Archive for June 2012

A Fair Society

Here is my take on what should seriously be looked at to ensure a fair society. Several points do not touch solely upon social matters but taken together they would, in my opinion, ensure a fairer society. There is no particular order of importance. I'm sure that there are other valid and more important points to be added here.

  1. Ensure that all citizens residing in Malta can keep the public administration in check by widening the concept of juridical interest (e.g. Body A implements a measure which negatively affects the surrounding environment but does not directly and personally affect individual B - individual B would still be able to make a claim). Ensure that registered NGOs such as environmental and consumer organisations are allowed the right to institute class actions without delay. 
  2. Ensure that any Whistleblower's Act would also provide for the protection of persons involved in the offence where possible or that punishment is drastically reduced for accomplices who blow the whistle. Furthermore, ensure that the Act applies retroactively to cases of corruption.
  3. Ensure that a Freedom of Information Act is broad and that it allows for easy and unfettered access to all public documents with very limited exceptions (e.g. for the safety of national security and public order). 
  4. Ensure that a clause providing for a right to a basic yet decent and dignified standard of living is guaranteed in the Constitution - to accompany a balanced budget provision. This right should be enforceable in a court of law.
  5. Ensure that wealth is more distributive. Consider heavily and progressively increasing taxes for any earnings exceeding €230,000 annually. Consider also the adoption of a windfall tax on banks and profitable industries. Adopt a tax on financial transactions. 
  6. Reduce public expenditure by reducing investment on non-essential and frivolous works such as fancy bridges, underground tunnels, dancing fountains and all the pomp and ceremony that goes with them. 
  7. Reconsider the notion of civil partnership and opt instead for gay marriage with full rights (including adoption).
  8. Adopt an effective cohabitation law which would give registered cohabiting partners  (even if homosexual) all adequate rights and obligations including medical and inheritance rights in case of intestate succession and the right to demand the reserved portion as well as the right to all forms of prison visitation (whether ordinary or conjugal). 
  9. Abolish all remaining discrimination with respect to the inheritance rights of children born out of wedlock. 
  10. Ensure access to IVF treatment without exception or obstruction. 
  11. Insert an exception to abortion in the Criminal Code where the life of the mother is in serious and grave danger as a cause of the pregnancy. 
  12. End moral paternalism and treat adults as adults with respect to all sexual or otherwise 'obscene' matters (physical, audio-visual and literary). The regulatory powers of the State should, in this respect, be solely limited to the protection of minors and ensuring that obscene acts or articles are not foisted on the public without precaution/warning as to the content where applicable. Remove or amend all vague offences concerning injury/offence to public morals and indecency. 
  13. Invest in child-care facilities. Where possible all public buildings and facilities that serves as a place of work should have an in-house or adjacent child-care facility (similar to the one currently found at the University of Malta). 
  14. Remove all discrimination in the Criminal code with respect to religious offences. Consider decriminalising blasphemy and the removal of reference to a state religion in the Constitution. 
  15. Give local (councils) and regional (EU) voting rights to all who pay taxes or otherwise contribute to the economy, including refugees and persons with subsidiary or temporary protection domiciled in Malta. Such right should also extend to general elections after a specified period (e.g. 10 years) of continuous residence and economic contribution. 
  16. Treat people as humans not parasites or scum. Mandatory detention for asylum seekers should be drastically reduced to a maximum of three months (2 months prior to first hearing and 1 month prior to appeal). This should only serve as a transitory measure until effective responsibility sharing is guaranteed at an EU  level  (adoption of a concrete Common Asylum Policy) whereupon mandatory detention is removed altogether except in those cases were effective steps can be taken towards repatriation. 
  17. Ensure that all children of settled migrants are accorded full citizenship rights as another concrete step towards integration in the community. 
  18. Ensure that all members of the judiciary and all high level officials in the public administration and public companies are appointed by a resolution of a two-thirds majority of the House of Representatives. Such persons should initially be nominated by a special and fully representative parliamentary committee which should also be able to invite members of civil society for discussion where appropriate. Enhance supervision and scrutiny of said persons by increasing the powers of the Commission for the Administration of Justice with respect to the judiciary and by making it easier to institute public inquiries with respect to public officials. Consider increasing the salaries of the judiciary to ensure greater impartiality whilst reducing excessive salaries and perks for certain public officials such as the Chariman/CEO of MEPA. 
  19. Ensure that all members of the judiciary are provided with suitable facilities and staff to aid their functions and to make proceedings more efficient. Consider, for example, allowing members of the judiciary to employ judicial assistants on a full-time basis and invest in a proper legal library at the law courts or in the vicinity. 
  20. Desist from transferring or terminating Court staff periodically. Sacrificing experience would reduce the efficiency of justice. 
  21. Empower Magistrates to conduct inquiries independently of the executive authorities such as the Minister for Justice/Home Affairs or the AG.
  22. Institute the office of a Public Prosecutor who is solely tasked with prosecuting cases o.b.o the Republic of Malta in front of the Criminal Courts (both superior and inferior: thus removing the power of the Executive Police to prosecute). The Attorney General would be a distinct office solely tasked with representing the Government in executive matters and vested with judicial representation of the Government in the courts of law. 
  23. Ensure that all prerogatives and discretion of the Public Prosecutor (see above) are subject to judicial review. Where possible ensure that all individuals accused with a crime are ensured equality of arms during investigation or inquiry and the course of criminal proceedings. 
  24. Ensure that persons investigated by the Police are afforded the right to have a lawyer present during the interrogation who is empowered to intervene on his or her behalf (as opposed to a mere 1 hour communication). Limit or disallow the inference of guilt if the person investigated refuses to speak after obtaining legal counsel. 
  25. Ensure an adequate and serious party funding law where any donations (singular or cumulative) exceeding the threshold of €2,300 are to be published with all relevant details. Consider the adoption of a state-funding mechanism for parties based on the percentage of votes garnered. 
  26. Consider increasing the salaries of Members of Parliament only on condition that they are to be disbarred from practising their profession or engaging in any other employment (no second jobs) during the course of their tenure. Furthermore, consider reducing the number of members elected in the House and imposing penalties for failure to attend a number of parliamentary sittings without proper justification. 
  27. Consider amending the electoral law to ensure representation of political parties that reach an established quota (e.g. 5% of the national vote). 
  28. Consider the adoption of incentives for identifiable property owners to sell derelict buildings to the State for an appropriate fee and without a property tax so as to ensure that development is more sustainable. 
  29. Enhance patient rights and ensure unobstructed and unfettered access to personal medical files. Reduce waiting lists by investing heavily in primary healthcare and consider allowing patients to sue the State for damages (moral or physical) for poor and inhumane treatment (e.g. being placed in corridors). 
  30. Reduce energy poverty by reducing utility bills but only on condition of drastically increasing fines and fees for polluters as well as businesses and households that exceed a specified quota. Invest heavily in renewable energy and incentives for renewable energy.

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