MaltaToday | 17 August 2008

NEWS | Sunday, 17 August 2008

Government presses Greens’ secretary general to relinquish teaching job

Victor Galea accuses government of political discrimination

In an unprecedented move, Alternattiva Demokratika’s secretary-general Victor Galea has been informed by the government that he cannot continue exercising his teaching profession as teachers in public employment are precluded from any political post.
Yet MaltaToday can reveal that over the past years, various public officials in the same rank as Galea have been tolerated to hold on to their posts in the PN or the MLP.
Victor Galea has served as AD’s unpaid secretary-general since 2006.
A letter sent from the Office of the Prime Minister instructed the permanent secretary in the Gozo Ministry to inform Galea that as a “teacher”, he “may not hold the post of Secretary General of AD.”
Acting upon the OPM’s instructions, the Gozo Ministry duly informed Galea that he had until last Friday – the Santa Marija holiday – to decide on whether he intends to continue serving as AD’s secretary-general.

To justify Galea’s effective dismissal from the civil service, the OPM is citing the anachronistic Public Service Management Code (PSMC) – a legacy of colonial times which bans anyone from scale 1 to scale 13 positions from any sort of political involvement.
But in reply to questions by MaltaToday, a spokesman for the prime minister yesterday said the government was “analysing whether these regulations are to be revised”. The spokesman added that OPM was “looking into the mentioned case”, while stressing that the PSMC was “under the responsibility of the office of the Principal Permanent Secretary”.
Government sources insist that in this case the Prime Minister was not aware of the actions of the higher echelons of the civil service.
MaltaToday is also informed that after receiving a similar notice two Azzjoni Nazzjonali officials accepted to renounce their political posts to keep their jobs in the civil service.
The OPM’s letter to Galea claims that it was acting following “reports carried out in the local press… that Victor Galea has been elected as Secretary General of Alternattiva Demokratika.”
The OPM is leaving Galea the option of taking “unpaid leave to occupy a statutory post in the central executive of a political party” – according to another provision in the same management code.
In fact the article quoted by the OPM does not only preclude most civil servants from occupying a post in a political party, but also precludes them from speaking in public on matters of political controversy, expressing views on public matters on letters to the press and from canvassing on behalf of parliamentary candidates.
Effectively the management code even bans nurses, pharmacists, engineers, paramedics and foreman in government employment from expressing their political views in public.
MaltaToday can reveal that various PN and MLP officials are allowed to keep their jobs in the civil service.
These include Janice Chetcuti, a PN executive committee member employed as an animal awareness organiser and a peripatetic teacher in the Education Department.
Caroline Galea, another PN executive member, occupies the post of principle in the maternity department at Mater Dei Hospital.
Kevin Sciberras, another PN executive member, holds the post of cultural officer in the Gozo Ministry.
In the Labour camp, Alfred Grixti – consultant editor of Maltastar who recently contested for the post of party secretary-general – works as a head teacher in a government school.
Newly elected party education secretary Aaron Farrugia works as an economist in the Ministry for Social Policy.

Discriminatory treatment
In his reply Galea claims that he was “singled out for the implementation of these provisions of the Public Service Code” insisting that “various other public officers have been permitted to hold office within the party structures of the Malta Labour Political Party and the Nationalist Political Party.”
Describing the treatment reserved to him as “discriminatory” in his regard, he requested “that in view of your having permitted for years on end public officers to be active in the MLP and the PN” he is not treated any differently.
“I have always carried out my duties within the civil service in a professional, unbiased and apolitical manner and I consider that my political contribution is a free service to the democratic development of our nation,” said Galea in his reply.

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