A fixed-term Parliament

At this point in time, within the party we are discussing our electoral Manifesto for the forthcoming general election. When will it be held: shortly or much later? At the time of writing no official announcement has been made. Maybe by the time this article is printed matters would be clear.

When presenting proposals for the consideration of the ever-pending Constitutional Convention, we had as a party considered the matter in some detail: should the Prime Minister have the discretion to advise on the dissolution of Parliament?  This was one of the “rights” of Kings and Queens which have been inherited by Heads of Government as a result of democratisation. Since independence it has been the Prime Minister’s right in Malta to advise that Parliament be dissolved and that an election be called.

Over two years have now elapsed since we proposed to the Constitutional Convention that Parliament should have a fixed term and that the election date should be fixed.

Such a provision is normally associated with the American experience on the first Tuesday of the month of November: every alternate year electing the House of Representatives, every four years for electing the President and for electing a third of the Senate every two years.

In the United Kingdom the Liberal-Conservative coalition had in 2011 introduced a fixed-term Parliament Act as a result of which, for the first time ever, the Prime Minister’s role in determining the date of dissolution of Parliament and the subsequent holding of a general election were severely curtailed.

Nick Clegg, then Liberal leader and Deputy Prime Minister had, in piloting the relevant act in Parliament, described such a move stripping Prime Ministers of the power to pick election dates to maximise party advantage as a profound reform. He further emphasised that such a reform was essential to restore faith in politics.

The introduction of a constitutional provision for a fixed-term Parliament would entail removing political self-interest from election timing.

Of course, all Prime Ministers, with tears in their eyes, plead national interest whenever they make use of this discretion.

It would be interesting if we could have an explanation as to what “national interest justification” exists for having a snap-election in Malta at this point in time. Robert Abela’s justification could be as follows.

The first reason to justify a snap election is that come January 2022 a criminal jury relative to the failed HSBC hold-up is scheduled. Possible revelations could spot-light the alleged role of senior Labour Party politicians in the planning of this failed hold-up. Probably Robert Abela thinks that having clear information as to who was involved in planning the HSBC hold-up is not in our interest. It is definitely not in the interest of the Labour Party as it could unmask the Labour Party for what it really is: an eye-opener to some!

The second reason to justify a snap election is the turbulent energy market which could play havoc with the costs to generate electricity locally. Given that we import gas through a contract which is to expire shortly, the price of gas used at Delimara to generate electricity will probably sky-rocket. Alternatively, we use the interconnector to tap energy generated on the mainland. The use of the interconnector was very recently curtailed due to the substantial increase in the price of the energy available!  A substantial increase would impact government finances negatively and Robert Abela would prefer not to have this fact in the public domain during an electoral campaign.

The third reason would be the impacts of grey-listing which are bound to increase with time. The longer it takes to take action as per the agreed road-map with the FATF (Financial Action Task Force) the more the impacts. Labour cannot divorce itself from this. They think that having an election out of the way would at least shield Labour from more electoral impacts of grey-listing.

Having a snap election could potentially shield the Labour Party from these and other impacts which could have a substantial political fallout. The snap election will not address these problems, it will just postpone them into the future.

A fixed-term Parliament would do away with all this. Instead of trying to avoid problems it is better to address them head-on.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 24 October 2021

Coalition building: beyond the arithmetic

It is pretty obvious that the primary – and possibly the only – objective that the Nationalist Party seeks to attain through its proposed coalition is to numerically surpass the Labour Party when the first count votes are tallied after  the forthcoming general election. Should this materialise, it could be a stepping stone on the basis of which, possibly, it could return to office on its own or in coalition.

The rest, that is to say beyond the first count vote tally, is all a necessary evil for the PN.

In contrast, Alternattiva Demokratikas objectives go beyond arithmetic. Alternattiva Demokratika favours a principle-based coalition, ethically driven,  in conscious preference to a pragmatic-based one that is driven exclusively by arithmetic considerations.

A principle-based coalition asks questions and demands answers continuously. The path to be followed to elect the first Green MPs is just as important as the objective itself. This is not simply  a minor inconsequential detail: it is a fundamental difference in approach.

Alternattiva Demokratika is continuously being tempted to discard its principled approach on the basis of a possible satisfactory result being within reach: now is the time, we are told, to join Simon Busuttils coalition in the national interest.  

Alternattiva Demokratika has always given way to the national interest. It is definitely in the national interest to discard (at the earliest possible opportunity) the two-party system that is the cause of the current political mess. In this context, at AD we do not view the PN (or the PL for that matter) as a solution. Both are an intrinsic part of the problem. Even if they are not exactly equivalent, together they are the problem. Parliament has been under the control of the two-party system  without interruption for the past 52 years. This is ultimately responsible for the current state of affairs as, due to its composition, Parliament has been repeatedly unable to hold the government of the day to account.

It is the worst kind of political dishonesty to pretend that the PN is whiter than white when criticising the Labour Partys gross excesses during the past four years. Labour has been capable of creating the current mess because the last PN-led government left behind quasi-toothless institutions, such that, when push came to shove, these institutions were incapable of biting back against abuse in defence of Maltese society: so much for the PNs commitment to good governance.

The PN is also  still haunted by its own gross excesses including:

1) Claudio Grechs incredible declaration on the witness stand in Parliaments Public Accounts Committee that he did not recollect ever meeting George Farrugia during the development of the oil sales scandal, George Farrugia being the mastermind  behind it all.   

2) Beppe Fenech Adamis role in the nominee company behind the Capital One Investment Group/Baltimore Fiduciary Services . In quasi similar circumstances, former Labour Party Treasurer Joe Cordina was forced to resign and was withdrawn as a general election candidate.

3) Mario DeMarcos error of judgement (with Simon Busuttils blessing) in accepting the brief of Silvio Debonos db Group in relation to the provision of advisory legal services on the Groups acquisition from Government of land at Pembroke, currently the site of the Institute for Tourism Studies, and this when his duty a Member of Parliament was to subject the deal to the minutest scrutiny and thereby hold government to account.

4) Toni Bezzinas application for a proposed ODZ Villa at the same time that, together with others, he was drafting an environment policy document on behalf of the PN in which document he proposed that this should henceforth  be prohibited.

5) Simon Busuttils alleged attempt to camouflage political donations as payment for fictitious services by his partys commercial arm, thereby circumventing the Financing of Political Parties Act.

How can the Nationalist Party be credible by declaring itself as the rallying point in favour of good governance and against corruption when it took no serious action to clean up its own ranks? Apologies are a good start but certainly not enough: heads must roll.

A coalition with a PN that closes more than one eye to the above is bound to fail, as the behaviour of the PN and its leadership is clearly and consistently diametrically opposed to its sanctimonious declarations.

These are very serious matters: they need to be suitably and satisfactorily addressed as a pre-condition to the commencement of any coalition talks.  Time is running out and this is being stated even before one proceeds to identify and spell out the red lines – ie the issues that are non-negotiable.

Addressing the arithmetic issues concerning the general election and then ending up with a new government with such an ambivalent attitude to good governance would mean that we are back to the point from which we started.    Nobody in his right mind would want that and Alternattiva Demokratika would certainly not support such double speak.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 16 April 2017

L-interess nazzjonali

 silenced

Qed jgħidulna li min jitkellem b’mod kritiku dwar dak li jkun qed jiġri f’Malta barra l-pajjiż ikun qed jaġixxi kontra l-interess nazzjonali.

Jekk taqra dak li qed jingħad qiesu hemm xi obbligu li f’fora internazzjonali kull Malti għandu l-obbligu li jfaħħar u jappoġġa dak li jagħmel il-Gvern. Bħala eżempju ġieli jgħidulna li d-delegazzjoni Laburista fil-Parlament Ewropew appoġġat il-kandidatura ta’ Tonio Borg għal Kummissarju Ewropew. Qiesu jridu jgħidulna li għamlu hekk minkejja li kienu jafu li dik ma kienitx għażla tajba, iżda huma xorta taw l-appoġġ tagħhom, ovvjament fl-interess nazzjonali!

Fil-fatt meta d-delegazzjoni Laburista appoġġat il-kandidatura ta’ Tonio Borg (minkejja li kienet taf li dik kien proposta żbaljata tal-Gvern immexxi minn Lawrence Gonzi) imxiet kontra l-interess nazzjonali, għax l-interess ta’ Malta kien li jkollna Kummissarju differenti.  Tonio Borg minkejja l-kwalitajiet tajba tiegħu ma kienx għażla tajba għall-kariga ta’ Kummissarju Ewropew.

Bħalma l-Labour dakinnhar żbaljaw, illum jippretendu li l-iżball tagħhom jimitah kulhadd. Jippretendu appoġġ għami għal dak li jagħmel il-Gvern. Taqbel u ma taqbilx. Fl-interess nazzjonali, ovvjament.

Ma hemm l-ebda obbligu li nagħtu appoġġ lill-Gvern meta dan jiżbalja. La f’Malta u l-anqas barra minn Malta.  Hu kontra l-interess nazzjonali li tappoġġa proposti żbaljati biex tidher taparsi patrijott.

X’tagħmel il-GWU dwar il-proposta tal-Gvern dwar il-bejgħ taċ-ċittadinanza hi għażla tagħha. Il-GWU għandha kull dritt (u obbligu) li tasal għall-konklużjonjiet tagħha dwar dak li jkun għaddej. Kif jagħmel ħaddieħor. Pero’ l-President tal-GWU ma għandu l-ebda dritt jippretendi u jinsisti li d-diskussjoni ma tmurx lil hinn minn xtutna. Dak li qed jipproponi l-Gvern dwar iċ-ċittadinanza għandu, implikazzjonijiet serji lil hinn minn xtutna u għalhekk hu floku li l-Parlament Ewropew jiddiskuti l-materja f’nofs Jannar 2014.

Dak kollu li jiġri Malta qatt ma kien ta’ interess għalina biss. Iktar u iktar illum li niffurmaw parti mill-Unjoni Ewropeja. Dak kollu li jiġri f’Malta jinteressa lil kulħadd. Bl-istess mod jinteressa lilna dak li jiġri f’pajjiżi oħra ukoll, kemm dawk li pajjiżi li huma qrib tagħna kif ukoll dawk li huma iktar il-bogħod.

Per eżempju kien hemm żmien meta l-Libja, fi żmien Muammar Gaddafi, ftehmet ma Sarkozy (dakinnhar President ta’ Franza) dwar ix-xiri ta’ impjant nuklejari biex dan ikun istallat mal-kosta Libjana ħalli jipproduċi ilma tajjeb għax-xorb mill-ilma baħar. Dan l-impjant, jekk il-kostruzzjoni tiegħu jseħħ, jista’ jkollu impatt negattiv fuq Malta, iżda minkejja dan ħadd ma fetaħ ħalqu dwaru ħlief Alternattiva Demokratika. L-anqas meta l-Italja taħt Silvio Berlusconi ipprovat tibni impjant nuklejari 94 kilometru l-bogħod minn Għawdex (f’Palma di Montechiaro mal-kosta t’isfel ta’ Sqallija) ukoll ħadd ma fetaħ ħalqu f’Malta ħlief Alternattiva Demokratika. Dan minkejja l-potenzjal ta’ impatt diżastruż ta’ dan l-impjant fuq il-gżejjer Maltin.

L-interess nazzjonali dakinnhar kien jitlob li l-Gvern u l-Opposizzjoni jiftħu ħalqhom. Iżda kemm il-PN kif ukoll il-Labour dakinnhar baqgħu siekta t-tnejn. Bħala riżultat ta’ dak is-skiet dakinnhar irrenjaw l-interessi ta’ Franza, tal-Libja u tal-Italja, mhux l-interess nazzjonali ta’ Malta.

Fi ftit kliem is-skiet biss huwa kontra l-interess nazzjonali. Għandna l-obbligu li niftħu ħalqna dejjem. Nitkellmu b’mod responsabbli iva, imma mhux li nżommu ħalqna magħluq.

Hu fl-interess nazzjonali li min hu tal-fehma li l-iskema tal-bejgħ taċ-ċittadinanza proposta mill-Gvern ta’ Malta hi żbaljata jesprimi ruħu pubblikament, dejjem sakemm dan isir b’mod responsabbli. Ikun qed jimxi kontra l-interess nazzjonali min, minkejja dan, jibqa’ ħalqu magħluq. Hu biss is-skiet li jagħmel il-ħsara.

ippubblikat fuq iNews, it-Tlieta 31 ta’ Diċembru 2013

L-interess nazzjonali hu li nwaqqgħu l-ħitan

coatofarms_malta

 

Għandna bżonn inwaqqgħu l-ħitan li jifirduna u nibnu l-pontijiet.

L-iktar materja ovvja u ċara fejn dan hu meħtieġ illum hu dwar l-immigrazzjoni. Diġa hi problema kbira u ilha hekk għal diversi snin. Mhux biss ser tibqa’ iżda wisq nibża’ li ser issir problema ikbar milli hi illum.

In-nuqqas ta’ qbil huwa jekk għandiex dritt li nibgħatu lill-immigranti lura. Punt li jidher li ġie riżolt meta l-Gvern Laburista aċċetta l-ordni tal-Qorti Ewropeja tad-Drittijiet tal-Bniedem fi Strasbourg.

Jekk nitilqu minn dan il-punt u li dwaru issa naqblu lkoll ma naħsibx li baqa’ differenzi għax jidher li ilkoll naqblu fuq diversi affarijiet.

Naqblu li Malta hi vulnerabbli minħabba l-posizzjoni ġeografika tagħha.

Naqblu li m’għandniex riżorsi biex nilqgħu biżżejjed għall-impatti ta’ mewġa kontinwa ta’ immigrazzjoni mil-Libja, mhux biss kif inhi, iżda iktar u iktar jekk tiżdied.

Naqblu li l-għajnuna li ġiet mill-Unjoni Ewropeja matul is-snin, għalkemm m’hiex żgħira, m’hiex biżżejjed u li hemm ħtieġa li tiżdied biex tkun solidarjeta iktar effettiva u li tinħass verament li hi hekk.

Naqblu li wieħed mill-modi l-iktar effettivi ta’ għajnuna li neħtieġu hi li iktar pajjiżi mill-Unjoni Ewropeja jerfgħu l-piż magħna – responsibility sharing – billi jilqgħu f’pajjiżhom numru ikbar milli għamlu sal-lum tal-immigranti li jiġu f’pajjiżna.

Naħseb li naqblu ukoll li l-għajnuna li tista’ tagħti l-Unjoni Ewropeja lill-pajjiżi minn fejn qed joriġinaw l-immigranti tkun l-iktar għajnuna li tħalli effetti fit-tul għax tindirizza l-problema at source.

Nittama li nifhmu li dan kollu ma jiddependix biss mill-kapaċita tal-Gvern li jinnegozja ftehim tajjeb. Jiddependi ukoll mill-pressjonijiet soċjali fis-27 pajjiżi oħra li flimkien magħna jiffurmaw l-Unjoni Ewropeja. Għax l-Unjoni Ewropeja mhix dik jew dawk, hi aħna ukoll.

Nafu li f’diversi pajjiżi tal-Unjoni Ewropeja, anke’ dawk b’politika żviluppata tul is-snin li tilqa’ b’idejha miftuħa r-refuġjati ta’ kull nazzjon u kulur hemm problemi mhux żgħar.  F’uħud minn dawn il-pajjiżi hemm ukoll partiti politiċi li għandhom bħala skop ewlieni tagħhom it-tixrid tal-mibgħeda razzjali.

Għalkemm sforz tal-irjus sħan qed tingħata stampa ħażina tal-qagħda f’Malta nemmen li l-mibgħeda razzjali f’Malta m’għandhiex egħruq fondi.  Il-partiti politiċi għandna l-obbligu li ma nħallux dawn l-egħruq jissaħħu.

Għalhekk li issa iktar minn qatt qabel hu meħtieg li nwaqqgħu l-ħitan u nibnu l-pontijiet. Hemm ħafna oqsma ta’ qbil. Fuqhom nistgħu  nibnu flimkien strateġija nazzjonali dwar l-immigrazzjoni. Pontijiet li jinbnew bid-djalogu u li jwasslu għal kooperazzjoni wiesa’.

Dan hu l-interess nazzjonali.