MaltaToday | 16 March 2008 |

LETTERS | Sunday, 16 March 2008

Political amendments

In the late 50s and early 60s there was a problem in Parliament – there were 50 seats. That was an ‘even’ number so when the election resulted in 25 seats for one party and 25 for a coalition the result was a disaster for everybody. At that time 50 seats were already too many. The amendment presented 55 seats (why not 49?), an odd number to make it less faulty. The problem that there were too many seats was not solved; it was increased. Many years later it was amended again because the Number One votes made a joke with gerrymandered districts. Today, 50 years later, the problem is bigger: we have 65 seats and 13 districts, in a country as big as a lake, or just reclaimed land in other countries; and it is designed to exclude any third party. The Maltese people are too intelligent to make such mistakes, so the question is obvious. Were these mistakes (?) done intentionally?
During the last half century some of the people occupying those 65 seats did everything to present themselves and their colleagues as “very aggressive and arrogant” and even demonising each other to the extent that the people started mistrusting them, and referring to ALL of them as corrupt. This is very unfair because only a very minor part of them are unsuitable. The majority are guilty of allowing that minority to give them a bad name. There were, and still are, many honest MPs – three people (who are now no longer contesting) were Dr Daniel Micallef, Mr Lino Spiteri, and Dr G. Borg Olivier. There were many others of course.
When I was much younger I was very keen to enter politics, but the aggressive and arrogant behaviour I saw deterred me. Even now at 63, I considered again entering politics; unfortunately not enough has changed to attract me. The vision that many people have is that we want no more wars (not even aggressive verbal ones); we want peace. Nobody wishes to pay tax; but many many people will accept to pay it as long as it is re-distributed properly. There are Maltese people who just subsist somehow below the poverty line. This is a shame on us! It is only so because we allow ourselves to be dominated by partisan politics. About €580 million (Lm250 million) were spent on Mater Dei hospital. There are much richer countries in the EU who have nothing like it; but some of our MPs, even during the MLP administration, decided to fight each other over the hospital, and turned it into a political issue. Now apart from the obvious ‘teething problems’ the biggest problem is that 50% of the people see it from a completely opposite angle than the other 50%. To make matters worse even some of the employees have publicly criticised the hospital, unnecessarily. As if the importance of partisan political colour should take precedence over all the people’s health.
We fight the EU to help us with the financial burden of illegal immigration BEFORE we ourselves solve the Maltese people’s social problem of having compatriots subsisting below the poverty line. The problem is not that difficult to solve. Even if just a small part of what is being spent on the electoral campaign is redirected towards this problem it will help. Who really wants an ‘aggressive’ campaign anyway? The MPs do not seem to be in favour of a National Government, nor a coalition; the PN has declared it openly and unequivocally; has the MLP done the same? Is that good news for the people who, in their majority (l-Istrina is an example), wish to share with those compatriots less fortunate?
In tradition a few people hunted birds to eat to nourish their hunger. What are we doing with our priorities now? Why is it so difficult to solve such simple things? Shall we retain our aggressive, arrogant, and unethical behaviour from both parties, and perhaps increase our Parliament seats to 75 and our districts to more than 13? Or shall we decide to become more politically mature by ourselves, before the EU forces us to do it itself? The EU should not dictate to us how we think or what is better; we will only be hiding behind that excuse if we continue to refuse to do what we know is necessary to be done by ourselves. Perhaps a coalition, or a National government is not such a bad idea after all. Political amendments should have also already included some fine-tuning so that no “miniscule minority” of a coalition, or a “crossing the floor member” could possibly topple a legitimate government. If our Constitution allows everybody to vote “freely”. why does our political system deny it to the MPs during parliamentary sittings?

Reggie Debono

An open letter to GonziPN

Dear GonziPN, as far as ideology goes, I am not a Nationalist. I am not a conservative Christian Democrat. I do not feature at all on the right hand side of the political spectrum. Yet I, like many others, am going to give your party my number one vote.
In fact, my prediction was that a majority of the population would do the same, and on 9 March, a sea of blue flags will sweep across the island yet again amidst the sound of raging horns, and you will sit at your ministers’ seats for another five years.
Do you find that so hard to believe? After so many years (give or take 22 months) in power I understand how you would think it unlikely for you to win yet another election. The truth is you shouldn’t have won. Twenty-five years under the same party is madness for most democratic countries. But you won, and you have a number of people to thank for that.
Mostly thank Dr Alfred Sant and all the people who worked to keep him from resigning. They are PN’s secret weapon and they will go down in history for that very reason. It takes a very special man and a very special group of supporters to keep letting a stagnant party beat them time and time again.
As stagnant as the PN is, it can never outdo the stagnancy of a party led by Dr Sant, who although I am sure is a very intelligent and nice man to get to know, has proven to be a weak politician; one who interacts poorly with the media, comes across as awkward and uncomfortable in his own skin, and one who would rather live in denial and oblivion than admit fault and step down.
Dr Sant has even managed to scare people away from voting for your true competition. Yes, together everything is possible, and with the help of Dr Sant the chances of Harry and friends have been ruined yet again. The democratic alternative is simply not worth the risk.
Indeed, GonziPN won, and you are going to have five more years to do what you want. Five more years to cement even more corruption links. Five more years to blur the line between Christianity and secularism. Five more years without all the reform that is needed. Five more years of harping on about anything European or Smart but a lack of any European or smart changes in the law.
Five more years of PBS, ADT, MEPA. Five more years of inefficiency and stagnation. Five more years of “free” vote-catching festivals sponsored by our taxes, no investment in the University, and a general sense of ignorance, closed-mindedness and lack of critical thought around the country.
Five more years of leaving potential refugees to die at sea because we just don’t want to do it all alone. Five more years of refusing to talk about divorce and same-sex marriage.
The truth is that I can survive another five years of this stagnancy, but the Labour party leadership can not. SantMLP has finally stepped down, and if there is any justice in the world, a true political leader will replace him; a political leader who comes up with concrete proposals which do not change in the middle of electoral campaigns or which do not turn out to have already been done; a political leader who provides an alternative to the ultra conservative social values of the right wing and who does not get elected simply because there is no choice, or because the electoral system is not fair on the alternative that exists.
GonziPN, this is your first and last chance. Mark my words, you won this election and you will think it is because you have done such a great job with the economy and that your electoral campaign was brilliant. Yes, you’ve done well with the economy, but let’s face it, had you a decent opposition, the economy alone would not guarantee a win. The truth is that you won this election because the floaters like myself have once again been left without a choice.
The bottom line is this. You owe it to us, the liberal floaters who only voted for you because of a lack of alternative, to bring up those issues we care about and to stop ignoring everything we say. You owe it to us to continue fixing up the economy and the environment as you’ve pledged to do, but also, to discuss social issues, bring about educational and electoral reform, and to basically start realising that we’re living in Europe in 2008 and that the law needs to cater for all of us, not just the conservative Christians like yourself.
If, the MLP changes leadership quicker than you change your ways, I would not be surprised if you are asked to step down before your five years are up. So while wishing you bittersweet congratulations, I ask you to take this letter into consideration, and I urge you not to forget all those people who are going to vote for you but still crave a new kind of politics for this country. Today, you were the only change we can hope or vote for. Don’t let us down.

Christian Peregin
San Pawl tat-Targa

Labour now needs a hard-hitting leader

Labour now needs a charismatic and astute leader who also knows how to be hard-hitting when the occasion warrants it!
The PN “strategists” gambled on the personality cult of Lawrence Gonzi due to the fact that survey after survey for after survey for a number of years, had consistently shown that Dr Gonzi enjoyed the trust of voters more than Dr Sant. They knew that this was their only chance to win this election. They gambled and won, but only by a hair’s breadth! As if they took Dr Sant’s recent claim: “Who dares wins” and made it their own.
In my humble view Labour lost the election during the last four weeks of the election campaign. The two main issues which, in my opinion, saved the day for the PN, were the “reception class” electoral promise and the final TV debate between the two party leaders.
I cannot understand how it was not foreseen that the “reception class” promise would be turned into a “repeater class” by the PN’s propaganda machine which is always on the lookout for even one word – as Dr Mangion’s “DNA” reference proved – let alone such an important matter as a promise which was not properly explained when first mentioned. And which could mean that students would end up their studies a year later! This was hammered home by Dr Gonzi during the last TV debate with Dr Sant, leaving Dr Sant speechless.
The second issue is the TV debate I have just mentioned. Beside Dr Gonzi’s reference to the “reception class”, there were other points on which Dr Sant allowed the PN leader to have a field day. The one which made me cringe the most was when Dr Gonzi, for the umpteenth time, accused Dr Sant of having said that “only one and half million liri would be coming from the EU” if we joined the EU. And then tried to ridicule Dr Sant by saying that “instead we are receiving €855 million without saying that these were euros and over a seven-year period!”
Dr Gonzi was once again lying, because the Lm1.5 million were the balance in favour of Malta after one deducts what Malta is paying to the EU, and the Italian protocol which came to an end due to EU membership. On the enormous cost of membership, Dr Sant once again remained silent.
I am convinced that the two points I have mentioned played a vital role in Labour’s defeat. I am also convinced that the PN will keep using the EU membership issue – particularly the question of EU funding – knowing that Labour is scared of proving how right it was on that same issue, thus giving the impression that Labour was very wrong in its stand on EU membership, as Malta would have been deprived of all those millions of euros coming from the EU!
I sincerely hope that Labour’s new leader will not allow Dr Gonzi to get away scot-free when Dr Gonzi lies about Labour’s claims about EU funding. While Labour keeps claiming that the EU membership issue “is a closed chapter”, rest assured that for the PN it is not! They will keep reopening the issue of EU funding at crucial times especially during an election campaign, once they know that Labour will not defend itself on this issue, fearing that they will be accused of still harbouring eurosceptic views!
It would certainly be unjust not to thank Dr Sant for all he has done to transform Labour into a modern political party with which all sectors of society can feel comfortable working with and in it. He was the man who rid Labour of its violent and corrupt elements – something which Lawrence Gonzi has not done yet as regards corruption. For all this and more, Dr Sant deserves the gratitude of all. He cans till have a lot to offer to the Labour Party and our dear Malta – in parliament!

Eddy Privitera,

PBS: A breath of fresh air

With Public Broadcasting Services now falling under the wing of Minister Dolores Cristina, one would expect the national TV and Radio station to rid itself of its cobwebs, incompetent management and unsuccessful advisors.
The institution is badly in need of the necessary impetus to make it credible and respectable as a national station ought to be. With a board of directors worth its salt and with the necessary experience in management and finance, the bad image the station (and employees) had suffered since inception, is bound to have positive results for the benefit of all.
Unfortunately, one cannot deny the fact that no government/advisor ever did much to save the reputation of the national station.

John G. Borg-Bartolo,

Protecting Birdlife Services

Congratulations! You got yourself and Malta a most gifted, dedicated and talented “young” man as editor at PBS. Natalino Fenech is exactly what you need to move forward into modern day life - especially concerning bird protection...
Kjeld Hansen,

The fear factor

Unfortunately, the Nationalist Party’s election campaign has banked once again on the fear factor syndrome. Like in recent previous elections they hyped on their anti-Sant frenzy and Sant himself with his blunders may have helped them in this too. Spinners from the strategy group have done their cheap best to pester and intimidate prospective voters that by refraining to vote their party or worse still by voting for Alternattiva Demokratika – The Green Party in, they would be bringing hell to this country with their own hands. One of them even earmarked such an act as taking us light years back to from where we presently stand. Now hasn’t all this crap talk been a fib of their own imagination, enslaved as it is with fear which in their case verges on the irrational?
To begin with, Sant at the helm would surely not be as bad as the 1980s, when violent thuggery had the upper hand and produced a negative reactionary opposition to it as well. It is at least very often attributed to Sant’s credit, that the Labour Party has been rid of the violent thuggery which had hijacked it in the 1980s.
If Labour were to win, we would eagerly await to see and analyse his performance and the deliverance of all the proposals in the voluminous ‘Pjan Ghal Bidu Gdid’ document. If he performs miserably, then we will eagerly be awaiting for the following general elections to show him the exit way with our own votes. This is basic democracy. Malta has shown resilience many a time throughout severe hardships and difficult moments and I do not believe in the crap talk that Malta under either GonziPN or SantMLP would be taken to infernal era.
If Dr Sant were to be elected, these spinners will have to come to terms with the traumatic aftershock syndrome, something which they would have inflicted upon themselves and upon their gullible diehards. What we have witnessed from these spinners, whom I believe have much more to lose than the genuine Nationalist sympathisers, presumably having had all the cake and thousands of cherries on top of it through political appointments, etc., was a series of Doomsday and Armageddon talk about the eventuality of a return of Labour at the helm.
The major casualty from all this would not be the Nationalist Party which would have seen its place renewed at the helm or on the Opposition benches, nor the Labour Party which would have found itself voted in governance or renew its presence on the Opposition benches. The major casualty from this spin would, unfairly, be Alternattiva Demokratika, having been deprived yet again of parliamentary representation. 
Dr Harry Vassallo has publicly stated that the Nationalist Party had offered him the post of  Mr Speaker in our Parliament if AD would relinquish its participation in the General Elections 2003. Dr Vassallo ably declined these blackmailing strategies and preferred to garner a Parliamentary seat through legitimate proportional suffrage.
The basic essence of any democracy lies in the legitimate component of alternating power shift. Can the Nationalist Party come to terms with this simple fact? I can remember how the Labour Party found it really hard to accept this in 1987. For let’s say it: after a good number of years running a country believing that you have been God-sent and Divinely chosen to stay there, one must find it really hard to relinquish political and administrative power. The longer a political party stays at the helm the greater the possibility it has to degenerate and can arrive to a stage of sheer accumulated arrogance, plus a make-believe sense of infallibility. This overconfidence has stalemated this country with a long list of bad practice politics namely: clientelism, nepotism, political appointees, disregarding of conflicts of interest, infringements and lack of law enforcements, postponing serious discussions and decision making process on sensitive issues such as the introduction of divorce, minority rights, gay people’s quality of life, meritocracy, accountability, whistleblowing act, polluter pays policy etc…
Electoral calculator politics, in which the major parties have been engrossed, hamper all this from taking place. Our country could be the envy of many others in many respects, if only good practice politics were to be given the rightful chance to perform and to exist!
God forbid that these elections could be won or lost simply consequent to the outdated fear factor syndrome remnants of Goebbels and Niccolo’ Machiavelli style politics. God forbid that AD is deprived of its well deserved Parliamentary representation because of this fear factor. It is only a matter of days now to see how naively effective was this strategy and whether or not the electorate would have shunned and snubbed such strategies which do not respect our dignity to feel free to chose what is really good for our country without undue irrational pressures.
Saviour Sammut 
Hal Safi

Too little, too late?

the pre-election activities, Dr Gonzi said that he had personally asked the MEPA Auditor to investigate the Mistra Permit. He also added that he will abide by what conclusions and recommendations the auditor will report. Dr Gonzi further said that the MEPA Audit Office was set up to monitor MEPA’s permits and that he fully trusted the persons within the office.
For years the government has ignored what the Auditor reported, but now we are expected to believe that what the Auditor reports will be abided to by the administration.
I personally gave audit report no. 2004/021 to Dr. Gonzi last summer, in the presence of the Sliema Major and Mr Arrigo. The Audit simply says that a restaurant in Sliema is illegal and there are no permits. To date was also have three court sentences to close the establishment, but the restaurant is still open.
Dr Gonzi is promising transparency, reduction of corruption and reforms at MEPA, but he already knew what was happening and had plenty of chance to intervene. Why should we believe that he is not doing this as propaganda to win the election? The Prime Minister has to sincerely promise the us that this is not just another ploy.

Alexander Grech

MaltaToday’s present and future

I was glad to learn that Malta Today will be published daily. I do hope that this will be on a permanent, not daily, basis. This country needs competition between independent papers as far as objectivity is concerned - of which the media in Malta possesses so little. At the same time, it is very clear that today’s more educated Maltese wish to experience more and more balanced journalistic expression in their media - which is facing stiff challenge from overseas media so easily available these days.
Some progress has been made in the field of pluralistic inclusion in the Maltese press, but a lot has still to be done. Over the years I have seen very little editorial balance in Malta and, I strongly believe the Maltese independent paper that strives and succeeds in being the most editorially objective will justifiably attract readers away from biased journalism. We are already seeing this happen in political ideology and mentality in Malta, where intellectual reality is drawing closer to that of Europe - whose intellectuals and ecologists are closer to left of centre emancipation, simply due to the fact that capitalism and sensitivity towards the less fortunate find it as easy to arrive at compabitibily and coexistence as the mixture of oil and water.
We have been seeing in Malta the ugly head of arrogance and dishonesty bellowing laughter at “dreamers” who believe that objectivity and political humility are still possible. We have been seeing people who should know better avoid giving a good example to younger people who need guidance in maturely respecting the opinion of others. The Malta of today and future Malta are beckoning journalists to help out in satisfying their hunger to learn how to listen to others without anger and emotion. Some of our politicians can only provoke the condemnation of genuine, educated Maltese yearning to see Malta feeling a better socio-cultural pride, a tolerance of the other person that makes the tolerant individual grow in his intellectual maturity.
I wish at this stage to refer to your attempt at keeping your readers au courant  with political sentiment in Malta as the general elections approach. I have followed your surveys and have striven to understand why, in some cases, they differ from other surveys. I would appreciate seeing details about the organisation and analysis of your pulse-feeling as this may lead me to comprehend the reasons why surveys occasionally contradict each other. Please do publish the structure of your survey organisation. I am sure that most of your readers would find it interesting.
Last Sunday I was trying to see the compatibility of your survey results with the fact that a relatively meek and mild leftist leader in Malta managed to attract waves of people to a Granaries square choking with humanity. A serious analysis of such a phenomenon from a journalistic point of view would make interesting reading.
I look forward to seeing you successfully embark on a new way of doing journalism and hope you a new flood of readers who have in them an emptiness which traditionalistic lethargy in media authenticity has not managed to fill.
Dr Anthony Licari

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