza tajba. Dik imġieba korretta!

Din hi l-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar. Sfortunatament il-membri l-oħra tal-Bord huma ukoll effettwati minħabba l-assoċjazzjoni tagħhom miegħu.  Iridu jgħaddu snin kbar qabel mar-regulatur jirkupra minn dan.

Imma hemm iktar minn hekk.

Ambjentalisti skoprew, kważi b’kumbinazzjoni, li c-Chairman attwali tat-Tribunal ta’ Reviżjoni dwar l-Ambjent u l-Ippjanar  (EPRT) li jisma’ appelli dwar każijiet ta’ ippjanar tal-użu tal-art u oħrajn dwar l-ambjent huwa ukoll impjegat tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar.  Presentement qiegħed b’leave bla ħlas mill-impjieg normali tiegħu mal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar bid-dritt li jmur lura għall-impieg normali tiegħu hekk kif tintemm il-ħatra tiegħu bħala Chairperson tat-Tribunal.  

Kif jista’ impjegat tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar jikkunsidra appelli minn deċiżjonijiet li jieħu min jimpjegah? Dan imma hu dak li jagħmel kuljum ic-Chairman tal-EPRT.  L-anqas jekk jipprova ma qatt jista’ jkun imparzjali. Imma meta inġibditlu l-attenzjoni dwar dan ma qabilx li s-sitwazzjoni partikolari tiegħu titfa dell fuq l-imparzjalità tiegħu meta jiddeċiedi dwar kazijiet tal-ippjanar dwar l-użu tal-art. Fl-aħħar ser tkun il-Qorti li jkollha tiddeċiedi u l-ħsara li tkun saret sadanittant ser tkun waħda kbira.

It-taħwid, kif qed taraw, hu kbir. B’dawn in-nuqqasijiet etiċi ħadd m’għandu jiskanta li l-proċess dwar l-użu ta’ l-art tilef kull kredibilità.  

A mess by design

Did you ever wonder why it is possible for the land use planning regulator in Malta to be in such a mess? Just take a look at the criminal proceedings currently under way on money laundering. A former Planning Authority Board member, Matthew Pace, is one of the accused. A police inspector, explaining the investigation results has described him as a professional money launderer.

Few may remember that, way back in June 2018, an item in the news had announced that the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU) had fined Matthew Pace the sum of €38,750 for breaching a number of anti-money laundering laws when dealing with investments held by a client of his named Keith Schembri. It was public knowledge and government was apparently happy as it did not act about it.

It would be interesting to know if the then legal advisor of the Planning Authority, a certain Dr Robert Abela, had flagged the issue and drawn the attention of the Authority on the need to take action. If not, could the legal advisor to Joseph Muscat, the same Dr Robert Abela, have drawn attention of his then boss to the matter? We have heard nothing about it. As we are by now aware, they are all compromised. Good governance my foot!

Mr Matthew Pace spent years as a member of the Planning Authority Board and it was only after his blatant case of conflict of interest in the dB Pembroke case that he was forced to resign as a result of public pressures by environmentalists. I say he was “forced to resign” as, when the Court annulled the dB Pembroke permit on the basis of Matthew Pace’s conflict of interest, he initially refused to make way. It was proven that he sat in judgement and participated in the decision on the dB Pembroke permit, voting in favour of its approval. Simultaneously he had an interest in an estate agency which was already “selling” units forming part of the dB Pembroke development even before the development permit was approved by the Planning Board with Matthew Pace’s vote in favour! Governance at its best!

This is the Planning Authority. Unfortunately, the other members of the Board are impacted by association. It will be many years before this regulator recovers.

There is more.

Environmentalists have discovered, almost by accident, that the current Chairman of the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal (EPRT) while sitting in judgement on appeal cases concerning planning and environmental issues is still an employee of the Planning Authority. He is currently on leave without pay having the right to return to his employment with the Planning Authority when his current term as Chairman of the EPRT expires.

How can an employee of the Planning Authority sit in judgement on the decisions of his employer? Yet this is what the Chairman of the EPRT does every day. He cannot by any stretch of the imagination be impartial even if he tries his very best. Yet whenever he was challenged, he has refused to accept that his specific circumstances render him unsuitable to Chair the EPRT in all cases concerning the Planning Authority. This matter will eventually have to be decided by the Courts with possible considerable consequences.

The mess gets worse every day.

With these ethical failures it is no wonder that the credibility of the land use planning process has gone to the dogs.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday: 28 March 2021

Għaliex issa?

Għaliex il-Pulizija aġixxiet issa? L-apoloġisti tal-Labour ilhom is-siegħat jeqirdu li dan hu prova ta’ kemm l-istituzzjonijiet jaħdmu. Fir-realtà hu propju prova bil-maqlub. Prova ta’ kemm l-istiutuzzjonijiet ma ħadmux meta kellhom. Kemm kellhom ikunu sfurzati biex jiċċaqilqu u jaħdmu.

L-istituzzjonijiet iċċaqilqu illum. Iċċaqilqu għax ħareġ rapport (anzi tnejn) minn Maġistrat u dan fuq talba ta’ Simon Busuttil li 4 snin ilu ġibed l-attenzjoni tal-Qorti għall-provi li kellu (dawk li kienu fil-kaxxi “vojta”). U l-Qorti ħadet 4 snin.

Dan xogħol li messha għamlitu l-Pulizija 4 snin ilu. Imma ma għamlitux.

Messha għamlitu l-FIAU u m’għamlitux.

Messu iċċaqlaq l-Avukat Ġenerali. Imma baqa’ sieket.

Kellna dawn kollha li m’għamlux dmirhom. Uħud dawru wiċċhom. Oħrajn għalqu għajnejhom. Kellna min ipprefera jirreżenja flok jiffaċċja r-realtà u jagħmel dmiru.

Issa l-Pulizja iċċaqilqet. Għax sfurzata mir-rapporti tal-Maġistrat.

Għax mhux biżżejjed li għandna l-istituzzjonijiet. Jekk jimtlew b’irġiel u nisa dgħajfa, qegħdin hemm għalxejn, kif kienu hemm għalxejn għal bosta snin.

Meta jissemmgħu t-telefonati

Li l-forżi tal-ordni għandu jkollhom dritt li jissemmgħu t-telefonati meta dan ikun meħtieġ biex jinvestigaw delitt kif ukoll biex jippruvaw jevitaw li jsir delitt huwa aċċettabbli f’kull soċjetá demokratika.

Imma x’kontrolli għandu jkun hemm fuq il-Pulizija jew is-Servizz tas-Sigurtá meta jagħmlu dan?

Illum l-awtoritá biex jissemmgħu tingħata mill-Ministru tal-Intern inkella mill-Prim Ministru. Jiġifieri huwa l-politiku li jagħti l-awtorizzazzjoni.

Dan mhux tajjeb. Il-politiku mhux l-aħjar persuna li teżerċita kontrolli fuq materja ta’ din id-delikatezza. Xi drabi, l-politiku jkollu ukoll interess f’dak li jkun qiegħed jingħad. Interess politiku li każ jissolva u possibilment anke li ma jissolviex. Interess ukoll li xi persuni partikolari ma jkunux investigati.

Kien għalhekk li fil-Manifest Elettorali tal-Elezzjoni tal-2017 Alternattiva Demokratika ipproponiet li ma għandux ikun iktar il-politiku li jagħti l-awtoritá biex jissemmgħu t-telefonati, imma l-Qrati.

Dan qiegħed ngħidu għax matul din il-ġimgħa kien hemm referenza għal dan b’referenza għal żewġ każijiet pendenti.

Jason Azzopardi qed jallega li Robert Abela kellu aċċess għall-informazzjoni li irriżultat minn interċettazzjoni tat-telefonati konnessi mal-każ ta’ qtil ta’ Daphne Caruana Galizia. Abela ċaħad.

Fil-Qorti, avukati f’każ kriminali ieħor, li hu pendenti, qed jikkontestaw il-validitá tas-sehem tal-politiku fid-deċiżjoni li l-Pulizija u/jew is-Servizz tas-Sigurtá jingħataw il-permess biex jissemmgħu t-telefonati.

Għandha tkun il-Qorti li tiddeċiedi dwar dan. Mhux għax il-Qorti hi perfetta, imma għax bis-sorveljanza tal-Qorti hemm probabbiltá ferm ikbar li l-affarijiet isiru sewwa. Li d-drittijiet ta’ kulħadd ikunu imħarsa. Kemm id-dritt tal-komunitá kif ukoll id-drittijiet tas-suspettati.

Indħil politiku lill-pulizija

L-allegazzjonijiet ta’ Jonathan Ferris dwar indħil politiku fil-qadi ta’ dmirijietu meta kien Spettur tal-Pulzija huma ta’ gravità kbira. F’pajjiż serju l-Maġistrat tal-Għassa kien jibgħat għas-Sur Ferris u jitolbu għall-provi, u jekk dawn jirriżultaw jordna li jittieħdu l-passi immedjatament.

Għax kif qal il-Prim Imħallef xi ġimgħat ilu, kulħadd għandu responsabbiltà biex titħares is-saltna tad-dritt. Inkluż l-Imħallfin u l-Maġistrati. U is-saltna tad-dritt tfisser li kulħadd għandu jbaxxi rasu quddiem il-liġi.

Jonathan Ferris qal li meta jippubblika l-informazzjoni li għandu kulħadd ikun jista’ jasal għall-konklużjonijiet tiegħu. Ikun ferm aħjar jekk il-provi li għandu jmur bihom għand min jista’ jieħu passi, immedjatament.

Għax jekk l-istituzzjonijiet inżommuhom sajmin mill-informazzjoni kif nistgħu nippretendu li dawn jaġixxu biex jipproteġuna?

Inti ukoll għandek dritt tiekol

Qed jintqal li l-Prim Imħallef Silvio Camilleri fid-diskors tiegħu iktar kmieni din il-ġimgħa ta’ ħasla papali lill-Gvern. Jiena naħseb li dan mhux korrett.

Fil-fehma tiegħi il-Prim Imħallef emfasizza li r-responsabbiltà biex ħadd ma jkun il-fuq mill-liġi mhiex biss tal-Qrati imma ukoll tal-Pulizija u tal-Avukat Ġenerali. Fi ftit kliem il-poter fil-pajjiż hu mifrux u biex ikollna s-saltna tad-dritt jeħtieġ li kulħadd jagħmel xogħolu.

Il-mistoqsija li allura teħtieġ tweġiba hi jekk l-uffiċjali pubbliċi humiex jagħmlu dmirhom, bla biża’ jew favuri. Għalhekk hu importanti li l-ħatriet isiru sewwa. Li jinħatru persuni kapaċi u integri li fl-aħħar mill-aħħar ikunu it-tarka tal-pajjiz kollu. Għax kulħadd għandu dritt jiekol, mhux il-bulijiet biss.