Questions for Karmenu Vella

Junker + Vella

 

Extract from Today’s European Voice

Five nominees with questions to resolve at Commission hearings

Political alliances in the European Parliament will protect some nominees during confirmation hearings, and leave others at risk.

5) Karmenu Vella

Wrong country, right group, sensitive portfolio (environment and fisheries), wrong profile.

Hearing: Monday 29 September, 2.30pm

Vella will face two concerns during his hearing: discontent over the portfolio he has been given and discomfort over his political history in Malta. Juncker’s decision to merge environment and fisheries has not gone over well and Vella will face demands from MEPs on both the environment and fisheries committees to guarantee that he will not give their policy area short shrift. MEPs on the environment committee are concerned about the mandate letter sent by Juncker to Vella, which they see as prioritising an agenda of deregulation. Juncker’s request that Vella “carry out an in-depth evaluation of the birds and habitats directives and assess the potential for merging them into a more modern piece of legislation” is particularly sensitive because Malta has been in repeated and continued violation of these laws because of bird hunting. A group of the EU’s biggest environmental campaign groups wrote to Juncker last week and warned: “The environment portfolio has been given to a commissioner whose government is under intense international criticism for failing to implement EU bird conservation legislation, which the commissioner will now be in a position to amend.”

Vella may also face questions about his time as part of the Labour government of Dom Mintoff  in the 1980s – a time of political turmoil in Malta. There have been allegations in the Maltese press against Vella of political thuggery, tax evasion and corruption. None of these allegations has been proven but Vella will probably face a few questions. In part, these allegations are the product of Malta’s brand of intensely tribal politics, but faith in Malta has been damaged by the loss from the last college of commissioners of John Dalli, the Maltese commissioner forced to resign during the last term over allegations of corruption.

On the other hand, it will count to Vella’s advantage that his government belongs to the S&D group. Neither the S&D nor the EPP is expected to pursue an aggressive line of questioning. But colourful anecdotes from Vella’s time in Maltese politics could be red meat for Eurosceptic MEPs, who could use the opportunity to attempt a resurrection of Dalligate. The European Conservatives and Reformists group would also have nothing to lose by going after a centre-left MEP. This would likely not translate to a majority voting against Vella’s nomination, and the numbers are still in his favour. But if questions over his political past cause Vella’s hearing to go off the rails, he may find support from the EPP and S&D groups is brittle.

 

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50 sena pajjiż Indipendenti

Dom & George

Illum infakkru l-50 anniversarju tal-Indipendenza ta’ Malta. Jiġifieri meta Malta fl-1964 bdiet tmexxi lilha innifisha.

Kont hemm f’nofs il-lejl, tifel ta’ 8 snin, nara l-bandiera Maltija tiela’ f’postha flok dik Inġliża. Kienet indipendenza politika immedjata għax pajjiżna beda jieħu d-deċiżjonijiet hu minn dak il-ħin. Kemm id-deċiżjonijiet tajbin kif ukoll oħrajn ħżiena. Issa ma kienx baqa’ iktar f’min inwaħħlu. Daqshekk tort (jew mertu) tar-Reġina.

Ekonomikament konna għadna fuq sieq waħda. Malta kienet għadha dipendenti mid-dħul assoċjat mal-bażi militari.

Wieħed mill-argumenti ewlenin fid-dibattitu politiku dwar l-Indipendenza fis-snin sittin kien dwar jekk kienx essenzjali li l-ewwel il-pajjiż ikun b’saħħtu ekonomikament u dan qabel ma jieħu rajh f’idejh. George Borg Olivier dejjem sostna li ħadd ħlief il-Maltin nfushom m’għandhom l-interess li l-pajjiż jiżviluppa ekonomija b’saħħitha. Għaldaqstant għalih kienet meħtieġa l-indipendenza politika immedjata għax din kien iqiesha bħala ċ-ċavetta, jew l-għodda l-iktar essenzjali, għall-iżvilupp ekonomiku. Pajjiż kolonja, jmexxuh minn imnieħru fl-interess ta’ pajjiż ieħor.

Id-differenza bejn il-Partit Nazzjonalista w il-Partit Laburista ma kienitx l-Indipendenza imma l-Kostituzzjoni.  Kemm George Borg Olivier kif ukoll Dom Mintoff kienu jaqblu li Malta kellha tkun Indipendenti. Il-partiti l-oħra (ta’ Herbert Ganado, Mable Strickland u Toni Pellegrini) min-naħa l-oħra riedu t-tisħiħ ekonomiku qabel l-Indipendenza.

Huwa normali ħafna li f’pajjiż li qed jaħdem biex ikun indipendenti jkun hemm divergenza fil-ħsieb dwar il-prijoritajiet u dwar l-aħjar mod kif naġixxu. L-argumenti ekonomiċi biex tkun posposta l-Indipendenza ta’ Malta ma ħadmux, b’differenza ta’ dak li ġara fl-Iskozja l-ġimgħa l-oħra! Imma d-deċiżjonijiet ittieħdu bla ġlied u b’mod demokratiku. Kemm fejn naqblu, kif ukoll fejn ma naqblux.

F’Malta kienu diversi l-issues kostituzzjonali ta’ konflitt, ewlenin fosthom is-separazzjoni bejn l-Istat u l-Knisja u ż-żwieġ ċivili. Mintoff migdum mill-konflitt mal-Knisja ried salvagwardji kostituzzjonali kontra l-indħil tal-Knisja fejn ma kelliex tindaħal.

 

George Borg Oliver kien jieħu l-affarijiet bil-mod, kien kalm u diplomatiku. Mintoff kien nervuż, suspettuż, mgħaġġel u jmexxi l-quddiem politika ta’ konfront kontinwu. Żewġ metodi ta’ ħidma li t-tnejn nisslu bosta diffikultajiet. Il-ħidma bil-mod ittelfek il-paċenzja għax iddum ma tara r-riżultati. Il-ħidma mgħaġġla iżżejjed min-naħa l-oħra tnissel problemi ta’ żbalji kultant goffi kif ukoll inġustuzzji ma min jinqabad fin-nofs.

Ħafna drabi nippruvaw niġġudukaw illum, bil-kriterji tagħna tal-lum, dak li ġara l-bierah. B’dan il-mod mhux dejjem naslu biex nifhmu sewwa dak li fil-fatt ikun ġara.

 

Bosta jaħsbu li Mintoff kien kontra l-Indipendenza. Fil-fatt ma kienx. Wara li fallilu l-proġett tal-integration, ried Indipendenza differenti minn dik li kien qed jipproponi George Borg Olivier.

Fl-1964 kien lest jieħu riskju ekonomiku billi jibdel immedjatament l-ekonomija bbażata fuq il-bażi militari. Borg Olivier ma qabilx ma dan u ipprefera bidla gradwali. Beda jħejji l-pedamenti għall-industrija w t-turiżmu.

Għax il-bidla kienet ippjanat li tkun gradwali l-pajjiż kellu ċ-ċans jaddatta ruħu għaċ-ċirkustanzi ġodda. Ċirkustanzi ġodda nisslu żbalji ġodda li din id-darba ħadd ma seta jipponta subgħajh lejn l–Ingliżi dwarhom. Għall-ewwel darba r-rapprezentanti tar-Reġina kienu gallarija, ma kellhomx tort għal dak li ġara.

Meta l-Ingliżi ttrattaw ħażin lill-Maltin, ġew ikkritikati. Imma meta kienu l-Maltin stess li ttrattaw ħażin lill-“ħuthom” il-weġgħa kienet ħafna ikbar.

Din hi l-istorja tagħna. B’dak li jogħġobna u dak li ma jogħġobniex.

Anniversarji u Polemiċi fl-2014

Dom Mintoff + Arc M. Gonzi

Matul l-2014 Malta tfakkar diversi anniversarji. Magħhom hemm minsuġa polemiċi tal-passat, polemiċi li bil-mod għad jinħallu u jieqfu mill-jkunu sors firda.

Infakkru l-50 anniversarju tal-Indipendenza, meta Malta fl-1964 bdiet tmexxi lilha innifisha. Kienet indipendenza politika immedjata imma ekonomikament Malta kienet għadha dipendenti mill-infieq assoċjat mal-bażi militari. George Borg Olivier ħejja l-pedamenti tal-industrija tal-manufattura u beda jinkoraġixxi t-turiżmu. Wieħed mill-argumenti ewlenin fid-dibattitu politiku dwar l-Indipendenza fis-snin sittin kien dwar jekk kienx essenzjali li l-ewwel il-pajjiż ikun b’saħħtu ekonomikament u dan qabel ma jieħu rajh f’idejh. George Borg Olivier dejjem sostna li ħadd ħlief il-Maltin nfushom m’għandhom l-interess li l-pajjiż jiżviluppa ekonomija b’saħħita. Għaldaqstant għalih kienet meħtieġa l-indipendenza immedjata għax din kien iqiesha bħala ċ-ċavetta jew l-għodda essenzjali għall-iżvilupp ekonomiku. Id-differenza bejn il-Partiti ewlenin ma kienitx l-Indipendenza imma l-Kostituzzjoni.  Il-partiti ż-żgħar min-naħa l-oħra riedu t-tisħiħ ekonomiku qabel l-Indipendenza.

Diversi kienu l-issues kostituzzjonali ta’ konflitt, ewlenin fosthom is-separazzjoni bejn l-Istat u l-Knisja u ż-żwieġ ċivili.

George Borg Oliver kien jieħu l-affarijiet bil-mod, fil-waqt li l-ħidma politika tal-Perit  Mintoff kienet karatterizzata mill-għaġġla. Żewġ metodi ta’ ħidma li t-tnejn nisslu bosta diffikultajiet. Il-ħidma bil-mod ittelfek il-paċenzja għax iddum ma tara ir-riżultati. Il-ħidma mgħaġġla iżżejjed min-naħa l-oħra tnissel problemi ta’ żbalji kultant goffi kif ukoll inġustuzzji ma min jinqabad fin-nofs.

Infakkru l-40 anniversarju mit-twaqqif tar-Repubblika fl-1974 nhar it-13 ta’ Diċembru fuq proposta ta’ Mintoff bl-appoġġ tal-parti l-kbira tal-Opposizzjoni. Baqgħu jopponu l-ħolqien tar-Repubblika George Borg Olivier flimkien mal-ħames membri parlamentari ta’ madwaru. George Borg Olivier ried iżomm il-monarkija iżda l-PN fil-Parlament bi ħġaru appoġġa l-ħolqien tar-Repubblika. Fatt dan li bosta ma jagħtuhx il-piż mistħoqq.

Infakkru l-35 anniversarju tal-egħluq tal-bażi militari li seħħet nhar il-31 ta’ Marzu 1979. Dan il-jum għandu sinifikat politiku sostanzjali għax hu l-ewwel darba fl-istorja ta’ Malta li ma kienx hawn bażijiet militari ta’ pajjiżi barranin. Kienet aspirazzjoni politika ewlenija tal-Perit Mintoff, bla dubju imsejsa fuq l-osservazzjonijiet u s-sensittivitajiet ta’ tfulitu. Il-fatt li missieru ħadem għal numru ta’ snin mal-Kap Kmandant tal-Forzi Militari Ingliżi f’Malta (Lord Louis Mountbatten) ġewwa l-Berġa ta’ Kastilja bla dubju  kien element ewlieni fid-determinazzjoni tiegħu li jilħaq dan l-iskop. Għalih Malta “ħelset mill-barrani” u minn hawn ir-referenza għal Jum il-Ħelsien. Titlu li jinstema ftit bombastiku għal uħud iżda li fir-realta hu rifless tal-emozzjonijiet ta’ ġenerazzjonijiet ta’ Maltin li ġustament ħolmu li għad jasal il-jum li f’Malta ma jkunx hawn iżjed forzi militari barranin.

Infakkru l-10 anniversarju tat-tisħib tal-Malta fl-Unjoni Ewropeja. L-aħħar kapitlu f’din l-istorja riċenti ta’ ġensna. Kapitlu frisk mimli suċcessi kif ukoll affarijiet li setgħu saru aħjar. Kapitlu li għadu qiegħed jinkiteb.

Dawn l-anniversarji u l-kontroversji assoċjati magħhom inħmew matul dawn l-aħħar 50 sena. Sawru lil ġensna kif inhu illum. Bil-pożittiv, bin-negattiv u bil-preġudizzji kollha immaġinabbli.

Il-ġenerazzjoni tiegħi għexet kull wieħed minn dawn l-avvenimenti. Ma jdejjaqni l-ebda wieħed minnhom. Ma jfissirx li naqbel ma kif żvolġew. Imma kollha huma avvenimenti li huma parti integrali minn ħajti. Għexthom u naf xi jfissru.

Konxju li fil-pajjiż mhux kulħadd jaħsibha b’dan il-mod. Għad hawn min jixtieq iħassar mill-memorja kollettiva wieħed jew iktar minn dawn l-avvenimenti. Ma naħsibx li dan hu possibli. L-iżvilupp paċifiku ta’ dan il-pajjiż ikun possibli jekk ilkoll naċċettaw li pajjiżna għandu is-sura li għandu illum bħala riżultat ta’ diversi ħidmiet li għalihom ikkontribwixxa kulħadd.

Naf li mhux faċli. Imma fiduċjuż li naslu.

Xogħol il-Membru tal-Parlament

carrots

Il-Gvern permezz ta’ diversi dikjarazzjonijiet tal-Prim Ministru Joseph Muscat repetutament qed jgħid li jrid jinvolvi lill-Membri tal-Parlament taż-żewġ naħat tal-Kamra fil-ħidma tal-Gvern.

Dan nissel reazzjonijiet diversi inkluż, u b’mod partikolari, mill-Opposizzjoni. Il-bieraħ fil-fatt Simon Busuttil Viċi Kap tal-PN qal li l-Opposizzjoni mhiex ser tinxtara. Dan qalu kemm fil-Parlament kif ukoll fl-artiklu tiegħu ta’ kull ġimgħa fit-Times intitolat A flawed “executive” offer .

Xogħol il-Membru tal-Parlament hu fil-Parlament. Jiġifieri jagħmel il-liġijiet u jgħarbel il-ħidma tal-Eżekuttiv. Minflok iżda qed tiġi żviluppata l-idea li dawk il-Membri Parlamentari li mhumiex Ministri jew Segretarji Parlamentari jkun aħjar jekk jinstabilhom xi ħaġa biex ikollhom biex jgħaddu l-ħin għax inkella jsibu huma l-mezz biex jgħaddu l-ħin. Il-konsegwenzi ta’ dan ma jkun xejn pjaċevoli kif jaf sewwa Lawrence Gonzi!

Din m’hiex xi ħaġa li ivvinta Joseph Muscat. Esperimentaw biha l-Prim Ministri kollha ta’ qablu. Kemm Mintoff fis-snin sebgħin kif ukoll Gonzi fis-snin li għadhom kif għaddew fittxew modi kif jokkupaw il-ħin tal-Membri Parlamentari. Mintoff u Gonzi din għamluha mal-Membri Parlamentari tal-Gvern li kienu jmexxu. Joseph Muscat qed jipprova jifrex il-ħsieb iktar minn hekk u jsib applikazzjoni tiegħu mal-Opposizzjoni ukoll.

Naħseb li l-idea hi fil-prinċipju żbaljata. Għax il-kapaċita u l-kompetenza ta’ kull Membru Parlamentari għandha tkun applikata fil-ħidma tal-Parlament.

L-ewwel nett fil-ħidma diretta tal-Kamra u l-kumitati tagħha, fil-parteċpazzjoni fid-dibatti dwar liġijiet u l-politika tal-oqsma differenti. It-tieni fis-sorveljanza tal-ħidma tal-Gvern inkluż fil-mod kif jaħdmu l-awtoritajiet: kif jonfqu l-fondi allokati kif ukoll kif titfassal u tiġi applikata l-politika fl-oqsma differenti.

Fost oħrajn il-Parlament għandu jkun full-time. Jiġifieri l-Membri Parlamentari għandhom jokkupaw il-ħin kollu tagħhom fil-Parlament. Jekk u meta jagħmlu dan m’għandix dubju li jsibu ħafna x’jagħmlu. Wisq nibża’ iżda li la l-PN u l-anqas il-PL ma jixtiequ dan għax jekk il-Parlament jiġi f’posizzjoni li jagħmel xogħolu aħjar ikun diffiċli ħafna iktar li xi rokna tal-ħidma tal-Gvern tibqa’ mistura.

Din hi l-problema reali li qed jaffronta Joseph Muscat. Iffaċċja qablu Lawrence Gonzi. Kemm Muscat kif ukoll Gonzi jaħsbu li jkun għaqli li l-Membru Parlamentari jinżamm okkupat. Bħala riżultat t’hekk il-ħidma tal-Gvern tkun mgħarbla ħafna inqas milli hu neċessarju.

5th October – Students’ Day

Today may not mean much to some of the readers.

To others it means a lot. In particular it is Student’s Day.

Student’s Day commemorates the day when the students stood up in protest in 1977. I was there.  A second year student in the then Faculty of Engineering and Architecture

It was 1977 when Medical Students had their lecturers locked out as a result of the trade dispute between MAM, the medical doctors’ union,  and Government.  With their lecturers locked out students could not attend lectures.

Chained to the railing at Auberge de Castille, the students carried placards stating “I want to study in Malta”.

Early in the afternoon of the 5th October the Students’ Council Annual General Meeting at University suspended its session and those present proceeded to Valletta in full support of the Medical Students. Almost immediately a substantial number of police from their Floriana HQ caught up with us students and chased us all the way from Valletta to University. Some were manhandled and beaten.

It was the beginning of a very long and sad story, a very difficult time for tertiary education.

The Labour Government led by Dom Mintoff commenced substantial changes to the tertiary educational setup. Labour devised a “one size fits all” student worker scheme based on government’s requirements in state hospitals. Six months study were to be followed by six months work with some holidays and examinations sandwiched in between.

The work experience, if properly planned was beneficial. But unfortunately it was not as students ended up as part of the ordinary workforce with insufficient time to dedicate to their studies. Various submisions were made to government to change the system, but Labour would not listen.

The university student population at that time was around 400. A substantial contrast to the current 10,000+ population.

It was Labour’s darkest hour in tertiary education.

originally published in di-ve.com on 5 October 2012

“L-iskandlu” ta’ Marsaxlokk : il-proposta oriġinali

Diġa inkiteb ħafna dwar dan l-hekk imsejjaħ “skandlu” ta’ Marsaxlokk.

Fuq il-blog tagħha  Daphne Caruana Galizia nhar il-Ħamis 13 ta’ Settembru 2012 ippubblikat il-pjanta finali li kienet tiddetermina ż-żona ta’ żvilupp f’Marsaxlokk. Il-pjanta ippubblikata hi dik bin-numru 73 u turi l-art ta’ ulied il-Perit Mintoff b’faċċata fuq Triq iż-Żejtun bil-kulur maroon li jindika “terraced development” u quddiemu linja safra li juri li hemmhekk hi proġettata triq. Qed nirriproduċi din il-pjanta hawn fuq. L-art fiċ-ċirku aħmar hi dik tal-aħwa Mintoff.

Din il-pjanta li ġiet ippubblikata kif għidt kienet id-deċiżjoni finali li ttieħdet fl-1989.

Pero, żmien qabel, il-Gvern kien ippubblika proposta ta’ pjanta għal konsultazzjoni pubblika. F’din il-konsultazzjoni l-Gvern permezz tal-Ministru li dak iż-żmien kien responsabbli għall-ippjanar : Il-Perit Michael Falzon, kif ukoll it-Taqsima tal-Ippjanar tad-Dipartiment tax-Xogħolijiet (Public Works) stieden kummenti, osservazzjonijiet u sottomissjonijiet. Niftakar li kien possibli li jkun propost permezz ta’ formola apposta u siteplan annessa magħha li xi art li ma kienitx inkluża fil-proposti li saru ikunu ikkunsidrati.

Issa araw din il-pjanta ta’ hawn taħt. Din hi l-pjanta oriġinali dwar l-iżvilupp permissibli f’Marsaxlokk. L-art fic-cirku immarkat bl-aħmar  turi l-art propjeta ta’ ulied il-Perit Mintoff. F’din il-pjanta hu ċar li meta l-Gvern fl-1988 ippreżenta l-pjanta li turi l-iżvilupp permissibli f’Marsaxlokk l-art ta’ ulied il-Perit Mintoff kienet eskluża. Kienet eskluża għax it-tekniċi fit-Taqsima tal-Ippjanar kienu tal-fehma li din l-art ma kelliex tkun żviluppata.

Mela dan hu l-punt reali tat-tluq tad-diskussjoni. Xi ħadd wara li ħarġet din il-pjanta iddeċieda li l-art ta’ ulied il-Perit Mintoff kellha tkun żviluppata. M’huwiex xi sigriet li din id-deċiżjoni ttieħdet mill-Kumitat Magħzul tal-Parlament immexxi mill-Ministru ta’ dak iż-żmien il-Perit Michael Falzon.

X’kienu ir-raġunijiet għal din id-deċiżjoni? S’issa ħadd ma jaf.

Nistennew.

Dom u Daphne : l-ewwel miraklu ?

Kellu jkun Dom Mintoff u l-art li nnegozjaw uliedu Yana u Anne biex Daphne tikteb artiklu imqanqal dwar l-ambjent. Dwar art li kellha tibqa’ barra iż-żona ta’ żvilupp imma daħħluha.  Mhux soltu li qalba taħraqha għall-ambjent! Miraklu?

Talbet inkjesta għax hu skandlu kif art li sal-1989 kienet barra miż-żona ta’ żvilupp, mill-1989 il-quddiem setgħet  tinbena. Il-pjanta l-ġdida ta’ kif setgħet tinbena l-art fiha bħal ħotba, qiesha riedu jdaħħlu biss l-art tal-familja tal-Perit.

Naqbel 100% magħha li dik l-art qatt ma messha ġiet permessa li tkun żviluppata. Imma jiena u Daphne motivati minn raġunijiet differenti.

Il-motiv ta’ Daphne hu Mintoff: għaliha dak li għandu x’jaqsam miegħu Mintoff hu kollu ħażin.

Il-motiv tiegħi hu ambjentali: jiena motivat  mill-fatt li m’għandniex bżonn bini ta’ iktar residenzi għax għandna iktar minn biżżejjed. Bħalissa għandna il-fuq minn 70,000 post residenjali vojt u żgur li m’għandniex bżonn iktar.

L-art b’faċċata fuq Triq iż-Żejtun Marsaxlokk daħlet fl-ischeme tal-bini fl-1989. Dakinnhar  iddaħħlu fl-ischeme tal-bini kwantitajiet kbar ta’ artijiet imxerrda ma Malta kollha. Uħud kien jagħmel sens li jidħlu. Oħrajn le. Irrispettivament ta’ min huma. Mhux ta’ ulied il-Perit Mintoff biss. Ta’ l-oħrajn ukoll.

Għalhekk mhux skandlu. Iżda skandli. Plural mhux singular. Jiena u Alternattiva Demokratika interessati fil-plural, mhux fis-singular. Imma Daphne hi interessata biss u esklussivament fuq il-każ ta’ Marsaxlokk. Hekk jidher ta’ l-inqas.

Dawn l-iskandli ma sarux biss fuq art f’Marsaxlokk. L-anqas ma saru biss fl-1989. Saru ukoll taħt id-direzzjoni ta’ George Pullicino fl-2006 b’dak il-proċess magħruf bħala “rationalisation”. Bħala riżultat ta’ dan il-proċess kompliet tiżdied l-art li tista’ tinbena madwar Malta kollha.

Anke dwar dan saret spekulazzjoni.   Anke hawn kien hawn pluralita’ ta’ skandli. Imma dakinhar il-miraklu kien għadu ma sarx. Alternattiva Demokratika u l-għaqdiet ambjentali biss fetħu ħalqhom!

Ħaddiehor żamm għajnejh magħluqa, meta messhom huma miftuħin beraħ il-ħin kollu. It-tnejn li huma.

Imma l-miraklu ta’ kuxjenza ambjentali ta’ Daphne għalissa jidher li hu limitata għal Triq iż-Żejtun Marsaxlokk.

Progress? Ma nafx!

Minor footnote to 1980s talks

Much has been written about the meetings between Dom Mintoff and Guido de Marco prior to 1987 on finding ways in which to solve the constitutional crisis resulting from the 1981 perverse electoral results.

During these meetings Mintoff and de Marco undoubtedly also discussed various other matters as they considered appropriate. At one point, I too formed part of their agenda.

It was early in October 1984 and I was carrying out duties of architect and civil engineer at the then Public Works Department. Called to the office of the director, I was informed that, in view of my articles published in newspapers of the Nationalist Party, my employment was being terminated forthwith.

Being without a job was further compounded by the fact that the then Labour government had also withheld my professional warrant.

I initiated human rights proceedings claiming that my right to freedom of expression and protection from discrimination on political grounds had been breached by the Director of Public Works and his minister, Lorry Sant.

The first session of the court case was fixed for early November 1984. Witnesses were heard and submissions made.

Some time in April or May 1985, de Marco called to tell me that he had a message for me from Mintoff. My dismissal from the Public Works Department had cropped up in one of his meetings with Mintoff who had suggested that he would be prepared to take me on board as a civil engineer on the Freeport project, then under his wings and in its early stages.

However, this proposal was subject to the conditions that I had to halt legal proceedings against Sant and, in addition, I had to bind myself not to write any more articles in newspapers.

My response was a clear no.

We met a second time at the request of de Marco, presumably as Mintoff was pressing for an answer. But I did not budge. In view of my refusal, the message was relayed through two alternative routes. De Marco had asked two high-ranking PN officials to persuade me to compromise. Fortunately, they fully understood my position and did not press the matter any further.

On June 27, 1985, just weeks after receiving Mintoff’s message, the case was decided by Mr Justice Joseph Filletti. He concluded that my freedom of expression and my right not to be discriminated against on political grounds were breached by the Director of Public Works. The director, the court ruled, had to shoulder administrative responsibility for the happenings in his department on his own.

Mr Justice Filletti had exonerated the minister!

Subsequent to Mr Justice Filletti’s decision I received a phone call that a senior army officer attached to Mintoff’s office at Kalafrana wanted to speak to me.

I clearly remember that it was an August afternoon in 1985 when I called at his office. This army officer, eventually a colonel, told me that I should not count my chickens yet because, while I had a favourable first decision from the law courts, it was inevitable that it would be reversed on appeal.

He prodded me to accept Mintoff’s proposal and stop legal proceedings. I told the colonel that I had already refused the proposal and that I had no intention of changing my mind.

In the meantime, the Constitutional Court had fixed dates for hearings of the appeals submitted. I myself had submitted an appeal because, in my view, the minister should have been found responsible together with the director for breach of human rights. Proof had been submitted that the instructions for my dismissal had been issued by the minister himself.

The Constitutional Court decided the case on January 29, 1986. It concluded that Sant had, in fact, issued the instructions for my dismissal himself. It further acknowledged that proof of the minister’s direct involvement had been submitted through the evidence of various witnesses.

The Constitutional Court decided that both Sant and the director were responsible for political discrimination.

As to freedom of expression, the Constitutional Court reversed the first court’s decision and concluded that those in public employment sign away their rights of freedom of expression. By accepting public employment, the Constitutional Court held that you renounce your freedom of expression.

As it turned out, it seems that the colonel was most probably bluffing after all.

It was clear to me that Mintoff was trying to find a way out for Sant.

When my name cropped up in the de Marco-Mintoff talks it seems that I was considered as a pawn that could be easily sacrificed in the quest for the larger prize.

Fortunately, matters developed differently in this minor footnote to the de Marco/Mintoff talks.

published in The Times (Malta) 8th September 2012

Dom : abjad jew iswed iżda bla griż

Il-funeral statali ta’ Dom Mintoff kif kien mistenni ħareġ fil-pubbliku l-appoġġ u l-approvazzjoni li Dom għadu kapaċi jqanqal, minkejja li hemm min ipprova jpinġih bħala traditur.  Miet imma għex b’viżjoni ċara. Viżjoni li kienet ċara sa mill-ewwel ġranet tal-ħidma politika tiegħu.

Ta’ 23 sena fid-Daily Malta Chronicle ippubblika l-mission statement tiegħu : “Malta għandha bżonn ta’ membri ġodda b’ideat godda li jkunu jistgħu jgħaqqdu l-elementi progressivi kollha u tbiddel is-sistema soċjali medjevali f’sistema li tkun l-għira tal-bqija tad-dinja.” Fl-1939 il-messaġġ ta’ Dom kien ċar għal kulħadd, ħlief għal min ma riedx jisma’. L-impenn tiegħu fil-ħajja pubblika Dom kien jarah bħala l-għodda biex ineħħi l-għanqbut!  Kien mgħaġġel, probabilment għax kien konxju li l-politiku hu għasfur tal-passa. Allura fittex li jagħsar kull opportunita’ li ġiet quddiemu. Ma kellux paċenzja ma min kien kajman.  Min kien jimxi bil-mod iżżejjed kien jarah ta’ xkiel li seta jtellfu l-ħin u per konsegwenza l-opportunita li jwettaq il-viżjoni tiegħu.

Il-viżjoni tiegħu wettaqha. Imma weġġa’ ħafna nies. Weġgħat li faċilment setgħu ġew evitati. Kif għidt diġa f’kitba oħra tiegħi hi sfortuna kbira li dawk ta’ madwaru mhux dejjem kienu kapaċi jagħtuh parir tajjeb. Pariri tajbin kienu bla dubju jnaqqsu l-possibilta’ ta’ ħsara u jagħmlu l-bniedem iktar aċċettabbli – jew inqas inaċċettabbli – milli fil-fatt hu.

Hemm ukoll il-problema kkawżata mid-debbolizzi tiegħu illi kif ilu jingħad fil-widnejn seta kien hemm min uzhom biex jirkattah. Fil-fatt fi blog oħra, dik ta’ Daphne Caruana Galizia, iktar kmieni din il-ġimgħa ġiet ippubblikata storja dwar dan il-punt. Din l-istorja ġiet imneħħja ftit wara għax kien fiha żball. Imma mhux billi tneħħiet minn fuq il-blog, l-istorja xorta għadha teżisti x’imkien fuq l-internet u tista’ tinqara billi wieħed jagħmel użu minn din il-link: għafas hawn. Għax it-teknoloġija, tajjeb jew ħażin, illum tikxef kollox. (Nota: sadanittant ġiet ippubblikata edizzjoni ġdida tal-post li kienet irtirata li tista’ tinqara hawn).

Din hi storja dwar rikatt u sfortunatament hija ibbażata fuq inċidenti li l-gazzetti naqsu serjament illi jinvestigaw u jinfurmaw lill-pubbliku dwarhom. Veru li meta ġraw ma kien hawn  l-ebda tradizzjoni ta’ ġurnaliżmu investigattiv fil-pajjiż. Ġurnalisti kapaċi kien hawn, imma l-klima politika ma kienitx tippermettilhom li jaħdmu. Imma in-nuqqas xorta jibqa’ hemm u kellu konsegwenzi kbar. Kif jixhed l-inċident tar-ritratti li ġew ippreżentati fil-Parlament minn Lorry Sant. Ir-ritratti jixħtu dawl fuq dak li ġara u inżammu mistura. Biex seta’ jseħħ rikatt ħalli tinħeba l-korruzzjoni, li xorta inkixfet ftit wara bir-rapport tal-Kummissjoni dwar il-Korruzzjoni fuq Lorry Sant.

Dawn u ħafna affarijiet oħra għad iridu jinkitbu volumi sħaħ dwarhom. Kif qal l-Arċisqof Pawlu Cremona dalgħodu Dom bena l-ħidma politika tiegħu fuq żewġ pilastri importanti: li jgħin lill-fqir u li jsaħħah l-identitia’ nazzjonali. Hi sfortuna li kellu jirrombla minn fuq ħafna. Li għalaq għajnjeh għal ħafna ħmieġ w irregolaritajiet amministrattivi. Li kien imdawwar minn nies vjolenti li kellhom is-setgħa li jagħmlu li jridu mingħajr ma jiġrilhom xejn, għax il-Pulizija kienu dejjem jipproteġu lilhom.

Għexna fi żminijiet koroh. Żmien fejn l-abbuż kien igglorifikat. Veru li Dom għamel il-ġid imma dan il-ġid m’huwiex gomma li tħassar il-ħsara li saret. Fl-aħħar l-istorja għad tagħti l-ġudizzju tagħha. Nittama li l-abjad jibqa’ abjad imma li l-iswed jibqa’ iswed ukoll. Għax Dom ma kellux griz!

Dom: a giant surrounded by pygmies

Much has been written in the past days on Dom Mintoff. On his service to the nation. On his values. On his methods. On his achievements.

In what we write we ought to be respectful. Not just to Dom, the man and his memory. We must also respect  ourselves. We must be factual.

We cannot respect the man  if we have no self respect!

His first positive contribution was in the development of the tools of  social solidarity,  determined to ensure that all had access to the basic essentials. He did this initially with Sir Paul Boffa his predecessor as Labour Leader. It was Boffa who laid the foundations of the welfare state through the introduction of Old Age Pensions and Income Tax to finance them!  Years earlier Boffa had prodded Gerald Strickland through the Compact to construct St Luke’s Hospital.  Boffa has been sidelined in the past 50 years when in reality it was he who should get the credit for founding the welfare state in Malta. Dom built on Boffa’s solid foundations, widening and deepening social services in the process.

His second positive was his determination that independence be translated into Maltese absolute control of the islands and their strategic infrastructure. This contrasted with Borg Olivier’s more gradual approach.  His negotiations shocked the nation as it was the first time that a Maltese politician stood up and spoke what they had in mind. In his last mass meeting before the 1971 general elections, held  at Marsa,  Mintoff had stated in very clear terms what he had in mind. It was time for Britain to pay up or pack up.

Lord Carrington then Defence Secretary in Edward Heath’s Cabinet states in his memoirs that negotiating with Dom was tough business. He realised “that there was also calculation in every Mintoff mood.”  Mintoff’s moods noted Carrington, would alternate “between periods of civilised charm and spasms of strident and hysterical abuse.”

Dom also opened a third front. He rightly felt the need for a separation of Church and State. It was, and still is  an area which requires much attention. It was much worse 50 years ago with an unelected archbishop-prince wielding political power unwittingly aiding  the colonial masters. Divide and rule was the British policy in its colonies. This front has been the cause of various scars (political and social), still not sufficiently healed.  It was violence from unexpected quarters which multiplied the political problems which each government has had to tackle since.

In his endeavours Dom was undoubtedly influenced by his direct experiences.  His witnessing of abject poverty during his childhood, his youth and immediate post war years formed his vision for developing the welfare state which had been painfully plotted by Sir Paul Boffa.

Having a foreign power controlling any square metre of significance on the islands was too much to bear for someone with Dom’s temperament. His father’s employment in the service of Lord Louis Mountbatten undoubtedly added to the significance of it all and to his determination to make a clean sweep.

It would be dishonest to ignore the above.

It would be however similarly dishonest to ignore the fact that his stewardship was also characterised by arrogance and bullying. It was characterised by organs of the state which sought to protect abusive behaviour. The long list of cases wherein Dom’s government and his most trusted Ministers were found guilty of infringing human rights is there for all to see. None of them was ever forced to resign. This is also part of Dom’s contribution to the development of  post 1964 Malta.

Anyone ever tried to identify the number of victims, some with a one way ticket to l-Addolorata Cemetery?

Former Air Malta chairman Albert Mizzi in an interview carried in The Sunday Times on March 25, 2012 stated: “I remember one time when someone mentioned something to him about corruption. He turned to me and said, ‘is it true?’ I replied: ‘That what’s people are saying’. His response was: ‘What can I do if that person has helped me to build up the party? Can I take action against him?’ You see, this is small Malta.”

That is Dom, the giant surrounded by pygmies: those who helped him build his party and then proceeded to squeeze it dry until the pips squealed.

Respecting Dom also means self-respect. Respect  the facts.  When this is done we can give the man his due.

originally published at di-ve.com

On this blog you can read the following additional posts on Dom MINTOFF :

21st August 2012 : Dom’s legacy

21st August 2012 : Dom Mintoff

22nd June 2012 : Dom Mintoff fuq in-Net TV.

5th May 2012 : Dom Mintoff : a political bully.

23rd April 2012 : Thanks O Lord for giving us DOM.

1st April 2012: Should we thank Dom?