Corruption is colour-blind

The debate on local corruption is never-ending. Corruption is colour-blind and is heavily dependent upon a clientelist culture, as well as on the existence of weak or weakened institutions. In addition, unfortunately, there is currently no political will to address either.

The never-ending public utterances on zero-tolerance to corruption are not matched with clear-cut action.

The resistance by Cabinet Ministers Edward Scicluna, Konrad Mizzi and Chris Cardona to the initiation of a magisterial criminal inquiry into the allegation concerning their criminal complicity in the Vitals Global Healthcare Hospitals deal is mind-boggling. A Prime Minister with a zero-tolerance to corruption would have requested the inquiry himself. Alternatively, he should have been the first to support the NGO-requested investigation.

A Labour Party which has a zero-tolerance to corruption would have sent Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri packing ages ago. The fact that Labour leader Joseph Muscat did not so act signifies that he is willing to turn a Nelson eye to his colleagues’ misdemeanours. In these circumstances a corruption zero-tolerant Labour Party would have given notice to its leader that his days are numbered if he does not change his ways. The fact that the Labour Party did not so act gives one clear message: it is corruption-tolerant.

It would be pertinent to point out that, in the initial stages of the Panama Papers debate, various members of the Labour Party Parliamentary group reacted behind closed doors. Way back in April and May of 2016, leaks in the media had indicated that not all of the Labour Party is anesthetised in its reactions to allegations of corruption. The internal debate, as then reported, was fierce, but it did not lead to concrete action.

The Nationalist Party, although in opposition, is no alternative to all this, as its criticism, though correct, is not credible.

The Nationalist Party has elected a leader who does not inspire much confidence in the public, primarily as a result of the investigative reports published by Daphne Caruana Galizia which unearthed information that illustrated the various instances in which he acted unethically. Holders of political office have no choice as to when to switch on to an ethical behaviour mode. Their behaviour when they were not under the glaring spotlight of public opinion is most indicative of their ethical worth. A case in point is Adrian Delia’s legal representation of clients benefitting from earnings from London-based brothels in respect of which published information he instituted legal action that he later withdrew. Subsequently he took no action which disproves anything that was published about this brothel business.

Likewise, no action was taken in respect of the sworn testimony of senior PN Member of Parliament Claudio Grech when giving witness in front of the Public Accounts Committee in its inquiry on the oil scandal. Grech had then stated that he did not recollect if he had ever met George Farrugia, the prime mover in the oil scandal, who was eventually pardoned to reveal all. The then PN leader, Simon Busuttil, had not reacted to this behaviour and no action whatsoever was initiated against Claudio Grech by the PN in what most consider a case of avoiding spilling information of relevance.

In view of its lack of credibility, whenever the Parliamentary Opposition – as presently constituted- speaks up, the impact of what has been revealed about Government’s dubious practices is severely diluted.

This could be viewed also with reference to serious issues of bad governance which communicate one clear message: they are cut from the same cloth. A case in point is Mario Demarco’s involvement in the dB contract negotiations as legal advisor to the dB Group, at a time when he was Deputy Leader of the Opposition and its spokesperson on Finance. Though Mario Demarco issued a public apology when the matter made headlines, the damage done was substantial. The clear message conveyed was that the better elements of the Parliamentary Opposition are incapable of drawing a line between their public duties and their private interests.

We may also deem it fit to remember the various reports issued by the Auditor-General on the mis-management of government property. At the time, this was the political responsibility of the Hon Jason Azzopardi but at no time was he asked by his party to shoulder political responsibility for the mess that he left behind.

Bad governance and corruption are cousins; one leads to the other and at times one is easily mistaken for the other.

At Alternattiva Demokratika we have always been clear: we are zero-tolerant in respect of both corruption and bad governance. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the PN and the PL.

published on The Malta Independent on Sunday: 17 November 2019

Constitutional reform: identifying the basic building blocks

Malta’s Constitution should be regarded as a living document: one that reflects our values and aspirations. These, naturally, change over time and it is consequently logical that they are reflected in an up-dated Constitution.

Unfortunately, we have only very rarely had the opportunity to consider updates to our Constitution, except in times of political turmoil. The current endeavours of HE President Marie-Louise Coleiro-Preca in leading a steering committee to pave the way for a Constitutional Convention is unique in our constitutional history: it is an experiment which should be allowed to mature.

In its present form, Malta’s Constitution is mostly the result of political backroom dealings and compromises over an almost 60-year time-frame – and the results are, at times awkward. Gaps have developed over the years, that are being exploited by those who seek power at all costs.

In order to improve our Constitution, we cannot start afresh. Our point of departure is the baton handed over by our predecessors, warts and all. It is not easy, as there are many vested interests to be overcome – primarily of those who seek to avoid the adoption of constitutional norms which ensure that authority is at all times exercised in a responsible manner.

The invitation by the President to Alternattiva Demokratika-The Green Party to air its views on constitutional reform at a meeting of the Steering Committee earlier this week was welcome.

AD’s views and proposals on the matter have been in the public domain for quite some time. We need to start at the basic building blocks of democracy. Malta’s electoral legislation needs to change in order to ensure that every vote cast by a Maltese citizen is valued.

Having lived through the political turmoil of the 1980s, I am aware of the difficulties faced in producing a workable solution. The electoral constitutional amendments of 1987 have since been tweaked a couple of times but, however, both the original amendments as well as the improvements made have only served the interests of the PN and the PL. Amendments were always drafted with the specific intention of excluding other political parties from an effective participation in the electoral process and this has to stop.

It is essential to ensure that proportionality between the votes cast and the parliamentary seats elected is not a right reserved for the exclusive perusal of the PN and the PL. This, I submit, is the cause of all the problems faced by our young republic. The deliberate exclusion of alternative voices in Parliament has ensured that Malta’s political engagement has developed into a politics of confrontation, squeezing out the politics of consensus.

This is not all. It is also time to tackle, head on, the issue of gender balance in our parliamentary elections. Humiliating quotas intended to correct results are in my view unacceptable: gender-balanced party lists are the only practical way forward.

In addition to addressing the applicability of proportionality to everything we also require an overhaul of the method of voting. Gender-balanced party lists are used in various European countries specifically to address the gender mismatch in parliamentary representation. Gender balance is not just for man and women: it should also include those who identify themselves with neither of these genders.

A revised Constitution should recognise the fact that, today, the country,  embraces ethical pluralism. Hence, instead of the Constitution being linked to one religious set of beliefs, the Roman Catholic, it should spell out its respect for all religions compatible with the democratic state.

During the meeting with the Constitution Reform Steering Committee, AD emphasised that, unlike in 1964, Malta is now a lay state and this fact should be reflected in the constitutional reform through an abrogation of article 2 of the Constitution. This would reflect the great strides forward made by the Maltese nation as a result of the referendum on divorce, as well as through the introduction and recognition of civil rights for the LGBTIQ community.

Alternattiva Demokratika also discussed the need for the President of the Republic to be elected by an electoral college that is much wider than Parliament. Local Councils should be involved in the election of the President.

Revision of the Constitution should widen the use of the referendum by extending it further to include the introduction of propositive referenda, as a result strengthening the democratic process.

In the coming weeks, Alternattiva Demokratika will be publishing a detailed document containing all of its proposals on Constitutional reform, which will include proposals to strengthen the country’s institutions. Protection of the environment in all its aspects will also feature in such proposals as it is essential that a government that ignores –  or does not give sufficient attention to – the guiding principles in Chapter 2 of the Maltese Constitution should be held accountable.

After five wasted years, the first steps in the process leading to the constitutional convention have at last been taken.

Il-PN u l-governanza tajba

Bħalissa fil-PN kulħadd qiegħed jgħid tiegħu dwar l-għażliet politiċi li għamel il-PN meta kien immexxi minn Simon Busuttil. Busuttil issa ilu ftit li telaq it-tmexxija, meta warrab biex refa’ r-responsabbiltá politika għat-telfa elettorali massiċċa ta’ Ġunju 2017.

Ir-riżultat tal-inkjesta maġisterjali dwar Egrant, li ma sabet l-ebda prova tal-involviment tal-familja Muscat f’din il-kumpanija, hi parti minn dan ix-xenarju. Għax ma tistax titkellem dwar il-korruzzjoni mingħajr ma jkollok f’idejk il-minimu ta’ provi.

Niftakru ftit dwar it-tlett kumpaniji li kienu nħolqu fil-Panama. Tnejn minnhom kienu identifikati ta’ min kienu: ta’ Keith Schembri u Konrad Mizzi. Dwar it-tielet waħda kien hawn ħafna għidut sakemm f’April tal-2017 fuq il-blog ta’ Daphne Caruana Galizia kienet ħarġet l-allegazzjoni miktuba għall-ewwel darba li tassoċja lil Michelle Muscat mat-tielet kumpanija, l-Egrant.

Il-PN kien għamilha fatta – mhux biss Simon Busuttil – u kważi b’vuċi waħda kien hemm ripetizzjoni ta’ din l-allegazzjoni daqs li kieku kienet skoperta tagħhom. Dakinnhar ma smajt lil ħadd mill-PN jgħid fil-pubbliku kliem differenti. Fi ftit kliem ir-responsabbiltá politika kienet waħda kollettiva.

Kienet Alternattiva Demokratika biss li applikat il-brejkijiet. Fil-fatt f’artiklu ippubblikat f’Illum nhar l-24 t’April 2017, intitolat Pilatu fid-dawl tax-xemx jiena għidt hekk : “li tkun moralment konvint li l-istorja hi korretta mhux biżżejjed. Din l-istorja teħtieġ il-konferma li tiġi mill-provi tad-dokumenti u mhux mid-dimostrazzjonijiet. Għax fuq id-dokumenti hi mibnija. Allura hemm obbligu li dawn id-dokumenti tant bażiċi jaraw id-dawl tax-xemx.

Id-dokumenti qatt ma rajnihom sakemm sabu ruħhom għand il-Maġistrat li ikkonkluda li huma foloz.

Ovvjament hemm ħafna spjegazzjonijiet li jeħtieġ li jsiru. Fosthom hemm bżonn ikun magħruf is-sors tad-dokumenti foloz. Minn fejn ġew. Imma probabbilment qatt ma nkunu nafu għax is-sors tal-ġurnaliżmu hu protett. Dejjem sakemm Pierre Portelli ma tmissux il-kuxjenza u jikxef lil min daħħlu fi sqaq.

Il-ġlieda tal-PN favur il-governanza tajba dejjem kienet waħda difettuża.

Niftakar ċar qiesu l-bieraħ waqt l-unika laqgħa li Alternattiva Demokratika kellha mat-tmexxija tal-PN dwar il-possibilitá ta’ alleanza pre-elettorali konna iddiskutejna l-kredibilitá tal-PN dwar dan. Min-naħa ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika konna tlabna spjegazzjoni mill-PN għal numru ta’ issues li kienu jitfgħu dell sostanzjali fuq dak kollu li l-Partit Nazzjonalista kien qed jgħid dwar il-ħtieġa ta’ governanza tajba.

Tlabna spjegazzjoni dwar ħames każi li dwarhom diġa ktibt diversi drabi u ċjoe : Beppe Fenech Adami u r-rwol tiegħu fuq kumpanija Capital One Investment Group/Baltimore Fiduciary Services, Claudio Grech u l-iskandlu taż-żejt u l-fatt li ma kienx jiftakar jekk qatt iltaqax ma George Farrugia, il-każ tal-invoices foloz bejn il-Grupp dB u l-PN, il-kunflitt ta’ interess ta’ Mario de Marco bejn l-obbligi parlamentari tiegħu u l-fatt li kien konsulent legali ewlieni tal-grupp dB, u l-applikazzjoni ta’ Toni Bezzina għal villa ODZ għalih meta l-PN kien qed imexxi l-quddiem politika ambjentali differenti.

L-ispjegazzjoni li tlabna ma ingħatax għax weħilna fuq affarijiet oħra. Imma dan hu it-track record tal-PN dwar il-governanza tajba. Li l-Partit Laburista hu agħar minn hekk ma hi tal-ebda konsolazzjoni!

Id-dellijiet ta’ Adrian Delia

Mid-dehra, Adrian Delia ma jkunx inkwetat jekk flok id-dellijiet tas-siġar nispiċċaw bid-dellijiet tat-torrijiet li qed jinbnew. Dan joħroġ minn kummenti li l-media xandret wara li segwiet laqgħa bejn Adrian Delia u l-Assoċjazzjoni tal-Iżviluppaturi ta’ Malta li fiha Sandro Chetcuti għamel ħiltu biex iħeġġeg lill-partit ta’ Delia li kien għaqli li jimxi fuq il-passi tal-Partit Laburista ta’ Joseph Muscat u jindiehes iktar man-nies tan-negozju. Fi ftit kliem li jkun business-friendly.

Din mhux l-ewwel darba li Sandro Chetcuti pprova jħeġġeg lill-partiti politiċi ewlenin li jaqblihom jekk jisimgħu minnu. Drabi oħra qabbel lil Partit Laburista u lil Partit Nazzjonalista ma żewġt iħwienet kbar li perjodikament ikollhom offerti speċjali tal-blieh. Il-membri tal-Assoċjazzjoni tal-Iżviluppaturi Maltin, kien jiftaħar Sandro Chetcuti, huma dejjem b’għajnejhom miftuħa għall-offerti speċjali, għax dak ikun il-mument li jaqilbu min-naħa għall-oħra.

Li jkollok Gvern li jdub quddiem in-nies tal-flus hi opportunitá tad-deheb għal dawk li jridu jdawru lira. Għax, mhux hekk, wara kollox ma hemm l-ebda differenza bejn id-dell tas-siġar u dak tat-torrijiet: it-tnejn jipproteġu mill-qilla tax-xemx!

Jidher li Delia l-iżviluppatur ittrasforma ruħu f’Delia l-Kap ta’ Partit biex ipproduċa l-izviluppatur-politiku tas-seklu 21. Tidher stramba l-biċċa, imma dejjem kienet hemm, kemm kemm ma tidhirx: bl-iżviluppatur jissielet bejn djun mal-banek u argumenti mal-awtoritajiet tat-taxxa. Fil-passat kellna politiċi li deffsu imnieħirhom fl-iżvilupp tal-art. Illum għandna sitwazzjoni bil-maqlub: għandna żviluppatur li qed ideffes imnieħru fil-politika!

Il-kunflitt bejn dak li jsejħulu żvilupp u l-ambjent ma jispiċċa qatt. Il-problemi li jinħolqu mhux ser ikunu iktar faċli biex jissolvew jekk flok politiċi-żviluppaturi jkollna l-iżviluppatur-politiku. Adrian Delia ġie rappurtat jgħid li ried jiffoka fuq “ippjanar għal viżjoni fit-tul għall-industrija”, ċjoe għall-industrija tak-kostruzzjoni. Probabbilment li dak kien Delia l-iżviluppatur li kien qiegħed jitkellem. Jekk il-ħsibijiet ta’ Delia l-politiku jikkuntrastawx ma dan għadu ftit kmieni biex nintebħu.

L-istampa kienet okkupata tirrapporta li Delia l-politiku kien medhi jitħakkek mal-iżviluppaturi tat-torrijiet. Kien hemm diversi laqgħat ta’ Adrian Delia ma żviluppaturi stabiliti, b’mod partikolari ma dawk involuti fl-iktar proġetti kontroversjali li issemmew dan l-aħħar. Ovvjament li l-iżviluppaturi, b’mod organizzat, qed jaħdmu fuq l-Opposizzjoni, jitolbu l-appoġġ tagħha huma u jgħumu fil-kontroversji kurrenti. Diffiċli tgħid jekk f’din l-okkazjoni sarux jew ġewx imwegħda xi donazzjonijiet (finanzjarji) li ċertament huma meħtieġa biex jittaffew id-djun kbar li l-PN hu mifni bihom.

Dawn il-laqgħat ġew f’mument interessanti ħafna, meta l-President tal-Assoċjazzjoni tal-Iżviluppaturi Maltin ġie appuntat konsulent tas-Segretarju Parlamentari għall-Ippjanar u s-Suq tal-Propjetá. Billi qed jintqal li din il-ħatra mhux ser tkun il-kawża ta’ kunflitt ta’ interess hu probabbli li din is-sitwazzjoni ser tkun rimedjata billi fl-istess ħin jingħata parir liż-żewġ naħat tal-Parlament. Hu ċar li l-Assoċjazzjoni tal-Iżviluppaturi Maltin qed tinkoraġixxi lil Adrian Delia biex huwa jimxi fuq il-passi ta’ Joseph Muscat billi anke hu jkun ħabib sew man-nies tan-negozju (business friendly). Delia mid-dehra dieħel bir-ras mingħajr m’hu jirrealizza li bħala riżultat ta’ dan, il-PN dieħel iktar ‘il-ġewwa fil-but tal-iżviluppaturi.

Sadanittant l-istupru ta’ pajjiżna jibqa’ għaddej. Kif ilu għaddej għal iktar minn 40 sena. Jonqsu d-dellijiet ta’ siġar u fl-istess waqt jiżdiedu id-dellijiet tat-torrijiet.

Dan isejħulu progress!


Ippubblikat fuq Illum : Il-Ħadd 18 ta’ Marzu 2018

Adrian Delia’s choice of shadows

Apparently Adrian Delia is not preoccupied if, instead of shadows cast by trees, we are restricted to shadows cast by high buildings. This conclusion results from a comment picked up by the media when he had the opportunity to listen to a Sandro Chetcuti lecture urging the PN to be business-friendly, just like Joseph Muscat’s Labour Party.

This is not the first instance of Sandro Chetcuti lecturing the major political parties. On other occasions he has compared the Nationalist Party and the Labour Party to two supermarkets which periodically make fantastic special offers available. Members of the Malta Developers’ Association, he claimed, are on the look-out for the discount season as this is when they switch their custom from one supermarket to the other.

Dealing with a business-friendly government has been a field day for those intent on making hay while the sun shines, and casts its shadows – both the relatively short ones cast by trees and the much longer ones cast by high rises. It seems that Delia the developer has now morphed completely into Delia the Party leader, producing a 21st century developer-politician: a strange combination, but somehow it was always there beneath the surface – the developer wading his way through overdrafts and tax disputes.

Various other politicians have, in the past, put their finger in the development pie. Now we have the opposite experience: a developer putting his finger in the political pie!

The conflict between the so-called development and the environment is never-ending and the problems created will not be easier to tackle with developer-politicians being substituted by a politician developer.

Adrian Delia was reported as stating that he wanted to focus on “long-term planning for the industry”, that is the building construction industry. Most probably that was Delia the developer speaking. Whether Delia the politician has contrasting views is too early to state.

The press has been busy reporting that Delia the politician has been courting high-rise developers. Various meetings have been held with established developers, in particular  those involved in the most controversial projects currently in the pipeline.

Obviously, the development lobby is working the Opposition, seeking its support in the minefield they are currently navigating. Whether any (financial) donations were made to help alleviate the debt-trodden PN cash-box is anybody’s guess at this point in time.

These meetings come at an interesting point in time, when the Malta Developers’ Association President has been appointed as an advisor to the Parliamentary Secretary for Planning and the Property Market. Given that it was considered that this appointment did not give rise to “any conflict of interest”, most probably this situation will now be remedied by simultaneously seeking to advise the opposing sides of Parliament.

The Malta Developers’ Association is clearly encouraging Delia to follow in Joseph Muscat’s footsteps of business friendliness and Delia seems determined to barge-in, oblivious to inevitable consequence that, as a result, he will further embed the PN in the developers’ pockets.

The rape of our land is work in progress. It has been going on for over 40 years and, unfortunately, the end is not yet in sight. The substitution of shadows cast by trees by those cast by high-rises goes on.

They call this progress.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday: 18 March 2018 

Adrian Delia u d-dellijiet


Mela fil-laqgħa li Sandro Chetcuti kellu mal-Partit Nazzjonalista kif mistenni, stieden lil Adrian Delia biex huwa ukoll ikun pro-business bħal Joseph Muscat.

L-iżvilupp qalilna Sandro mhux bil-fors ikun kontra l-ambjent. Ovvjament qal Delia. Għax tista’ tqis jew li tgħaddi ħajtek għad-dell tas-siġar inkella minflok toqgħod fid-dell ta’ torrijiet [dawk li jibnu sħab Sandro, jiġifieri].

Ovvjament Sandro Chetcuti qed jistenna li jerġa’ jiftaħ is-supermarket. Ma tiftakrux meta qabbel lill-PN u lill-PL ma żewġt iħwienet kbar [supermarkets] li jikkompetu bejniethom bl-offerti li jkollhom, u l-iżviluppaturi, skond Sandro, jfittxu l-aħjar offerti?

Pro-business? No thanks. Nippreferi nkun favur in-nies.

Illum : wara li l-Arċisqof beżaq mis-sunnara tal-PN


L-emendi Kostituzzjonali reġgħu fuq l-agenda.

Nafu li tul dawn l-aħħar snin il-possibilita li tiltaqa’ l-konvenzjoni kostituzzjoni kienet limitata minħabba li ġie mdeffes fin-nofs Franco Debono. Il-Partit Laburista ried lilu u l-Partit Nazzjonalista oppona. Nifhmu li għad qed isiru sforzi biex din il-problema tingħeleb.Imma qed jingħadu diversi affarijiet oħra li huma ta’ interess kbir.

Madwar tlett ġimgħat ilu, Mons Scicluna qal li l-Knisja ma jkollha l-ebda oġġezzjoni li titneħħa r-referenza għal Kattoliċiżku mill-Kostituzzjoni Maltija. Il-Knisja, qal Mons. Scicluna, ma tridx privileġġi imma trid il-libertà reliġjuża. Dikjarazzjoni makakka u f’waqtha ta’ Mons Scicluna li indirizzat waħda mill-issues jaħarqu quddiem il-Konvenzjoni Kostituzzjonali. Jaħarqu fis-sens li kien (u għadu) antiċipat li l-PN jopponi din il-bidla. Dan minkejja li din il-bidla kostituzzjonali ma għandhiex bżonn żewġ terzi tal-Parlament għall-approvazzjoni, iżda teħtieġ biss maġġoranza sempliċi. Bid-dikjarazzjoni ta’ Mons Scicluna l-Knisja beżqet mis-sunnara tal-P.N. u mhux ser tħalli lill-P.N. jinqeda biha!

Issa li l-Knisja beżqet mis-sunnara tar-Religio et Patria, illum ħarġet ir-reazzjoni ta’ Adrian Delia, mexxej tal-PN, u dan kif antiċipat. Ser jibda jbeżża’ bil-babaw ġaladarba l-Knisja mhux ser tħallieh jinqeda biha. Dalgħodu kien rappurtat li Adrian Delia qal li l-Prim Ministru jrid ineħħi l-kurċifissi mill-iskejjel! Daqt jibda jgħidilna li sejrin l-infern!

Ir-realta hi li Malta għandha bżonn Kostituzzjoni lajka, jiġifieri kostituzzjoni li filwaqt li tirrispetta l-liberta reliġjuża tkun waħda li ma tpoġġi l-ebda reliġjon fiċ-ċentru tagħha. Tkun kostituzzjoni sekulari. Il-pajjiż hekk hu fir-realtà, wieħed lajk, u l-kostituzzjoni tiegħu għandha tirrispetta dan il-fatt.

Hemm bżonn ftit iktar serjeta meta niddiskutu l-kostituzzjoni. B’mod partikolari mill-partit tal-avukati!

Sadanittant Alternattiva Demokratika qed tistenna li tibda l-konvenzjoni kostituzzjonali biex tkun tista’ tinvolvi ruħha fid-diskussjoni dwar it-tibdil meħtieġ fil-kostituzzjoni Maltija. S’issa, AD ma hiex involvuta f’xi diskussjjonijiet li jidher li għaddejjin.

Thank-you Ryan; thank-you, Clayton.

I was present for both public sessions of the Planning Authority Board’s meetings to discuss the planning application for a petrol station at Salini Road Magħtab.

The first meeting, on 7 December, was attended by eight members of the Board. At the meeting on the 11 January, however, an additional five members made an effort and were present. These additional five members voted in favour of the application, but they had not followed the detailed public discussion held on 7 December, as is their duty.

At the first meeting, two of the Board members publicly indicated their intention to vote against the application but, at the second meeting, both changed their mind and decided to vote in favour. However, no public explanation was forthcoming as to what caused them to change sides.

The Planning Authority Board includes two Members of Parliament: Ryan Callus (PN) and Clayton Bartolo (PL). Both of them consider it to be desirable to have more petrol stations and both voted in favour of the Magħtab Petrol Station. Ryan Callus was clearly observed raising his hand very reluctantly to vote in favour of the development application: apparently he wanted those present to note that he was not sure of what he was doing.

More worrying was Clayton Bartolo’s behaviour. He had already publicly indicated his opposition to giving the permission for the petrol station on 7 December. However, last Thursday he switched sides and voted in favour. Obviously, he had every right to vote in whichever way he chooses, but he owes the public an explanation for his change of heart. No such explanation was forthcoming.

Of the 14 members of the Planning Authority Board, 13 are regular members and the additional member is an ad hoc member representing the Local Council of the locality involved – in this case Naxxar. Eight members of the Board were present for both meetings. Five turned up only for the second meeting. The 14th member of the Board, although present for both meetings, left the room as soon as the subject of the petrol station came up for discussion on both occasions! Clearly he did not want to participate in this latest planning farce.

This is the third new petrol station to be approved by the Planning Authority in a short period of time: approval for the Magħtab petrol station came immediately after the approval of those at Marsaskala and Burmarrad in the past weeks.

Do we need so many petrol stations?

Last September, the Prime Minister announced that government would shortly carry out a consultation exercise to determine the cut-off date beyond which all new cars purchased would have to be electric or similar vehicles. This signified one thing: that soon we will start the count-down leading to no more petrol and/or diesel cars on our roads. Bearing this policy declaration by the Prime Minister leads to one inevitable question: what do we need new petrol stations for? Each new petrol station gobbles up approximately 3,000 square metres of land.

A big thank-you to Ryan and Clayton.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 14 January 2018

Ċaħda tal-intolleranza

Nhar il-Ħamis li għadda, flimkien ma uffiċjali oħra tal-Alternattiva Demokratika, attendejt fil-lokalità ta’ San Ġwann għal ċerimonja qasira imma simbolika li tfakkar l-40 anniversarju tal-qtil ta’ Karin Grech b’ittra bomba nhar it-28 ta’ Diċembru tal-1977. Din iċ-ċerimonja kienet organizzata mill-Partit Laburista, u ilha tkun organizzata sena wara l-oħra sa mill-1978.

Iktar kmieni matul dan l-istess xahar għamilt l-istess fil-Gudja fil-wieħed u tletin anniversarju tal-qtil ta’ Raymond Caruana, ċerimonja dakinnhar organizzata mill-Partit Nazzjonalista.

Il-parteċipazzjoni tiegħi u tal-Alternattiva Demokratika fiż-żewġ ċerimonji ta’ kommemorazzjoni ma saritx biex iżżomm xi bilanċ artifiċjali imma għax hu meħtieġ li dawn il-grajjiet infakkruhom flimkien. Possibilment ilkoll flimkien. Huwa hekk biss li jista’ jasal ċar u bl-aħjar mod il-messaġġ taċ-ċaħda tal-intolleranza. Sakemm il-Partit Laburista u l-Partit Nazzjonalista jibqgħu jagħmlu l-kommemorazzjoni għal rashom ser nibqgħu lura. Nittama li ma nistennewx wisq li nħottu l-firdiet partiġjani biex flimkien niftakru f’dawk li l-intolleranza ħasditilhom ħajjithom.

Il-weġgħa tal-familji ta’ Karin Grech u Raymond Caruana hi ferm ikbar minn weġgħa privata ikkawżata minn telfa ta’ bint jew iben, ħajja innoċenti ta’ żagħżugħ jew żagħżugħa. Hi weġgħa tal-pajjiż kollu. Hi għalhekk weġgħa tagħna lkoll. Ilkoll flimkien għandna l-obbligu li niftakru f’dak li wassal għall-qerda ta’ ħajjithom bit-tama li nagħmlu ħilitna biex ma jkunx hemm ripetizzjoni.

Hu għalhekk importanti li bil-presenza tagħna f’dawn il-kommemorazzjonijiet nagħtu xhieda taċ-ċaħda tal-intolleranza billi nħottu biċċa oħra, anke jekk żgħira, tal-ħajt li jifred dan il-pajjiż fi tribujiet ostili.

Dan hu pajjiż li kapaċi jalterna bejn mumenti ta’ solidarjetà eċċezzjonali ma mumenti ta’ ostilità bla qies. Mumenti ta’ sensittività għal dak li għaddej minnu ħaddieħor u waqtiet ta’ vjolenza bla qies. Kuntrarjament għal dak li jgħidu, din hi r-realtà tal-pajjiż. Iż-żewġ avvenimenti li kkomemorajna dan ix-xahar huma differenti fis-sens li huma frott ta’ ċirkustanzi kompletament differenti li żviluppaw fil-pajjiż fuq spazju ta’ għaxar snin bejn l-1977 u l-1987.

Il-qtil ta’ Karin Grech hu bla dubju assoċjat mat-tilwima industrijali tal-Gvern mat-tobba, liema tilwima damet tkarkar snin twal. Il-qtil ta’ Raymond Caruana min-naħa l-oħra hu frott it-tensjoni politika li żviluppat fil-pajjiż fil-bidu tas-snin tmenin u li bħala riżultat tagħha kien hawn ġgajtiet ta’ bulijiet li ppretendew li jagħmlu li jridu.

Is-similarità bejn il-każi hi l-ħasda ta’ ħajjiet innoċenti u l-fatt li l-investigazzjoni tal-Pulizija baqgħet mhux konkluża. Mhux għax il-Pulizija ma ippruvawx! Tant ippruvaw li f’kaz minnhom anke ippruvaw frameup bħalma jixhed il-kaz ta’ Pietru Pawl Busuttil.

Imma fortunatament dak hu passat, li fuqu għaddew iktar minn 30 sena! Nittama li jibqa’ passat u li niftakru fih biss biex nippruvaw nifhmu fejn wasslet l-intolleranza fostna.

Differenzi fostna ser jibqa’ jkollna. Uħud naslu biex insolvuhom imma oħrajn jibqgħu jkarkru. Irridu nagħmlu sforzi ikbar biex dawn id-differenzi ma nħalluhomx jikbru u nippruvaw insolvuhom b’metodi ċivili.

Id-differenzi fil-fehmiet jissolvew biss bid-djalogu u d-diskussjoni li għandhom ikunu u jibqgħu l-pern tal-proċess demokratiku. Il-vjolenza u azzjonijiet li jwasslu għaliha qatt ma jistgħu jitħallew jgħollu rashom.

ippubblikat f’Illum: 31 ta’ Diċembru 2017

The intolerance in our midst


Last Thursday, I led a number of officers of Alternattiva Demokratika-The Green Party, at a short yet symbolic ceremony in San Ġwann commemorating Karin Grech, murdered by a letter bomb 40 years ago on 28 December 1977. The ceremony was organised by the Labour Party, as it has been continuously since 1978.

Earlier in December, I participated in a similar ceremony in Gudja on the 31st anniversary of the murder of Raymond Caruana, a ceremony organised by the Nationalist Party.

Alternattiva Demokratika’s participation in these two commemorative ceremonies is not an attempt to create a fictitious balance. Rather, it is an effort to underline the wish that such activities should be owned by all political families – all of whom should participate. It is the only way to send the clear message that there is no room for intolerance in our midst. With the Nationalist Party and the Labour Party continuing to organise these yearly commemorations as party activities, there is still a long way to go. There is no room for partisanship in commemorating the victims of intolerance.

The pain inflicted on the families of Karin Grech and Raymond Caruana is much greater than that caused by the loss of a daughter or a son: it is a pain inflicted on the whole country – it is our loss, too. It is thus our collective duty to remember what led to this loss, hoping that this remembrance will lead to the possible avoidance of the same mistakes.

By being present at such commemorative events, we bear witness to a determination to avoid intolerance through the dismantling of our own Berlin wall, the demarcation line of two hostile tribes.

This country is capable of alternating between moods of solidarity without any limits and moods of extreme hostility, alternating between being extremely sensitive to the needs of others to witnessing violence of the worst kind. Contrary to what some try to portray, this is the real Malta.

The two commemorations to which I am referring are different, as they are the consequence of different circumstances which developed in Malta in the 10 years between 1977 and 1987.

Karin Grech’s murder is undoubtedly associated with the doctors’ dispute which continued over a long period. On the other hand, Raymond Caruana’s murder was the result of the political tensions that engulfed the country during the 1980s, as a result of which the groups of thugs that roamed the streets dissipated the feeling that they laid down the rules.

The similarity between the two is the loss of innocent lives and the inconclusive police investigations. The police cannot be blamed for lack of trying, because in one of the cases it was proved in Court that the Police even tried – unsuccessfully – to frame an innocent person: Pietru Pawl Busuttil.

Fortunately that is the past – more than 30 years ago. I sincerely hope that its use will be restricted to reminding us of the fruit of intolerance.

Notwithstanding our efforts, we will still have plenty of differences – some of which we will resolve but others that will remain in the pending tray for some time. Our efforts must focus on ensuring that we try to solve our differences in a civil manner.

Dialogue should be our primary tool. It is possible: it is the basis of the democratic process.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 31 December 2017