Scottish referendum : the kingdom remains united


Early this morning the final votes cast in the Scottish referendum were counted and the result announced.

The Scots for various reasons opted not to be independent.

It was a democratic decision which will be respected by all. It may seem strange and difficult to understand that a nation refuses independence offered on a plate.

Yet this is a real lesson in democracy to all those around the world who opt to take decisions by using bullets rather than ballots.


Ir-riżenja ta’ Warsi ………… kontradizzjonijiet fil-politika barranija



Ir-riżenja tal-Barunissa Sayeeda Warsi minn Ministru fl-Uffiċċju tal-Affarijiet Barranin tar-Renju Unit seħħet illum.

Warsi li hi Musulmana ta’ oriġini Pakistana qalet fl-ittra ta’ riżenja tagħha li l-posizzjoni tal-politika tar-Renju Unit dwar Gaża u l-massakru li wettaq l-Iżrael hi waħda li mhiex moralment aċċettabbli.

F’dan l-istadju nagħmel riflessjoni waħda: dak li qed tgħid Warsi japplika ukoll għal diversi pajjiżi, inkluż għal Malta.

Fil-politika barranija tagħna insostnu appoġġ għal soluzzjoni għall-konflitt fil-Lvant Nofsani li għandha tkun ibbażata fuq l-eżistenza ta’ żewġ stati: wieħed Iżraelit u l-ieħor Palestinjan. Min-naħa l-oħra nagħtu appoġġ lir-refuġjati Palestinjani li ġustament isostnu d-dritt li jirritornaw lura f’arthom li minnha ġew miknusa l-barra mill-qawwa militari Lhudija tul is-snin.

Sfortunatament, filwaqt li dawn huma żewġ posizzjonijiet li jdoqqu għall-widna, huma kontradittorji. L-appoġġ għar-refuġjati Palestinjani u għad-dritt tagħhom li jirritornaw lura f’arthom ifisser li għandhom jieħdu lura l-artijiet li minnhom tkeċċew. Dawn l-artijiet li minnhom tkeċċew illum il-ġurnata jiffurmaw l-istat tal-Iżrael.

Ma tistax għaldaqstant tappoġġa fl-istess ħin l-eżistenza tal-istat tal-Iżrael u d-dritt tal-Palestinjani li jirritornaw lura f’arthom. Jew waħda jew l-oħra.

Il-politika barranija Maltija dwar il-Palestina hi bħal dik tar-Renju Unit: sieq waħda l’hawn u oħra l’hemm.

Learning to use chopsticks


We have been told that it is most worrying that China could acquire a share in our energy corporation. It is worrying, we are told, due to the strategic importance of the sector.

We tend to forget that Malta has plenty of foreign investments in other strategic sectors. Another one wouldn’t change much would it?

Our only airport is run by Austrians.

Gambling has been left to  Greek Intralot.  Banking is heavily influenced by global HSBC ironically originating from Hong Kong, the tip of the Chinese mainland.

The public  transport fiasco has an Anglo-German fingerprint through Arriva.

LPG Gas is controlled by Italians through GASCO.

The Freeport is controlled by a Franco-Turkish alliance for the next 65 years. (CMA-CGM and Yildirim Group)

When its Austria, Greece, Anglo-German interests, Italian investments, Franco -Turkish controls, or global HSBC then its globalisation.

The Chinese interest is part of the same process.

Obviously the details of the memorandum of understanding signed earlier this week are not yet known. Hence a proper discussion would have to wait until such details are known. There will surely be positive and negative impacts. China stands to gain. Whether Malta’s potential gains are adequate is still to be seen as we have only been fed titbits of information.

China obviously stands to gain through establishing a stronger foothold in Malta and within the EU.  Whether it will be similarly positive for Malta is still to be seen.

Some Chinese companies are world class. They provide stiff competition to international firms such as Lahmeyer International the one time consultants to the Malta Resources Authority and to Enemalta Corporation. Some of these Chinese companies have reached the same grade in World Bank blacklists !

We have been there before.

It may turn out not to be so difficult to learn to use chopsticks after all !

The Politics of Divorce


Legislation in favour of divorce already exists in Malta. No one has complained about it throughout the 36 years of its existence. A yes vote on May 28 will be a vote in favour of extending its applicability.

The 1975 Marriage Act had introduced divorce in Malta through the back door by recognising divorce decrees granted in foreign jurisdictions.

Since then, 785 persons (presumably Maltese), have made use of this right, having their marriage dissolved in various foreign countries.

This was subsequently recognised in Malta through the registration of their divorce in the Public Registry.

Of these divorce decrees, 422 were issued in the UK and 112 were issued in Australia as was indicated in a recent reply to a parliamentary question.

Divorce is a civil right that is not yet fully recognised in Malta. It is only partially recognised. Only those who have been domiciled abroad or those who have access to foreign jurisdictions (while resident in Malta) have access to this civil right.

It is as yet forbidden territory to the rest. A yes vote on May 28 will render divorce a civil right accessible to all Maltese and not just to a select few.

Divorce is an issue of political controversy even though it has been avoided by the parliamentary parties. They avoided it until such time that they could not ignore the Private Member’s Bill presented by Nationalist MP Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando and Labour MP Evarist Bartolo. These MPs took a leaf out of the Greens’ electoral manifesto which, since 1989 (when Alternattiva Demokratika was founded), has identified divorce as an attainable political objective.

In Malta, those insisting that divorce is not a political issue do so to justify the position adopted by either of the two parliamentary parties. Both the PN and the PL want to distance themselves from the divorce referendum in order to be able to immunise themselves from the political fallout of the referendum result. Both fear the impact of the result (and the campaign leading to it) on the cohesion of their political base, irrespective of whether the yes or the no wins.

It is time to stand up and be counted.

One cannot run with the hares and simultaneously hunt with the hounds. The PN is aware its no stance makes it difficult to retain the support of those among its ranks who favour divorce. Likewise, Labour is aware that some of its supporters still seek the guidance of the parish priest in resolving their dilemmas. References to fire and brimstone and eternal damnation could obviously be intended to help the PL and its supporters make up their mind!

These are considerations which are factored into the mathematics of divorce politics. This leads to the reason for shifting the decision on divorce away from its appropriate forum in Parliament onto the electorate’s lap. None of the parliamentary parties wants to be lumped with political responsibility for introducing divorce as both fear electoral retribution, which, even if marginal, could be a determining factor in the forthcoming polls.

The PN and the PL have successfully avoided mentioning divorce in all their electoral manifestos but then they proceeded to use this same avoidance in order to justify Parliament’s inability to act. While this is a disservice to the community, obviously, Malta has the MPs it deserves.

After 22 years AD is still the only political party in Malta which supports divorce legislation. The PN, true to its conservative pedigree, is unsurprisingly against while “progressive” Labour has no official position although, as a consolation prize, we have been informed its leader is “personally” in favour.

The parliamentary debate on the referendum has also spotlighted another interesting matter.

The utterances of a number of MPs are in stark contrast to the manner they speak and act in private. Well, they are very careful in order not to prejudice what’s left of their political career. It is clear that consistency is a value that is not appreciated in the House.

As matters stand, the state in Malta decided way back in 1975 that divorce is to be available only to those who have access to foreign jurisdictions. In respect of all others, the Maltese state decided there should be no access to divorce. A yes vote on May 28 will remove the Maltese state from the equation and will grant the opportunity to each and every individual to take his/her own decisions in the light of his/her beliefs and values.

The position of those who do not accept divorce is protected as no one will ram divorce down their throats. But they will also be in such a position that they will no longer be able to impose “their values” on others.

(published on Saturday, April 30, 2011)

Nuclear myth and Malta’s neighbours




published on Saturday March 26, 2011


April 26 marks the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuc­lear disaster, which affected 40 per cent of European territory.

Sicilians (but not the Maltese) were then advised on precautions to be observed in order to avoid the effects of airborne radioactive contamination on agricultural produce. In the UK, until very recently, a number of farms were still under observation after having been contaminated through airborne radioactive caesium in 1986. Wild boar hunted in Germany’s forests cannot be consumed. Its food-chain is still contaminated with radioactive caesium, which was dispersed all over Europe as a result of the Chernobyl disaster.

The Fukushima disaster has occurred in efficient and safety-conscious Japan.

Nature has taken over, confirming its supremacy over the risk society; confirming that even the smallest risk is unacceptable in nuclear projects as this exposes nations, ecosystems, economies and whole regions to large-scale disasters.

The myth that nuclear technology is safe has been shattered once more at Fukushima.

In addition to the disasters at Three Mile Island (1979) and Chernobyl (1986), there were also a number of near misses such as that on June 4, 2008 in Krško on the Slovenia/Croatia border. In Krško, leaking coolant water was minutes away from causing a meltdown of the nuclear installation. The leakages of coolant water from nuclear plants in the Tricastin region in France in July 2008 are also of particular significance.

Malta is faced with plans by Italy, Libya, Tunisia and others to generate nuclear energy.

Libya has agreed with France to be provided with a nuclear plant along its coast to carry out seawater desalination. Fortunately, this agreement has so far not materialised. One shudders just thinking on the possibilities which access to nuclear technology in the civil war on Libyan soil could lead to.

The Berlusconi government, ignoring the result of a 1987 Italian referendum, has embarked on a nuclear programme that could lead to the construction and operation of a number of nuclear installations on Italian soil. One of these will be sited in Sicily.

The locality of Palma di Montechiaro has been mentioned as the preferred site although an area near Ragusa is also under consideration. Both Palma di Montechiaro and Ragusa are situated along Sicily’s southern coast and are too close to Malta for comfort. A serious accident there could have an immediate effect on Malta. Moreover, this is the area which was most affected by a 1693 earthquake that caused considerable damage in both Ragusa and Malta.

This contrasts with the declaration last week by Abdelkater Zitouni, leader of Tunisie Verte, the Tunisian Green party, who has called on Tunisia’s transitional government to abandon the 2020 project of a nuclear plant in Tunisia.

What is the Maltese government doing on the matter?

There is no information in the public domain except an article published in Il Sole 24 Ore on July 26, 2008 authored by Federico Rendina and entitled Il Governo Rilancia Sull’Atomo. In a kite-flying exercise during an official visit to Rome by a Maltese delegation, Mr Rendina speculated on the possibilities of placing nuclear reactors for Italy’s use on territories just outside Italian jurisdiction. Malta, Montenegro and Albania were mentioned in this respect. It was unfortunate that the Maltese government only spoke up after being prodded by the Greens in Malta. It had then stated that no discussions on the matter had taken place with the Italian government.

On behalf of the Greens in Malta, since 2008 I have repeatedly insisted on the need to make use of the provisions of the Espoo Convention, which deals with consultation procedures to be followed between countries in Europe whenever issues of transboundary impacts arise. On March 3, 2010 Parliament in Malta approved a resolution to ratify this convention.

The Espoo Convention, the EU Directive on Environmental Impact Assessment and the EU Strategic Environment Assessment Directive establish the right of the Maltese public to be consulted by Italy in the procedures leading to the construction of a nuclear power station, both on the Italian mainland as well as in Sicily. This is definitely not enough.

Various countries are reconsidering their position on nuclear energy as a result of the Fukushima disaster. Italy’s government has started to feel the pressure ahead of a June anti-nuclear referendum championed by Antonio di Pietro and earlier this week temporarily suspended its nuclear programme.

Italy is a region which is seismically active. The devastation caused by the 2009 earthquake in L’Aquila is still imprinted in our memories. The 1908 earthquake at Messina/Reggio Calabria was much worse, the worst ever in Europe. It produced an estimated 13-metre tsunami wave in the central Mediterranean. In Messina alone, over 120,000 lost their lives.

Faced with government silence, I think the matter should be taken up by Maltese environmental NGOs in partnership with their Italian counterparts. Public opinion needs to be sensitised on the dangers that lie ahead as Fukushima is a warning we cannot afford to ignore. 

other posts on Nuclear Issues on this blog

AD concern over BP oil drilling near Malta

Alternattiva Demokratika this afternoon expressed concern about drilling in the Gulf of Sirte which is being taken in hand by BP.

Its spokesman on EU and international affairs, Arnold Cassola, said that it should be of extreme concern for Malta that BP, ‘which has a disastrous track record with regards to safety measures in this field,’ as seen from the recent Gulf of Mexico disaster, was about to start drilling an oil well in the Gulf of Sirte in Libyan waters.

“The Libyan government is already giving Malta a really bad name through the way it deals with irregular migrants. We ask the Maltese government, and the likewise subservient PL opposition led by Joseph Muscat, to speak up and show some dignity and self respect and not continue acting as if Malta were a colony of Libya,” he said.

Carmel Cacopardo AD spokesman on sustainable development, observed that approximately 60% of Malta’s drinking water is obtained through reverse osmosis. In the case of a major accident in the new BP oil well 500 kilometres away from Malta, a major source of drinking water may become unusable, he said.

“After the serious accident on the BP platform in the Gulf of Mexico which has been traced to incompetence and decisions doing away with safety procedures, a similar accident in a BP-run oil-rig is not an impossible happening. Such an accident will also have a long term effect on the livelihood of Maltese fishermen as well as on the tourism industry, not to mention the ecological havoc. AD calls upon the Maltese government to insist with the Libyan government as well as with BP that they are to ensure that all safety procedures are in place before drilling starts,” Mr Cacopardo said.

He also called upon the UK government which has defended BP with the US administration, to use its good offices to ensure that the lessons learnt from the Gulf of Mexico are acted upon immediately.