Archive for March 2010

The party-union link

“What is remarkable about the party-union link is how much it has been underestimated by social democrats themselves. The ‘golden age’ was made possible by many different components, but one of them was certainly successful party-union links: these were instrumental in forging governmental coalitions that enhanced women’s rights, gave employees a say in the workplace and secured safe work conditions for employees. Even today, and despite all the changes that the link has gone through, unions continue to form the backbone of the progressive movement in a number of countries.” - Dimitris Tsarouhas of Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey.

Unfortunately, Maltese trade-unionism is in shambles. The two major unions, GWU and UHM, are undoubtedly linked to the two major political parties but not for the right reasons.The links that exist today seem to be based on the premise: "I scratch your back, you scratch mine" which is a major blow to a unions' credibility. This is not to say that the GWU and UHM do not serve the interests of their members. But the partisan link, at times, transcends the political one - the one that truly matters most. In this way partisan submission triumphs over workers' collective interests.

If we want a progressive society in our country the above unions as well as the political parties themselves need to reassess their strategic links and forge alliances based on improving workers' rights not on partisan back-scratching.

Similarly, these strategic links have also taken hold in KSU where partisan interests triumph over student rights. And there I was, thinking that my generation knew better. (Yes, I'm pointing my fingers at SDM).

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The saga continues...

Yesterday I witnessed first-hand the frustration and sense of injustice that lies ahead in my career. Similarly, I witnessed my country's fast-forward approach towards oppression - or shall I say a rewind towards the Dark Ages? It's as if our membership in the EU is nothing but a dream for us who believe that Europe is much more than just access to funds and less border controls. The truth is that there is absolutely nothing European about Malta.

Last month, on February 17th to be precise, the Court of Magistrates began hearing the case Il-Puluzija vs. Mark Camilleri. We heard the University Precincts Officer claim that KSU officials approached him with the 'offending story' - a claim which was vehemently denied by KSU but not by the Precincts Officer who testified under oath. We heard the Rector claim that he ordered the destruction of the Realta` publication, without even informing Mark about it, because such was his legal duty (and he wasn't imposing his moral views on anyone, you know). He also told the Court, in a brazen but calm demeanor, that university students cannot tell fact from fiction (since the story was published on a newspaper and followed an interview with the MUT chairman John Bencini it might easily be construed as a factual article). He also dismissed the notion that in the past stories used to be published in newspapers - to his knowledge no such things ever occurred. Unfortunately the great wisdom and wealth of knowledge came to a halt and the case was to continue on the 16th of March at 11:30am - a date and time that was specifically chosen by the Honourable Court so as to have ample time to continue hearing the testimony of various witnesses.

That was yesterday, a day which came and went as any other. It was the Librarian's turn to testify and this should have been followed by the testimony of Mark himself and Alex Vella Gera, the author of Li Tkisser Sewwi - a story penned in 1997. The librarian said many things but the crux of his testimony was that all students under the patronage of the UoM, and therefore also Junior College students, had access to the University library. This is an interesting revelation.

The Court, however, had other matters to attend to and the case had to be deferred to a later date. Frustration kicked in - an emotion which apparently I must get used to in my professional career. The defence counsel related how one of the witnesses lives abroad but to no avail. The moment Vella Gera's name was mentioned the prosecuting officer grinned and claimed "thanks a bunch for telling me this, Dr." He swiftly exited the Court room and asked Vella Gera to go to the police station for questioning. Vella Gera, who came of his own free will to give his testimony on his own story, now faces the same charges brought against Mark Camilleri. It seems as if the police have absolutely nothing better to do in this country.

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Where is Europe headed?

It seems that the opportunities provided by the Lisbon Treaty are going to waste. It is still early days for the new president and foreign representative but the choice of Van Rompuy and Ashton in particular speaks volumes. It is another tell, or big hint if you will, of the continuous struggle between those that desire a strong Europe, capable of setting a global agenda, and those that have an interest in seeing the EU fragmented and weak.

But this talk of Europe as a "global superpower" has bad connotations, doesn't it? It brings to mind military force and the lust for global hegemony. Not necessarily so. In a post-American world we need a strong Europe for many reasons. Europe can diplomatically assert itself in the Middle East and for once snub its trans-Atlantic buddy by taking Israel to Court for war crimes. Europe must never forget that it once was a shining beacon of human rights. Europe's miserable failure in Copenhagen (home turf) was also a disaster. Where is the Europe that does not give in to big industry and greedy states such as the US and China? Unfortunately, Dalli's recent impasse on the cultivation of GMO's has set a dangerous precedent and cast a dark shadow on the Commission.

I think the time has come to swallow our pride. If Europe wants to be strong, it needs to be united. It needs to have one face and if it wants to steer back to the course of economic, social and environmental prosperity, both internally and globally, I believe that the answer is to take European federalism to the next level.

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