Post-electoral reflections

When voters repeatedly elect a candidate accused of usury and money-laundering into public office, it is inevitable that I ask the question as to whether, really, the voters are always right.

In view of this reality it is inevitable that now, more frequently than ever, I ask myself why I am in politics. Following the electoral counting process presents the stark reality of the substantial number of spoilt ballot papers – with a variety of comments written in very colourful language.

Answering my daily question, now more than ever, I choose to stay on as I am driven by a sense of duty towards the ordinary man and woman who request continuous help in facing their daily problems caused by an insensitive state buttressed by a variety of colourful hangers-on.

It is unfortunate that immediate gain, as opposed to long-term benefits, is the obvious choice of a majority of voters, irrespective of the locality. Tomorrow is too far away to feature in today’s choices and, as a result, voters are continuously misguided instead of being assisted in making their choices.

I am obviously disappointed that no green local councillors were elected in the latest election. Moreover, the only green councillor currently in office, Ralph Cassar in Attard, was not re-elected. The result was affected by a low turnout, coupled with a reduced number of cross-party voters in the locality. Ralph has given sterling service to Attard for a considerable number of years, almost uninterruptedly since the 1990s.

The voters’ decision not to re-elect Ralph Cassar but then for voters in another locality to  repeatedly elect a person charged with usury and money-laundering is mind-boggling.
“Crooks are everywhere” could be too simplistic an explanation. They are certainly present but their presence is definitely not ubiquitous. It would be unfair to tar all those who stand for public office with the same brush, because most of them are drawn into public life through a sense of public service.

Why am I in politics? “To be of service to the community” is the answer which I have repeatedly and convincingly given since my youth. It is a service against an ever-intruding state. It is a service in favour of the betterment of our quality of life through ensuring the optimisation of policy-making and implementation, focusing on addressing the common good.

Throughout the past months and years, together with fellow greens, I have striven hard to ensure that more people are conscious of the need to prioritise ecological issues. Tackling environmental issues is a political matter because it involves continuous political decision-taking on a large variety of issues – ranging from food and pesticides to land-use planning in all its complexities or water management.

Those who continuously plead against linking environmental issues with politics are unfortunately not conscious that each and every decision impacting the environment is a political decision. Politics is also a service to the environment, ideally seeking to ensure that long-term views prevail over short-term egoistic decisions.

During the past weeks. Alternattiva Demokratika focused on several environmental issues regarding the need to improve our urban environment. The agenda is topped by a need to improve transport planning and reclaiming back our roads and ensuring adequate accessibility for all. Reducing the number of cars from our roads is an urgent requirement but there is no interest in achieving it as an objective. This will keep up the pressure on our public spaces which are either being taken up by more parking spaces or else by tables and chairs servicing catering establishments.

It is indeed unfortunate that the voters who share these objectives did not sufficiently support those who continuously strive to address them.

It is difficult to answer the question as to why I am in politics striving to attain environmental protection in order to better our quality of life, when everything seems to be pointing in a different direction. However, there is no alternative. Putting egoistic short-termism aside is an absolute priority.

published on The Malta Independent on Sunday – 2 June 2019

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Gvern li jiddisprezza l-Parlament

L-aħbar tal-bieraħ fil-għaxija li l-Gvern ser jgħaddi l-każ tal-Isptar St Philip lill-Awditur Ġenerali biex jeżaminah għall-ewwel qiestha bħala pass pożittiv. Sakemm irrealiżżajt li dan il-Gvern ser jagħmlu wara li l-kuntratt, li permezz tiegħu jikri l-Isptar filwaqt li jżomm id-dritt li jixtri, ikun ġie iffirmat.

Jekk qatt kellna bżonn prova kemm il-Gvern immexxi minn Lawrence Gonzi jiddisprezza l-Parlament issa din il-prova jista’ jmissha kulħadd b’idejh. Il-Gvern m’huwiex lest li jbaxxi rasu għall-Parlament li għandu quddiemu mozzjoni ippreżentata minn Franco Debono biex il-proċess kollu jkun eżaminat. Il-Gvern biex jevita li l-Parlament jorbotlu idejh qed iħaffef biex jikkonkludi kollox ħalli jekk u meta l-Parlament jesprimi ruħu jkun tard wisq.

Dan kollu ma tantx jitfa’ dawl sabiħ fuq il-kredenzjali demokratiċi tal-Gvern immexxi minn Lawrence Gonzi.

Dan juri kemm hi difettuża is-sistema demokratika tagħna li s’issa għad ma fehmitx l-importanza li l-ebda partit politiku ma għandu jkun afdat waħdu bit-tmexxija tal-Gvern. Għax issa li l-Gvern qed jaħrab mill-Parlament l-uniku possibilita’ li jkunu ikkontrollati l-abbużi hi permezz ta’ xi membru tal-Kabinett li jkollu l-kuraġġ li jieqaf lil Lawrence Gonzi. Safejn naf jien ma hemm l-ebda wieħed minnhom li għandu l-kuraġġ li nhar it-Tnejn li ġej idur fuq sħabu u jgħidilhom li issa qed jabbużaw iż-żejjed. Il-membri tal-Kabinett huma kollha membri tal-istess Partit u ilkoll kemm huma jpoġġu l-lealta’ tagħhom lejn Lawrence Gonzi qabel il-lealta’ tagħhom lejn il-pajjiż.

Il-poter li għandhom il-Ministri u l-Gvern joħroġ mill-fatt li huma membri tal-Parlament. Gvern serju ġaladarba ġie ikkontestat il-mod kif huwa qed jaġixxi kien iħaffef biex iressaq quddiem il-Parlament il-mozzjoni li hemm pendenti dwar l-Isptar St Philip. Gvern immexxi min-nies ta’ rieda tajba hekk jagħmlu.

Prim Ministru serju hekk jagħmel. Iqum biex jiffaċċja is-siegħa tal-prova. Is-siegħa tal-verita’. Imma Gonzi kodard. Jipprietka li s-siegħa tal-prova waslet imma kontinwament jipposponi l-appuntament tiegħu. M’għandux il-kuraġġ li jiffaċċjah.

Il-politika m’hiex logħba ċess. Hi strument ta’ servizz. Sfortunatament bil-manuvri u l-maniġġi tiegħu Lawrence Gonzi qed jagħmel ħsara kbira lill-politka f’Malta, imma fuq kollox qed jikkundanna lill-Partit Nazzjonalista għal snin twal fl-Opposizzjoni.

Is-siegħa tal-prova qegħda wara l-bieb. Inutli li tipprova tisgiċċa.

Il-biċċa deputat

Il-biċċa deputat huwa dak li ma jirnexxilux jgħid dak li jemmen. L-anqas dak li jaħseb. Ġeneralment għax ftit li xejn jaħseb. Għax hemm min jaħseb għalih. Iħossu komdu hekk!

Meta tħalli lil ħaddieħor jaħseb għalik ma tantx tiġi fil-għali malajr imma tkun qed tneżża’ lilek innifsek mid-dinjita’. Ma tkunx deputat, tkun biss biċċa deputat. Tista’ tkun Ministru jew Segretarju Parlamentari għax tkun biċċa Ministru jew biċċa Segretarju Parlamentari.

Sfortunatament għandna bosta eżempji ta’ dawn il-biċċiet fl-istorja politika ta’ pajjiżna: fil-mument deċiżiv dejjem ħasbu għal ġildhom u insew dak li ġew eletti għalih.

Future Generations must be heard

 

The politics of sustainable development links present and future generations. The 1987 report of the United Nations Commission on Environment and Development (the Brundtland report) emphasised that development is sustainable if the choices we make today do not restrict tomorrow’s generations from making their own independent choices.

Future generations, to date, have no political or financial power and cannot challenge decisions taken by present generations. They have no voice. They are not represented at the negotiating table where present-day decisions are made.

Politics is dominated by the requirement to satisfy today’s wants, irrespective of the costs, as witnessed by spiralling financial, environmental and social deficits.

During the preparatory meetings for the Rio 1992 earth summit, delegations discussed the impacts of development on various vulnerable groups.

In a four-page document (A/CONF.151/PC/WG./L.8/Rev.1/Add.2), dated February 21, 1992, Malta submitted a proposal to the working group of the preparatory committee of the UN Rio conference, which met in New York in early March 1992.

After underlining the international community’s recognition of the rights of future generations as another vulnerable group, the Maltese government rightly emphasised that it is not sufficient to simply recognise the principle of future generation rights.

Words must be transformed into action. In paragraph 17 of its document, Malta proposed to go beyond rhetoric through the inclusion in the 1992 Rio declaration on the environment of the following: “We declare that each generation has, in particular, the responsibility to ensure that in any national or international forum where it is likely that a decision is taken affecting the interests of future generations access be given to an authorised person appointed as ‘Guardian’ of future generations to appear and make submissions on their behalf, so that account be taken of the responsibilities stated in this declaration and the obligations created thereby.”

Malta’s proposal was presented by the Foreign Ministry led by Guido de Marco.

The proposal had been developed by the International Environment Institute of the University of Malta within the framework of its Future Generations Programme led by Fr Emanuel Agius. Malta’s proposal was not taken up in the Rio declaration on the environment.

Do we need a guardian of future generations in Malta? I believe that we do and I think that the issue should be addressed when Parliament discusses legislation on sustainable development shortly.

The reasons justifying the domestic implementation of Malta’s 1992 proposal to the UN Rio preparatory committee are crystallised in paragraph 7 of Malta’s proposal that focuses on responsibility and foresight. Malta emphasised that present generations are in duty bound to foresee possible risks and uncertainties that present economic, political and technological policies have on future generations.

Responsibility, stated Malta in 1992, demands foresight. Hence, one should anticipate effective measures to, at least, prevent foreseeable risks and uncertainties.

The guardian of future generations would be the voice of those still unborn to defend their right to make their own choices, independently of the choices of present and past generations.

S/he would be the conscience of present generations nudging them towards behaviour and decisions that are compatible with their responsibilities.

In particular, s/he would be in a position to speak up on behalf of future generations when current or contemplated policies give rise to long-term risks that are not adequately addressed. S/he would emphasise that it is unethical for present generations to reap benefits and then shift the consequence of their actions on future generations.

Future generations need a voice to be able to communicate their concerns.

The appointment of a guardian to protect their interests would be such a voice. Such an appointment would also be implementing the President’s declaration during the inaugural session of the present Parliament on May 10, 2008 when he emphasised that the government’s plans and actions are to be underpinned by the notion of sustainable development. He had further stated that “when making decisions today, serious consideration will be given to the generations of tomorrow”.

Hungary has already given the lead. In 2007, the Hungarian Parliament appointed Sándor Fülöp as Parliamentary Commissioner for Future Generations. Among other things, he is entrusted to act as a policy advocate for sustainability issues across all relevant fields of legislation and public policy.

International NGOs, such as the World Future Council, have actively brought up the issue of future generations requiring a present-day voice during the second preparatory committee of the UN Rio+20 sustainability conference held in March this year in New York.

The Maltese Greens consider that it is time for the government to accept that the principled action it took on an international level in 1992 is equally applicable on a national level.

Malta too has the responsibility of foresight. It has the responsibility to ensure that the future can speak up such that we can listen and consider the impacts of our actions.

The time is ripe to act. We owe an ear to future generations. They deserve it.

 

published in The Times – Saturday August 27, 2011