The Impeachment of Dr George Vella

Parliament has approved controversial legislation relative to IVF on the 6 July 2022.

The approved legislation was sent to the Office of the President of the Republic in order that he concludes the legislative process by assenting to the approved bill.

Article 72 of the Constitution provides that “When a bill is presented to the President for assent, he shall without delay signify that he assents.” The bill has been on the President’s desk for many days and he has not given his Presidential assent. He should signify that he assents without delay. There are no ifs and buts.

This lack of Presidential assent “without delay” is in breach of the Constitutional responsibilities of the President of the Republic.

In statements made to the press over the past days it has been made amply clear that Dr George Vella is reluctant to assent to the approved IVF Bill. This is clearly unacceptable and runs counter to his Constitutional responsibilities as President of the Republic.

A Green MP would by now have presented a motion for the impeachment of Dr George Vella and his removal from the office of President of the Republic for failing to shoulder his Constitutional responsibilities “without delay”.

There are no Green MPs. Discriminatory electoral legislation is currently being contested in our law courts, an initiative of ADPD-The Green Party.

Will anyone of the 79 Members of Parliament take the initiative?

Planning application PA00777/22 : another mega-development at Marsaskala

(photo is the official Parliamentary voting record of those voting in favour of the rationalisation exercise: that is those voting in favour of extending the building development boundary into what was then ODZ-Outside the Development Zone)

It would be pertinent to remember that on the 26 July 2006 Malta’s Parliament approved a resolution which we normally refer to as the “rationalisation” exercise, as a result of which extensive stretches of land until then outside the development zone (ODZ) were declared as land suitable for development.

The PN parliamentary group, supported the Lawrence Gonzi led government and voted in favour of developing ODZ land whilst ironically the Labour Opposition had then voted against the proposal. This is not just history. It is still affecting our daily lives. Today, 16 years later some are realising for the first time how land use planning was screwed by the then Environment Minister George Pullicino!

Three of the Members of Parliament who had then voted in favour of developing ODZ land are still MPs today.

Their names come to mind when considering the latest mega-development proposal, this time at iż-Żonqor on the outskirts of Marsaskala, through development application PA00777/22.  The development application this time concerns a 5,000 square metre area of rural land over which it is proposed to construct 135 residential units and 180 basement garages. These will be spread over 10 different levels, four of them below ground floor level after excavating a substantial amount of rock.

The basic decision permitting today’s proposed development was taken on the 26 July 2006 when the rationalisation exercise was approved by Parliament on the proposal of a PN-led government. No studies were then carried out as to the environmental impacts of the development resulting from the rationalisation exercise. Specifically, the cumulative impact of the development proposed was ignored contrary to the then emerging environmental acquis of the EU relative to the assessment of plans and programmes, known as the SEA Directive (Strategic Environment Assessment Directive) which Directive entered into force on the days immediately following the approval by the Maltese Parliament of the rationalisation exercise.

The basic question to ask is whether we really need such large-scale developments. Why are we determined as a country to develop every square centimetre of our land? Isn’t it about time that a moratorium on such large-scale development enters in force?

The rationalisation exercise should be scrapped at the earliest and all rationalised land returned to its former ODZ status the soonest. This is what we should expect of any government which (unashamedly) proclaims that the environment and our quality of life is now its priority.

It has taken our residents 16 years to become sensitised to the large-scale havoc which land use planning has degenerated to.  Throughout these 16 years all genuine environmentalists have been pointing this out. Unfortunately, some only react when large scale development is very close to their backyard, otherwise they do not care. The writing has been on the wall for a number of years, yet it was ignored for quite some time.

One mega-project after the other has been eroding our quality of life, the latest one being proposal PA00777/22 which goes by this description: To excavate and construct 180 garages at basement level, 2 Class 4B shops, and 135 overlying units. The site is at iż-Zonqor, Marsaskala, but it should be everyone’s concern.

It is about time that we stop all this in the same way that the proposed Marina at Marsaskala had to be shelfed, hopefully for good!

published on Malta Independent on Sunday : 5 June 2022

Issa li ħareġ ir-riżultat finali tal-elezzjoni!

F’dawn il-mumenti li qed joħorġu l-aħħar riżultati qed issir magħrufa l-komposizzjoni tal-Parlament.

Il-Parlament issa hu magħmul minn 79 membru parlamentari.

Ir-riforma li saret setgħet tat riżultati aħjar. Minflok kompliet għaffġet.

Għal uħud, li daħlu fil-Parlament 12-il mara bil-mekkaniżmu tal-ġeneru hu mument ta’ ċelebrazzjoni.

Naħseb li mhux. Anzi hu mument ta’ negazzjoni tal-proċess demokratiku.

Mhux qed nikkritika l-fatt li l-Parlament aġxxa biex jindirizza l-iżbilanċ tal-ġeneru fil-komposizzjoni tal-Parlament wara l-elezzjoni. Il-kritika tiegħi u tal-partit li mmexxi hi iffukata fuq il-mod kif dan sar.

Il-Parlament spiċċa biex raqqa’ s-sistema elettorali b’mod li sistema elettorali mimlija difetti saret agħar milli kienet.

Il-Partit Laburista illum ghandu 38+ 6 = 44 siġġu parlamentari u l-Partit Nazzjonalista illum ghandu 27+ 2+ 6 = 35 siġġu parlamentari : b’kollox 79.

Il-Partit Laburista kiseb 162,707 voti fl-ewwel għadd: jiġifieri kull wieħed mill-44 siġġu parlamentari tal-PL qed jirrappreżenta 3698 vot. Il-Partit Nazzjonalista kiseb 123,233 vot fl-ewwel għadd: jiġifieri kull wieħed mill-35 siġġu parlamentari tal-PN qed jirrappreżenta 3521 vot.

L-ADPD fl-ewwel għadd kisbet 4747 voti. Bl-istess kejl li l-PN u l-PL qed japplikaw għalihom infushom aħna għandna dritt għal siġġu parlamentari aħna ukoll. Dik hi r-realtà tar-riforma li trodd il-proporzjonalità lill-PLPN u iċċaħħadha lill-bqija.

Kien hemm soluzzjonijiet oħra li kienu jirrispettaw il-volontà tal-elettorat. Sfortunatamanet dawn ġew skartati. Fid-dokument li ippreżentajna għall-konsiderazzjoni tal-kovenzjoni kostituzzjonali kif ukoll fis-sottomissjonijiet fil-proċess konsultattiv dwar kif għandu jkun indirizzat l-iżbilanċ tal-ġeneru fil-parlament repetutament għidna li hu possibli li jkollna parlament ta’ 65 membru, li jirrappreżenta proporzjonalment lill-elettorat li jagħżlu kif ukoll li jkun iktar rappreżentattiv tal-ġeneri. Imma dejjem sibna l-bibien magħluqin. Ħadd ma ried jiddiskuti.

Soluzzjoni ġusta tirrikjedi tibdil sostanzjali u mhux li tipprova temmen li solvejt problema billi toħloq oħra. Imma hemm wasalna illum!

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-politka bl-ixkupa

Bħala partit għażilna l-ixkupa bħala s-simbolu politiku għall-elezzjoni tas-26 ta’ Marzu. L-ixkupa hi għodda tal-indafa. Tgħinna nnaddfu. Hi l-għodda tal-kennies, il-ħaddiem umli li jnaddaf it-toroq tagħna wara li aħna nkunu ħammiġnihom

Kull politiku għandu jkun kapaċi japprezza l-indafa. Għandu jkun kapaċi jmidd għonqu għax xogħol u jkun il-kennies tal-ħajja pubblika. Il-membri tal-parlament għandhom ikunu l-kenniesa tal-politika, determinati li jnaddfu, li jħarsu l-integrità tal-ħajja pubblika u fuq kollox jassiguraw li jittieħdu d-deċiżjonijiet meħtieġa f’waqthom, mingħajr tkaxkir tas-saqajn.  

Il-Manifest ta’ ADPD ġie ippubblikat f’nofs il-ġimgħa iwassal messaġġ ċar li Xkupa ħadra tnaddaf.

Hemm ħafna x’jeħtieġ li jsir biex dan il-pajjiż jinġieb lura għan-normal. Partiti oħra għandhom viżjoni u attitudni differenti u jwasslu messaġġi li ġeneralment jikkuntrastaw ma tagħna. Hemm iżda oqsma fejn hemm qbil u dan hu tajjeb. Għandi nifhem li ilkoll wara kollox nixtiequ l-ġid lil dan il-pajjiż avolja dan ma jkunx dejjem ċar.

Għandna nifhmu li qegħdin naħdmu għall-istess pajjiż, anke jekk b’viżjoni differenti u li kulltant tikkuntrasta! Għandna nagħmlu ħilitna kollha biex nikkontribwixxu għal dibattitu pubbliku pożittiv. Il-kritika tagħna għal dak li jingħad hi essenzjali, imma hi kritika li trid issir dejjem b’mod responsabbli.

L-aħħar xhur tal-ħidma parlamentari kienet iddominata minn diskussjoni dwar rapporti tal-Kummissarju dwar l-iStandards fil-Ħajja Pubblika dwar l-imġieba mhux korretta ta’ uħud mill-membri parlamentari. Dawn ir-rapporti wasslu għar-riżenja ta’ żewġ membri tal-Kabinett u ta’ Segretarju Permanenti.  Kien hemm reżistenza biex isiru dawn ir-riżenji. Hi sfortuna li l-Prim  Ministru xejn ma kien deċiżiv fiż-żewġ każi: ħa passi biss wara pressjoni sostanzjali mis-soċjetà ċivili.

Hu fatt magħruf li d-dinja tan-negozju u l-poter politku huma viċin wisq ta’ xulxin. Dan hu ta’ ostaklu għall-kontabilità, għat-trasparenza u ġhall-osservanza tal-etika fil-ħajja pubblika. Aħna f’ADPD ilna s-snin ngħiduh dan. Anke is-soċjetà ċivili ilha ssemma leħinha dwar dan. Issa anke l-Kummissjoni ta’ inkjesta li investigat iċ-ċirkustanzi li wasslu għall-assassinju ta’ Daphne Caruana Galizia ikkonfermat din il-konnessjoni mhux mixtieqa bejn il-politika u d-dinja tan-negozju. Qegħdin viċin wisq!   

Għandna ħtieġa ta’ Parlament li jkollu sensittività etika.  Għandna bżonn iktar membri parlamentari ta’ integrità, kapaċi jgħarblu b’mod konsistenti l-ħidma tal-amministrazzjoni pubblika. Neħtieġu istituzzjonijiet b’karattru u b’sinsla. Għandna bżonn ta’ Parlament li jinkludi kandidati ta’ ADPD eletti mid-distretti differenti. Kandidati li mhux qegħdin fil-ġirja għal xi interess personali, tagħhom jew ta’ oħrajn, imma biss għas-servizz tal-komunità kollha.

NagħmeI emfasi fuq il-verb “jinkludi” u dan billi l-kandidati ta’ ADPD mhumiex l-uniċi li jistgħu jagħtu kontribut pożittiv għall-iżvilupp tal-politka f’pajjiżna.  Nitkellem b’rispett dwar il-kandidati l-oħra ippreżentati mill-partiti politiċi l-oħrajn. Il-parti l-kbira minnhom huma nisa u irġiel iddedikati li qed jagħtu servizz ġenwin lill-komunità tagħna huma ukoll.

Il-manifest elettorali ta’ ADPD jittratta numru mhux żgħir ta’ proposti li għandhom impatt dirett fuq il-ħajja taċ-ċittadini tagħna. Mhux manifest ta’ Father Christmas iqassam ir-rigali imma hu presentazzjoni ta’ viżjoni li irridu nimxu fuqha.

L-agenda tagħna hi li nkunu ta’ servizz għall-komunità kollha.

L-indafa fil-politika hi essenzjali. Mingħajr indafa ma nistgħux naħdmu sewwa. Aħna irridu li nkunu l-għodda għat-tiġdid tal-politika fil-pajjiż. L-ixkupa ħadra li tnaddaf. B’politika li tagħti servizz illum  waqt li tkun attenta dwar l-impatti fuq għada. B’hekk nistgħu nassiguraw li l-ħidma tal-lum ma xxekkilx lill-ġenerazzjonijiet futuri mid-dritt tagħhom li jieħdu id-deċiżjonijiet li jkunu meħtieġa minnhom.

F’dan il-mument kritiku il-politika bl-ixkupa hi l-unika triq vijabbli l-quddiem. Il-politika Maltija għandha bżonn tindifa nobis!

Ippubblikat fuq Illum: il-Ħadd 6 ta’ Marzu 2022

The politics of the broom

ADPD – The Green Party has selected the broom as its political symbol for the 26 March elections. The broom is a tool which assists us in achieving cleanliness. It is the street sweeper’s tool, the humble worker that cleans our streets after we mess them up.

Achieving cleanliness is an objective which should be shared by all parliamentarians.  Parliament and its members should be the political sweepers, keeping politics clean, safeguarding its integrity and above all ensuring that decisions are taken whenever required without unnecessary delay.

The Green political manifesto has been published in mid-week. Its main message is that Green sweeps clean (Xkupa ħadra tnaddaf).

There is so much to do to get this country back to normal. Other parties generally have a different vision and attitude and convey contrasting messages. There are however also areas of overlap between the different political parties. It is to be assumed that all seek the common good, even though at times this is not that clear!

We recognise that we are in this journey all together. We will do all in our power to contribute to a positive debate. We are critical of the political platforms of other parties but we do this in a responsible manner.

The last months of parliamentary debate have been dominated by the consideration of the reports of the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life on the unethical behaviour of members of Cabinet. These reports have led to the resignation of two members of Cabinet and a Permanent Secretary. They were reluctant resignations. The Prime Minister unfortunately did not act decisively in both cases: he acted only as a result of the substantial public pressure of civil society.

It is a well-known fact that accountability, transparency and ethics in public life are severely hindered by the close connections between political power and business concerns. It is not only ADPD that has been saying this for a long time. The ever-increasing voice of civil society has led to these issues being given the attention they deserve. The Inquiry Commission investigating the circumstances into the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia also confirmed this unsavoury link between politics and business: they are too close for comfort.  

We need a Parliament that is ethically sensitive. We need more Members of Parliament of integrity, able to oversee continuously and consistently the public administration. We need institutions with character and a solid spine. We need a Parliament that includes ADPD representatives elected from amongst the candidates being presented to the electorate in each district – candidates that are not in it for their personal gain or in the interests of others but for the service of all citizens.

I emphasise the verb “includes” as ADPD candidates are not the only ones who can contribute positively to the development of our politics. I speak with utmost respect of the candidates presented by other parties. Most of them are dedicated men and women willing to be of genuine service to the community.

ADPD’s electoral manifesto presents a wide range of proposals that impact directly on citizens’ rights. It is not a manifesto of Father Christmas promises but a vision laying out a road map to be followed.

Our agenda is to be of service to the whole community. Clean politics in public life is essential. We want to be a political tool for renewal. A green broom to sweep clean. Politics that serves today while keeping an eye on the impact on tomorrow, ensuring that actions taken today do not deny future generations their right to eventually take their own decisions.

At this critical point the politics of the broom is the way forward. It is about time that we sweep Maltese politics clean.

Published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 6 March 2022

Riforma tal-Parlament

Il-Prim Ministru ilu jinki lill-opinjoni pubblika dwar meta ser ikun xolt il-Parlament kif ukoll dwar meta ser tissejjaħ l-elezzjoni ġenerali.

Imma Robert Abela kien ikkwotat jgħid ukoll li sa Ġunju 2022 ikun għadda kollox!

Kif inhuma  l-affarijiet illum, hi responsabbiltà kostituzzjonali tal-Prim Ministru dwar meta jkun xolt il- Parlament kif ukoll dwar meta tissejjaħ elezzjoni ġenerali.  Dan jagħmlu billi jagħti parir dwar dan lill-President tar-Republika.  Ħafna drabi nassumu li dawn it-tip ta’ deċiżjonijiet jittieħdu fl-interess nazzjonali avolja hu ċar daqs il-kristall li hu l-interess tal-partit fil-Gvern li jiddetermina kollox: dejjem.  Miżura li ssaħħaħ il-posizzjoni tal-Gvern qabel u waqt l-elezzjoni: the power of incumbency.

Dan mhux sewwa u għandu jinbidel kif inbidlu bosta affarijiet oħra.

Il-partit li immexxi qajjem dan il-punt fis-sottomissjonijiet li għamilna quddiem il-Konvenzjoni Kostituzzjonali: konvenzjoni li, dejjem ġejja, imma qatt ma tasal!

Hu propost li t-terminu tal-Parlament ikun wieħed fiss u li l-Prim Ministru ma jkollu l-ebda diskrezzjoni dwar kif u meta dan ikun xolt.  Fil-prattika kemm l-Istati Uniti kif ukoll il-parti l-kbira tal-Ewropa kontinentali għandhom Parlament b’terminu fiss. Anke r-Renju Unit, meta kienet immexxija mill-koalizzjoni bejn il-partit Liberali u dak Konservattiv, ftit snin ilu, introduċiet leġislazzjoni għal Parlament b’terminu fiss.

F’dan il-kuntest tajjeb li jkun emfasizzat ukoll li t-terminu ta’ ħames snin għall-Parlament huwa ftit twil. Dan ma kienx dejjem hekk. Meta twaqqaf il-Parlament Malti għall-ewwel darba fl-1921, mitt sena ilu, il-ħajja tal-Parlament kienet ta’ tlett snin. Sal-lum il-ġurnata, l-Parlament Federali Awstraljan għadu jkun elett kull tlett snin. Il-Kamra tar-Rappresentanti tal-Istati Uniti min-naħa l-oħra tkun eletta kull sentejn.

X’uħud jistgħu jkunu tal-fehma li għall-Parlament, tul ta’ sentejn jew tlieta bejn elezzjoni u oħra huma ftit wisq. Għal min qiegħed fil-Gvern, ħames snin jistgħu jkun perjodu addattat. Imma għal min qiegħed fl-Opposizzjoni hu twil wisq! Tlett snin hu perjodu ferm iktar addattat.

Il-Parlament għandu ħtieġa ukoll ta’ membri li xogħolhom ikun biss dak ta’ membri tal-parlament u li ma jagħmlu xejn iktar. Hemm bżonn ukoll li n-numru ta’ membri tal-parlament jonqos għax in-numru li għandna illum hu kbir wisq.  Membru Parlamentari full-time jaqta’ għal kollox kull kuntatt ma xogħol u/jew professjoni u bħala riżultat ta’ hekk inaqqas sostanzjalment il-possibiltà ta’ kunflitt ta’ interess meta jkun f’posizzjoni li jieħu kwalunkwe deċiżjoni.

Id-daqs tal-lum tal-Parlament, jiġifieri dak ta’ 65 membru parlamentari, kien determinat bħala riżultat tal-emendi kostituzzjonali tal-1974.  Imma dan, illum il-ġurnata, sa mill-1987, mhux id-daqs definittiv għax miegħu jistgħu jiżdiedu iktar bħala riżultat tal-applikazzjoni tal-mekkaniżmu kostituzzjonali tal-proporzjonalità.   Jista’ jiżdiedu iktar ukoll, bi tnax-il membru ieħor riżultat tal-miżuri kostituzzjonali ġodda dwar il-bilanċ tal-ġeneru, jekk dawn ikunu applikati.

Il-Parlament li jmiss, għaldaqstant, jista’ jkunu kbir mhux ħażin jekk jintużaw kemm il-mekkaniżmu dwar il-proporzjonalità kif ukoll dak dwar il-bilanċ tal-ġeneru. Jista’ jkun daqs li jikber sa 77 membru u possibilment anke sa 81 membru. Dan hu enormi għall-pajjiżna.

Is-sistema elettorali, li ż-żewġ partiti fil-Parlament ilhom ibgħabsu għal żmien twil, tipprovdi għal riżultat proporjonali u b’element korrettiv favur il-bilanċ bejn il-ġeneri meta fil-Parlament ikunu eletti żewġ partiti politiċi biss. Meta jkun elett it-tielet partit dawn il-mekkaniżmi kostituzzjonali dwar il-proporzjonalità u l-bilanċ tal-ġeneru ma jistgħux jaħdmu. Hemm biss eċċezzjoni waħda. Din tkun fil-kaz ta’partit politiku li jikseb iktar minn 50 fil-mija tal-voti fl-ewwel għadd fuq livell nazzjonali. Dan ikollu dejjem il-jedd li jiggverna billi jkun allokat is-siġġijiet neċessarji għal dan l-iskop.  

Hemm numru ta’ soluzzjonijiet alternattivi li kieku ġew applikati kien ikun possibli li l-Parlament tagħna jkollu bilanċ aħjar bejn il-ġeneri u proporzjonalità mingħajr ma jikber fid-daqs.  Dawn is-soluzzjonijiet, imma, ġew skartati kompletament. Dan għax ir-riforma kellha dejjem l-iskop li toħloq l-inqas tibdil possibli. Tibdil kosmetiku fl-istil tal-Gattopardo: tibdil li jħalli kollox kif kien!

Dan hu l-Parlament tagħna. Jeħtieġ li jinbidel mill-qiegħ.   

ippubblikat fuq Illum : il-Ħadd 13 ta’ Frar 2022

Reforming Parliament

The Prime Minister has been teasing public opinion for some time as to when Parliament will be dissolved and when we will consequently be proceeding to the next general election.

Robert Abela has been quoted as stating that it will definitely be over by June 2022.

As things stand, at this point in time, it is within the Constitutional prerogative of the Prime Minister to determine when Parliament is dissolved and a general election held. This he does by advising the President of the Republic accordingly. It is generally assumed that such decisions are taken in the national interest even though it is amply clear that it is always in the interest of the political party in power. It reinforces the power of incumbency.

Is this right? Should it remain so?

My party has raised this matter in its submissions to the Constitutional Convention which Convention has been pending for a number of years!

It is being proposed that Parliament should be a fixed-term Parliament and that the Prime Minister should have no discretion whatsoever in dissolving Parliament.  In practice both the United States as well as most of continental Europe have fixed-term Parliaments. Even the United Kingdom, some years ago, led by a Liberal-Conservative coalition, introduced legislation for a Parliament having a fixed-term.

Within this context it would be also pertinent to emphasise that a five-year term is a little bit too long. This was not always so. When Malta’s Parliament was originally established in 1921, 100 years ago, it had a three-year life span. The Australian Federal Parliament in this day and age is still elected every three years. The United States House of Representatives on the other hand is elected every two years.

Some could argue that a two- or three-year life span for parliament would be too short. Five years may be right for those governing. It is however too long for those in Opposition! A three-year term could be the right balance.

Parliament also needs fulltime MPs and probably less of them. A fulltime member of parliament would cut off completely all of his/her links with profession and/or employment and as a result substantially reduce instances of conflict of interest when faced with decision taking.

Parliament’s present size of 65 members was determined as a result of the 1974 Constitutional amendments. Since 1987, it is however not a definite size, as it is increased as a result of the constitutional adjustment mechanism for proportionality. It will be increased by a further twelve members if the newly introduced constitutional gender balance requirements are applied.

The next Parliament could be quite large if both the proportionality and gender balance adjustment mechanisms are in use. It could inflate to a size between 77 and 81 members! This is enormous for a country our size.

The electoral system, which the two parties currently in parliament have been tinkering with for ages, provides for proportionality and gender balance only if just two parties are elected into Parliament. If a third party is elected, both the constitutional provisions for proportionality and gender balance will not be activated. There is just one exception and this is relative to the political party which obtains more than 50 per cent of the votes on a national level: in such an instant, irrespective of the number of political parties making it to Parliament the party having an absolute majority of votes is ensured of having the parliamentary seats required for governing.

There are a number of alternative solutions available which make it possible for our Parliament to be both gender-balanced and proportional without any increase in its size. These solutions have however been completely discarded as the “reform” brief was always to change as little as possible. Cosmetic change is the order of the day in Gattopardo style: change which leaves everything the same.

Such is the state of our parliament. It needs a complete overhaul, which is long overdue.  

published on The Malta Independent on Sunday: 13 February 2022

Meta Justyne tipprova ddaħħaq

Mela Justyne daħlet il-Qorti u qegħda tattakka l-validità kostituzzjonali tal-liġi li biha qed jiġu regolati l-istandards fil-ħajja pubblika.

Din hi l-liġi li bis-saħħa tagħha ġiet investigate Justyne, u oħrajn, liema liġi s’issa wasslet għal żewġ riżenji ta’membri tal-Kabinett: Justyne u Rosianne.

Justyne qed tgħid li l-liġi toħloq proċeduri li bihom qed jinkisru d-drittijiet tagħha.

Li ma tgħidx Justyne li hi bħala membru parlamentari ivvutat favur din il-liġi. Safejn naf jien ma lissnitx kelma waħda kontra l-liġi jew xi parti tagħha.

Għidilna ftit Justyne: meta tivvota fil-Parlament, taf xi tkun qed tagħmel? Jew qed tipprova iddaħħaq?

Towards a wider cannabis consensus

It has been more than 10 years since the publication of the report of the Global Commission on Drug Policy led by former UN Secretary General Kofi Anan. One of its main recommendations was to end criminalisation, marginalisation and stigmatisation of people who use drugs but who do no harm to others.  

The changes in drug legislation approved by Parliament earlier this week as a result of which the possession of cannabis for personal use was decriminalised was a definite step in the right direction. This does not however signify that all provisions of the approved legislation are satisfactory. It means that the general thrust of the legislation is positive and acceptable. Improvements are however still necessary.

The legislation approved earlier this week is a radical change and as such there is still a reluctance in some quarters and sectors about it. This is understandable. It is however a fact that the decriminalisation of the possession of cannabis for personal use has been generally accepted. This is a reflection of the positive development in our society’s attitudes and should form the basis for the way forward.

The Daniel Holmes case as a result of which the cultivation of a number of cannabis plants for personal use led to a draconian prison sentence is too recent for anyone of us to forget. Until this week, drug legislation was out of tune and not an adequate reflection of what our society is prepared to accept.

The publication of the 24-page White Paper in March 2021 entitled “Towards the strengthening of the legal framework on the responsible use of cannabis” should not be viewed as an end in itself but rather as part of a continuous consultation process with all stakeholders. It has to be borne in mind that notwithstanding the sterling work of the NGO ReLeaf Malta on behalf of cannabis users there are others who, while recognising the urgent need for reform, are however much more cautious and would prefer that the required reforms are more gradual.

Ignoring the rudderless parliamentary Opposition, which does not yet have a clue on the issue, I refer to various proposals on the drug reform legislation which proposals were prepared by a number of NGOs and presented to Parliament.  Parliament was wrong to ignore these proposals and to steamroll ahead, notwithstanding. Such an attitude is not conducive to good governance. Parliament ought to have listened much more before deciding. This applies even if at the end of the day not all of the proposals made by the NGOs would have been taken on board.

At this critical juncture it is imperative that the drug reform is supported by as wide as possible a base. The consensus achieved has to be as wide as possible. This is essential in order to isolate those elements in our society who still believe that the criminalisation of cannabis users should be the rule.

It has been estimated that in 2021 there are around 40,000 consumers of cannabis in Malta. That is the current state of play after 40 years of militarised crackdown on cannabis use in the Maltese Islands. Criminalisation of cannabis users has not yielded any tangible positive results over the years.

The way forward in drug reform is to ensure that possession for personal use can be dealt with differently from trafficking. The legislation which Parliament approved earlier this week does precisely that. It can however be improved by ensuring that there are suitable buffers which protect children and vulnerable persons. This is one of the principal points made by the NGOs, who, to their credit, accept decriminalisation of possession for personal use of cannabis as a positive step forward.

Greens in Malta support the need for drug reform in general and specifically the decriminalisation for personal use relative to cannabis. In fact, the Green Electoral Manifesto for the 2017 General Election was the only electoral platform which presented this as an electoral pledge.

It is indeed unfortunate that Government and Parliament have squandered a unique opportunity at consensus building. It is however still possible at this late hour to remedy.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday: 19 December 2021