A grey-list switch

Tomorrow, Monday, the Parliamentary Standing Committee for Standards in Public Life will commence the examination of Report K/032 on Labour Party Qormi Member of Parliament Rosianne Cutajar. The report examines submissions received by the Standards Commissioner George Hyzler and points towards the failure by Cutajar to declare income which she received when drawing up her declaration of assets, a declaration which she submitted when she was still a Parliamentary Secretary in the Justice Ministry.

The 45-page report drawn up by Commissioner Hyzler is accompanied by an additional two volumes containing the supporting evidence on the basis of which Dr Hyzler based his deliberations and conclusions. A third volume of evidence has been withheld from public scrutiny. It has been stated that this third volume contains confidential bank statements of the Qormi Labour MP as well as her chats on Whatsapp with Yorgen Fenech, suspected mastermind of the Daphne Caruana Galizia assassination.

Prime Minister Robert Abela has taken a decision as a result of which Rosianne Cutajar is now definitely out of Cabinet, at least for the final months of the current legislature. However, she has stubbornly emphasised that she will not relinquish her Parliamentary seat. She says that she will be back, even though to date her political party has not yet confirmed whether she will be presented as a candidate, in view of the Standards in Public Life report under consideration.

In Cutajar’s defence Prime Minister Abela, in non-committal mode, has emphasised that she will be treated as anybody else, with no favourable treatment.

Undoubtedly Cutajar considers that she has been treated very unfairly. Why should she now be pressured to disappear from public life when a self-confessed tax evader was elected Leader of the Opposition? Life (and Maltese politics) is certainly not fair.  Bernard Grech and Rosianne Cutajar are on an ethically equivalent level yet so far, they are treated differently.  

Why is it, one might ask, that the Parliamentary Opposition adopts two weights and two measures? May I suggest that the Opposition representatives are right in insisting that Rosianne Cutajar should shoulder the political consequences of her actions as detailed in the report of Commissioner Hyzler? Why don’t they be consistent and apply the same criteria to their Leader too?

Like Rosianne Cutajar, Bernard Grech qualifies for the Order of the Boot. That is the equal treatment they should receive. The presence of both of them in local public life is a significant contributor to FATF grey-listing!

Therese Comodini Cachia and Karol Aquilina were spot on when they emphasised that the Hyzler report needs to be approved in order to send out the message that we are truly working on removing Malta from the FATF grey-list.  I hope they also agree that having a tax-evader as an alternative Prime Minister does not help in distancing this country from the FATF grey-list! 

There is still time to be consistent!

The need to upgrade ethical behaviour in public life is not a switch-on switch-off exercise depending on which political party is in government. It is applicable to all of us in politics. Not just while we are active in politics but starting from before the actual involvement itself.

This is the reason why we seek to screen potential electoral candidates and party officials before selection or election. We should not expect that those who do not behave ethically before taking up politics manage to switch to a more “acceptable” behavioural mode on entering politics.  

Let this be a wake-up call!

published in the Malta Independent on Sunday : 11 July 2021

Reforming a two-party Parliament

Malta’s electoral system has, over the years, been transformed into a duopoly. Discrimination is inbuilt into electoral legislation in order to effectively ensure that Parliament remains a two-party affair. It is discrimination by design. It is not accidental but specifically intended.

Our electoral system (STV: Single Transferable Vote) started off being applied in 1921 as one focused on the individual candidate, generally ignoring the political parties. Over the years a number of important changes shifted the focus of the STV from the individual candidate to the political party.

The first such change was carried out prior to the 1976 general elections: the electoral ballot paper was then redesigned such that same party candidates started being grouped together with a colour code identifying the different political parties. This was a radical change as up to that point, for over fifty years, all candidates in an electoral district were listed alphabetically. Up till that point it was a common occurrence for votes to switch from one party to the other in successive counts as the semi-literate voter, would not always distinguish between one party candidate and the candidates from other parties. As a result, many a parliamentary seat was lost or switched allegiance over the years.

The second change took place in 1987 and was fine-tuned in subsequent years. It started off as a reaction to the impact of jerrymandering of electoral districts, specifically the 1981 general election result. Originally it was designed as a constitutional guarantee for majority rule, ensuring that whichever political party surpassed the 50 per cent vote count it would be guaranteed a majority of parliamentary seats. Subsequently it was developed into a formula for ensuring proportionality between first count votes and parliamentary seats. There is however an important condition attached: this is only applicable if just two political parties make it to parliament. The moment that a third one gains just one seat, no proportionality is guaranteed, except in one specific instant: when a political party obtains in excess of the 50 per cent mark it is still guaranteed a majority of Parliamentary seats. Our Constitution expects that the rest have to lump it.

The third change is in the pipeline. It involves an additional adjustment: a gender balance mechanism. A maximum of twelve parliamentary seats will be added to the total to represent the under-represented gender! Yes, you have guessed: they will be split equally between the duopoly. In addition, the seats will not be available for distribution the moment a third political party makes it into parliament.

Let me be very clear. Proportionality between votes cast and parliamentary seats won is essential. Likewise, it is essential to address the gender imbalance in our parliament. However, both adjustments can be done fairly, without any discrimination, and importantly without increasing the size of Parliament astronomically as will inevitably happen at the next general election if only two political parties make it to Parliament. In fact, it is perfectly possible not to have any increase in size of Parliament at all if the appropriate changes are carried out!

Over the years the political party which I lead has made several proposals on these matters. The latest proposal was made in the context of the public consultation on addressing gender imbalance in Parliament. Even then we emphasised that tinkering with the electoral system and adding top-ups would not solve anything. A complete overhaul of the system is required. Instead, the “gender balance reform” ended up advocating “as little as possible disruption of the electoral system”. Government and Opposition agreed to reinforce the existing discrimination in our electoral system.

Unfortunately, our proposals have been ignored once more and we have no choice but to resort to our Courts to address a blatantly discriminatory electoral system imposed on us by Labour and Nationalist Members of Parliament. On such matters they always agree.

In such circumstances fragmentation of the political spectrum is the worst possible option for those who want to emphasise a specific point. Those who end up playing the “independent” are pawns of the duopoly, unwittingly reinforcing the two-party system. They end up siphoning votes and thereby deliberately weakening a potential third voice which can make it to Parliament. The merger between AD and PD in the past months is the appropriate antidote in such circumstances.

Instead of focusing on minor differences it would be appropriate if all of us give more weight to the overall picture. It is an uphill struggle, but we should not be deterred!

published on The Malta Independent on Sunday 30 May 2021

Co-option flok Gavin Gulia

Ir-riżenja ta’ Gavin Gulia minn membru parlamentari, ftit minuti wara li ħa l-ġurament tal-ħatra, hi kemmxejn stramba. S’issa mhux magħruf x’inhuma r-raġunijiet għal din ir-riżenja. Ma rridx noqgħod nispekula dwarhom jew inkella inżejjen b’aġġettivi lil min jista’ jkun involut f’dak li bla dubju ġara wara l-kwinti.

Gavin Gulia mhux l-ewwel membru parlamentari li rriżenja b’dan il-mod. Qablu kien hemm it-Tabib Peter Micallef li irriżenja biex jiġi co-opted Adrian Delia. Anke Micallef irriżenja ftit minuti wara li ħa l-ġurament tal-ħatra.

Meta l-proċedura tal-co-option tintuża b’dan il-mod, il-votant ikun qiegħed jingħata bis-sieq. Għax il-votant ikun għamel għażla u din l-għażla tkun qed tkun skartata kapriċċjożament favur min ma kellux id-diċenza jikkontesta l-elezzjoni ġenerali.

Wasal iż-żmien li r-regoli li diġa jeżistu dwar il-co-options ikunu segwiti. L-Att dwar L-Elezzjonijiet Ġenerali (General Elections Act) jipprovdi ir-regola bażika dwar il-co-option fl-Iskeda 13 tiegħu.

L-artiklu 22 (2) ta’ din l-iskeda jgħid hekk : Meta  jiġi  biex  jimtela  l-post  ta’  Membru  bil-għażla, għandhom jitqiesu li kemm jista’ jkun, ikun hemm l-istess interessi u fehmiet li kien jidher għalihom u li kellu dak il-Membru illi postu jkun tbattal. (bl-Ingliż: In filling a vacancy by co-option, regard shall be had to the representation as nearly as may be of the interests and opinions represented and held by the vacating Member.)

Tiftakru x’pogrom kien inqala’ meta l-Eżekuttiv tal-PN kien għażel li flok il-Membru Parlamentari Għawdxi David Stellini jagħmel co-option ta’ Jean-Pierre Debono li ma kellu x’jaqsam xejn mad-Distrett Għawdxi? L-Eżekuttiv tal-PN kellu jagħmel U-turn u eventwalment għażel lill-Għawdxi Kevin Cutajar.

Il-liġi jiġifieri diġa tipprovdi li l-partiti m’għandhomx id-dritt jagħmlu li jridu meta jkun hemm ħtieġa ta’ co-option imma għandhom limitazzjonijiet ċari li sfortunatament rari ħafna ġew osservati.

Issa nistennew u naraw x’ser jiġri meta tittieħed deċiżjoni dwar il-co-option flok Gavin Gulia.

Wara d-dibattitu fi Strasburgu


Id-dibattitu tal-ġimgħa l-oħra fil-Parlament Ewropew dwar is-saltna tad-dritt wera li prattikament il-partiti politiċi kollha huma mħassba dwar is-saltna tad-dritt f’Malta. Il-qtil ta’ Daphne Caruana Galizia jkompli jżid ma dan it-tħassib.

It-tħassib hu wieħed akkumulat u huwa ġġustifikat minħabba diversi affarijiet li ġraw fuq tul ta’ żmien.

Il-ħatra u r-riżenja ta’ diversi Kummissarji tal-Pulizija matul dawn il-ħames snin xejn ma għen f’dan il-kuntest.

Ir-rapporti tal-FIAU (Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit) li waslu għand il-Kummissarju tal-Pulizija u ma ittieħdu l-ebda passi dwarhom ukoll wasslu l-messaġġ li f’dan il-pajjiż xejn m’hu xejn: li l-liġi hi bla siwi.

Jekk il-liġi hi bla siwi għax l-awtorijtajiet li għandhom l-obbligu li jimplimentawha jagħlqu għajnejhom, daqqa waħda u drabi oħra t-tnejn, hu ġustifikat li jingħad li s-saltna tad-dritt hi mhedda.

F’dan il-kuntest ma tista’ tagħti tort lil ħadd li jissuspetta illi l-awtoritajiet kollha ħaġa waħda, jħokku dahar xulxin. Anke jekk mhux neċessarjament hekk.

Imma hemm min qiegħed japprofitta ruħu minn din is-sitwazzjoni biex jiżra’ sfiduċja iktar milli diġa hawn. Ilkoll kemm aħna, fuq quddiem nett il-partiti politiċi, għandna l-obbligu li f’din is-siegħa delikata ma nesagerawx fil-kritika li nagħmlu. Anke fejn il-kritika hi ġustifikata. Il-kritika li issir hemm bżonn li tkun waħda responsabbli avolja jkun hemm min ma jagħtix każ, jew inkella jipprova jagħti l-impressjoni li mhux qed jagħti każ.

Il-fatti jibqgħu dejjem fatti.

Il-Prim Ministru żbalja meta ma tajjarx lill-Konrad Mizzi mill-Kabinett u lil Keith Schembri minn Chief of Staff fl-uffiċċju tiegħu wara li isimhom deher fil-lista magħrufa bħala Panama Papers. Kien żball oħxon li anke fil-Partit Laburista stess kien hemm dibattitu jaħraq dwaru. Fil-Partit Laburista kien hemm min kellu l-kuraġġ li jesprimi fehmtu dwar dan fil-pubbliku. Hekk għamlu s-sena l-oħra Evarist Bartolo u Godfrey Farrugia. Kien hemm oħrajn li tkellmu fil-magħluq waqt laqgħat tal-Grupp Parlamentari. Fil-gazzetti kienu ssemmew l-ismijiet tad-Deputat Prim Ministru ta’ dak iż-żmien Louis Grech u tal-Ministri Leo Brincat, Edward Scicluna u George Vella. Hemm ukoll id-dikjarazzjoni ċara pubblika ta’ Alfred Sant, avolja dan issa qed jitkellem ftit differenti. Naf li hemm oħrajn. Kollha talbu r-riżenja ta’ Konrad Mizzi.

Il-preokkupazzjoni tal-lum hi in parti riżultat ta’ din id-deċiżjoni żbaljata tal-Prim Ministru Joseph Muscat.

Il-kobba issa kompliet titħabbel bil-qtil ta’ Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Sfortunatament hemm min qed jitfa l-argumenti kollha f’borma waħda u jgħaqqad, b’mod irresponsabbli l-affarijiet, meta s’issa għad ma hemm l-ebda prova dwar min wettaq dan id-delitt u għal liema raġuni. L-iżbalji li saru fil-kors tal-investigazzjoni xejn m’huma ta’ għajnuna. La d-dewmien tal-Maġistrat Consuelo Scerri Herrera biex ma tibqax tmexxi l-investigazzjoni Maġisterjali u l-anqas li d-Deputat Kummissarju Silvio Valletta ma fehemx li l-presenza tiegħu fl-investigazzjoni tista’ tkun ta’ xkiel għall-kredibilita tal-konkluzjonijiet m’huma ser jgħinu.

F’dan il-kuntest il-kummenti ta’ Frans Timmermans Viċi President Ewlieni tal-Kummissjoni Ewropea huma ta’ validità kbira: “Let the investigation run its full course. What is not on is to start with a conclusion and look for facts to support that conclusion.”

Il-preokkupazzjoni tagħna lkoll hi ġustifikata. Imma tajjeb li nżommu quddiem għajnejna li t-taħwid kollu li għandna quddiemna ma tfaċċax f’daqqa, ilu jinġabar ftit ftit. Biex dan jingħeleb jeħtieġ l-isforz flimkien ta’ kull min hu ta’ rieda tajba.


ippubblikat f’Illum – Il-Ħadd 19 ta’ Novembru 2017

Beyond the Strasbourg debate

Last week’s debate in the European Parliament on the rule of law in Malta revealed that all political parties are preoccupied with the matter and the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia has made a bad situation worse.

This preoccupation has not developed overnight, it has accumulated over time. The appointment of various Commissioners of Police and their subsequent resignation for a variety of reasons has not been helpful: it has reinforced the perception that “all is not well in the state of Denmark”.

The Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit reports received by the Commissioner of Police, and in respect of which no investigation was carried out, sent out one clear message: in this country, some people are clearly not subject to the rule of law. Can anyone be blamed if this message – sent by the Commissioner of Police – was clearly understood by one and all?

This transmits an additional clear message: the authorities are in cahoots; they are scratching each other’s back. Even though reality may be different, this is the message which has gone through.

Unfortunately, some people may be cashing in on these developments and, as a result, increasing exponentially the lack of trust in public authorities in Malta. This is a very dangerous development and calls for responsible action on the part of one and all, primarily political parties. Speaking out publicly about these developments is justified, notwithstanding the continuous insults which keep being levelled against such a stand. It is time to stand up and be counted.

The Prime Minister erred when he did not dismiss Minister Konrad Mizzi and Chief of Staff at the OPM Keith Schembri on the spot, after it was clear that their names featured prominently in the Panama Papers. This serious error by the Prime Minister triggered a debate about the matter in the Labour Party. Some even had the courage to speak publicly: Evarist Bartolo and Godfrey Farrugia did so. Others participated actively in the internal debates within the Labour Party, in particular during meetings of the Parliamentary Group. Last year, the media had mentioned various Labour MPs as having been vociferous in internal debates on the matter: it was reported that former Deputy Prime Minister Louis Grech and senior Ministers Leo Brincat, Edward Scicluna and George Vella took the lead.

Even former Labour Leader Alfred Sant made public declarations in support of required resignations. This week, Sant sought to change his tune in a hysterical contribution to the Strasbourg debate. Others have preferred silence.

The Prime Minister’s erroneous position in refusing to fire Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri has been a major contributor to the present state of affairs. The murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia has made matters worse and has, justifiably, led to the current preoccupation with the question of whether the rule of law is still effective in Malta at all.

Unfortunately some individuals begin linking all the incidents together – in the process, weaving a story which is quite different from reality, at least that which is known so far. Some claim to be able to joint the dots, thereby creating a narrative unknown to the rest of us, because the dots can be joined in many different ways.

Mistakes made during the initial stages of the investigation of the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder further reinforce the perceptions that all is not well. When Magistrate Consuelo Scerri Herrera took quite some time to realise that it was not right for her to lead the investigation into the murder of a journalist who had been the prime mover in torpedoing her elevation to the position of a Judge in the Superior Courts, everyone was shocked.

Even the failure of Deputy Police Commissioner Silvio Valletta to realise that for him to lead the police investigation into Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder could dent the credibility of the police investigation in view of his marriage to a Cabinet Minister was another serious mistake. This is no reflection on the couple’s integrity but an ethical consideration which should have been taken into consideration in the first seconds of the investigation.

In this context, the comments of European Commission Senior Vice President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans assume greater importance “Let the investigation run its  full course. What is not on is to start with a conclusion and look for facts to support that conclusion.”

It is reasonable that all of us are seriously preoccupied. The present state of affairs did not develop overnight. It requires the concerted efforts of all of us to be put right.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 19 November 2017 

Min hu ikbar mill-partit?


Bħalissa spiss qed nisimgħu min jgħidilna li ħadd m’hu ikbar mill-partit.

Dan il-kliem qed jingħad bl-iskop li jkun ġustifikat li dawk illi jsegwu u jappoġġaw partit politiku għandhom jbaxxu rashom meta t-tmexxija tal-partit tieħu deċiżjoni. Għax il-partit tkellem. Mela tbaxxi rasek.

Id-deċiżjonijiet li jittieħdu b’mod demokratiku għandhom ikun rispettati u implimentati. Imma anke hawn hemm l-obbligu li nirrispettaw lil min hu f’minoranza, irrispettivament kemm din tkun żgħira jew kbira.

Id-deċiżjonijiet li jittieħdu b’mod unanimu nibża’ minnhom, għax mhiex xi ħaġa rari li l-unanimità tkun faċċata li warajha jistaħbew ħafna affarijiet.

L-ebda partit politiku m’hu omoġenju u f’kull deċiżjoni li tittieħed ikun hemm min jaħsibha differenti u xi drabi dan mhux sempliċiment fuq id-dettall. Dan ma jitlobx biss tolleranza iżda ħafna drabi koeżistenza ta’ ideat li jikkuntrastaw. Dan mhux dejjem faċli, imma ċertament li hu possibli. Hekk jiġri f’soċjetà verament demokratika.

Ovvjament l-ebda partit politiku ma jista’ jiffunzjona jekk fuq l-ideat fundamentali li jirrappreżenta ma jkunx hemm qbil dwarhom fost dawk li jappoġġawh. Imma lil hinn mill-prinċipji fundamentali li partit politiku jirrappreżenta hemm lok għal ideat li jikkuntrastaw.

F’dan is-sens partit politiku hu ġabra ta’ ideat, kultant differenti, kultant kuntrastanti: ħafna drabi ftit, imma xi drabi kuntrastanti ħafna. Partit politiku hu kbir skond kemm hu kapaċi jirrispetta l-ideat differenti fi ħdanu. Għax ħafna drabi hi din id-differenza ta’ ideat, kultant dettall, imma xi drabi iktar minn hekk ukoll, li toħolq dibattitu fil-partiti politiċi liema dibattitu jwassal għal żviluppi interessanti fil-ħsieb politiku.

Il-partit politiku, għaldaqstant, jirrappreżenta lid-diversità ta’ ħsieb fi ħdanu fit-totalità tiegħu. Jagħmel żball partit politiku li joħnoq il-vuċijiet differenti fi ħdanu. Dawn dejjem qegħdin hemm: kultant jinstemgħu ħafna u drabi oħra kemm kemm jinstemgħu: skond l-importanza tad-differenzi. Imma dejjem hemm qegħdin.

Ma hemm l-ebda mertu li tirrispetta lil min jaqbel miegħek: m’għandek ħtieġa ta’ l-ebda sforz biex tagħmel dan. Il-mertu, u l-isforz, qiegħed biex tirrispetta lil min ma jaqbilx miegħek. Naċċetta li mhux dejjem faċli. Imma dan mhux biss hu possibli imma hu essenzjali.

Partit politiku li mhux kapaċi jirrispetta d-dissens fi ħdanu ma jistax jispira fiduċja. Għax jekk m’intix kapaċi tirrispetta lil min hu ħdejk u ma jaqbilx għal kollox miegħek, kif tippretendi li titwemmen meta tgħid li qed tiftaħ il-bibien għal min qiegħed barra? Tkun qed tissogra li flok il-bieb miftuħ iservi biex jidħlu minnu, jispiċċa jkun il-punt tal-ħruġ!

Mhux għaldaqstant kaz ta’ min hu ikbar jew iżgħar mill-partit imma ta’ kemm aħna kapaċi nirrispettaw lil xulxin b’mod partikolari meta ma naqblux.

Min jipprova jagħlaq id-diskussjoni billi jgħid li ħadd m’hu ikbar mill-partit qed jibgħat messaġġ wieħed: li jirrispettak biss sakemm taqbel miegħu.

Din xi triq ġdida hi?

Meta Joseph ried €5

five euro

Il-liġi dwar il-finanzjament tal-Partiti għaddiet minn l-aħħar stadju fil-Parlament dal-għodu meta kienet approvata unanimament. Jiġifieri l-membri parlamentari kollha preżenti ivvutaw favur: 33 min-naħa tal-Gvern u 27 min-naħa tal-Opposizzjoni.

Qabel ma vvutaw, għal xi minuti, Simon Busuttil u Joseph Muscat argumentaw. Simon Busuttil tkellem dwar id-difetti tal-liġi [l-għażla tar-regolatur, il-propjetà pubblika f’idejn il-Partit Laburista u proposta ta’ limitazzjoni ta’ infieq (sa żewġ miljun ewro) f’kampanja elettorali]. Joseph Muscast wieġeb li l-Kummissjoni Elettorali hi korp kostituzzjonali fdat fl-iktar mument delikat fil-ħajja tal-pajjiż (waqt elezzjoni ġenerali), li l-propjetà pubblika f’idejn il-Partit Laburista ma tagħtih l-ebda vantaġġ partikolari (għax kieku m’għamilx 25 sena fl-Opposizzjoni) u li l-flus, ġaladarba jkunu nġabru b’mod leċitu għandu jkun hemm d-dritt li jintefqu.

Il-Partit Nazzjonalista għandu riżervi kbar, ma jaqbilx, imma ivvota favur xorta biex jevita l-problemi li ħoloq għalih innifsu meta astjena dwar id-drittijiet ċivili tal-komunita gay, jew meta ivvota b’mod imħawwad [biċċa favur, biċċa kontra, u biċċa astensjoni] fuq l-introduzzjoni tad-divorzju!

La Joseph Muscat u l-anqas Simon Busuttil ma qalu xejn dwar il-kontradizzjoni fil-każ tal-finanzjament pubbliku tal-partiti politiċi mill-istat. Għax filwaqt li l-Gvern ta’ Joseph Muscat illum ma jaqbilx mal-finanzjament pubbliku tal-partiti xorta f’kull budget baqa’ jvvota €200,000 fis-sena biex jinqasmu bejn il-Partit Nazzjonalista u l-Partit Laburista: €100,000 kull wieħed. Għax fil-fatt l-istat Malti, minkejja dak li jgħidu, jiffinanzja lill-partiti politiċi fil-Parlament u ilu jagħmel hekk sa mill-1994.

Dwar dan ma qalulna xejn. Kien ikun interessanti kieku spjegawlna ftit, forsi nifhmu għaliex meta jkunu fil-Gvern ikunu kontra l-finanzjament tal-partiti politiċi mill-istat, imma meta jkunu fl-Opposizzjoni malajr jibdlu l-opinjoni u jsiru favur. Per eżempju il-Partit Nazzjonalista bħalissa jaqbel mal-finanzjament tal-partiti politiċi mill-istat, imma sentejn ilu kien kontra. Il-Partit Laburista ta’ Joseph Muscat min-naħa l-oħra issa huwa kontra l-finanzjament tal-partiti politiċi mill-istat, imma ftit snin ilu, meta kien fl-Opposizzjoni kien talab għal €5 għal kull vot kull sena. Ovvjament il-PN fil-Gvern kien qal le.

Ħawwadni ħa nifhmek Joey!


Wanted: an impartial regulator for political party financing

Financing of Political Parties Act

Earlier this week, Parliament’s Standing Committee for the Consideration of Bills concluded its detailed discussion on the Bill regarding the financing of political parties. I was invited by the Committee to participate in the discussion in representation of Alternattiva Demokratika.

The Bill was improved as a result of the discussion. Around 34 clauses of the Bill were, in fact, amended, most amendments receiving unanimous consent.

However Alternattiva Demokratika’s major objection to the Bill was not addressed. When the White Paper on the regulation of the financing of political parties was published with government’s initial proposals, AD was already making the point that the choice of the Electoral Commission as the regulator was not a suitable option.

This lack of suitability clearly results from the very composition of the Electoral Commission. It is composed of nine people, four of whom are nominated by the Prime Minister, a further four are nominated by the Leader of the Opposition and the ninth person is the chairman of the Commission, who occupies that post in virtue of his having been appointed by the Prime Minister as head of The Electoral Office.

How can nominees of the parliamentary political parties regulate impartially the very parties nominating them as well as other political parties? Over the years, the Electoral Commission had the responsibility of receiving and vetting the returns submitted by candidates for elections (local, national and European) in which returns the candidates should have listed the donations they have received as well as their electoral expenditure. A cursory look at the newspapers published during past election campaigns would immediately provide ample proof that a number of such returns were – without any doubt – false declarations. Over-spending and undeclared financing was rampant, yet the Electoral Commission never took any action. Had it done so, I think that quite a number of our Members of Parliament in past legislatures or MEPs would have been unseated.

Yet the Hon. Minister Owen Bonnici keeps defending the government’s political choice of selecting the Electoral Commission as the regulator. In the government’s defence, he stated that the Electoral Commission is a constitutional body entrusted with the conduct of elections which, he said, it has carried out to the satisfaction of everyone.

Minister Owen Bonnici is incorrect. The Electoral Commission, in conducting elections, does not have any elbow room. Its discretion is substantially limited by electoral legislation which is very tight and precise. And whenever the Electoral Commission had any practical room for manoeuvre it made a mess of it.  In simple words, the Electoral Commission is constructed on partisan foundations. There are historical reasons for this but it is a basic truth which cannot be camouflaged.

While the Electoral Commission’s hands are generally tied up where electoral legislation is concerned, it is a different kettle of fish when dealing with the regulation of political parties and their financing. There will be issues and submissions that require interpretation and an eventual decision.

Already, way back in February 2014, Alternattiva Demokratika had proposed an alternative regulatory authority in the person of the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life, a post resulting from a Bill which was proposed by a Parliamentary Select Committee led by Mr Speaker Anġlu Farrugia. This Select Committee concluded its work and presented its final report on 24 March 2014, almost 16 months ago. For those who seek to act in good faith there was ample time for considering the proposals made. Yet the proposed Bill is still pending on the Parliamentary agenda.

In the Bill [Standards in Public Life Bill] the Select Committee proposed that the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life should be appointed, subject to obtaining the support of two-thirds of Members of Parliament. The election of the Commissioner would thus be on a par with that of the Ombudsman: the requirement that the support of two-thirds of Parliament has to be achieved would ensure that the selected person would, irrespective of his/her views be acceptable to a very wide-cross section of society.

This is the way forward initially proposed by Alternattiva Demokratika, but supported at a later stage by the PN.

The government never spoke against the AD proposal but only stated that it preferred the Electoral Commission as the regulatory authority as it was in a hurry. Minister Owen Bonnici said many a time that the GRECO (Council of Europe – Group of States Against Corruption) was breathing down his neck and as a result he had no time to spare for institution building!

This law will most probably be applied with effect from 1st January 2016. It is generally designed on the basis of a one-size-fits-all template that does not distinguish between political parties having a turnover measured in millions of euros and others which handle just a few thousands of euros per annum.

Political parties will be required to present annual audited accounts to the regulator, which will be published. They will also be required to submit a report on donations received over a calendar year. In addition, they will be required to publish the names of those donating in excess of €7,000 in a calendar year up to the permissible maximum of €25,000.

Alternattiva Demokratika will be examining the law in detail and taking legal advice before deciding whether to initiate legal action contesting the selection of the Electoral Commission as the regulator. The proposed law is generally a step in the right direction but, unfortunately, is tainted by the lack of identification of an appropriate regulator. It is indeed a pity that, when taking such a bold step forward, the government preferred the partisan path. In so doing it has diluted the efforts of all those who have worked hard in previous years to achieve this goal.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 19 July 2015

Il-votazzjoni kmieni w il-pazjenti bid-dimentia

complaint. San Vincenz


Bdiet il-votazzjoni kmieni u magħha bdew l-argumenti. Il-gazzetti online (Times, Independent, Malta Today) qed jikkummentaw dwar il-pazjenti rikoverati fid-djar għall-anzjani li jbatu mid-dimentia.

Dawn il-pazjenti għandhom jew m’għandhomx jivvutaw?

L-ewwel reazzjoni tiegħi hi għalfejn titqajjem issa din l-issue? Fil-każ ta’ min ilu jbati mid-dimentia setgħu faċilment ittieħdu passi ferm qabel illum. Jeżistu mekkaniżmi fil-liġi li jippermettu illi persuna ma tibqax ikollha vot jekk ikun aċċertat minn Bord Mediku illi ma tistax teżerċita l-ġudiżżju meħtieġ biex tiddeċiedi kif għandha tivvota.

Imma jekk dan s’issa ma sarx hi responsabbilta’ tal-Kummissjoni Elettorali li tieħu d-deċiżjoni dwar x’għandu jsir.

Il-Kummissjoni Elettorali timxi b’dan il-mod. Persuna li isimha jidher fir-reġistru elettorali tingħata l-faċilita li tivvota dejjem. Ma jistgħux jiddeċiedu l-qraba jew l-istaff tal-isptar/dar tal-anzjani għaliha. Tiddeċiedi hi x’għandha tagħmel. Jekk il-persuna tagħżel li tivvota waħedha għandha kull dritt li tagħmel dan. Jekk titlob assistenza minn naħa tal-Assistenti tal-Kummissjoni Elettorali li jkunu mal-kaxxa tal-vot dawn jagħtu l-assistenza mitluba. Imma dawn għandhom jingħataw struzzjonijiet ċari mill-persuna li titlob l-assistenza tagħhom. Jekk din il-persuna tkun tidher mifxula u ma jkollhiex idea x’inhu għaddej ma tistax tagħti struzzjonijiet ċari lill-Assistenti tal-Kummissjoni Elettorali. Dawn ma jkunux allura jistgħu jagħtu l-assistenza mitluba għax ma jistgħux jiddeċiedu huma, iżda jridu jwettqu dejjem ix-xewqat tal-votant.

Is-sistema elettorali tagħna allura tipprovdi salvagwardji biżżejjed biex tħares id-dinjita tal-votant. Kollox jiddependi fuq l-integrità personali tal-Assistenti tal-Kummissjoni Elettorali.

Id-diffikulta dwar l-Assistenti tal-Kummissjoni Elettorali hi li fil-każ ta’ referendum ikollhom rapprezentanti biss mill-Partiti Politiċi fil-Parlament. Il-promuturi tar-referendum, kif ukoll dawk li jopponu, huma injorati kompletament.

Allura biex tkun imħarsa d-dinjita’ tal-pazjenti niddependu fuq il-partiti rapprezentati fil-Parlament, apparti fuq l-integrità personali tal-Assistenti tal-Kummissjoni Elettorali.

Sal-ponta ta’ imnieħru


Għall-Kap tal-Opposizzjoni Simon Busuttil, il-mod kif żviluppat l-istorja tal-bejgħ taċ-ċittadinanza għall-prezz ta’ €650,000 hi sħaba sewda għax il-Gvern irrombla minn fuq l-Opposizzjoni. Simon Busuttil kompla jgħid li dak li ġara hu ta’ theddida għad-demokrazija.

Il-Gvern wasal għall-konklużjoni li l-iskema tal-bejgħ taċ-ċittadinanza  hi mezz tajjeb biex bih jiġbor il-miljuni għal numru ta’ snin, biżżejjed biex ikollu l-mezzi ħalli jiffinanzja l-programm politiku li jrid iwettaq mingħajr ma jżid taxxi. Jidher li ngħata pariri dwar dan kemm mill-konsulenti tiegħu kif ukoll minn dawk li nirreferu għalihom bħala lobbyists.

Il-Gvern geżwer il-proposta tiegħu fis-segretezza. Fatt li saħħah l-argument li minkejja d-due diligence kollha li jista’ jkun hemm xorta hemm il-possibilita ta’ karattri mhux mixtieqa li japplikaw għal u jakkwistaw din iċ-ċittadinaza.

Li kieku l-Gvern aċċetta s-suggeriment li jneħħi s-segretezza, proposta li saret mill-Alternattiva Demokratika,  mill-Opposizzjoni, kif ukoll mis-soċjeta’ ċivili, argument qawwi kontra din l-iskema taċ-ċittadinanza kien ikun eliminat.

Il-konsegwenza tal-iskema kif approvata mill-Parlament hi li Malta tidher li biex iddaħħal il-flus hi lesta li tiddefendi l-interessi ta’ min ma jridx jikxef l-identita tiegħu.Issa dan kollu jmur kontra r-reputazzjoni li Malta kisbet tul is-snin bħala ċentru finanzjarju serju u ta’ min jafdah. Sfortunatament din ir-reputazzjoni tajba inevitabilment ser tittappan u dan minħabba li s-segretezza tal-iskema taċ-ċittadinanza inevitabilment ser tkun assoċjata mal-idea ta’ tax haven. Dan kollu jista’ jwassal għal impatt negattiv fuq is-servizzi finanzjarji li huma ibbażati f’Malta bħala riżultat ta’ din ir-reputazzjoni tajba. B’mod li dak li l-Gvern idaħħal mill-iskema tal-bejgħ taċ-ċittadinanza jintilef minn banda oħra.

Imbagħad hemm l-issue tal-prinċipji involuti. Fir-realta’ hawnhekk ingħataw messaġġi konfliġġenti. Għax fil-prinċipju hemm qbil maċ-ċittadinanza ekonomika. Id-differenza ta’ opinjoni hi dwar x’inhu meqjus bħala investiment aċċettabbli. Il-Gvern għażel mudell ta’ donazzjoni “żgħira” minn għand numru imdaqqas bħalma hu ipprattikat f’diversi pajjiżi fil-Karibew filwaqt li l-kontro-proposta hi l-mudell Awstrijak ta’ investiment sostanzjali.

Il-kuntrast bejn iż-żewġ mudelli hu li l-mudell li għażel il-Gvern iwassal għall-fondi direttament fil-kaxxa ta’ Malta li dwarhom ikun il-Gvern li jiddeċiedi kif ikunu investiti. Min-naħa l-oħra l-mudell Awstrijak idum iktar biex jagħti r-riżultati. Apparti dan dwar l-investimenti mill-mudell Awstrijak il-Gvern, ftit li xejn ikollu kontroll fuq kif jitħaddem.

Bħalissa l-istampa internazzjonali qed tirrapporta dak li Malta qed toffri għall-bejgħ passaport għall-Unjoni Ewropeja. Nistennew u naraw kif ser jiżviluppaw l-affarijiet u l-konsegwenzi.

L-issue kollha taċ-ċittadinanza hi deċiżjoni politika li ma naqbilx magħha għax hi ibbażata fuq konsiderazzjonijiet ta’ benefiċċju “short term”.  Fil-waqt li l-anqas dan l-impatt “short term” ma hu assigurat għad irridu naraw jekk l-impatt negattiv antiċipat fuq is-servizzi finanzjarji iseħhx. Filwaqt li nixtieq li dan ma jiġrix, issa hu ċar li għandna Gvern li jħares sal-pont ta’ imnieħru.