Il-każini tal-banda: liġi għall-allat u oħra għall-annimali

 

Nhar il-Ġimgħa li għaddiet, fil-Gazzetta tal-Gvern, ġie ppubblikat abbozz ta’ liġi li f’parti minnu jitkellem dwar il-każini tal-banda.

Wara li xahar ilu, f’April li għadda, l-Qorti, f’appell deċiż mill-Imħallef Anthony Ellul, iddeċidiet kawża kontra l-każin tal-banda De Paule tar-Raħal Ġdid, il-Gvern permezz tal-Ministru Owen Bonnici kien wiegħed li ser iħares lejn kif jista’ jemenda l-liġi biex iżid il-protezzjoni lill-każini tal-banda. Għalkemm kien tħabbar dakinnhar li l-Opposizzjoni kienet kkonsultata, s’issa mhux magħruf jekk hemmx qbil bejn Gvern u Opposizzjoni dwar l-abbozz ippubblikat.

Il-Qorti kienet iddeċidiet li fil-Każin tal-Banda de Paule kienu saru alterazzjonijiet bla awtorizzazzjoni u għaldaqstant skond ma jipprovdi l-kuntratt tal-kirja ordnat li l-każin jingħata lura lis-sidien u dan għax inkisru l-kundizzjonijiet tal-istess kuntratt.

Bl-emendi proposti ser ikun possibli li dan ma jsirx. L-emendi proposti għal-Kodiċi Ċivili jipproponu li (fil-każ tal-każini tal-banda) l-kirja tista’ tibqa’ fis-seħħ jekk fost oħrajn il-kera tiżdied b’għaxar darbiet kif ukoll li tingħata garanzija li l-binja tkun tista’ tiġi restawrata għall-istat oriġinali qabel ma saru l-alterazzjonijiet mhux awtorizzati.

Bla dubju l-emendi huma motivati mill-ħsieb nobbli li tingħata difiża lill-funzjoni soċjali u importanti tal-każini tal-banda fil-komunitá.

Imma hemm problema kbira. Il-Gvern għal darba oħra qed jagħti l-messaġġ li hemm min hu l-fuq mil-liġi. Jiena u inti jekk niksru l-liġi nħallsu l-konsegwenzi. Imma għat-tieni darba għandna min qiegħed jitqiegħed il-fuq mil-liġi.

Ftit ġimgħat ilu kellna lil tal-kmamar tan-nar li wara tletin sena jiksru l-liġi kellhom sentenza kontra tagħhom u l-Gvern bidel il-liġi li tirregola d-distanzi li jridu jinżammu mill-kmamar tan-nar, biex il-bdiewa u l-komunitá rurali taż-Żebbiegħ baqgħu jsaffru l-Aida.

Issa għandna lill-każini tal-banda.

Ir-rispett lejn is-saltna tad-dritt (r-rule of law jiġifieri) tfisser ukoll r-rispett lejn is-sentenzi tal-Qrati tagħna. Tfisser ukoll li l-Gvern ma jagħtix messaġġ li f’ċerti ċirkustanzi ma jkun hemm l-ebda diffikulta li xi ħadd, hu min hu, jitqiegħed il-fuq mil-liġi.

Lil hinn mill-importanza soċjali tal-każini tal-banda il-liġi proposta hi liġi ħażina għax timmina s-saltna tad-dritt.

Hemm modi oħra kif jistgħu jkunu mgħejjuna l-każini tal-banda mingħajr ma tkun imminata s-saltna tad-dritt.

Imma mid-dehra l-Gvern mhux interessat: għax issa drajna li f’dan il-pajjiż għandna liġi għall-allat u oħra għall-annimali, kif kien ibbottja Varist Bartolo!

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Parliament moves the goalposts in support of fireworks lobby

On Friday, 26 January 2018, Malta’s Court of Appeal delivered judgement on a fireworks factory law suit which had originally been presented way back in 1989. The Court of Appeal accepted the requests of the plaintiffs (the rural community) and declared the building permit for a fireworks factory at iż-Żebbiegħ null and void.

The wheels of justice grind slowly, very slowly, we are told: 30 years in fact. Unfortunately, the wheels of injustice are too fast.

Fast-forward two months to March 2018: Parliament debates and approves amendments to the Explosives Ordinance, consequently removing the legal requirements as a result of which the Court of Appeal declared the permit for the Żebbiegħ fireworks factory null and void. Malta’s Parliament is of course very respectful of the rule of law, to the extent that if a powerful lobby falls foul of the law, the law is changed as quickly as possible thereby ensuring that after all, it is possible to be in full alignment with the law.

Parliament has caved-in to the demands of the fireworks lobby and restored its privileged status of being above the law. As a result, Parliament has set aside the expectations of the Żebbiegħ rural community which, for 30 years, has been battling against the Maltese state to ensure that the rule of law prevails.

As a result of the amendments just approved, Parliament has granted the Commissioner of Police the discretion to consider issuing a licence for a fireworks factory when this is closer that the minimum distance prescribed by law – which is 183 metres. Parliament has decided to give the Commissioner of Police this additional authority which he can apply “after giving due consideration to the exigencies of public safety”. Among those MPs accepting the granting of such additional authority to the Commissioner of Police where those who, until a few days ago were insisting that he should resign.

Parliament rushed legislation through practically all its stages on the 20 March 2018. The minutes of the Parliamentary session do not indicate a single Member of Parliament standing up to the fireworks lobby and its Ministerial lackeys. None of the 67 MPs stood up for the Żebbiegħ rural community: they preferred to protect the operation of fireworks factories instead.

It would be more appropriate if Parliament were to start debating the Vella report presented by the Commission of Inquiry headed by Professor Alfred Vella some years ago [Report of the Commission of Inquiry into Accidents in Fireworks Factories]. The 97- page report, published on 11 November 2011, contained a list of 24 recommendations, most of which dealing with the required quality of the materials used in the local manufacture of fireworks. Apparently a discussion on these conclusions is not a priority for the time being. Such a discussion seems to have been shelved until the next deadly fireworks accident.

Then maybe another inquiry and another report would be produced. Another smokescreen.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 6 May 2018

From the Farm to the Fork

 

 

The local vegetable and fruit supply chain was under the spotlight last month. On 12 October, environmental NGO Friends of the Earth Malta organised a round-table at Vincent’s Eco-Farm at Żebbiegħ and published Agro-Katina, the result of its research tracking the food we consume, from apricots to zucchini. The report can be downloaded at https://foemalta.org/wp-content/uploads/AgroKatina-Report.pdf .

Maltese agriculture is characterised by small farm holdings, with three quarters of registered farmers working an area less than one hectare. With a hectare covering ten thousand square metres, this means that most local agricultural holdings are slightly less than nine tumoli in size.

Agriculture contributes a miniscule amount to the GDP – less than two per cent – but it is, however, essential to ensure the preservation of the rural characteristics of the Maltese islands.

Even though we are far from self-sufficient, agriculture can increase our self-reliance, thereby reducing our vulnerability to outside shocks.

It has been observed in the report that specific localities are linked to specific products: Rabat and Dingli are linked with onions, pumpkin with the northern agricultural region – primarily Mosta, Mġarr and Mellieħa – with cauliflowers being linked to Siġġiewi and Żebbuġ.

The report refers to the introduction in the local market of long, dark-skinned zucchini contrasting with the local round (or long) varieties of a lighter shade. As consumers overcame their hesitancy to a new product introduced to the market, local farmers started experimenting with growing it locally and, to their surprise, discovered that this variety (commonly found in Sicily and Southern Italy) had the advantage of being well adapted to the local climate.

Seasonality is still an important factor in agricultural planning, even though this is gradually on the decline primarily as a result of the competition from imported products which are available throughout the year. This seasonality is rightfully observed in the various village celebrations focusing on the availability of specific products: Manikata (pumpkins) and Mgarr (strawberries) readily come to mind. They educate consumers and contribute to a better understanding and appreciation of agriculture’s contribution to the country.

The report briefly refers to the “local vs imported produce” issue. It is emphasised that it only takes around 24 hours for locally grown fruit and vegetables to travel from the farm to the fork, hence ensuring that they are fresh, ripe and in season. This is not only reflected in a fresh appearance but also in an unmistakable advantage in terms of natural flavour and nutritional value, compared to imported produce.

Agriculture is the main user of water in Malta. It is also the major polluter of our water table. A study carried out in 2008 by the British Geological Survey on the nitrate contamination in Malta’s groundwater, commissioned by the then Malta Resources Authority, concluded that groundwater nitrate had been stable for the last 30-40 years. Notwithstanding, this has resulted in the contraction of the agricultural sector in the same timeframe.

The challenges facing agriculture in the immediate future are various. Climate change and the water crisis top the list. The changes in weather patterns will undoubtedly be a major headache. This will necessarily impact the viability of some crops, maybe bringing about changes to the season/s during which these crops are available. It will also possibly create the conditions for new crops.

The average age of the farmer is now around 55 – and this is not just in Malta, but across the EU. There is a growing awareness that we may be close to losing our farming community, in fact the impact of this loss is already being felt as it is fairly obvious that there are substantially fewer people protecting our countryside on a day to day basis.

The distance between the farm and the fork is increasing.

This is not good news.

published in the Malta Independent on Sunday: 12 November 2017