MaltaToday | 18 May 2008 | Letters

LETTERS | Sunday, 18 May 2008

Floaters for Abela

Reference is made to the 4 May 2008 survey, ‘Labourites prefer Joseph, PN and floaters go for George’. Since Dr George Abela is the preferred by Nationalists and floaters, he should be chosen as leader because Labour must attract these votes to be elected.

M. J. Gatt
Via email

Misleading surveys

During colonial times, the British or at least some of them used to refer to us as Maltese goats. Goats have the tendency to consume anything that can go through their digestive system. Sometimes, I still think this tag suits us perfectly especially where reporting in papers is concerned.
Last Sunday (11/05/08) there was reference again to surveys being carried out by MaltaToday following in-house research. There is nothing wrong in that, if the research is scientifically executed and analysed. However in the case of Malta Today, while reporting on the quantitative results leaves much to be desired, if not outright misleading, the raw results themselves are biased due to unintentional lack of professionalism in executing the questionnaires.
Let me explain these two statements.
First, following the election results MaltaToday insisted that its surveys were proved correct. Although one can argue that Malta Today had no option but to report accordingly in order to defend its integrity, Malta Today¹s assertion cannot be further from the truth. Let me remind the readers: Malta Today headline results indicated a tight contest between the parties. However supporting results, also published, indicated an implosion of the PN electorate (only two out of three Nationalists would vote PN again) and a massive swing in favour of Labour. MaltaToday rightly explained this ambiguity by referring to bias in the political allegiance of respondents. So, the raw results published by Malta Today, after being adjusted for bias, indicated a massive win for Labour and not a tight contest.
Secondly, let me explain why the surveys carried out by MaltaToday are not reliable due to lack of professionalism. I learned through one of the leading journalists of the newspaper that the interviewers are instructed to identify themselves as callers carrying out a survey on behalf of MaltaToday. This would be quite correct if all respondents consider MaltaToday to be the most objective observer one can encounter. However, this is far from the truth. Even the editor acknowledges from time to time that there are conflicting views on the political allegiance of Malta Today.
Just imagine the bias inbuilt in the final results due to qualified replies by respondents depending on their political allegiance vis a vis the position they slot Malta Today in the local political scenario. Nationalists who consider Malta Today as a Labour platform would respond differently from other Nationalists who consider Malta Today as their paper. Again, a Labour supporter viewing Malta Today as an alien paper would respond differently from another Labour supporter who consider Malta Today as a supporting paper. The same applies to floating voters with varying views of Malta Today.
The final outcome from such exercises is messy and can hardly be adjusted if not by massive and maybe elusive surveys on how the Maltese view MaltaToday. The only solution to the problem is for MaltaToday to outsource its surveys or at best instruct its interviewers to identify themselves as some independent research unit. I am sure that MaltaToday does not intend to mislead its readers, however it is just doing that, even if unintentionally.

Carmel Tonna

Editorial note:
1. It would be downright dishonest if respondents were not informed that the surveys are conducted by MaltaToday. People are more likely to trust a newspaper with a proven track record than an abstract entity.
2. MaltaToday election surveys showed a shift from the PN to the MLP but also that new voters were choosing the PN. This trend was confirmed by other published surveys.
3. Although it is true that more respondents tended to declare voting for the PN in 2003, one has to keep in mind that around 30% of respondents consistently refused to answer this question. It could also be the case that a segment of Labour voters did not reveal for which party they had voted for in 2003.
4. In the last month before the election, MaltaToday surveys showed a trend of undecided voters and non-voters shifting towards the PN.

George will not split the party

On analyzing what has been happening since Dr George Abela expressed his wish to come forward and contest for the post as new leader of the Malta Labour Party, I tend to rush out and agree with Saviour Balzan’s argument, exposed in his opinion last Sunday, 11 May.
Saviour was blunt and, quoting verbatim, said: “I would be very surprised not to see George Abela not take four or five deputies and set up a new political formation”.
But I had not no time to ponder on such a possibility, because in the MaltaToday sister paper Illum on the same day, George Abela, in his interview with Kurt Sansone, definitely put paid to any suggestion that he intended to form a new party, should he not be elected leader of the Malta Labour Party.
George was clear enough to pass the message to everybody that what is needed is not a new party but a new approach of doing things within the same Labour party. With due respect to the other contenders, whom I know personally, I stand by my convinction that the right man to revive the MLP in the present circumstances, is none other than George Abela.
But, being only a paid up member, I will not be having any right to choose. The extraordinary general meeting decided that the time is not yet ripe for such a proposal for the delegates to share this responsibility to elect the new leader to come to effect. Said general meeting decided that this should remain an exclusive right of the delegates.
Saying the least, I hope the delegates will come out with a winner. Certainly the Malta Labour Party cannot afford to suffer the fourth consecutive defeat at the polls. In such case, the only way will precisely not be up, but out.
Thanks, George, for still showing maturity and loyalty, and for being ready to continue offering your sterling services for the party to become the natural government of Malta and Gozo, despite the hurdles put into your way by those who should be more responsible and know better. Certainly the grassroots members of the MLP appreciate your good will. The administrators might think otherwise, but since 1998 they have almost nothing to show where general elections are concerned.

Saviour Cachia

Abela’s candidature for Labour leader

I quote from the Sunday Times of Malta of 27 April, 2008: “Labour leadership hopeful George Abela called for a clean leadership contest and said should he not be elected, he was prepared to work with any leader as long as the contest was fair” (my emphasis).
What is the above sentence supposed to convey? Does it mean that were Dr George Abela not elected leader he could possibly consider the result unfair and as a consequence, he would not be prepared to work with the new leader?
As he is already suspicious, he ought to say what he considers “not to be fair”.
In his speech Dr Abela condemned all the present set-up of the MLP. Strange! Such luck of trust.
We do remember the 1998 words, “If the MLP decides to resign and go for an election, I will have to stop here.” The proviso “for the moment” was added by Mr Lino Spiteri in his column. That is wishful thinking, but as far as I clearly remember, it is not true.
Now Dr Abela is subjecting his allegiance to the MLP to a proviso. Does this show there is no selfish interest in being elected as leader? What does it matter for him if he is not elected? Does he not consider the other candidates equally as valuable?
Only Dr Abela’s candidature for the leadership has aroused such turmoil. He must surely be conscious of it, and surely knows the reason. No other candidature has been considered provocative. All were accepted with heartfelt thanks. Dr Abela’s is apparently already pointing – though indirectly – to the present set-up of the MLP if he is denied the role of leader. This was evident from the start when he expressed a vote of no confidence in the delegates and campaigned for election by paid members.
What many have noticed is the parallel behaviour of Dr Abela with regards to the GWU. I am just a simple “tesserat”. I always trusted the set-up of the MLP whoever the leader was, and will continue to do so for whoever is elected leader, by just or foul means(?), even if it is Dr Abela. I will not go into such merits, I am not suspicious of anybody and I will not stop there. I will still continue to pay my yearly subscription and will adhere to the MLP against all odds as I did during the last 60 years.
My 60-year membership of the MLP has only been selfish on one account: I consider myself a true Maltese, a working citizen of the country, a member of the working class, and so long as the MLP responds to my statute I will continue to give it my support. If that means being selfish, then I am proud of my selfishness.

Francis Farrugia
Ta’ Xbiex

Discrimination in Ghajnsielem

Last Sunday morning I enjoyed reading “Ghajnsielem mayor replies” as much I enjoy listening to that innocent chorus girl Christine Daae, singing “Poor Fool, He Makes Me Laugh” in the Phantom of the Opera by Gerard Butler.
Some points of the Mayor’s article do need correction.
As to “the appointment of executive secretary in 2000” one should note that Ghajnsielem Local Council never did appoint any executive secretary in that year. The Council employed, on 1 August 2000, a person who did not possess the requirements of five different “O” levels as SL 363.20, Local Councils (Human Resources) Regulations, Part IV,14.(3)(b)(i) stipulates. Which provokes a question to be possibly answered: namely did or did not the council, under Mayor Cauchi in the year 2000, employ someone that lacked the legal requirements and thus “in utter good faith”, resulted in accommodating “one person and disadvantage the other two?”
As to Mr Cauchi’s statement that “I was not even present for the voting of approval by the local Council of the said executive secretary,” now in the year 2004 and not in the year 2000, I am sure that for the sake of history Mr Cauchi agrees with me that there is a background story to be retold. In this story the protagonists were many but we can just mention Natalina Micallef’s and Cauchi’s statement under oath on two occasions; and this too in conjunction with the selection board that had the task in 2004 to select that most qualified person to fill the post of Executive Secretary at Ghajnsielem Local Council, in “utter good faith and with no intention to accommodate one person and disadvantage another.”
Your readers at this stage ought to know that I have tried to give a meaning to Mr Cauchi’s “utter good faith”: is it perhaps a kind of compromise between the actions of a grown up (ragel) and those of a toddler (tifel), or is it best for me to find an answer in reading “what is good in moral context”?
In any case, philosophical pragmatism is best left for philosophers. On my part I am looking forward for my visit next week to East of London University. I will have the honour to meet there a certain Miss Lucy Hashiaborm, of Pakistani origin. On her part she already promised me bags of stories about innocent looking e-mails sent to her by Sardinian traders; on my part I will count on her expertise and her influential authority to propose a Conference, at any British University, on the subject “E-mails: The cut-and paste techniques.”

Emanuel Terribile
Sannat, Gozo

Framework agreement on harassment and violence at work

I refer to Anthony Micallef Debono’s article: “Fighting Violence in Schools” (Malta Today, 4 May).
Whilst sharing similar views with Mr Micallef Debono on violence in schools and giving credit to anyone who contributes to Occupational Health and Safety, I would like to point out that the Maltese trade unions did not to cease to operate in the field of health and safety when Mr Micallef Debono left his post of general secretary of the Confederation of Malta Trade Unions (CMTU).
Although his correspondence rightfully outlines the importance of Autonomous Framework Agreement, it may give the wrong impression that Maltese trade unions are not aware of such agreements. This is certainly not the case. CMTU and GWU, the Maltese affiliates of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), have actively participated and collaborated at local and European for a concerning framework agreements.
Further, Mr Micallef Debono invites the Malta Union of Teachers (MUT) to study the agreement as if MUT have never heard of framework agreements. Contrarily, MUT took an active role in a European project, organised by the European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE) on the Framework Agreement on Work Related Stress. Besides being part of the steering committee, MUT hosted the closing conference that was held at the Dolmen Hotel last November. Delegates coming from all over Europe attended this event. Moreover, MUT is now working on another project organised by ETUCE on the Framework Agreement on Harassment and Violence at Work focusing on schools. MUT has already presented its position regarding this framework agreement in the union’s memorandum to political parties issued last February before the general election.

Anthony Casaru
MUT International Secretary

Dead men do tell tales

I agree totally with the sentiments of your article and indeed with your demand that the new minister must talk to the Police Commissioner on the Nicholas Azzopardi and Bastjan Borg cases.
May I suggest that whilst he is interrogating the Police Commissioner, he also clarifies once and for all why he hasn’t taken any action in investigating whether or not any criminal charges should be laid against the perpetrators of child abuse at Lourdes Home in Gozo. I am disgusted that this issue has been ignored by and large by the Maltese Press and even more so that no explanation  has been given, if there is one, on why no action has been taken by the Justice Minister and or the Police Commissioner. Because of this people might conclude that Maltese Criminal Law does not apply to the Church in Malta.
B. Agius
Via Email

The Taliban among us

When I read the case of a woman who was taken to court and condemned for exposing her breasts in a secluded beach in the Law Courts Section of our local newspapers, I lowered my head in shame.
Not because this lady exposed her breasts at Gnejna Bay, which is a locality well known for nude sunbathing, but because of the hypocrisy of our nation and the Taliban mentality of some of us in our midst who wants to dictate to us how we should dress, what to see, and what to do.
I feel very sorry for the lady for having had to endure the ordeal of being dragged to court and condemned for such an insignificant misdemeanour, especially when far greater atrocities are being committed around us, whereby the culprits go unpunished by our jurisdiction. I feel pity for our police force that had to intervene in this case when they are already overburdened by duties of crime prevention, crime detection and prosecution; illegal immigration, and investigation of corruption, which has even reached the highest levels of our society, including the judiciary.
As if being understaffed for such an overwhelming task is not enough, our police force is being used to chase topless ladies on the beaches (albeit in this case, in a secluded beach) and lap dancers in private or semi-private entertainment establishment, whilst no action is being taken in much more grave criminal activity such as illegal buildings, dumping, etc. etc.
Has our society become so conservative and discriminatory that whilst it allows the male species to expose hairy, hairless, or shaven chests even in public places, but prohibits the opposite sex from exposing their breasts, which albeit larger than the males, is created by God as a mammary gland and to enhance their beauty? In this respect of human rights are we considering ourselves as European with an open and tolerant mentality, or are we giving in to the Taliban in our midst?
I have travelled in various European cities, and even in the most conservative European societies, and I have encountered nude bathing in the summer season along the rivers in city centres and outskirts (Munich’s river Isar is well know for this purpose) but have not seen any policeman booking anybody for such activity.
It is no wonder than that our nation is being labelled as ultra conservative, intolerant and unkind to the extent that even birds flying over our country during the migratory season are not allowed to stop for a drink and a rest.
My major three disappointments with regards to this case are that first and foremost, the victim of this innocuous chain of events did not appeal the court’s ruling, whereby three learned judges might have given a different interpretation to the terms of the law, and nor did she petition her case to the European Court (she is too late to do so in the former case, but can still do so if she wishes in the latter).
Secondly, that our society tolerated women bathing topless in public beaches during down turns in tourism, accepted photos of “Page 3” topless girls in British newspapers imported in our country for decades, watches satellite transmissions from all over the world with a lot of nudity, and permitted Playboy magazine to be sold openly on stationary shops shelves – yet prosecuted and condemned a women who bared her breasts in a secluded bay (there is no end to our hypocrisy it seems) and has made no attempt to amend the law of public decency to conform with European standards.
Thirdly, that as our beautiful country is fast becoming a concrete jungle with legal and illegal buildings, and our shores encroached with illegal shantytowns (some reportedly to be legalised soon as an electoral reward) there will not be any secluded beaches left for any woman to bare her breast out of the sight of the Taliban in our midst.

Raymond Sammut

Columns and hot air

Your columnist Pamela Hansen (11 May 2008) went all sanctimonious over RAM’s (Ramblers’ Association of Malta) statement on the Armier squatters ‘solution’. While she agreed to all but one point made by RAM, and even expressed admiration for the Association, she felt she had to go so far as to accuse its leaders of “showing fascist tendencies” and that they have allowed “a little power to go their heads”. She even solemnly warned “RAM is running the risk of getting too big for its boots.” All this because RAM brought the local Church into the equation.
I would say that RAM’s statement, far from indicating “big-headedness”, reveals a sense of helplessness in the face of this Armier situation; a feeling shared by, I would say, some 90% of the population, apparently including Hansen herself.
What is so wrong in asking our spiritual leaders to help the general public fight for its rights when this is a question of barefaced theft of public property? Haven’t the Armier squatters stolen land which belongs to all of us by birthright? Or is this not a sin by The Hansen catechism?
Dr Gonzi is now ready to concede to the squatters the enjoyment of this ‘stolen’ land for three whole generations; and therefore to deny it to us law-abiding stupid others who patiently cart our chairs and tables to all corners of the country to enjoy a day by the sea. Just in case you have not noticed, he is also denying it to our children and to our great-grandchildren.
As if this were not enough, the lease he is asking for is a joke: €233 (Lm100) per annum. This sum would not get you a sunbed for two months these days, let alone in 2075, when the lease ends. 
Some 15 years ago government sent its bulldozers and the army to sweep these illegal constructions off the map; and just 7 years ago, the then Nationalist PM demanded a Lm4,000 fee to compensate for past illegal use, and a Lm250 lease per annum valid for just 10 years. And he had most of the country behind him. How things have changed! And how fast! Has the cost of property decreased since 2001? Now, squatters are no longer to be penalised; indeed they are to be rewarded.
There’s more: it is quite possible that the government (which of course means ‘we others’ who are simply being deprived of part of our birthright for three generations, at least) will have to contribute to the relocation of the pre-1992 sh anties: new buildings plus supply of roads, electricity, water and drainage. Is it possible not to feel incensed at all this?
Can Ms Hansen not be dismayed at the complete silence of the bishops? Does not this most unchristian act constitute for them a theft of property? Do they not consider our government’s agreement unjust to us who believe in the rule of law? Have they ever told the grabbers that their act is sinful? Or is this kind of theft perfectly understandable to the Church and is smilingly condoned? By spreading its pastoral work among people breaking state and Church laws our bishops are eloquently expressing a disregard of the rights of the vast majority of the Maltese. We obviously have no sympathy for governments who force the Church into silence, but nor are we happy with a Church which keeps silent out of convenience.
By securing an agreement on the eve of a general election the boathouse people might even be guilty of the sin of blackmail; unless, of course, it was Dr Gonzi himself who approached them with the offer. How ironic! Now the ‘boathouse’ people will no longer even need the Church’s forgiveness for their transgression. Dr Gonzi will see to that himself. We knew he could change laws, now we discover that even the remission of certain sins is his remit. Maybe our bishops will want to correct me on this delicate moral issue. On the other hand, I have no doubt that most Nationalists do not particularly appreciate this aspect of Dr Gonzi’s strong hands.
Does it have to be only the NGOs who fight this injustice, this illegality? What avenues are open to these organisations? The EU? A national referendum? How can we others stop this outrageous practice before the Armier ‘solution’ spills over to the Ghadira, Gnejna, Valletta, San Tumas, Bahar ic-Caghaq and other areas? Can we at least hope for a statement from the Curia’s Environmental Commission?
Or perhaps good Ms Hansen could take up the challenge herself…? Her regular column, from which she sermonizes to the powerful and the powerless every Sunday, apparently gives her the feeling of wielding more than “a little power”. Or is she too heady with power to realise that her strong criticism should be levelled at others, not at RAM and its leaders. The NGO is not even remotely interested in power; it has only one interest: standing up for the rights of the powerless.
Joseph Agius
St Paul’s Bay

Unsolved death, unanswered questions

Why is the enquiry about Nicholas Azzopardi taking so long? And why was his daughter given to her mother, when custody was given by court to the husband? The officer in charge should be discharged from the police force whatever the outcome of the enquiry. It was the duty of this officer to see that the interrogation and the law is respected.
I am sorry but it is difficult to clear the black stigma that the police force has received because of the so-called interrogation.

Michael Neville Cassar

Controlled press conferences

When will our journalists have some guts and stand up for the freedom of the press?
An instant comes to mind when after the all the comments about the goings on in detention centres for illegal immigrants, a tour was conducted, but that was a farce: a bus tour, with no chance to talk to any of the “guests”.
The journalists were literally taken for a ride, and only taken where the authorities wanted. The journalists should have walked out then and they should do the same in these stage managed press conferences.
Its about time journalists started fighting for the freedom of the press and not just send a note of protest. Have some guts and do something!
Anthony Borg

Any comments?
If you wish your comments to be published in our Letters pages please click button below.
Please write a contact number and a postal address where you may be contacted.



MaltaToday News 
18 May 2008

Unashamedly unrepentant

Say cheese: PM poses with Armier squatters

GozMuscat questions case for golf courses

Franco Debono’s ‘sitting room of democracy’

A new Constitutional order for Malta, Bartolo style

Report warns against ‘futile’ skull X-rays in hospital

Pirate tuna ships change identity in Grand Harbour

Minister gives no hints on prolonged Mistra investigation

Manchè inquiry into Azzopardi death can be toothless

No comment from Rizzo over who guarded Nicholas Azzopardi

Promoted villains

Court confirms MEPA abuse against its own chief lawyer


Copyright © MediaToday Co. Ltd, Vjal ir-Rihan, San Gwann SGN 9016, Malta, Europe
Managing editor Saviour Balzan | Tel. ++356 21382741 | Fax: ++356 21385075 | Email