MaltaToday | 18 May 2008 | Pure as the driven snow

OPINION | Sunday, 18 May 2008

Pure as the driven snow


I ended my column on Wednesday with “The MLP also has its networks and all its major decision taking is done by a few, although not always hidden. So what’s the beef on that?”
It was in response to Alfred Sant’s claim in Parliament that the PN had been turned into “a brand and a tool in the hands of a hidden few that controlled all major decision-making in the country.”
Coincidentally, an email is doing the rounds, which if authentic gives proof, if needed, that any party in power will favour its friends.
It contains emails, purportedly sent from a leading entrepreneur in the leisure business, to the MLP decision takers and the MLP’s replies. The names are there, but with today’s technology one can never be sure whether the emails were tampered with.
However, perhaps experts in the field can work out whether they are authentic, or a hoax.
The issue concerned the MEPA permit to build a disco at Mistra Bay, which is still highly topical.
On February 14, the entrepreneur seemed to be motivated by two factors for bringing the issue to the MLP’s attention. The first was self-interest, since the proposed disco would take patronage away from his businesses. The second was to get a change in government.
“It is highly important that this issue is given priority as if this club opens he will surly (sic) affect my business and our deals will no longer be secured”, ended the first missive.
The second email on (Feb 19) ends “If this project happens it will affect my core entertainment business. Make sure my name is not mentioned nowhere (sic)...”
The reply, from the MLP on February 22, if authentic, strengthens my belief that political parties must all be scrutinised and held accountable when in power. The writer claims that Alfred Sant promised the entrepreneur that Mistra Bay would be his after March 8.
The irony is that although the two correspondents were displaying shock horror at the corruption, they were indulging in the same dubious tactics.
Now considering Dr Sant’s fight against corruption, one is sceptical about this claim. But can we ignore it? The right investigative authorities should definitely follow it up.
Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando, who is at the centre of this latest political scandal, responded to Alfred Sant’s remarks about him in Parliament last week by saying the disco would have accommodated “only 500 people”. Oh, that is all right then!
He also said that just over half of the area would have been a landscaped area with indigenous trees. A case of a developer using trees, yet again, to veil the speculation. Not that I believe for a moment that “just over half the area” would have been landscaped.
The point is that the area was outside the development zone (ODZ) and Jeffrey had the effrontery to present himself as a champion of the environment and accept acclaim and awards in that capacity.
What also concerned me is his confidence that the police investigation will completely clear him. Anyone undergoing a police investigation, even if innocent, would be nervous and cautious about the result. So how come he is not?
Besides, cannot he see that just projecting himself as an environmentalist and surreptitiously breaking environmental rules is bad enough and is grounds enough for his resignation?
Considering all the stories we hear about corruption. I was interested to see an item in the papers last week about the Commission Against Corruption’s (CAC) work.
Apparently, one of the things that have been keeping the committee hard at it was that restaurant patrons at the Ta’ Xbiex yacht marina were using Malta Maritime Authority toilets.
The Commission concluded that there was no abuse since one of the conditions of rent was that the clients of the restaurant could use the authority’s toilets.
Phew, what a sigh of relief that the CAC have solved that serious case of corruption and are being kept busy. Surely, the four corruption claims cases, the Commission rejected and publicised, must be a drop in the mire of corruption claims we hear of daily.
The Government website does not give any inkling on the workings of the Commission. The only information supplied is the address, telephone and fax numbers and the names of the chairman, Dr Albert Manche LL.D, the members, Dr Raymond Zammit LL.D and Lt. Col. John Harrison and the secretary Mr Tony Pace.
Now any fool can work out that it is impossible for the Commission to work efficiently with that number of human resources.
Does the Commission publish a yearly document where the results of cases brought before it are made public? Is that part of its remit? It should be.
How many cases of corruption has the Commission confirmed?
The Minister of Justice, Carm Mifsud Bonnici told me that reforms are in the pipeline and that the government will be following through what was promised in the PN manifesto.
Namely that a special prosecutor with executive powers of investigation is to be appointed and that a new board is to be selected with the chairperson being decided on by the President and the members to be chosen in agreement with the Opposition.
The sooner the reforms are set in motion the better, because at the moment one does get the impression that we live in a country that despite corruption allegations galore, we very rarely seem to find anyone guilty. All seem to be above reproach, as pure as the driven snow, as Jeffrey Pullicino Orland claims to be.

As for the buses
I hope the government calls their Association’s bluff. We would at least have a day or two of relatively clean air. It will be a joy to walk the Tower Road hill up and down from the Ferries for a change, instead of the usual scamper, racing to avoid the awful fumes.
And drivers will be able to keep their windows open, especially when going uphill on most roads, without choking and gasping for breath.
But really the Government, through the ADT, has brought the current crisis on itself, because it has allowed the buses to get away with emitting foul fumes for too long.
However, I suppose we should be grateful that the issue is finally being dealt with. The bus drivers, and I here speak of the arrogant yobs and not all of the drivers providing a public service, need to be brought to heel and realise that they need to behave like the rest of us and not drive in the middle of the road, ignore traffic lights and other road signs and use foul language.
By the way, had not some of them been sent abroad to be trained on how a public transport driver should conduct himself? What happened?
Let’s hope that the pugnacious mood the government is in, in dealing with serious issues, is not short-lived and that the mini vans and other badly run transport services are also dealt with.

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