Incinerating trust, fairness and common sense

A public consultation is currently under way until the 21 October relative to an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) which examines Wasteserve’s proposal:  the development of a Waste to Energy Facility, to operate in conjunction with other management operations within the so-called Magħtab Environmental Complex.

It is a duty of Wasteserve defined in terms of the EU environmental acquis applicable within Maltese territory to examine the environmental impacts of its proposal within the framework of agreed terms of reference approved by the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA). The detailed reports together with the supporting technical information are then subject to public consultation.

The EIA in respect of the Magħtab incinerator is commissioned by Wasteserve, however it serves to inform the whole decision-taking process. Contrary to the disclaimer by the EIA’s coordinator in the first few pages, the reports forming the EIA are not “for the exclusive use of Wasteserve Malta Limited”. I fail to understand how ERA has accepted to include this disclaimer when it is clear, even from a cursory look at the Environment Impact Assessment Regulations that the EIA is an important document which informs the environmental and land use planning decision-taking process. It is in particular used to inform the public and on its basis a public hearing is organised to take feedback from all interested parties.

The EIA is certainly a public document in respect of which its coordinator has to shoulder responsibility as to its accuracy and reasonableness. Having a disclaimer as that indicated above is certainly not acceptable. ERA should pull up its socks and ensure the deletion of the said disclaimer forthwith.

A cursory look at the Magħtab incinerator EIA, including the technical studies attached reveals the names of a number of experts who have given their input in the formulation of the studies required which studies are then distilled in an appropriate assessment report.

One of these experts is a certain professor Alan Deidun who concurrently with participating in this specific EIA is also a member of the ERA Board, the environmental regulator. He sits on the ERA Board after being nominated by the environmental NGOs as established by legislation.

Professor Alan Deidun is conveniently with one foot on each side of the fence: forming part of the regulatory structure and simultaneously advising the developer, in this case Wasteserve Malta Limited, a government entity. In my book this is the type of conflict of interest which instils a deep sense of distrust of the regulatory authorities. Alan Deidun is running with the hares and hunting with the hounds.

Can we ever trust “regulators” who, whenever they feel like it, offer their services to those they “regulate”?

Interestingly, one of the documents available for public scrutiny contains a declaration by twenty-one expert contributors to the EIA, each of whom declares that s/he has no conflict of interest: the conflict however being narrowly defined in terms of an interest in the development itself.  The EIA Regulations do not limit “conflict of interest” to an interest in the development but speak of “no conflict of interests”. No wonder even Professor Alan  Deidun signed this declaration!

Regulation 17 of the EIA Regulations of 2017 lays down that those carrying out the EIA must be “professional, independent and impartial”. How can the regulator be “professional, independent and impartial” when he starts advising those s/he regulates?

It is about time that the environmental NGOs recall Professor Alan Deidun from his role as a member of the ERA Board representing them, as such behaviour is unacceptable in this day and age.

It may be pertinent to point out that very recently, a development permit, in respect of the development of Manoel Island, was withdrawn by the Environment and Planning Tribunal due to the fact that one of the contributors to the EIA had a conflict of interest.

It is about time that regulators understand that their acceptance to sit on decision-taking structures puts limits on their permissible professional activities. Until such time that this basic point is acted upon our authorities cannot be fully trusted. Their behaviour is incinerating trust, fairness and common sense.

published on The Malta Independent on Sunday : 11 October 2020

Malta deserves better

Reading through the reports on the testimony of Melvin Theuma – who turned state evidence in the criminal investigation on Daphne Caruana Galzia’s assassination – all of us feel shocked and betrayed.

We are shocked by the ruthlessness displayed and we feel betrayed by Joseph Muscat, who put his faith in a bunch of criminals. Malta certainly deserves better – much better, in fact.

As names of various individuals and their actions were being mentioned in the magistrate’s hall, one lingering question is whether these individuals were aware of how their specific action fitted into the general jigsaw puzzle. In addition, what did the boss know about what was going on around him? Was he kept in the dark by his underlings, or was he given discreet briefings?

As yet there is no answer:suspicions are just suspicions. They will, however, linger on until interrogation marks are resolved. In time, we may get to know more, especially when all the rats have fled the sinking ship.

This nation will not rest until all is known, because our trust has been betrayed.

The facts as to who commissioned the assassination and who carried it out are becoming clearer. It is also being established without a shadow of a doubt that the interrogation rooms at Police Headquarters would have more from the functions of a sieve that the secure place one would expect them to be.

In his testimony, Melvin Theuma shocked quite a few people when he stated that he was aware of the planned police raid at the Marsa potato shed days before it was actually carried out. In fact, he stated that he was instructed by the master-mind to alert those who carried out the assassination to this important matter. He was even aware when Vincent Muscat – il-Koħħu – started spilling the beans.

I find it hard to believe that the police tried to sabotage their own investigations. There were others who may have had an interest in sabotaging these investigations from the sidelines. Most probably they are still around, with a visible silhouette that inconclusively indicates their identity.

Likewise, what is the purpose of tapping phones if the person under observation is alerted? Yorgen Fenech specifically stated in the witness box on Thursday that he was alerted by Keith Schembri to the fact that his electronic communications were being monitored.

This is the background which compelled a helpless Cabinet to demand an answer as to why Keith Schembri, the former Chief of Staff at the Office of the Prime Minister, was not properly investigated. A proper interrogation of Mr Schembri would undoubtedly lead to results if it can be done without Joseph Muscat breathing down the necks of the police force. This is an important reason why Joseph Muscat should resign with immediate effect: to ensure that it is not in any way possible for him to protect his friend Keith Schembri.

Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries should, however, be aware that they have directly contributed to the development of this crisis, both individually as well as collectively as the Cabinet, because they failed to take decisive action regarding the publication of the Panama Papers. Their failure to act at that point in time was a clear signal that anything goes.

The law should apply to everyone. This, however, is not the case because so far Keith Schembri has been lurking in the shadows for far too long. In a national address last Tuesday, President George Vella implored us to be rational and not emotional in this very difficult time. Malta deserves better. It is what we should strive for.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 8 December 2019

Xejn m’hu xejn: fir-Republika tal-Banana

The Banana Republic of Malta

 

Għall-Partit Laburista fil-Gvern, jidher li xejn m’hu xejn. Għall-Partit Nazzjonalista fl-Opposizzjoni, fil-pajjiż hawn rieħa taqsam ta’ korruzzjoni li tinxtamm wara kull kantuniera. Tlett snin ilu l-affarijiet kienu bil-maqlub. Dakinnhar għall-Partit Nazzjonalista fil-Gvern kollox kien miexi fuq ir-rubini u għall-Partit Laburista fl-Opposizzjoni l-pajjiz kien qabad it-triq tan-niżla.

Il-vizjoni taż-żewġ partiti politiċi fil-Parlament hi waħda mċajpra. Dak li jagħmlu huma hu kollu tajjeb. Huwa biss dak li tagħmel in-naħa l-oħra li hu ħażin.

Il-Prim Ministru qed jgħidilna li l-Ministru Konrad Mizzi ma għamel xejn ħażin meta akkwista jew irreġistra kumpanija fil-Panama.

Għalfejn ikunu akkwistati jew reġistrati kumpaniji fil-Panama? Jekk tfittxu u taqraw daqsxejn issibu li l-Panama, pajjiż fl-Amerika Ċentrali, huwa ħafna drabi mfittex minn min irid jaħbi l-ġid li jkun akkumula, ikun xi jkun is-sors li minnu dan joriġina. Il-Panama għandha leġislazzjoni finanzjarja żviluppata li tipprovdi fost oħrajn għal eżenzjoni minn kull taxxa lil dawk il-kumpaniji li filwaqt li jkunu reġistrati fil-Panama ma joperawx hemmhekk.

Il-Ministru Konrad Mizzi, u issa żdied miegħu ċ-Ċhief of Staff tal-Prim Ministru Keith Schembri, fil-komunikazzjonijiet tagħhom mal-istampa spjegaw li l-kumpaniji tagħhom (s’issa) la għandhom assi u l-anqas ma għamlu l-ebda transazzjoni. Mizzi qal li l-kumpanija fil-Panama u t-trust assoċjata magħha li qegħda fi New Zealand huma intenzjonati biex jamministraw il-ġid tal-familja fil-waqt li Keith Schembri qed jgħid li da parti tiegħu kellu bżonn alternattiva għal trust preżentement ibbażat f’Malta li l-bank li bħalissa qed jamministrah qed jikkunsidra li jgħaddieh f’idejn ħaddieħor.

L-opinjoni pubblika kemmxet xuftejha għal dawn l-ispjegazzjonijiet għax dawn bl-ebda mod ma jiġġustifikaw il-ħolqien ta’ kumpaniji fil-Panama li ngħiduha kif inhi, iktar huma assoċjati mal-ħabi tal-ġid milli għal xi kwalunkwe skop ieħor. Filwaqt li s’issa ħadd għadu ma ġieb l-ebda prova ta’ xi fondi illeċiti assoċjati ma dawn il-kumpaniji fil-Panama kull min għandu rasu fuq għonqu qed jistaqsi għaliex inħolqot din l-assoċjazzjoni perikoluża minn Mizzi u Schembri.

Tweġiba konvinċenti s’issa ma hemmx. Imma hu ovvju għal kulħadd li l-qasba ma ċċaqċaqx għalxejn.

Il-persuna fil-ħajja pubblika ma tiżbaljax biss meta tikser il-liġi, imma ukoll meta jibgħat messaġġi żbaljati. Hu messaġġ żbaljat dak li qed jibgħatu Konrad Mizzi u Keith Schembri meta qed jassoċjaw ruħhom mal-Panama, pajjiż li l-Unjoni Ewropea tqiesu bħala tax haven, u mal-ħasil tal-flus maħmuġin. Pajjiż li d-dinja demokratika tqiesu bħala wieħed fejn jinħbew il-flus li joriġinaw minn attività illeċita.

Hu żball oħxon tal-Prim Ministru li ma jara xejn ħażin f’dak li hu għaddej. Dan hu rifless tal-kumpass etiku tal-Prim Ministru, u sfortunatament ukoll il-kumpass etiku tal-amministrazzjoni li hu qiegħed imexxi.

Fi kwalunkwe pajjiż demokratiku ieħor, pajjiż li jirrispetta lilu nnifsu, Konrad Mizzi, anke biss bħala riżultat ta’ dak li hu magħruf s’issa, kien ikun xkupat il-barra mill-Kabinett, illum qabel għada. Minflok inħatar bħala Deputat Mexxej tal-Partit fil-Gvern.

Qed insiru pajjiż fejn xejn m’hu xejn, fejn kollox jgħaddi. Fi ftit kliem sirna qiesna Repubblika tal-Banana f’nofs il-Mediterran.

Meta iċċaqċaq il-qasba

Konrad Mizzi 13

Il-Ministru Konrad Mizzi ħabbar li waqqaf trust fi New Zealand biex, billi huwa bniedem imħabbat ħafna, permezz tiegħu iqabbad lil terzi biex jamministraw l-investimenti tal-familja.

Huwa tajjeb li jaħseb fit-tul, l-Onorevoli Mizzi.

Il-problema mhix it-trust, iżda dak li ser jitpoġġa fih, kif ukoll minn fejn dan oriġina.

M’għandix dubju li għad irridu nisimgħu ħafna iktar dwar dan. Diġa qed jingħad ħafna fuq il-medja dwar x’seta wassal għal dan il-pass. Għax, ngħiduha kif inhi, mhux soltu li nisimgħu b’dawn l-istejjer, ħlief forsi riċentement meta smajna bi stejjer mill-Bahamas.

Għaliex New Zealand? Ilna nisimgħu stejjer,  uħud minnhom imfesfin fil-widnejn.  Uħud ser ikollhom bżonn mappa biex jifhmu ftit fejn qed isir iċ-ċaqlieq.

Il-qasba qatt ma ċċaqċaq għalxejn.

Nistennew, bħal dejjem.