Minor footnote to 1980s talks

Much has been written about the meetings between Dom Mintoff and Guido de Marco prior to 1987 on finding ways in which to solve the constitutional crisis resulting from the 1981 perverse electoral results.

During these meetings Mintoff and de Marco undoubtedly also discussed various other matters as they considered appropriate. At one point, I too formed part of their agenda.

It was early in October 1984 and I was carrying out duties of architect and civil engineer at the then Public Works Department. Called to the office of the director, I was informed that, in view of my articles published in newspapers of the Nationalist Party, my employment was being terminated forthwith.

Being without a job was further compounded by the fact that the then Labour government had also withheld my professional warrant.

I initiated human rights proceedings claiming that my right to freedom of expression and protection from discrimination on political grounds had been breached by the Director of Public Works and his minister, Lorry Sant.

The first session of the court case was fixed for early November 1984. Witnesses were heard and submissions made.

Some time in April or May 1985, de Marco called to tell me that he had a message for me from Mintoff. My dismissal from the Public Works Department had cropped up in one of his meetings with Mintoff who had suggested that he would be prepared to take me on board as a civil engineer on the Freeport project, then under his wings and in its early stages.

However, this proposal was subject to the conditions that I had to halt legal proceedings against Sant and, in addition, I had to bind myself not to write any more articles in newspapers.

My response was a clear no.

We met a second time at the request of de Marco, presumably as Mintoff was pressing for an answer. But I did not budge. In view of my refusal, the message was relayed through two alternative routes. De Marco had asked two high-ranking PN officials to persuade me to compromise. Fortunately, they fully understood my position and did not press the matter any further.

On June 27, 1985, just weeks after receiving Mintoff’s message, the case was decided by Mr Justice Joseph Filletti. He concluded that my freedom of expression and my right not to be discriminated against on political grounds were breached by the Director of Public Works. The director, the court ruled, had to shoulder administrative responsibility for the happenings in his department on his own.

Mr Justice Filletti had exonerated the minister!

Subsequent to Mr Justice Filletti’s decision I received a phone call that a senior army officer attached to Mintoff’s office at Kalafrana wanted to speak to me.

I clearly remember that it was an August afternoon in 1985 when I called at his office. This army officer, eventually a colonel, told me that I should not count my chickens yet because, while I had a favourable first decision from the law courts, it was inevitable that it would be reversed on appeal.

He prodded me to accept Mintoff’s proposal and stop legal proceedings. I told the colonel that I had already refused the proposal and that I had no intention of changing my mind.

In the meantime, the Constitutional Court had fixed dates for hearings of the appeals submitted. I myself had submitted an appeal because, in my view, the minister should have been found responsible together with the director for breach of human rights. Proof had been submitted that the instructions for my dismissal had been issued by the minister himself.

The Constitutional Court decided the case on January 29, 1986. It concluded that Sant had, in fact, issued the instructions for my dismissal himself. It further acknowledged that proof of the minister’s direct involvement had been submitted through the evidence of various witnesses.

The Constitutional Court decided that both Sant and the director were responsible for political discrimination.

As to freedom of expression, the Constitutional Court reversed the first court’s decision and concluded that those in public employment sign away their rights of freedom of expression. By accepting public employment, the Constitutional Court held that you renounce your freedom of expression.

As it turned out, it seems that the colonel was most probably bluffing after all.

It was clear to me that Mintoff was trying to find a way out for Sant.

When my name cropped up in the de Marco-Mintoff talks it seems that I was considered as a pawn that could be easily sacrificed in the quest for the larger prize.

Fortunately, matters developed differently in this minor footnote to the de Marco/Mintoff talks.

published in The Times (Malta) 8th September 2012

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Dom : abjad jew iswed iżda bla griż

Il-funeral statali ta’ Dom Mintoff kif kien mistenni ħareġ fil-pubbliku l-appoġġ u l-approvazzjoni li Dom għadu kapaċi jqanqal, minkejja li hemm min ipprova jpinġih bħala traditur.  Miet imma għex b’viżjoni ċara. Viżjoni li kienet ċara sa mill-ewwel ġranet tal-ħidma politika tiegħu.

Ta’ 23 sena fid-Daily Malta Chronicle ippubblika l-mission statement tiegħu : “Malta għandha bżonn ta’ membri ġodda b’ideat godda li jkunu jistgħu jgħaqqdu l-elementi progressivi kollha u tbiddel is-sistema soċjali medjevali f’sistema li tkun l-għira tal-bqija tad-dinja.” Fl-1939 il-messaġġ ta’ Dom kien ċar għal kulħadd, ħlief għal min ma riedx jisma’. L-impenn tiegħu fil-ħajja pubblika Dom kien jarah bħala l-għodda biex ineħħi l-għanqbut!  Kien mgħaġġel, probabilment għax kien konxju li l-politiku hu għasfur tal-passa. Allura fittex li jagħsar kull opportunita’ li ġiet quddiemu. Ma kellux paċenzja ma min kien kajman.  Min kien jimxi bil-mod iżżejjed kien jarah ta’ xkiel li seta jtellfu l-ħin u per konsegwenza l-opportunita li jwettaq il-viżjoni tiegħu.

Il-viżjoni tiegħu wettaqha. Imma weġġa’ ħafna nies. Weġgħat li faċilment setgħu ġew evitati. Kif għidt diġa f’kitba oħra tiegħi hi sfortuna kbira li dawk ta’ madwaru mhux dejjem kienu kapaċi jagħtuh parir tajjeb. Pariri tajbin kienu bla dubju jnaqqsu l-possibilta’ ta’ ħsara u jagħmlu l-bniedem iktar aċċettabbli – jew inqas inaċċettabbli – milli fil-fatt hu.

Hemm ukoll il-problema kkawżata mid-debbolizzi tiegħu illi kif ilu jingħad fil-widnejn seta kien hemm min uzhom biex jirkattah. Fil-fatt fi blog oħra, dik ta’ Daphne Caruana Galizia, iktar kmieni din il-ġimgħa ġiet ippubblikata storja dwar dan il-punt. Din l-istorja ġiet imneħħja ftit wara għax kien fiha żball. Imma mhux billi tneħħiet minn fuq il-blog, l-istorja xorta għadha teżisti x’imkien fuq l-internet u tista’ tinqara billi wieħed jagħmel użu minn din il-link: għafas hawn. Għax it-teknoloġija, tajjeb jew ħażin, illum tikxef kollox. (Nota: sadanittant ġiet ippubblikata edizzjoni ġdida tal-post li kienet irtirata li tista’ tinqara hawn).

Din hi storja dwar rikatt u sfortunatament hija ibbażata fuq inċidenti li l-gazzetti naqsu serjament illi jinvestigaw u jinfurmaw lill-pubbliku dwarhom. Veru li meta ġraw ma kien hawn  l-ebda tradizzjoni ta’ ġurnaliżmu investigattiv fil-pajjiż. Ġurnalisti kapaċi kien hawn, imma l-klima politika ma kienitx tippermettilhom li jaħdmu. Imma in-nuqqas xorta jibqa’ hemm u kellu konsegwenzi kbar. Kif jixhed l-inċident tar-ritratti li ġew ippreżentati fil-Parlament minn Lorry Sant. Ir-ritratti jixħtu dawl fuq dak li ġara u inżammu mistura. Biex seta’ jseħħ rikatt ħalli tinħeba l-korruzzjoni, li xorta inkixfet ftit wara bir-rapport tal-Kummissjoni dwar il-Korruzzjoni fuq Lorry Sant.

Dawn u ħafna affarijiet oħra għad iridu jinkitbu volumi sħaħ dwarhom. Kif qal l-Arċisqof Pawlu Cremona dalgħodu Dom bena l-ħidma politika tiegħu fuq żewġ pilastri importanti: li jgħin lill-fqir u li jsaħħah l-identitia’ nazzjonali. Hi sfortuna li kellu jirrombla minn fuq ħafna. Li għalaq għajnjeh għal ħafna ħmieġ w irregolaritajiet amministrattivi. Li kien imdawwar minn nies vjolenti li kellhom is-setgħa li jagħmlu li jridu mingħajr ma jiġrilhom xejn, għax il-Pulizija kienu dejjem jipproteġu lilhom.

Għexna fi żminijiet koroh. Żmien fejn l-abbuż kien igglorifikat. Veru li Dom għamel il-ġid imma dan il-ġid m’huwiex gomma li tħassar il-ħsara li saret. Fl-aħħar l-istorja għad tagħti l-ġudizzju tagħha. Nittama li l-abjad jibqa’ abjad imma li l-iswed jibqa’ iswed ukoll. Għax Dom ma kellux griz!

Should we thank Dom ?

Yana Mintoff Bland has demanded that her father Dom be shown the respect which she claims he deserves.

The Times in its comments quoted Yana Mintoff Bland as objecting to her father  Dom Mintoff being  “shown as being partisan and interested only in his supporters.”

It was only last week that The Sunday Times reporting an interview with Albert Mizzi former Chairman of Air Malta quoted Mr Mizzi as saying the following about her father  :

“I remember one time when someone mentioned something to him about corruption. He turned to me and said, is it true? I replied: ‘That what’s people are saying’. His response was: ‘What can I do if that person has helped me to build up the party? Can I take action against him?’ You see, this is small Malta.”

Being a Mintoff supporter in those days paid huge dividends.

I have already in the past put on record my own stories about pressures exerted by Dom Mintoff through a PN politician as well as through an army official for me to withdraw a human rights case in Malta’s Constitutional Court against one of his Cabinet Ministers. I did not budge but the pressure kept mounting. And on top of all that I even had my professional warrant as an architect withheld for 4 years after graduating. A fact also confirmed by the Injustces Commission which investigated my claims.

My experiences are just one of the many which those who disagreed with or criticised Dom’s government and methods suffered repeatedly.

A few did not survive to recount their ordeal as they paid with their lives. It that sense I may be lucky, but that is nothing to thank Dom about.

Insellem lil Perit René Buttigieg

Id-deċiżjoni tal-bieraħ tal-Imħallef Gino Camilleri dwar il-mod kif  l-ex  Ministru Lorry Sant kien jittratta lil impjegati fid-Dipartiment tax-Xogħolijiet tfakkarni ħafna affarijiet.

Illum  imma hu floku li nsellem lil René li m’għadux magħna u li kien wieħed milli sofra. Sofra għax kien jieħu l-attivita’ trejdunionistika tiegħu (f’isem il-Periti tal-Public Works) bis-serjeta’.  Kien hemm oħrajn li sofrew fil-kwiet għax ma kellomx il-kuraġġ tiegħu. Dawn qalgħu transfer wara l-ieħor f’kull rokna ta’ Malta u Għawdex għax il-Ministru ma riedx jarahom b ‘għajnejh.

Quddiem din it-tbatija kien hemm il-kuntrast ta’ dawk li kienu jinkinaw quddiem il-Ministru u li meta inbidel il-Gvern bdew jinkinaw quddiem ta’ warajh.

Jiġini quddiem għajnejja bħalissa wieħed partikolari, Perit li kien benvist mill-Ministru Sant. Fost l-inkarigi li tah darba minnhom bagħtu l–Libya biex isegwi l-passi ta’ delegazzjoni mibgħuta minn KMB allura Prim Ministru fuq xogħol ta’ kostruzzjoni. Informazzjoni li ksibt minn persuni viċin id-delegazzjoni fissruli kif kontinwament kien qiesu d-dell tad-delegazzjoni biex ikun jista’ jirrapport lura dwar ma kull min iltaqgħet.

Imma dawn it-tip ta’ nies dejjem isaltnu. Għax wara l-1987 irnexxielu jservi ħafna lis-suċċessur tal-Ministru Sant.

What it takes to Green Cinderella

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published on Saturday March 20, 2010

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Malta’s environmental policy has to date been EU driven for the simple reason that the political establishment in Malta has resisted its development. Dumping environmental responsibilities with land use planning has, in my view, been an integral part of this strategy.

Notwithstanding its past performance, the government’s declaration that it will now embark on consultations leading to the formulation of an environmental policy, which is locally driven, is welcome news. Only time will tell whether this is another exercise in green-washing.

The government’s commitment to safeguard the environment is not to be gauged through its declarations but through its actions or lack of them. Its lack of environmental credentials has been manifested many times. The latest being by Parliamentary Secretary Mario de Marco who, when introducing the Environment and Development Planning Bill in Parliament, stated that the environment will “no longer be the Cinderella of development”.

This has not come about accidentally. It was a deliberate exercise as a result of which the expertise, which the former Department for the Environment was slowly accumulating, was wiped out. Those who plotted the merger needed to ensure that environmental decisions were subject to development considerations at all times.

Cabinet responsibility for the environment made its first appearance immediately after the 1972 Stockholm Human Environment Conference. In 1976, Malta had a Minister for Health and the Environment. His environmental remit focused on landfills. During his watch, the Luqa and Wied Fulija landfills were closed and a new landfill at Magħtab was opened!

The first real minister for the environment in Malta was Daniel Micallef. He was appointed in 1986 during Labour’s last months in government by then Prime Minster Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici, who was seeking to counterbalance the widespread corruption in the Lorry Sant-led Ministry of Works. This corruption was subsequently documented.

Between 1986 and 2002 much was achieved. It would suffice to state that when, in 2002, the Department for the Environment was disbanded it had more credibility and was much more effective than Mepa’s Environment Directorate is today.

A local company that bottles water and soft drinks was recently awarded the 2009 Environment Award for Industry by the Cleaner Technology Centre. The company had relocated to a new site, upgrading its facilities to function eco-efficiently. But it still makes use of substantial amounts of water extracted from the water table through boreholes and sells this as bottled water and soft drinks. Extraction is to the tune of 51 million litres annually. The director of the Cleaner Technology Centre, when prodded in other sections of the press, admitted that the award adjudicating board was not aware that the company extracts ground water through boreholes. Seen within the context of Malta’s depleted water table this award is environmentally blasphemous.

Some persons entrusted with environmental matters have a proven capability of justifying the unjustifiable. This partly explains why Malta’s environmental administration is in shambles.

Within this context I believe there are more pressing issues than the drafting of an environmental policy. Applying all the EU environmental acquis would be a good first step.

A point I have harped on in these pages (1) (2) is the non-implementation of the waste from electric and electronic equipment directive. This directive applies “the producer responsibility principle” as a result of which producers and their representatives have to take back electrical and electronic waste from consumers. Most importers are aware that they are in breach of the directive’s provisions. They feel, however, that they cannot honour their obligations unless the government reviews the eco-contribution regime as, otherwise, they will end up paying twice for the same responsibilities: a payment through eco-contribution and another one through financing the take-back.

There is also a need for legislation regulating noise pollution. EU legislation on the matter (the environmental noise directive) deals only with traffic/transport-generated noise and substantial parts of it are not applicable to Malta. As the EU does not deal sufficiently with the matter, Malta has to date considered it safe to conveniently ignore the need for noise pollution legislation completely. In a densely populated community this issue is of the utmost importance, yet, successive governments have not been bothered.

These examples (water, waste, noise) just scratch the surface of the deficiencies of the environmental set-up, an area which has been continuously muzzled, sidelined, ignored and deprived of resources. It is this attitude which has to change.

The environmental policy this country needs is one which enables its government to be clear and consistent. Declarations on their own are not sufficient as commitment has been continuously absent. If the government really wants to translate its declarations into action it will take much more than an environmental policy to Green Cinderella.

Mill-blog ta’ George Pullicino

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Fil-blog tiegħu George Pullicno (http://georgepullicino.blogspot.com/) nhar il-Ħadd 17 ta’ Frar 2008 kiteb hekk :

 “Illum wara nofsinhar kien hawn min ħaseb li billi jippubblika rapport mhux finali ta’ l-uffiċċju ta’ l-awditur tal-MEPA, kien ser iħammarli wiċċi. Jien mhux talli ma ħammarlix wiċċi, talli jien kburi li qdejt ir-responsabilitajiet tiegħi bħala Ministru responsabbli mill-imaniġġjar ta’ l-iskart biex nevitaw li pajjiżna jgħaddi minn dak li għaddejjin minnu pajjiżi ġirien tagħna.” 

Xejn ma niskanta li wiċċu m’għadux jiħmar. Kollox jindara!

 

Fis-snin 70 il-Ministru Soċjalista inkarigat mill-Ippjanar kien jabbuża u jindaħal fejn ma jesgħux kif ġie ippruvat fil-Qrati Maltin. Imma dakinnhar ma kienx hemm istituzzjonijiet.

 

Illum hemm l-istituzzjonijiet. Pullicino hu responabbli biex illum fl-2008 dawn l-istituzzjonijiet huma bla snien. B’hekk meta jindaħal min  ma jesgħux, bħalu, ħadd m’hu kapaċi jiddefendi l-interessi tal-pajjiż.

 

Il-problema hi li hu kburi b’dak li għamel. X’aktarx li għadu ma fehem xejn dwar il-ħsara li għamel !