Archive for 2009

A human court - a human law

The ECHR's judgment on crucifixes in the classroom was, in my opinion, a sound one and a judgment which makes sense. Personally the cross does not bother me in the least but this is a subjective feeling. The role of any court of law, however, is not to pass judgment on subjective feelings (although such are taken into consideration) but it must always strive to be objective. In fact this is why the Italian constitutional court has completely negated the religious aspect of the crucifix (this being subjective as it corresponds to a religious belief) and considers it to be a purely secular symbol of the nation's history and cultural heritage (just like a flag for instance).
The ECHR however does not agree with this assessment for it sees the crucifix for what it really is: a symbol of Christianity. This is quite ironic because when you think about it Italy, a Catholic nation par excellence, is stripping the crucifix of its religious symbolism whereas the objective and secular court is upholding it. The court argued that the freedom not to believe stems from the principle of religious freedom; a freedom which must be protected - however it made it clear that this does not mean that religious services and education will be done away with. It argued that "...the State must refrain from imposing beliefs in premises where individuals were dependent on it. In particular, it was required to observe confessional neutrality in the context of public education, where attending classes was compulsory irrespective of religion, and where the aim should be to foster critical thinking in pupils." The court could not understand how a Catholic symbol could serve the educational pluralism that was necessary in a democratic society.
Moreover the law is very clear in this regard. The judgment was based on two articles of law, these being Article 2 of Protocol 1 of the European Convention and Article 9 of the same Convention. The former states the following:
"No person shall be denied the right to education. In the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and to teaching, the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching is in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions."
Article 9(1) states:
"Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance."
The mandatory imposition of crucifixes in public premises, especially in classrooms (children are dependent on such premises) thus denies the right of parents to teach their children according to their own convictions and the right of children to believe or not believe.
It is only the fruit of ignorance therefore which leads one to claim that removing crucifixes from public classrooms is tantamount to censorship of religion. The law clearly states that everyone has a right to have a faith and to practice that faith in private or publicly (this is why I disagree with the position of the French government which has banned the wearing of religious trinkets or the burqa in schools). The law however also seeks to protect the right of persons who hold different faiths or have no faith at all and this is why the imposition of the crucifix damages that right. The law is also universal and whilst it may be understandable that the crucifix has become part of a nation's collective identity the court has to uphold the rights of all persons and not merely the rights of Italians. It is not the case of the minority dictating over the majority but plain common sense. In fact, if the ECHR decided the case in the opposite manner it would be endorsing exclusionary ideals and the oppression of the minority: if you don't like our ways then get the hell out. But the this is a court for all persons and not the court of Italians or Christians.
I must say that I agree completely with this judgment.

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Goodbye Johnny (?)

From what I've heard and read so far, there is a great possibility that social policy minister John Dalli could replace Joe Borg in the European Commission. There may be many reasons, some of which are justified, but the truth is that his elimination from the Maltese political scenario would be a great sigh of relief for Gonzi and his entourage. His departure would be a loss for the actual PN (and not the GonziPN as we know it) and Maltese politics in general.
I do not want Dalli to remain in the domestic scene just to spite Gonzi or anything of the sort. Such things do not interest me in the least. In fact there are instances where I disagree completely with Dalli's politics, such as his resistance to a potential anti-discrimination directive on the ground that it may not be in line with Maltese social policy and tradition. However John Dalli is one of the very few politicians who are genuine in their beliefs. He is one of the very few politicians from the ruling party who has not succumbed to the arrogance which power brings with it. I must add that my respect for him has increased immensely after I read what he had to say in the recent Nationalist Party General Council regarding his concept of values.
Dalli's interpretation on the loss of values merits applause as well as discussion. According to the minister:
"Maltese people were never xenophobic, never resented foreigners and always lived alongside foreigners. Maltese people have always helped in a very generous manner those in need, whether Maltese or foreigners. That is the culture we need to strengthen." - timesofmalta.com
He couldn't have said it any better. Xenophobia in this country is spiraling out of control and this can be attributed to many factors ranging from a religious order which is far more preoccupied with a full-frontal battle against secularism and freedom of conscience to politicians who have nurtured an atmosphere of fear against anything foreign - obviously to suit their own ends.
The minister had a lot of guts to say what he did. Well done.

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Censorship prevails

On May the 8th of 2008 I wrote about how the Broadcasting Authority emerged triumphant in their battle to censor the satirical/comical puppet show Teletubi indirectly by continuously imposing hefty fines on material which was bleeped and certified 18 only. This was the first glaring case of censorship this blog has criticized.
One year later, on May the 2nd of 2009 I wrote about how intellectual stalwart Oliver Friggieri attempted to defend Malta's position on censorship by arguing that Malta is merely a "snail amongst elephants" which will lose its identity if it ever dares to adopt a liberal public policy as our European counter-parts have done. It was around this time that the censorship on the play Stitching was still in the news. It was also the time when a group of Muslims were vilified and openly threatened for daring to practice their faith in public... simply because they were Muslims and not Catholics who publicly practice their faith with drunken fervor during festa season.
In February of this year we also had the Nadur Carnival incident which had seen 6 or so youths taken to the law courts (on the insistence of Bishops) for allegedly offending the Catholic religion by wearing religious vestment. With a stroke of luck their case was dismissed but only because they dressed up as nuns which, according to Holy Canon Law, are not ministers of the Catholic Church. If anyone thinks that there was some sense of sanity in the Courts' judgment they better think again.
Today censorship still prevails, the most recent victim being the 'Ir-Realta' collective which was banned from distributing its newspaper on Campus because of an article that purposely used colloquial cuss words to make a point and not to deliberately offend or degrade persons (in this case women). Unsurprisingly it was the University Chaplaincy which won another battle against free speech.
The only way to change this horrid backwardness is to stand up to all the 'intellectuals' who profess to have a monopoly over wisdom; to stand up against the Church who has a monopoly over what people should hear, say and think and do; to stand up against the politicians who fear doing their job to represent all people and to defend human rights at all costs. Too much is at stake and it would be sheer folly to remain idle and apathetic to all of this.

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Muscat continues to negotiate on human rights

The new and improved statute of the Labour Party (and I don't say this with any sarcasm) has the following article listed as one of the 7 basic principles of the party (loosely translated into English by myself):
2. The Labour Party has full respect for Fundamental Human Rights as written down on the Constitution of Malta and the European Convention on Fundamental Human Rights and believes that every individual as well as society should have the necessary equal opportunity to succeed in work and in education.
Now I can never understand how one can harbor a respect for fundamental human rights and at the same time support a policy (forced repatriation of asylum seekers at sea or the principle of non-refoulement) which very clearly goes against human rights. If someone can help me understand this reasoning I beg him or her to enlighten me.
The way I see it, even if one, just one, out of a hundred or two hundred asylum seekers, has a genuine case for asylum and that one person is turned away this constitutes clear breach of an international norm. There are no two ways about it. The argument is that Libya is a safe place for migrants. Come again? How can you tell me that Libya is a safe place for migrants when it is not even party to the Geneva Convention (the very same convention from which the principle of non-refoulement arises) and when investigative reports clearly show that there is widespread mistreatment of migrants in this particular nation. Sending migrants back to Libya is a breach of their fundamental human rights. Punto e basta.
What is worse and far more alarming, in a way, is that Muscat believes that such a policy is in the national interest which, in typical national socialist fashion, 'comes first and foremost'. This means that, according to Muscat, the national interest has an overriding precedence over human rights and international law.
But as long as a firm belief in this policy will win Muscat elections then it is OK to negotiate on human rights.

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Revolt(ing)

As of late, a number of journals have come up with polls wherein persons have been asked to list issues which concern them the most. Results indicate that the issue which troubles people the most is the high cost of living. There has been much talk of class, especially how the middle class has been hit hard by the economic recession. In fact, the Labour Party, upon realization that it has consistently failed to communicate with the 'middle class', has converted the latter social grouping into one of it's main pillars in terms of strategy and policy. Whilst this may be a good thing, in the sense that the Labour Party should and must strive to be the voice for all citizens and not just for the working classes, it must never abandon those who are truly struggling to make ends meet and simply favor those whose life has become less luxurious. The Labour Party should thus speak up against the employers and business lobby who are fighting tooth and nail to keep wages ridiculously low, when the cost of living has become ridiculously high. I fully agree with the GWU here, which claims that the business lobby cannot continue to threaten workers with job losses each and every time there is mention of a rise in wages (or more specifically the COLA). Having said that, the Labour Party needs to come up with credible and convincing economic policies. It needs to realize that it can no longer glorify tax cuts because tax cuts means less public spending, which in turn means status-quo mediocrity: low wages, inefficient and polluting energy facilities, a shoddy health service and infrastructure (roads in particular) inferior to most developing nations. On the other hand, the Labour Party needs to be honest with citizens by not introducing taxes subversively and out of context as the present administration is so keen on doing. I also agree with Joseph Muscat that careful planning and wise spending will save the treasury millions of euros as opposed to the over-zealous and ridiculously wasteful spending of the GonziPN regime.
But I have to say that in my case there is something that worries me more than the rising cost of living and that is parliament which supposedly is 'the highest institution of the country', whatever that means. I see nothing high and mighty in our parliament. To the contrary parliament is turning into a sick joke. The UK Parliament website lists three main functions of parliament. These are:
1. Examining and challenging the work of government (scrutiny)
2. Debating and passing all laws (legislation)
3. Enabling the government to raise taxes
On the first two points especially, our Parliament fails miserably and it fulfills the third in a most subversive and arrogant manner (of course it is the executive that raises taxes but it does so through parliament). The recent 'Arsenal-gate' is proof enough that parliament is powerless to scrutinize the workings of government. When a minister justifies his or her actions solely in a newspaper interview and not in 'the highest institution of the country' (as if it is a perfectly normal thing to do) goes to show that there is no modicum of scrutiny in parliament. Over and above we are facing a situation where ministers and the prime minister himself fail to attend parliament and how can one scrutinize the work of government, if government is not even present to be questioned? Last but not least it must be said scrutiny rarely takes place in parliament. Facts clearly show that TV producers, journalists and opinion writers do a far better job in scrutiny (some honestly, most with an agenda) than parliament does.
The second function is to debate and pass ALL laws. Another revolting joke. I sincerely believe (and I hope that I can be proven wrong on this) that if one had to analyse how laws are passed one would find that a great majority of them are passed by way of legal notice and not in parliament. This means that it is ministers and civil servants that pass laws and not parliament. Granted that it would be quite an impossible task for parliament to pass all laws and thus the need for power to be delegated but the use of legal-notice-law-passing has increased to such a considerable extent that it creates reasonable doubt in any sane person as to whether parliament is fulfilling this fundamental function correctly. And whilst our parliament wins top marks in adequately transposing EU regulations and directives into law it has failed miserably in debating such regulations and directives.
All of this begs the question as to what the hell is our parliament doing? It is worrying because losing faith in one's parliament means losing faith in one's democracy. If there is something Maltese citizens should protest about - it is this.

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The Times bigger than Parliament according to Minister Tonio

Minister Tonio Fenech does not feel compelled to make a statement in parliament about his private trip with business tycoons having vested interests in the gaming industry. The reason for this is that he has already said what he wanted to say to mainstream newspaper The Times. This goes to prove three things:
1. that the media (The Times in particular) is far stronger than the other institutions (amongst which is parliament of course) of the country;
2. that The Times directly or indirectly serves as the government's Pravda; and
3. that arrogance and unaccountability have firmly substituted the principle of ministerial responsibility or what's left of it
In other democracies (except for the Italian kind which we admire so much) a situation like this would have spelled the end of a politician's career. But this is Malta and I have to say that Harry Vassallo is spot on when he says that in Malta there exists no culture of political responsibility and it is only the electorate that can elect, re-elect or remove MP's and members of the Cabinet from power once every five years. Problem is we have become so used to such 'scandals' that four years down the line we would have forgotten all about it. What's worse is that the politician embroiled in any controversy tends to emerge stronger than ever.
The good news is that we can save our coffers several million euros by not having to build a new house of parliament.

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An undeserving laureate?

The question that's on the mind of many at the moment is whether President Barack Obama truly deserved the Nobel Peace Prize. He was nominated just two weeks in office and took the award just nine months later in what has been dubbed as a "shock announcement". As with all things that get the sentiments flowing we bring out the 'expert' in us and hear all sorts of opinions.
It seems to me that both those in favor of handing out this prestigious award to Obama and those against make valid claims. Obama has, in my opinion, certainly made great efforts to instill a sense of hope and good feeling both for America and the rest of the world in general. His mission for nuclear disarmament, his reaching out to the Muslim world, his quest for making the world a better place is commendable and cannot simply dismissed as rhetoric.
On the other hand there is much truth in the saying that actions speak louder than words. Obama can never achieve peace in the Middle East for example if he continues to be bullied by lobbyists whose sole interest is that of seeking a Zionist agenda for Israel. He was too soft with Netanyahu and to this very day many Palestinians are systematically kicked out of their homes to make way for Jewish families. Another conundrum is the fact that conflict is still the status quo in the troubled region of Afghanistan and conflict is the opposite of peace. But what is to be done in such situations? Would it be responsible or moral to abandon Afghanistan and leave it to its fate?
I believe that Obama is definitely peace prize material. The potential is there. Having said that, I agree that it may have been too early to hand out this award to the President. The award is peculiar in the sense that it is not so much an appraisal of what the man has achieved but of what he should be doing and must do. It is a reminder of the tasks Obama has before him in these early days of the 21st Century. Whilst it is a glorification of the trust the world has vested in Obama it would be a grave mistake for us to expect change and the pursuit of peace to come from just this one man.


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Ok, what Way now?

The German SPD's electoral untergang was perhaps one of the very few remaining nails hammered into the coffin where European social democracy as we know it has been laid to rest. Whilst social-democracy is still relatively powerful, it must be said that the "hard" left and other fringe-groups of political spectrum such as the Greens are becoming more trustworthy than the political orientation which seeks the middle-ground. These are all facts which no one can deny.


This is a problem for social democracy and therefore a problem for the left. It is real, it is identifiable. One leading argument for this downfall is that the electorate is no longer bothered with ideology and fancy statements of policy about social markets and regulation. So it follows that the 'message' of third-way political parties was not explained/delivered well enough, or it simply wasn't what the elctorate wants to hear. Some even argue that it had no message to begin with. This argument however, stops here for whilst it identifies that the 'message' has failed it offers no plausible alternative. One still needs to identify therefore the type of message social-democracy needs to deliver if it is to become credible once again.
Another argument is that the mix-and-match politics of the third way has alienated those who identify themselves with socialism and the labour movement. The new left tried to supplant the old grass-roots by embracing neo-liberalism as the way forward. It is of no surprise that these voters, which reject the centre-ground, turn to more radical parties such as those falling on the hard left and perhaps even the Greens. This has led to a deep fragmentation in socialist parties across Europe culminating in the battle of different factions and ultimately in party splits. No wonder that social democrats fared hopelessly even in times of economic crisis.
In December the PES will hold its 8th Congress since its conception, with the aim to tackle the social democratic crisis. It is admirable that the pan-European socialist party openly admits that its message has failed to reach voters' aspirations. Questions need to be raised as to how and why this is so. More importantly however, it needs to seek solutions to the problems that have become so deeply rooted in social democracy and this requires a revisionist as well as a pragmatic approach. How can social democrats convert the ideological politics of a better tomorrow into something sensible, real and credible? What can social democrats do to overcome the problems that accompany certain issues such as immigration, climate change and globalisation? Should social democratic parties become more open and more pluralistic? Is it time to move away from the centre-ground? These few questions have certainly been posited before. Now is the time to come up with plausible answers.

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When 'responbility' is removed from the equation...

It is rather clear to everybody that 'demanding' things from government such as shouldering political responsibility for one gross negligence after the other has long become ineffective. The truth is that the GonziPN cabinet, has long abandoned the democratic and constitutional principle of responsibility. Without responsibility there is no accountability nor any transparency left in the public administration. Is this the opposition's fault for demanding a lot but getting very little? Or is it ours for being overly apathetic for far too long? And is it true that countries get the government they deserve?


Personally I don't care if this is intrinsic to Mediterranean culture. I don't care if the Italian or the Greek governments act in a similar manner. It's just not right. It is not something that one should have to put up with as a natural everyday occurrence for that would mean legitimising the abuse of power.

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Netanyahu is the real leader of this not so free world

It's an old cliche that the President of the USA, supposedly the most power nation on earth, is the 'president of the world'. This jingoist perception which delights any run of the mill gun-toting American patriot cannot be further from the truth. The most powerful nation, if by powerful we mean diplomatic sway, political influence, and an infinite supply of get out of jail free cards each time a crime against international law is committed, is not the US but Israel. The US just comes a respectable but boring second on the powerful nations charts.
Every time Israel seems to get its way in everything it does. The US has always been there to back it up of course. Either that, or else it just bows down to Israel's pressure. For no sane person on this earth can accept a system in which people are systematically kicked out of their homes (in which they have lived in forever) as something natural. This is still an everyday occurrence in the West Bank and Obama just doesn't have what it takes to pressure Israel into ending this serious inhumanity.
How can one seriously talk of peace when things like this are allowed to happen?

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Division Day

Today Malta celebrates 45 years of independence from Britain. It is a day which should unite a nation. But the partisan ramifications of this day run deep and it is difficult to comprehend whether such a significant day could ever unite the long-existing divide. It is just one of those things that our political culture has destroyed. Somewhere down the line independence became attributed to George Borg Olivier and the Nationalist Party just as Freedom Day is to Dom Mintoff and the Labour Party. The sad truth is that these days have never really been a celebration of nationhood but of the legacies of the aforementioned.

This false reality has been passed down from generation to generation and to this very day we still hear comments encouraging this divide even from people who should know better. We are now at a stage where we have been asked to choose one national day as a day that should unite us all. Even this process however, has been tainted by partisanship in the sense that whichever of the two days gets selected would be just another victory for one party and a show of weakness by the other. You can easily sense this through politicians' carefully selected discourse. Common sense dictates therefore that a more neutral day should be selected such as Victory Day. But this would not solve the problem. It would only avoid it.

What is really required at this stage is not consensus on the national day. That is something that would come later as a natural progression of something that really needs to be tackled. It is my opinion that what we really need to do is (1) reflect upon our entire notion of what we perceive to be patriotism and (2) rise above the partisan charades that choke our country to the point of suffocation. This would require a huge cultural change and it would spell a revolutionary shift from a fragmented society constructed upon the framework of 'us-and-them' to the pluralist society of 'us'. This is difficult. It is not something that is going to occur upon rising tomorrow. But it is a shift that can and must happen.

It is time to understand that patriotism is not just about celebrating our nation's sovereignty and right of self-determination. These are are just one chapter of the story of an entire people. Our, language, traditions and cultural heritage is another. They are all linked to our identity. Anyone who celebrates and defends these historical and cultural achievements vigorously is by and large a patriot. But what about those who refuse to turn a blind eye to what is happening around them - those that start to ask difficult questions and posit different views which may be at odds with our history, our culture and our sovereignty? Do they do this because they despise our nation in some way? Should they just 'get the hell out' and leave us to our business? No - they do this because they genuinely love their nation; because they do not want to see their nation go down in history as some isolated entity detached from everybody and everything else around it. Because they understand that independence and freedom carry with them not just rights but also obligations. Such are also acts of patriotism.

Secondly it is high time to start viewing politics for what it really is, i.e. not merely confined to electoral districts and political parties. Know that the powers that be have an interest in telling you what to believe and how to believe in it; what to choose and how to choose it. If we let that happen, as we have so readily done in the past, politics becomes the sole domain of the politicians and the clerics and no longer the activity which we can engage in and fashion ourselves. It becomes the politics of the red, green and blue which naturally seek division so that they could be able to conquer. It is time to emancipate ourselves from their clutches. Think for yourself and do not let others tell you what to think. It does not mean that we should abandon the political parties. Vote PL, PN, AD, AN, Imperium or Independent but vote for them because you genuinely and freely wish to do so and not because they scare you into doing so or because of the way you were brought up or because they will grant you and your family personal favors. If you disagree with all of them then don't vote for any or create your own party. This is a great liberty which a lot of us seem to take for granted.

Do not let anyone fool you into thinking that this is impossible. It will happen some day. And if it could ever be pinpointed than let that day be our true national holiday!

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How many birds must be killed?

How many birds must be killed before tougher policies aimed at curbing illegal hunting are enacted by government? It is clear that a good number of hunters believe that laws and directives have no application. How unfortunate. In the press we read a lot of stories and comments about how hunting is a traditional pass-time and if it is taken away lives will be shattered. But we never get to hear what the real victims in this institutionalized tragedy have to say because they simply cannot speak. And those that try to speak up for them are either treated as a group of persons poking their noses where they don't belong or largely ignored.

Not long ago some of us rejoiced that the supposed ban on spring hunting gave rise to the beginning of the end of the more-than-powerful hunters' lobby. But I am really confused about whether this actually happened. And if politicians lack the will to change things it may be high time for citizens to take a stand.

How long will it be before there is no turning back?

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Abortion: One step at a time

Muscat had declared from very early on that he, as Joseph Muscat, is all out against abortion. He was very open about the great pains he had gone through, together with his wife, who almost lost their children. With this personal experience in mind it is no big surprise that he is against all forms of abortion, including the morning after pill. I respect his firm position on the matter, I really do. In fact I am not really one to talk since I have absolutely no experience on what it is like to become a parent.

It's just that sometimes one needs to draw a line between the personal belief and the public reality. To put it bluntly, should a future Labour government bury abortion simply because of its leader's personal opinion? Of course, the leader of any party, or prime minister of a country for that matter usually has the final say and it would be somewhat difficult that leader to approve of something that he vehemently disagrees with.

Let me declare from the outset that I do not look at abortion as a form of birth control. I think that would be downright irresponsible. That is why our nation needs to start growing up and take sex education out of the taboo jungle and into ordinary/regular school life. And what's all this hullabaloo with putting condom machines on campus? I am not such a big fan of the "it's my body and I do what I want" argument either. However I do believe that women should be given the choice to terminate their pregnancy under certain conditions and hence abortion should, for starters, be decriminalized.

I think the British position on abortion is the best one. In the UK abortion is allowed up to 24 weeks on condition that continuing with the pregnancy involves a greater risk to:
  • the physical or mental health of the woman, or
  • the physical or mental health of the woman's existing children than having a termination.
And after 24 weeks if there is:
  • risk to the life of the woman,
  • evidence of severe fetal abnormality, or
  • risk of grave physical and mental injury to the woman.
One must not fear asking difficult questions. Should victims of rape and incest be given a choice to terminate? I believe so.

Of course, these are my opinions, just as much as JM and everybody else has his and her own opinions. The worst thing any of us can do is to kill off all forms of debate or give one (unelected) section of society (GoL for example) the liberty to decide for everybody else and future generations.

Yet one needs to be realistic. The reality is that abortion, unlike divorce, is still a taboo subject. As much as you may agree with abortion, know that in all probability it's not going to come round any time soon. It is not an excuse to remain silent on what you believe in but an understanding that in Malta (especially) it is all about taking things one step at a time.

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What's the problem?

As the divorce debate continues to rage and tempers begin to flare in the most humid rock of them all I decided to assume heroic responsibility and clear the matter once and for all. My first conclusion is what's the problem? In Malta we have divorce already. Instead it's called annulment - mhux xorta? I mean, what's in a name?

In case you did not know, the Marriage Act has a nice little section (19+19A) which specifically caters for the annulment of marriage. The idea is simple. Marriage is a contract and just as any other contract may be annulled on grounds that it was invalid, so too can marriage. Lets say for instance the good ol' chap goes up to the pretty lass and tells her "Listen, marry me or I'll knock your teeth in." Fearing for her teeth and all the Orbit she's been saving up for a bad breath day she has no other choice but to get married. All she has to do is wait three months, go to Court and tell the wise judge "Dude, my marriage is invalid because it was motivated by violence." Maybe a year or two later (patience please) you're bound to be marriage free! No Church involved or anything! Just a civil court judge in a civil court case! If he knocks her teeth out after marriage however, perhaps she should have thought twice about coming back home at 4 in the morning after a wild night out with her girl-friends now shouldn't she?

And it doesn't even have to be so dramatic. You can also get an annulment if your partner happens to have a severe case of Mr.Floppy and thus unable to perform the 'conjugal act' (again, the anomaly must have existed before you got married of course - if it happened after and sought annulment then you'd just be a sore loser). Oh, and if you're soooo into the whole divorce shenanigan you have a remedy as well (the law is so beautiful because it takes into consideration everybody's needs and feelings indiscriminately). Just take a holiday, a really really long holiday, say 10 years in some lovely Parisian suburb and get a divorce from there (stupid French people, why did they have to go through all the trouble to enact 'divorce'!?). You'd be killing two birds with one stone because you'd get to experience life in another country and procured for yourself a nifty divorce certificate recognizable here! Everyone can afford it can't they?

I beckon you to understand that annulment happens to be cheaper than divorce because with annulment you are only obliged to maintain your spouse for a maximum of 5 years whereas in divorce a silly judge may come up with the silly opinion that it may happen to be more, perhaps even for life "if circumstance so desires". Sheesh! What injustice!

To top things off I am aware that our Courts have been quite liberal in granting annulments over the years - since the worst and most brutal dictator of all Europe decided to defy the Church and introduce civil marriage in the 70's. It's only on rare occasions that some civil court judge happens to formulate his opinion on the basis of Canon Law (the law drafted by the Saints - not the football team - actual Saints with halos and all) even though the far less inferior and sinful 'laws of man' forbid him from doing so. But Malta is a secular country so you need not worry. As I said, its very rare.

Folks, take a chill pill and stop all this moaning. Its giving us a bad name! Malta has 'divorce' already!


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The boss is back


I would have thought that the progressive alliance in the European Parliament would have at least made an effort to vote NO to Barroso instead of abstaining. So what if he was uncontested? A close yes-no margin would have sent the message that Barroso has won the battle but alerted him to change his ways of pleasing national governments first before working in the EU's greater supra-national interests. With a comfortable and absolute majority I very much doubt that this is going to happen. I reckon that once the [second] honeymoon is over and the light begins to glisten at the end of the [financial crises] tunnel it will be back to business as usual.


It is unfortunate that the European left finds itself in such a mess that it could not even push for a suitable alternative to head the European Commission. But one augurs that serious and constructive effort is made to take the left back to its winning ways. It is going to be a tough five years but with a little less moping and bickering and a little more of doing and working together positive results can certainly be achieved.

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Finlandia

In Finland there exists a peculiar situation as to which is the national anthem. From the little I have read the 'de facto' anthem is Maamme (Our Land) but this has not been officially recognised. Otherwise the popular Finlandia hymn is also widely supported. One particular rendition of the hymn holds a very important and strong message of international fraternity and world peace. Perhaps 'national' is a misnomer. These are the words:


This is my song, O God of all the nations,
a song of peace for lands afar and mine.
This is my home, the country where my heart is;
here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine;
but other hearts in other lands are beating
with hopes and dreams as true and high as mine
My country's skies are bluer than the ocean,
And sunlight beams on clover leaf and pine.
But other lands have sunlight too and clover,
And skies are everywhere as blue as mine.
This is my song O God of all the nations,
A song of peace for their land and for mine.

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Constructing the Progressive Left


The construction of a progressive movement may be Muscat's greatest ambition and ultimately the largest 'earthquake' on the richter scale. Unfortunately, in a country which has become somewhat infamous for being thirty years behind every other and in which politics is characterised by tribalism, parochialism and the exploitation of ignorance it is no surprise that this grand project has been met with a great degree of cynicism by many who profess to be progressive, including myself. The greatest spoke in Muscat's wheel is undoubtedly from within Labour itself which houses some of the country's staunchest conservative politicians and which at times finds itself on a fast-forward march towards a brand of excessively populist and nationalist-oriented politics instead of building upon the basic ideals that characterise the left.
Possible or not, the idea is a good thing in itself, not just for Malta but for the rest of Europe where social-democratic, labour and green parties are finding it hoplessly difficult to overcome the neo-liberal mainstream. Unless things do not change we will soon see the rise of the Tories in Britain, the fall of Zapatero in Spain and fascist parties across Europe going from strength to strength with victories for the left becoming far and few between (one hopes that PASOK will emerge triumphant in Greece). Meanwhile, Germany's Merkel, France's Sarkozy and Italy's Berlusconi are not set to leave the political climate any time soon. This is not a rant but a wake-up call for progressive parties across Europe to do something about it.
The primary starting point for constructing a progressive coalition of the left is to reconsider this strong infatuation with Giddens-inspired 'third way' which made Clintion and Blair role models for social democrats and progressives across the Western world back in the mid-90's. However, main-land Europe now finds itself in a situation with no distinguishable political platforms when you consider that social-democrats are just as equally free-market oriented as conservative neo-liberals and conservative neo-liberals tend to be just as socially-liberal as social democrats (Sarkozy comes to mind). The differences have become so minimal that it is no surprise that the Greens have (thankfully) emerged as a considerably strong force by proposing new and ambitious ideas such as 'The Green New Deal' which seeks to create millions of jobs by harnessing the earth's sources alternative energy; a great response to rising unemployment and a global environment in peril. The problem is that the greens cannot bring about change alone, which brings me to my next point.
It is time to realise that no political party enjoys a 'monopoly of wisdom'. The my-way-or-the-highway mentality must be eradicated once and for all. To form a popular progressive movement, progressive parties should respect the premise that 'we are all in this together'. A pluralistic approach should become the core of the progressive left. This does not mean that progressive parties and their supporters should abandon their ideals for the sake of forming one popular front. It is about respecting our differences as well as our common vision. Britain's Respect Party leader Salma Yaqoob explains that "We all have our loyalties and allegiances and it is futile to demand from each other that we renounce them as a pre-condition for unity. On the contrary, we need to find new ways to exert pressure on the political establishment, and forge new alliances that bring together a progressive coalition that can start to shift the political centre of gravity to the left." Left academic Pat Devine wrote in Red Pepper that "one way forward is to work towards the formation of a loose-knit electoral alliance united in opposition to the neoliberal mainstream and dedicated to campaigning for electoral reform and a green new deal."
A progressive coalition musn't become a militant minority which is hardly able to converse with anyone beyond its patchwork of colour but a progressive majority for change. The plural left should thus strive to move social democratic and green values to the mainstream where they belong as opposed to being occasionally hip sound-bites, disconnected from everyday and everybody. For privatising idealism and comfortably preaching to the already-converted will only lead to many progressives finding themselves politically unrepresented and cursing in anger at a world they thought would be different.
This post has been largely inspired by Mark Perryman's critique "We’re all in this together: - Towards the political practice of a Plural Left" published by Compass think tank (UK).

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Poll: Secular State or Subtle Theocracy? Article 2 of the Constitution of Malta

Article 2 of the Constitution states the following:


(1) The religion of Malta is the Roman Catholic Apostolic Religion.

(2) The authorities of the Roman Catholic Apostolic Church have the duty and the right to teach which principles are right and which are wrong.


(3) Religious teaching of the Roman Catholic Apostolic Faith shall be provided in all State schools as part of compulsory education.


In simple and crude terms this Article imposes upon an entire nation a specific belief-system, a.k.a state religion. Furthermore it gives to the Roman Catholic Church unfettered constitutional authority in matters of ethics and morality which it would obviously interpret and preach according to its dogma. This is a big reason why it proving to be so difficult to introduce basic civil rights, such as divorce, in Malta. Sub-article (3) is self-explanatory.


I fully respect and would also defend the Church's right to participate in social discourse as well as its right to publicly preach its values through its institutions. However:


I believe that the Roman Catholic faith is one creed amongst many which should be respected and tolerated in equal measure. It should not be singled out by the State, despite the fact that it is the most popular religion;


I believe in a secular state which takes decisions without recourse to religious doctrine This Article begs the question as to whether Malta is truly secular or what I term a 'subtle theocracy';


I believe that choosing one's religion is ultimately a private choice made by mature individuals and should never be imposed at birth. Catholic morality is not a universal answer to moral problems but only one of many answers and should likewise never be imposed upon anyone;


I believe that religion as an academic subject shouldn't be exclusively about the Roman Catholic faith but about different belief systems, how they came about and how they affect people's lives. The sociological, anthropoligical and psychological perspectives of religion should therefore accompany the theological perspective.


This is why I voted yes to repealing Article 2 of the Constitution of Malta in the poll to the right.


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Lessons of democracy from Brazil


Brazil's "popular action" allows any citizen to take a legitimate part in a proposed appeal against any (administrative) act prejudicial to public interests, or that of an agency in which the State is a partner; or to administrative morality; the environment; and the historical and cultural heritage. The author of the act--unless shown to have acted in bad faith--is exempted from the payment of judicial costs.


Malta has a similar provision in Article 116 of the Constitution although it certainly does not go as far as the Brazilian provision for it only gives individuals the right to make an action against the State for passing invalid, unconstitutional laws. It certainly does not mention 'administrative morality, the environment and historical and cultural heritage'. The Maltese 'popular action' also states that individuals do not need to show any personal/judicial interest to bring such an action. However our Courts have stubbornly dismissed many cases on the grounds that the claimants showed no personal interest in the matter and this despite the wording of the law.



The popular action is a great democratic tool for it empowers citizens themselves to 'check and balance' State institutions when they fall astray. In Malta it is all the more necessary in times of severe maladministration especially with regards to the environment and development.



Before reforming MEPA perhaps we should take a lesson from Brazil whose level of democratic participation and administrative accountability seems to surpass that of Malta.

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A smart university for a smart Malta

All post-graduate law students, i.e. students wishing to enroll for the LLD course have been asked to register for their credits by not later than next Monday, 31st of August. Consequentially a list of subjects and their corresponding value in credits has been issued. However, no course catalogue containing a description of what the subjects entail, who the lecturers are and how the subject is assessed throughout the year exists. One remedy for this ridiculous shortcoming is by checking the relevant information via the online University of Malta portal esims. However, the latter is not updated and certain credits are not even in the database.


The result is practically the following: the student is given a list of subjects to choose from (aside from a set of compulsory subjects) and he must do so blindly. The only little information that he or she can maybe use to his or her advantage comes from the name itself. But what if the subject name sounded interesting but the content was dreadfully boring? Would it be my fault for choosing it? What if I'd rather avoid lectures with this or that particular lecturer? What if I'd rather avoid having oral examinations? Don't I have a right to know such basic information before being asked to choose?


Quite frankly, I don't care who is behind it, but there are no excuses for this administrative failure.


How can Malta excel when the institution that is supposed to support students neglects them? On the other hand students should make their voice heard on issues such as this.

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Two shortcomings of the justice system

The Maltese justice system can boast of a long and proud history but is not without problems. Of immediate concern are two shortcomings which I am about to relate.


The first concerns constitutionality of certain laws and procedures. Certain laws and legal/administrative procedures have been deemed to be unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court of Malta yet such laws and procedures still persist. Take for example Article 4 of the Ninth Schedule of the Value Added Tax Act (Chapter 406) which states that "An appeal against an assessment shall not be valid unless...an amount of five percent of the tax which is in dispute in terms of that appeal or one hundred euro, whichever is the higher, has been paid..." This means that a person who cannot afford such payment will in theory be denied a right of appeal. In several judgments the Constitutional Court has deemed such an imposition to be contrary to Article 39 of the Constitution and Article 6 of the European Convention as it denies one's right to a fair hearing. I think the percentage used to be higher before recent amendments but nonetheless the imposition is, in theory, still unconstitutional. Moreover, we are not talking about lawyer and court fees here but a condition for appeal.


The second concerns the efficiency of justice. We are still faced with a situation of never-ending cases-loads and law suits which take several years (at times well over a decade) until judgment is given. Thus, the entire concept of 'reasonable time' imposed by Article 6 of the European Convention is thrown out the window and seems to have no application in Malta. The wording of the law may be deceptive in that it gives one the right "to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time" but it is an established principle of natural justice that judgment should also be delivered in a reasonable time.


In my opinion both shortcomings amount to a serious breach of the fundamental human right to a fair hearing and they need to be addressed with more urgency.


I wonder, does a task force or parliamentary committee which assesses and reviews legislation which has been deemed to be unconstitutional by the Courts exist? If not, it's about time one is set up and equipped with the necessary means and resources to do a thorough job.


We also need to take concrete action and adopt a uniform and harmonious position on what constitutes 'reasonable time' and consequentially adopt a more rigid enforcement of such time.

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Democracy or stagnation?

It appears that Obama's honeymoon is over as his ratings have slumped to 55% this month, that is 9 points less since January. A 55% approval does not look all that bad at first glance but it is 1 point less than what Bush had during the same period when he was President in his first term. The main reason for the poor results is that people are losing confidence in his economic reforms, particularly his health care plans. Ironically it is one crucial electoral proposal which made Obama so popular last January.



The New York Times reports that conservative Democrats disagree with the proposed package concerning health care, arguing that it is too costly. The typical argument is that in times of crisis you do not spend a trillion dollars, especially on what many American conservatives perceive to be a form of ungodly "socialised healthcare," reminiscent of communism. Perhaps they fail to understand that access to healthcare should not be a privilege but a fundamental right. Many may argue that no public service is free. Indeed many European socialists, especially in Scandinavian countries which have shaped one of the most remarkable welfare states in the world, have put into place high levels of taxation to make good for the costs of public spending. In America its quite a different story. If you're working class and work three jobs you still won't get insured. If you're middle class and have medical insurance, the insurance company does all in its power to avoid paying for your healthcare. I believe that Obama wanted to take the first bold steps to change all this.



But in come the so-called 'conservative Democrats'. Democracy is a beautiful idea but, as with all things, it has its drawbacks. Somehow I fail to understand how you can be democrat and conservative, especially with Obama at the helm. Comedian Bill Maher was very convincing on this particular point. He argues that once the Republicans are at their lowest point "if he can't shove some progressive legislation down their throats now, I don't know when it's gonna happen." Interestingly enough he says that he needs to adopt a George Bush personality in the sense that although Bush's ideas were "horrible," particularly the Iraq war, he got things done (reminds me a lot of Austin Gatt). "Obama needs to get things done. I don't care who's with me, I don't care who I'm going to upset, I don't care what kind of popularity I'm going to lose over this, but I'm going to push this through and I'm going to do it now and I'm going to do it in full measure."



Again, this reminds me very much of the situation in Malta where ultra-conservatives have hijacked the center-left for a very long time. Muscat can never create a "progressive coalition" for this reason, especially when you have Labour MPs who openly and vehemently reject basic civil rights such as divorce on the grounds that is immoral and against the teachings of the Bible. At best you have a moderate and very centrist collusion of liberal and conservative ideologies which cancel each other out. Muscat needs to tell these people "you're either in favour of the kind of politics which I would like to shape or you should consider running with another party." Ultimately and more boldly he has to put his foot down and state that there is no place for conservatives in the Labour Party.



For if not, would we have a democracy where there is a true variety of ideas between the different parties or two quasi-identical political organisations where stagnation reigns?

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Dissecting the Bahrija Scandal

Beyond the puerile bickering, vociferous attacks and pleas of innocence that characterise all scandals there is something far more interesting at play in Bahrija. With some effort one can note a hint of intelligence which inspired me to write this piece when I would otherwise have just steered clear. Mind you everybody loves the odd scandal for the human affection for drama seems limitless. But scandals are becoming so commonplace nowadays that they've merely become part of normal day to day events in the bitter-sweet life of politics.

What prompted my trail of thought was a guest post by an anonymous journalist on DCG's blog, entitled 'Guest Post: The Victims of Megaphone Posturing'. It has a lot to do with the rule of law, democracy and individual rights, namely the right to private property. The author's first of many scruples is with the environmental NGOs or the green lobby - call it what you will. The latter has proven itself to be the greatest nemesis of the current government despite the fact that (as many commentators before me have said) in the 2008 elections one of the focal points of the Prime Minister's campaign was the environment. There was much talk on sustainable development and the Prime Minister himself proposed to assume responsibility for MEPA, which responsibility he occupies today. The author, like DCG (and the former PN president), equate the green lobby with mob-rule. He or she argues that 'Loudspeaker-wielding lobby groups have made mincemeat of the rule of law'. So powerful have they become that their 'loudspeakers' are, metaphorically speaking, above the law. Ironically however, it is the law itself which gives them the right to gather and have their say. I'm sure that the author fully agrees with me that such rights are inalienable. Just as much as certain comments made by the MEPA auditor in his assessment of the Bahrija scandal may seem outrageous, so to is the comment that environmentalists are no less than mobs. In my opinion, this rhetoric speaks volumes both on the fundamental rights of association and expression as well as the government's environmental credentials, to whom both the guest author and the blog owner are sympathetic.

The crux of the author's argument is that there has been a lack of equality before the law. It's time for a little rewind. Not so long ago, the Prime Minister uttered a bold statement: "ODZ is ODZ" meaning that development on ecologically sensitive land, legally dubbed as 'Outside Development Zone', is to cease once and for all. We took his word for it - why shouldn't we? After all, pristine valleys are very scarce on an island the size of Malta and it is common sense as much as an obligation towards future generations that we should preserve what little we have. For me at least, it is common sense that development (existing or potential) in ODZs should be strictly controlled if not outlawed. The author argues otherwise, claiming that "In this case, what was normal and legal for other citizens - to build a home on the footprint of an existing building in an ODZ - was ruled out for someone who happened to be a PN politician, by a ‘people’s court’ that is taking on disturbing similarities to something proposed by premier Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici as a substitute for due process."

To be honest I very much doubt whether the development was a mere reconstruction of an existing building. I think the author was being economical with the truth here. The massive crater we have seen on the papers seems to suggest otherwise. And if others are allowed to reconstruct and develop an ODZ in such a manner than the law is wrong for an ODZ is no longer an ODZ.

Through the author's reflections I also sense that very same paranoia that not so long ago (and perhaps still does) haunted the Opposition, i.e. that the applicant, being the president of the PN, was willfully and maliciously targetted by environementalists with a personal and political agenda. He or she argues that they have turned a blind eye to other similar developements made by equally prominent politicians. I have no idea what specific permits the latter had obtained and I have a suspicion that the author doesn't exactly know either. But let us assume that they were equally heinous and that the lobbyists did not know about them or turned a blind eye. Does this justify the continued degradation of the island's habitat? Is it a case of 'if they did it, than I can do it to' ? This defence has become so conveniant - the laws can be flouted left, right and center on the premise that 'in the 80's it was worse'. Remember that the author is making a stong defence for the rule of law. Quite contradictory, don't you think?

Equally interesting is the author's little thesis on the individual right to private property. There's far more political and philosophcal debate involved here. He or she claims that "The right to enjoy one’s private property is being undermined consistently now by megaphone-driven outbursts.." and "Anything that impinges on his property rights impinges also on ours." Granted that the author is dismayed by the fact that Victor Scerri lost his battle prematurely with the green lobby and not in the halls of justice where, he or she argues, it should have been fought. But here's a little flash news: if ODZ is a 'misnomer' so too is the right to private property. As much as you wish it to be so, you cannot do as you please with the things you own and this for good reason. For individualism has to be reconciled with the concept of the common good, a.k.a the public interest. The aim of the law is to strike a balance between the two concepts which have stirred the intellect and provoked anger centuries ago. That is democracy, that is the rule of law. Either extreme, be it individualism or collectivism does no good to the individual nor to society in general. It has now long been recognized both in domestic and EC legislation that certain areas of ecological importance are to remain unencumbered by man. The green lobby wanted to drive this point home and they were succesful in their endavour. Now they are being hounded not because of some malice or personal crusade but simply because they (together with the Opposition's media) exposed and made popular something which should have been kept under wraps.

However, Victor Scerri is still at liberty to take legal action in the courts of law.

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Rebels with a cause

Dear readers,


It's been a while. They say that the summer brings with it a sense of nonchalance which is partially true but not altogether veritable. Sometimes you just need to take a long break from politics, especially the Maltese specimen which is on display 24/7 both in the obvious and subtle forms. For the moment I intend to do just that so I have decided to dedicate this post to what I have termed 'rebels with a cause'. The people about whom I shall relate are not gun toting revolutionaries fighting for what they believe in. They are far far braver. For what its worth, this is my little tribute to them.


The first is Neda Agha-Soltan who's dissent and unquenchable thirst for a basic, transparent democracy led to her death on the streets of Tehran. A mere victim of circumstance, she was shot dead by what ordinary Iranian citizens themselves have exposed as a brutal regime. Indeed, they would have us believe that her very death and most of what occurred since the 24th of June has been a manipulative construction of the Western media. This is the unreasonableness that you get when fundamentalism overcomes those who hold the reigns of power. Not so long ago I watched a film on the Mayan civilization which began with an intersting quote by Will Durant - A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within. Although not wholly fitting to the present context the similarities are subtle but striking. Neda's death has surely caused much pain to her loved ones but it has also symbolised the human passion for basic liberties and civil decency in all corners of the world lingers on. In this sense her death has not been in vain.


The second is a more recent victim. Her name is Natalia Estemirova, a passionate human rights activist. She was shot dead for exposing to the world the shocking brutality of human rights abuses in Chechnya. It is yet too early to point out with certainty who was behind this act of cowardice but as they vow that her killers shall be found there is a suspicion that we may never get to know or that the "culprits" will be no more than a smoke-screen for top-level statesmen who ordered her death.


My third tribute goes to the Palestinian people who, for want of a better expression, are suffering the brunt of ethnic cleansing by the seemingly untouchable rogue state of Israel. We have all seen the pictures of grossly disproportionate Israeli agression as well as the unfortunate backlash by Palestinian fundamentalists who mistakenly believe that the rocket is the only way to proclaim their inalianable right to exist. Israel bases its arguments on the notion of self-defence. Yet I wonder what justification exists for putting people behind barriers, for stealing their homes and systematically shattering their lives. A group of Israeli soldiers have also made a bizarre but unsurprising confession, namely that in urban warfare no one is innocent and that the illegal use of phosphorus shells is 'cool'. Without any distinction between citizen and militant the entire Palestinian race becomes no more than beasts for the slaughter. An even greater travesty is that whilst we pat on ourselves on the back for having an International Criminal Court which succesfully puts dictators of the third world in the dock, equally guilty men and women of more powerful nations, such as Israel (who has great influence in Washington), seem to be outside the confines of international justice.


Last but not least my final tribute goes out to Suleiman Abubaker and Abdifatah Muhammed. Both are victims of a racism that is haunting our country. On many ocassions in this blog have I commented on racism and whilst it has not been altogether in vain for I have met many who share my sentiments, my words - our words of alarm are making very little difference. The problem is that in this country the persons who have the greatest potential to effect radical policies in countering and punishing racism are either too busy trying to remain in power or too busy trying to gain that power. And on controversial issues which have the potential to sway the balance of popularity even the slightest inch to either side they speak not. Despite the futility I beckon one and all to come to terms with the reality of the situation which we find ourselves in and act before the nation that we all love so dearly begins to whisper "whites only" - words which we hoped were forever replaced by "Free at last!"

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Twenty-Two

They say that a day is a long time in politics. How about twenty two years? From the very year I was born till this very day I have known nothing but a nationalist government. For 18 years I didn't bother with politics at all and had absolutely no opinion, therefore the short stint of a Labour government from '96 - '98 was of absolutely no value to me. Ignorance was bliss. Indeed the first time I had voted was in the 2006 local council elections and I developed a bitter-sweet addiction to the pettiness of the Maltese political system since then. The more addicted I became, the more I began to despise it.

On the one hand you have the ever-growing arrogance of the nationalists who, having been victorious for so long, start to believe that the throne of power is theirs for the keeping ad aeternum. The more they win the dirtier they become and should anyone high up dare threaten that power in any way, he or she will quickly find life hell. Harry Vassallo summed up such tactics in superb form last Sunday on illum. Anyone who dared protest by not voting was swiftly given assurances and promised paradise in secret meetings but so tired has government become that this time it did not work so well. And instead of the politics that this country needs we end up with the politics of staying in power at all costs. The massive onslaught of a Labour victory in MEP elections will not change this. Instead it will just prompt the PN to make the necessary changes to its machinery by ousting all the threats in its power circle and beyond. I would not be surprised if the outcome of the recent election turns out to be a blessing in disguise for PN.

Then you've got the alternatives which for me are the PL and AD. Let me start with the PL which is the second major player in Maltese politics. I fancy myself a socialist and did indeed vote PL in the 2008 general election. I wanted to play a role in changing the political climate but above all I wanted (and still do) a political party that takes decisions rooted in the ideology of the center-left. But twenty-two years in opposition has damaged Labour big time as well. Despite Muscat's plea for Labour to start 'dreaming' once more (meta l-Partit holom, rebah), Labour seems to be abandoning certain basic principles (which for me are non-negotiable) because on the chess-board of Maltese politics ideas and principles would not and cannot kill the King. The idea may be to play dirty now, that is to fight fire with fire, and once you're at the top you can then take the decisions based on your ideals. Some (or many) may argue that this is the only way to change the face of Maltese politics: pragmatism first, ideology after.

They tell me that as I grow older the more I will realise that this is the only way. Well I can be on my death bed and I would still view it as a tragedy but let us for argument's sake assume that it is the only way. The most ideal scenario is that we would have 4 years of a Labour Party making statements based on polls and the statistics of popular opinion. During this time Muscat does not act as a leader per se but more as the face of the party, i.e. we would have a MuscatPL. Secret meetings and promises of paradise are abundant especially in those five weeks before the 2013 election. Once it is in government we witness the PL we all wished to see from the very beginning of Muscat's leadership. Muscat sheds the populism and takes the decisions that need to be taken. We accept that the means justified the end and rejoice that we finally got that which we wished for: a Malta making progress. After a while we realise that a group of people are openly attacking Muscat for making u-turns and deceiving them in the run up to the general election and we mock them, we vilify them and the more we do so the angrier they get. The angrier they get the more we try to make their life hell. Three, four years down the line we begin to accept that at least some of these people had a point.

Do you see where I am getting at?

Finally, twenty(-two) years of poor results has put a great big frown on AD's otherwise smiling sun. My fear is that the final blow has been dealt and AD bows out of the scene. It's been a tough time but hey, at least they tried. Straight from the horse's mouth, Briguglio said: 'disband or be more radical...even if we don't win'. This seems to suggest that AD has given up hope on ever winning at all. Perhaps they have accepted that they are the victim of a hopeless political system and I'm sure they're pissed off when in places like France and Germany the greens became the second strongest political force in the respective countries.

Twenty two years of the same has really messed things up for Malta.

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Have you no shame?

As Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi boasts Malta's new pilot project, a "tailor-made programme to help fight illegal immigration" from Brussels, his Christian-Democrat government is throwing immigrants in the street. As a result these people, many of them single mothers, have no roof over their heads and hardly any food to eat. I never would have thought that the soft-spoken CMB would have the heart to take such horrific and inhumane action. I demand his immediate resignation but unfortunately in Malta no such thing ever happens. Politicians have lost all sense of shame and humanity.

And what about Muscat who should stand for social justice and equality? Is this going to be yet another case where votes come before human dignity? Does the so-called coalition of progressives and moderates demand his silence on this issue?

AD is, unfortunately, too damaged at the moment to speak out in public.

The Church, save one very rare outcry from arch-conservative Bishop Grech, is too busy fighting things like abortion and IVF than to bother with immigrants because the rights of cells come before the rights of human beings from Africa.

Such action by government and silence from the mainstream in civil society is going to create even more xenophobia and racism. Maltese people aren't so used to seeing people living in the streets. Not so long ago one person was even jailed for begging. This might prove to be another major culture shock which ignorant Malta might not handle so well. And I suspect that as people become weary they would turn to politicians and we would have another "Ghoxrin Punt" coming from Parliament because people come first so long as they are Maltese and disgruntled. The authorities are also openly inviting a rise in crime because absolute poverty tends to bring about crime.

But more importantly no man or woman should ever be subjected to a life on the streets. What sad times we live in.

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