Malta u l-politika

Ittri ċċensurati u punti ta' riflessjoni politika.


Sharon Ellul Bonici

The Malta Independent 23 ta' Frar 2004


I could not share the joys in the recent spate of eulogies towards our prime minister, even if I can empathise with his adoring fans. Foremost among these flatterers, and cringingly so, was Daphne who has by now shown repentance for once aptly bestowing the label of “village lawyer” upon her rediscovered hero.


But to praise Eddie the politician, one needs to vilify the Labour government of the 1980s, and here perspectives count most. This is why we endlessly read the perspectives of the likes of Daphne, complete with nauseating clichés on the ‘16 years of socialist rule’ that make up their version of the story, often forgetting that those 16 years were only a development of the local political scene as it evolved through the 60s, the 50s and the past beyond. What they are mostly blind to, however, is the Nationalist Party’s role during those years, especially the troublesome early-to-mid-80s. We live on a tiny archipelago, yet we have two versions of recent history. Unavoidably, one’s perspective of recent history is intertwined with one’s view of Dr Fenech Adami.


The other side of the man


When Dr Fenech Adami is portrayed as some kind of liberator who stood against an oppressive regime in the 80s, to me and many others this is simply an ironic political tale.


I will not attempt to vilify Dr Fenech Adami in the way Daphne does with Dr Sant. For starters, my vilifying capabilities do not come close to her fabled talents, which is why she would rather write about politicians than about politics. Secondly, why vilify a politician on his way out anyway?


Yet for the sake of objective balance, one must admit that many thousands still see the other side of the man. For them, especially the older generations, he is still the man who boycotted parliament in the early 80s to embark on a mad spree which he dubbed a “civil disobedience campaign”, which, as we should all know, turned out to be a violent one indeed. Frighteningly enough, the pretext for Eddie’s civil disobedience campaign was the constitutional crisis which surfaced with the 1981 perverse election results.


The 1981 Constitutional crisis


In 1981 Labour was elected with a majority of seats but a minority of votes. This is basically what happened more recently in the 2000 US presidential elections. But whereas the US perverse result was forgotten after some months, in Malta, being a more finely tuned democracy, this presented a constitutional crisis.


One must note here that this crisis could have surfaced a decade earlier in 1971. That time, had it not been for around 5 votes on the Zebbug district which gave Labour the extra seat to form a government, the Nationalist Party would have clinched a victory with a majority of seats but a clear minority of votes. So this was a constitutional crisis which required a constitutional solution. All that Dr Fenech Adami had to do was discuss the crisis in a way that a decent democracy entails. This is what Prime Minister Dom Mintoff was offering him at the time. But before eventually accepting Mintoff’s offer, Dr Fenech Adami chose to use this crisis as an excuse to boycott parliament and take the political struggle into the streets.


Civil disobedience: clashing with the police


The 1980s’ confrontations between Nationalist Party supporters and the riot police came about because Eddie chose to become an extra-parliamentary revolutionary leader. This is what he was effectively doing when he refused to discuss the constitutional amendments in parliament and took his party to the streets in a disobedience campaign that saw violence breeding more violence. Eddie tried to convince us all that freedom was being eroded in Malta. And as a means towards his political aims he chose civil disobedience, a subversive political tool that fringe movements use in order to foment unrest and create problems for the government they want to subdue or subvert. In fact, in today’s EU, civil disobedience is seen as a highly illegal political activity. Civil disobedience can never be ‘civil’ of course, since the executive forces that defend the Constitution are allowed to prevent such mass disobedience (and “subversion”) through the ultimate use of force. That is why every disobedience campaign, no matter how “civil” it is claimed to be, is bound to end in clashes with the forces of the state. And when this happens, it is all the better for the campaigners for that would create more troubles in the land. So if you hypothetically call on your supporters to proceed to Castile, the police too would go to Castile. And if you are in the midst of a disobedience campaign, you don’t even have to call on your supporters to throw stones and cause havoc, since that is what they are expected to do in such situations: provoke the “regime’s police” into violently suppressing them. Then you can let your media have a field day.


As PN supporters threw stones at the police, the police reacted not unlike their contemporary counterparts at EU Summits, where they savagely and randomly hit with their batons and shoot tear gas and bullets into the crowds, in some cases even maiming and killing protestors, many of whom are well-intentioned citizens exercising their right to demonstrate. Indeed, the Malta riot police of the 80s never reached the brutal standards we witness today in the civilised EU!


But back then was back then, and Dr Fenech Adami’s supporters did worse than today’s anti-EU and anti-globalisation protestors. Yet they were persecuted less, even if Dr Fenech Adami’s political movement was more organised than these young European freedom fighters, who are regularly surveilled, harassed and arrested by the police.


Clearly, Dr Fenech Adami’s party had chosen a devious path, leading to an entangled web of incidents, including the 1983 weapons discovery by the police at its headquarters, as well as other sizeable weapons caches in possession of committed PN activists. In the end of the day, the sad truth is that it is relatively easy to create unrest towards political ends. You don’t even need to be a wise politician to do that, for a glorified thug is all it takes. But debating a constitutional crisis with a politician you know is too shrewd for your capabilities, now that’s a different matter!


The man with a fake candle


So this phase in Dr Fenech Adami’s carrier is not something he should be proud of, even if contemporary history writers like Daphne portray a completely different version. They want to make the younger generations believe that we used to have some pseudo-communist regime from which Eddie the Hero saved us all. Indeed, in the early 80s Eddie looked like a Walesa, spoke like a Dubcek and acted like a Lenin, and yet, all the while it was plain Eddie the B’Kara lawyer with no keen interest in revolutionary politics. I would say that till this very day he is not even aware that during those years he acted like a political renegade with a fake excuse for subversion; a pretender with no trump card other than his ability to create political instability and social unrest.


His basic pretext was that he had garnered the majority of votes, but had a minority of seats and no government to lead. That was the constitutional crisis which he refused to discuss with the constitutionally elected government. Where Dr Fenech Adami was wrong is that in taking mainstream politics to the streets in a massive disobedience campaign he had resorted to a tactic that is morally legitimate only in a country where free elections and freedom of expression have been abolished. In a democracy, the media is everything, and throughout the early 80s freedom of expression in Malta was alive as much as it is today, and more! No journalists were ever arrested; no newspapers were closed down, so why did Eddie Fenech Adami take the political struggle to the streets?


Why did he attend solemn candle-lit gatherings at Il-Fosos, with Solidarnosc banners referring to the Polish national struggle against a Soviet-backed, communist regime that allowed no freedom of expression, no freedom of private enterprise and no free elections? These three freedoms existed in Malta in the 1980s as much as they exist today.


Oh, those bombs!


Contemporary chroniclers like Daphne need not express astonishment when defending Eddie’s party against rhetorical questions, such as the one posed by Labour’s deputy leader Charles Mangion at the last Labour mass rally. The question centres on how come the infamous round of bombs next to PN clubs stopped exploding as soon as the Nationalist Party regained power in 1987. It is useless for Daphne to come up with such pathetic defences as the one she spewed out just over a week ago when she wrote that Labour supporters did pursue further violence after the 1987 elections, by which she hoped to re-affirm that Labour supporters were responsible for these bombs (which incidentally never injured anyone or caused anything more than slight damages, unlike other politically-motivated bombs with the clear intent to kill and cause devastation, such as those against the police commissioner of the time and others at police stations).


So, yes, we all know about the spontaneous and sporadic cases of violence by “Labour thugs” in the aftermath of the PN take-over in 1987, most notably the ransacking of the law courts. We know them all, for Labour supporters have never been strategic at fomenting political instability and hiding their actions at the same time. The fact remains that the infamous bomb-wave of the 1980s stopped at that juncture of Maltese politics.


Time for Labour’s version


Like Dr Fenech Adami’s political career, the PN’s version of recent history has run its full course and can move no further. The cow has been milked to its bones. The PN version is the immediate victor’s version and it is a tainted version. For quite some time now Labour’s version has been emerging and in the future it will be the version that gets to be explored, not the one forced down our throats by PN-friendly chroniclers. We need to learn, as a nation, not to repeat these political mistakes ever again, but first we must all face the truth.






Louis Fenech

The Malta Independent 3 t’April 2004


The EU enlargement commissioner was here a few weeks ago to collect his reward for helping the present government make us forfeit what the Labour Party struggled to achieve for all of Malta and the Maltese – freedom from foreign rule. Yes, Gunter Verheugen made it his fundamental and challenging ambition that Malta, by hook or by crook, would join the European Union. Does this ambitious foreigner merit the highest honour Malta can bestow, for making us endure again what we went through when we were a colony of Great Britain? And the connection was perfect. It was same person who, way back in the early 1990s, was minister for foreign affairs that conferred the award Xirka Gieh ir-Repubblika. Prof. de Marco is the person who presented Malta’s application to the EU in Rome. Both of them made it their mission to consign Freedom Day to oblivion. And I do hope this won’t last forever! “Malta is a jewel in Europe” expressed Verheugen and he “always felt that Malta was a special case”. We didn’t have to wait for Mr. Verheugen to tell us what he has discovered about Malta. We know. We have already been called “an unsinkable aircraft carrier” by Mr. Churchill regarding our unwarranted participation in World War I and World War II. Malta suffered then and will endure the bitterness of what the EU has to offer in the years to come. We don’t want to go through all that, all over again.


It was also reported in The Times on Thursday that now as his mission was accomplished, he couldn’t be more “relaxed” to come to collect his “undeserved” (my guess) reward. I consider it undeserving because he made it his crusade, not to say his arrogance, to pry into our political domain. He was prejudiced from the onset, and had to come here on several occasions to the aid of the government. This he did when he realised that the Opposition was gaining ground. And to add insult to injury he even taunted members of the Opposition for the stand they tried to take on this, our national affair. He had the cheek to declare that he was “glad to see that the eternal debate on joining the EU has come to an end. In all democracies,” he said “the minority has accepted the will of the majority”. The minority, Mr. Verheugen, has accepted the will of the majority, no thanks to you. It’s thanks to the way Dr Alfred Sant and the MLP acted on realising what the majority had voted for. Whether this was a wise decision or not we have to wait and see. We are already tasting what the EU has to offer even before we are officially in!


On bestowing the Xirka, the President said “the good relations Malta has with its southern neighbours means our nation can make a great contribution to the EU”. Lest we forget, it was none other than the then prime minister Mr. Dom Mintoff who was instrumental in achieving these excellent relations with the south. In addition to the south, through Mr. Mintoff Malta established relations with Tito’s Yugoslavia, most of the eastern European countries, China and Russia. These were new frontiers, which were of great benefit to Malta. Not to mention Mr. Mintoff’s first proposition, and endorsement in the final act in the Helsinki Summit of 1975, that only through peace, security and cooperation in the Mediterranean region could prosperity be achieved. Mr. Mintoff was also the first western head of state, to the surprise of the great super-powers, to visit China. In fact President Nixon followed suit and so did other heads of state. Now this government is forgetting the way they acted at that time. They even accused Mr. Mintoff of being a communist, and trying to propagate communism in Malta when he established trade relations with these new shores.


Forgotten now are the days when these same people (the Nationalists & Co.) used to refer to them (the Arabs and Chinese) as tal-habbziez and ta’ wicc wiehed. They are now full of praise and enthusiastic to communicate and trade with our southern neighbours and those from the far east, including Russia. Furthermore, President de Marco could never have conferred Xirka Gieh ir-Repubblika on Mr. Verheugen, were it not for Mr. Mintoff’s Labour government who established it in the 1970. Again, Malta can guarantee the EU easy access not only to the south but also all throughout the Arab world when we had no strings attached!







Dr. Wenzu Mintoff

The Malta Independent on Sunday 18 t'April 2004


I couldn’t believe my own ears when I heard Dr Lawrence Gonzi pronounce at the very end of his inaugural speech as PN leader – “even our party anthem says that God is with us. That is why we shall win again”. As if God Almighty was some kind of ordinary Nationalist die-hard in disguise. To start with, I wouldn’t be so proud of a hymn which so closely resembles the Giovenezza, the anthem of the Italian fascists. But what’s in a hymn one might ask?! What I would adamantly object to is the misleading notion fomented deliberately from within the PN camp that the Nationalists have some sort of moral ascendancy over the Catholic vote in Malta. By incessantly invoking family values and demo-Christian principles, hopefully not any longer of the disgraced Italian DC type, the Nationalists do their damned best to portray an image of a party that has the unofficial blessing of the Catholic hierarchy in everything they do. It’s a fact that the Nationalists do their utmost to endear themselves to prominent members of church institutions. But when it comes to the crunch, local Christian-Democrats can get tough and be arrogant with high prelates just as well. Similar to when a Nationalist minister demanded that Archbishop Mercieca assist the police in their investigations of allegations aired on radio by Monsignor Mercieca, that money was changing hands and consequently building permits were being improperly issued for the development of virgin land that should not have been developed.


To bolster the popular impression, or should I say misconception, that their party is the natural choice for practising Catholics in Malta, on the international front the Nationalists invariably do their best to portray Malta as a bulwark of Christian fortitude… Malta Cattolicissima, the last bastion of Christian values on the European continent. The Nationalists regularly put on a holier than the Pope attitude during international conferences dealing with such sensitive subjects like population control methods, bioethics and divorce. On the other hand, throughout Fenech Adami’s everlasting reign in power, rampant consumerism, an omnipresent network of friends of friends, institutionalised corruption, the minn jiflah ihawwel, ihawwel prevalent mentality, a law enforcement system that is still so lax and inconsistent and the fact that no-one in this country seems to be held accountable for his actions unless he happens to be small-fry. They have all contributed to the gradual wearing down of the communal values that we should have continued to cherish. Predictably enough, Dr Fenech Adami and Dr Gonzi his successor, formally uphold family values and invoke God constantly in their public speeches, given that such positioning could potentially pay dividends with regard to a sizeable chunk of the electorate. All the same, not even during the “dark socialist ages” have Maltese families been subjected to the compulsive forces of media driven materialistic hedonism and the ensuing economic pressures and social strains being witnessed today. The exorbitant price increases in the property market, the lack of new job opportunities for the unemployed, the miserable state of Malta’s public coffers and the fact that our welfare state is in shambles are not truly suggestive of a government that is upholding Christian values.


Albeit for reasons of political expediency, on formalistic issues such as for example whether God and our Judaeo-Christian roots should get an honourable mention in the preamble to the proposed Europe Union’s first Constitutional treaty, the Nationalists go out of their way to position themselves alongside the Vatican. But when it comes to substantive issues such as whether we should condone or condemn the American illegal invasion of Iraq, needless to say the Nationalists did not heed what John Paul II had to say about the whole matter. In return Fenech Adami got George Bush’s appreciation for Malta’s logistical support of USA’s military efforts in Iraq, whatever that meant. Tonio Fenech, one of the Nationalist observers at the European Parliament, was quoted as saying “the inclusion of the reference to Christianity in our Constitution is not an intolerant act towards nations that may want to join the Union but do not share the Christianity culture. The reference to Christianity is merely a statement of who we are, and a message of tolerance towards what we stand for and an invitation to join us and not to change us”. Undeniably, the Nationalists are all for hollow solemn statements overemphasising the obvious, but when it comes to translating principles into action, they just cringe and squirm.






Valerie Borg

The Malta Independent on Sunday 20 ta’ Gunju 2004


For Lawrence Gonzi and his team of “merry” men, the results of the EP elections were a total failure. A baptism of fire for the new Prime Minister who was elected barely eight weeks ago. To be fair, it was not the new Prime Minister on his own who took his party on a sky diving act into sheer nothingness but the Prime Minister before him whose lies caught up with him and his party in the end. Although officially our entry into the EU took place on 1 May, the fact remains that the PN’s rigmarole of lies were revealed to one and all after so many people lost their job this year. The days of swallowing party dictums hook, line and sinker were over with the loss of jobs being so numerous. It was here that the Nationalist Party tripped in its own feet. It was here that Fenech Adami did not live up to expectations, because his cries of ix-xoghol, ix-xoghol, ix-xoghol were found to be a pack of lies, conjured up by him and his team to help him win the election on 12 April.


But to return to Lawrence Gonzi. If one reflects on what he had to say in his propaganda campaign with regard to Nationalist MEPs, not once did he propose that work in our country would be guaranteed with Nationalist MEPs working towards that end. He only spoke about all the pros of the EU without pinpointing the benefits we are entitled to, and made no reference to the cons. Lawrence Gonzi was incapable of delivering a message of hope to his party and his candidates. This time the PN strategy did not work. Its campaign for a Nationalist MEP victory was doomed because of its failure to keep promises made throughout the year. The people were alarmed, they were afraid and their fear was justified. No jobs, pensions at risk, medicines scarce in hospital and the tourists coming to Malta were the kind who shared a bottle of mineral water between two. Panic was created in the minds of many a Maltese. When they analysed what was said by Dr Fenech Adami and Dr Alfred Sant, they discovered that what the latter had said was the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. As they started coming to their senses they could distinguish the truth from the untruth, and the electorate opted for those who spoke the truth.


My sincere congratulations go to Joseph Muscat, John Attard Montaldo and, last but not least, the distinguished Louis Grech who I am not ashamed to say got my number one vote. I know that the “red” blood flowing in their veins will help them to “fight” for Malta hanina and not leave her miskina.





Dr. Joseph Muscat

L-Orizzont 23 ta’ Gunju 2004


Ma nistax nibda dan l-artiklu din il-gimgha minghajr ma nghid grazzi kbira minn qalbi lil kulhadd wara r-rebhiet li kiseb il-Partit Laburista fl-elezzjonijiet tal-Parlament Ewropew u tal-Kunsilli Lokali, u b’mod personali, wara l-elezzjoni tieghi fil-Parlament Ewropew.


Huwa privilegg ghalija li kont l-ewwel Membru Parlamentari Ewropew li gejt elett min-naha tal-Partit Laburista Malti. Il-lealtà tieghi ma tmurx biss lil dawk is-36,958 persuna li tawni l-ewwel preferenza, izda lil dik il-maggoranza li wriet il-fiducja taghha fil-Partit Laburista u lill-poplu Malti u Ghawdxi kollu.


Nistqarr li l-lejl ta’ wara li gejt elett ma rqadtx. Din kienet l-ewwel elezzjoni tieghi u ghalhekk nahseb li hassejtha aktar. Ma rqadtx ghax qghadt nahseb li l-voti mhux xi numri vvintati, izda hemm persuna wara kull polza. Kull persuna li vvotat lili u lil shabi wriet il-fiducja fina u r-responsabbiltà taghna hija li nhallsu lura ta’ din il-fiducja b’hidma ma taqta’ xejn.


Il-Maltin u l-Ghawdxin ivvotawlna ghax iriduna nahdmu biex noholqu aktar opportunitajiet ta’ xoghol. Iridu li niddefendu s-servizzi socjali. Iridu li nahdmu favur ambjent b’sahhtu. Iridu li ngibu bidla fil-mod ta’ kif isiru l-affarijiet.


Konvint li bhala team Laburista se nkunu qeghdin nahdmu ghal dawn l-ghanijiet.


Huwa ta’ pjacir kbir ghalija li se nkun qieghed nahdem ma’ John Attard Montalto u Louis Grech. John ghandu esperjenza fil-politika u se jkun importanti hafna fit-team taghna. Louis igib mieghu professjonalizmu kbir u nemmen li se jkun qed jghin biex naraw angoli differenti ta’ kull kwistjoni. Jien nemmen li se nkun qed indahhal l-energija u l-isfond aktar tekniku ghal kwistjonijiet li ghandhom x’jaqsmu ma’ l-Unjoni Ewropea.


Hawnhekk ma nistax ma nsellimx lil shabna l-ohrajn li ma gewx eletti, izda li kollha kellhom wirja tajba hafna. Lil Glenn insellimlu l-aktar bhala habib kbir li qsamna hafna mumenti flimkien. Ghandu bazi tajba hafna biex jahdem ghall-quddiem. Kuragg habib.


L-istess nista’ nghid lil Owen, li hareg b’sahhtu hafna fl-inhawi fejn l-aktar li hadem. Nistqarr li lil Owen ftit kont nafu, izda matul dawn il-gimghat apprezzajt il-manjieri sbieh tieghu.


F’Joe Debono Grech nibqa’ napprezza l-inkoraggiment kbir li tani u liz-“zghar” l-ohrajn minhabba l-eccitament li kellna qabel ma ndirizzajna l-mass meetings. Joe kien figura paterna.


Robert huwa wiehed mill-aktar persuni kompetenti li naf dwar is-suggett ta’ l-Unjoni Ewropea. Nemmen li ghandu jkun ta’ siwi kbir ghall-Partit Laburista fil-gejjieni, specjalment meta jkun fil-gvern.


F’Wenzu apprezzajt l-argumentazzjoni tieghu, specjalment fil-kitba, li hija wahda preciza u tolqot fil-laham il-haj. Nemmen li huwa wiehed mill-ahjar opinjonisti li ghandna.


Bdejna l-hidma


Minkejja li ghadhom ghaddew biss ftit jiem minn meta l-poplu Malti u Ghawdxi ghogbu jaghzel lil John, Louis u lili biex nirrapprezentawh fil-Parlament Ewropew f’isem il-Partit Laburista, il-hidma taghna digà bdiet. Matul il-jiem li ghaddew kellna diversi laqghat li matulhom iddiskutejna liema jkunu l-aktar kumitati tal-Parlament Ewropew li jkunu ta’ interess ghal pajjizna. Wara se nkunu qeghdin niddiskutu dawn l-ghazliet maz-zewg deputati Nazzjonalisti.


B’kollox il-Parlament Ewropew issa ghandu 20 kumitat li jiffokaw fuq oqsma specifici, bhal nghidu ahna, ix-xoghol, il-politika regjonali u l-ambjent. Kull membru Parlamentari Ewropew ikun membru ta’ kumitat minnhom u membru sostitut fuq kumitat iehor. Dan ifisser li pajjizna jista’ jkun rapprezentat fuq massimu ta’ 10 minn dawn il-kumitati. L-ghazla trid issir bil-ghaqal. Biex inkunu nafu x’qed jigri fuq l-ghaxra l-ohra rridu nibbazaw fuq it-taghrif li ghaddulna shabna fil-gruppi politici taghna. Fi hdan il-Partit Socjalista Ewropew ikun hemm persuna responsabbli fuq kull kumitat u xogholha tkun li zzomm informat lil kull min jitlob dettalji dwar dak li jkun qed jigri.


Tajjeb li nghidu li bhala Maltin u Ghawdxin mhux se nkunu l-izghar delegazzjoni fi hdan is-Socjalisti Ewropej. Dan ghax hemm pajjizi ohrajn li ghandhom tnejn jew inqas membri. Dawn jinkludu lill-Irlanda, fost l-ohrajn. Ahna ghandna delegazzjoni li hija l-istess daqs ta’ l-Estonja u l-Finlandja.


Fil-jiem li gejjin se nkunu qeghdin niehdu sehem fl-ewwel laqghat tal-grupp Socjalista fejn se nibdew niehdu l-ewwel decizjonijiet, fosthom dwar il-hatra ta’ President tal-Parlament Ewropew.


Nhar it-Tnejn li ghadda hadna sehem ukoll ghall-ewwel darba fil-laqgha tal-Grupp Parlamentari tal-Partit Laburista, li skond l-istatut tal-partit, issa ahna nistghu nattendu ghal-laqghat tieghu. Kienet esperjenza totalment gdida ghal Louis u ghalija, fil-waqt li John kien digà membru ta’ dan il-grupp. Fil-gimghat u x-xhur li gejjin irridu nsibu s-sistemi ta’ kif nikkomunikaw bl-ahjar mod ma’ shabna tal-Grupp Parlamentari Laburista halli nkunu effettivi bl-ahjar mod possibbli kemm fil-Parlament Malti kif ukoll f’dak Ewropew.


Il-Parlament Ewropew il-gdid se jiltaqa’ ghall-ewwel darba fi Strasbourg fl-20 ta’ Lulju. Imma mhux qeghdin nistennew dik id-data biex nibdew nahdmu. It-team Laburista digà biex jahdem.


Hawn se nibqghu


Hafna nies qed isibuni u jistaqsuni meta se nitlaq, bhallikieku jahsbu li Membru Parlamentari Ewropew huwa xi persuna li se temigra mill-pajjiz. Hemm Membri li veru jaghmlu hekk izda jispiccaw jinqatghu ghal kollox mir-realtà ta’ pajjizhom. Min-naha l-ohra, wiehed lanqas ma jista’ jimmagina li jibqa’ Malta il-hin kollu minghajr ma jersaq lejn Brussels jew Strasbourg.


Membru Parlamentari Ewropew effettiv irid jaqsam hinu bejn pajjizu u l-istituzzjonijiet Ewropej. F’hafna gimghat, wiehed irid jaghmel bejn tlieta u erbat ijiem fi Brussels ghal-laqghat tal-gruppi u kumitati. Ikun hemm gimgha fix-xahar li jrid jaghmilha kollha kemm hi fi Strasbourg ghax ikun hemm is-sessjoni plenarja. Imbaghad hemm gimghat ohrajn iddedikati kollha kemm huma ghall-kostitwenza f’Malta u Ghawdex.


L-aktar punt krucjali, izda, hu li l-membri Parlamentari Ewropej jibqghu bbazati f’Malta u Ghawdex u l-prezenza taghhom fil-pajjiz tkun kontinwa.







Anthony J. Paris

The Times 19 ta’ Lulju 2004


Dear Dr Gonzi,


During the past few weeks you have said that the people of this island have to face the realities of the national deficit. The average citizen is already facing a lot of realities. Have you had the misfortune of having to use a toilet at St Luke's Hospital? Have you been to the Motor Vehicle Licensing department to transfer a vehicle from one name to another? Have you visited the Inland Revenue's customer service department? The average citizen is performing these activities, not by choice, and with the utmost discomfort. That's what I call "facing reality".


In the meantime, you tell us that you are now implementing stricter financial controls on capital projects. We always assumed that when it comes to the spending of public money there is nothing but the strictest of controls. So were public funds being spent without strict control over the past 17 years? You informed us that the deficit came down to Lm80 odd million. But you also said that the national debt increased by Lm160 odd million. Is it not the national debt that is the real burden on the public? Despite the year-on-year increase in the national debt and the extra burden that it creates on the taxpayer to service it, we see no evidence of you and your colleagues reining in your own expenses.


The cost of the monument you obviously had to have for the inauguration of the Paceville improvements must have run into five figures. The cost of the recent visit by the President to the Vatican must have run into six figures. Your trips to Brussels by private jet must be a five-figure expense. Private jets are normally used by wealthy people who pay for the privilege from their own pockets or by busy business executives whose time is worth a lot of money and who would not be found wasting their time unveiling monuments.


The starting point has to be you and your government beginning to face reality. Forget building more monuments to immortalise yourselves. You can remove lots of unnecessary discomforts that the public faces every day, if only you knew the realities that the public faces. If you want to motivate the public to face more realities, then you should start by telling us what you, your ministers and the President are doing as a personal contribution to reducing the deficit. Until you show some leadership do not expect any followers.


I respectfully look forward to your reply.




Tony Zammit Cutajar

The Times 24 ta’ Lulju 2004


An open letter to Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi.


Dear Prime Minister,


Don't we both live in a truly amazing country? At the same time as you and your ministers call on people to tighten their belts in a collective effort to rein in the massive public deficit and with the parliamentary secretary being quoted as saying that we are living beyond our means, you sanction the expenditure of Lm9 million on the purchase and refurbishment of a building in Brussels to house the country's embassy and some other offices.


Even if the advice that you received suggested that the site in question was worth this kind of money, surely you should have realised that such a purchase was going to be considered as completely out of proportion by the vast majority of the citizens you represent. Has your government become insensitive to the feelings of thousands of tax-paying families who struggle to make ends meet and wake up one morning to learn that Lm9 million of their money has been spent on one building? I think you will agree that one does not need to be a rocket scientist to deduce that this decision was going to solicit comments of a cynical and sinister nature.


Why can't we all forget about pomp and pretences and accept the fact that a country of 400,000 people just cannot afford this kind of extravagance? Putting it another way, this building has cost each member of the Maltese population the sum of Lm22. On this basis, the British or Italian governments would be justified in spending over Lm1 billion on their embassies! Would it have been too much of a "sacrifice" to spend half or less and purchase another building not so close to the European Commission which is undoubtedly the most expensive area in Brussels? Does Malta need to be on millionaires' row? Surely a short car ride to the European headquarters would not cause undue distress to our representatives.


I would also question the valuation of the property you propose or have in fact purchased. I do not know the size and other specifications of this building so it is virtually impossible to make a realistic valuation. I am, however, informed that a brand new nine storey (4,500m2) office block in the Leopold district of Brussels (the district that houses the EU Commission) is valued at about Lm5 million. A similar building in the adjacent Louise area is valued at Lm3.75 million. Taking the second option could have saved the country Lm4 - 5 million.


I hate to say it, but we seem to be emulating the so-called banana republics where people's taxes are squandered on unnecessary luxuries for their representatives. We must now be one of the highest taxed nations in the EU with new taxes being introduced on a regular basis (the latest being an eco-tax which will take yet another Lm4 million annually out of our pockets) and what do we have to show for it? To quote but few examples, we have yet to see the quantum leap in the quality of our road system that has been promised for longer than I care to remember; the trumpeted environmental clean up is barely beyond the embryonic stage and now there is also a rumour circulating that the grandest project of all, the Mater Dei Hospital, is to be mothballed due to lack of funds. In the meantime, most of the population has to make do with a totally inadequate general hospital that will soon be 100 years old!


Come on Mr Prime Minister, get the act together. In the short time you have occupied the top post in government, too many errors of judgment have been made. These go right across the political divide and are demotivating everyone including your most fervent supporters. If the contract of purchase for the Brussels building has been sealed then it will have to go down as yet another case of bad judgment of monumental proportions. If it has not, you should immediately assert your authority and cancel the deal. This would send the correct signal to all and sundry and also show that your government values the feelings of the nation.


You might be justifiably proud of our country but, for heaven's sake, let's stop trying to play in the same league as the big boys. Our financial capacity is minuscule in proportion and when taking such decisions you would be well advised to keep this reality in mind. Money for Malta is a big problem and the sooner your government accepts this the better for all of us.






Anthony J. Paris

The Times 7 ta’ Settembru 2004


Lawrence Gonzi is clearly taking the position that he alone can break the rules of financial restraint and control that he laid out for his ministries and agencies. The decision to break his own rules and speculate Lm9 million on a commercial property in Brussels is relatively easy when other people's money (OPM) is at stake. If the property bubble burst or if commercial rents drop (low probability but not impossible) and the decision turns out to be a bad one, will Dr Gonzi hold himself accountable and resign?


The simplistic financial basis for his decision is prudent. Dr Gonzi expects the Brussels property to appreciate by two per cent per annum for the next 27 years, which will make the building worth around Lm15 million in 2032. The rent from the extra space will bring in about Lm9 million over the next 27 years which will pay for the original investment and, therefore, Malta would have made a profit of Lm15 million and provided free office accommodation for its EU representatives.


This, of course, assumes zero cost of capital. It also assumes 100 per cent occupancy and average annual rent increases of two per cent. (Warning: This 27-year forecast comes to you courtesy of an administration that has frequently been unable to forecast a one-year budget accurately.)


A recent government bond issue maturing in 2026 bears a coupon of 5.1 per cent per annum. Irrespective of what accounting mirrors are used to tell us that the money for this building will not cost the taxpayer any interest, the government has no money and therefore has to borrow an additional Lm9 million, which, at 5.1 per cent per annum, will mean interest payments totalling Lm12 million over the 27 years. So the profit is down to Lm3 million in 2032.


If you go further and take into account the cost of financing the shortfall between the rentals received and the interest payments due, in 2032 you will end up with a property worth Lm15.4 million and you would owe about Lm17.9 million, which gives you a deficit of Lm2.5 million.


Nevertheless, it seems that Dr Gonzi is convinced that he has found a formula for rent-free accommodation based on zero cost capital. Just buy twice the space you need and rent out one half of it to people who are not as clever as you are. But if indeed this formula is so effective why don't we do more of it to reduce the cost of government? Why is it that the government, in its very homeland, rents office space?


Dr Gonzi says that people have not understood this investment decision. First of all the average citizen is not a property speculator. Secondly, irrespective of how great a deal people see, if they do not have the money they tend not to go for it. Why? Because if it does not work out they have to face the hard economic consequence and not just some political flak. Thirdly, the average citizen cannot play accounting games. He/she only has one pocket and when that pocket is empty s/he cannot simply vote for a refill. Finally, the average citizen does not understand how, when one is up to one's neck in debt, one can buy a property at zero interest cost.






Lorna Vassallo

The Times 17 ta’ Novembru 2005


May all dear readers allow me to crouch back to my "caricature" self. Slippery ground, I agree, to dare trod upon. Many people have been condemned for using such tone and I do risk sharing their same destiny. Well, but, of course, at least it has inspired some critical minds to waste some time on me.


But funny is the present state of affairs, which breeds but irony and deserves a good laugh! We are living in the post-2005 budget era. It seems we are truly experiencing the dark ages after the last budget! It is said that citizens have become so keen and so collaborative when it comes to environment issues and energy consumption. And this overnight!


This week my business took me to some retail outlets. My errands started off at the petrol station. I discovered that my petrol tank has grown even bigger! Strange happening indeed! Some years ago it had a capacity of Lm10 - now it's nearing the Lm20! By Jove!


Then, to my surprise, most of the places I needed to go to had lights hardly visible at a distance to show they're still open. When I decided to indulge in the most feminine of habits, hair-doing, I found a hair-dresser ready waiting for me, dusting his shelves. He said he expected a bill of Lm600 every two months and this, coupled with a dwindling number of clients, would make him "go back onto his saving". Had he not differed in his political ideas from mine I wouldn't have adorned this article with such personal experience. Sometimes words become worthier when said by the wrong people or, at least, by those not expected to say them! And when they are addressed to the wrong people (or those not expecting to hear them) they perhaps become even worthier!


Out on the streets pro-Nationalist supporters solemnly declare their total disinterest in politics reiterating ad nauseam that "both parties are the same" in a semi-national chorus. The idea has spread like wildfire and replaced the vacuum in big-mouth-only "minds". Some very faithful ones half-heartedly preach environmental issues to an extent that they should better join a Green party straightaway!


Back at my flat, just before the news - at peak hour - I was surprised by new energy-saving bulbs publicity!


Arlecchino, on the other hand, keeps on laughing. He parades the streets in socially-accepted attire and leads an exemplary family life. Little else does he do. Does he write in papers? Hardly! Does he make decisions? Well - quite conveniently, hurriedly and, at times, negligently!


Contrastingly, he is a very good actor and expresses concern as to the fate of the taxpayers to the extent of almost becoming credible. He is but a capitalist preacher with smudged, impure Green values and doubtful red concerns. All this on a royal blue palette. His paintings are but unfaithful representations of reality and as distant as the age of Impressionism.


Beyond his rows of teeth and the groans that escape them hide loads of the countries' debts and failed projects. Apart from some flowers artificially maintained alive and the washing of the balustrades in front of Auberge de Castile (because Her Majesty the Queen is coming), employment has become virtual. His second-in-command says that jobs must be lost but they all say that the economy is doing well.


But the Prime Minister has landed upon a seemingly magical phrase that has gone down well only with some diehard supporters. All the answers to his criticism start off with the same magical line: "During the years 1996 to 1998..." Comparisons are made all the time with Alfred Sant's achievements which, in the PM's opinion, were no achievements at all.


Whether I should consider the current PM as a very big admirer of Dr Sant or a big critic is such a great feat. Because everything seems relative to Dr Sant. He seems to be the be-all and the end-all. It's like there can be no Dr Gonzi without a Dr Sant! Or the Sant years! There is no point in being Dr Gonzi without criticising Dr Sant! And, indeed, Dr Sant criticism is at the heart of the PN's achievements. And may I list the reasons for my train of thought?


If there were something the PN was good at, it was the hardening of the Leader of the Opposition. He is the man who definitely stands to win. The good shepherd is going around gathering masses as a very bad actor of Romeo. Through his half-romantic smiles, the psychologically-murdered creature gathers his last wits to outwardly manifest his good intentions for helping the people. The people, in their turn, look up to him as their last card. He's got the power and the position. Some wonder whether he suffers from a very cold heart, which pities none, not even himself, or whether his actions are totally out of synch with his feelings. Does he laugh when he's desperate and cry when he's happy? Well, pleasures still to be discovered through the test of time.


However, I do admit that the Leader of the Opposition is but a genuine man turned unemotional through rubbing in the wrong direction. He will take his seat one day because circumstances so dictate but not because he's loved. Love is foreign to him and his merits will forever remain within the boundaries of his heart.


But apart from all this, the economy is topsy-turvy. The sole reason for the government hanging on has become the longing for exercising power. Does anybody in this country believe that the government is doing its utmost to better the economy? Or is the government simply patching things up with a few new unproductive projects that would hardly generate any new employment opportunities?


Stop blaming everything on Fred, dear Lawrence, remember that you have an identity of your own. Your colleagues have said it's mental illness for Dr Sant to criticise the government from what is justly called "the opposition" side. What can be said of a government that opposes the opposition? Is there place for an opposition of the opposition in a democracy? Stop the Sant-mania. We all know you are a "Green" blue PM but assertiveness comes first. People are at your mercy. They don't need smiles or Santian comparisons but real, life-long jobs.




The Times 17 ta’ Novembru 2005 26 ta’ Jannar 2006


Conrad Mifsud seems to have lost faith in the leadership qualities of Alfred Sant because he says that he (Sant) “still carries the uninspiring legacy of the 1998 and 2003 election giveaways to the PN”. Unfortunately, this is the fiction propagated by all those opposed to Alfred Sant's leadership of the Malta Labour Party.


Let me start with 1998. Who brought down the Labour Government? Was it not Dom Mintoff who voted against his own party in Parliament?


In later years, the Nationalists started disseminating the myth that Alfred Sant's Government was too incompetent to last more than twenty-two months and that is why he was forced to go for an early General Election. I find it incredible that people coming from staunch Labourite backgrounds like Conrad Mifsud seem to have swallowed wholesale this PN-created myth!


Perhaps the best proof that one can find to sustain my argument is the interview given to the newspaper "maltatoday" (10th June, 2001) by the person who was President of the Republic at the time of Alfred Sant's premiership, his Excellency, Dr Ugo Mifsud Bonnici. Many people still think that the reason why Mintoff opposed Sant was because of the Sant Government's increases in the water and electricity tariffs and, later on, because of the Cottonera Marina Project.


However, it transpires that there was a more complex reason. Mintoff was used to a turbulent kind of politics because of the times he lived in: the 1958 Riots, the Politico-Religious Dispute of the Sixties, the confrontational politics of the Seventies and Eighties.


By 1996, times had changed and people wanted to live in peace and not have politics impinge on every aspect of their private lives. Alfred Sant, being a man of vision, understood this and tried to bring about a change, aiming at a less confrontational type of politics.


Let us see what Dr Ugo Mifsud Bonnici has to say about this : “Alfred Sant had taken a number of decisions to bring about reconciliation in the country, such as the Independence Day celebrations.


These could have bothered Mintoff because they were undoing all that he had created in the party.” Referring to the decision taken by Alfred Sant to go for an early General Election, Dr Mifsud Bonnici is quoted as saying that : "In my considered judgement I think that was the only option available."


The tragedy of the summer of 1998 lies in the fact that it was a clash of visions of where the future of the Malta Labour Party lay. Dom Mintoff's view was a conservative one, chaining it to its past. Alfred Sant's view was a more progressive one, preparing it for the transition which the passage of time had made necessary.


It had nothing to do with the performance of the Sant Government which was, after all, a quite competent one as I have repeatedly shown in many of my articles published in the local media. To say that Alfred Sant gave away the 1998 General Election is simply repeating a PN-created myth!


Let us now turn to the 2003 General Election. Here it has to be understood that the Malta Labour Party's opting for a policy of partnership with the European Union instead of membership as advocated by the Nationalist Party was, in the circumstances, the correct one.


The MLP is uniquely different from the PN in that it always follows the course that is in the best interests of Malta and the Maltese. It does not resort to empty promises such as those of Eddie Fenech Adami's “new spring after EU membership” in order to make sure that it is victorious at the polls.


Critics of Alfred Sant claim that after the March, 2003 Referendum, he should have seen the writing on the wall and changed the MLP's policy towards one of pro-EU membership and, thus, would have steered the MLP towards an electoral victory. Yes, I can see a PN leader doing that but not an MLP leader.


Such an act would have been worthy of the best, unscrupulous opportunist! What is the aim of a leader of integrity, to get the best for his people and his country or to win power at all costs? Alfred Sant continued telling the people the truth after the Referendum, even if it was not in his interests to do so. Today, we know how right he was.


Let me conclude by reminding readers that all the decisions taken by Alfred Sant in 1998 and 2003 were endorsed by MLP General Conferences. In other words, Sant had the support of the delegates of the Malta Labour Party.


Which is why I find it incredible that some people who have now left the MLP were themselves responsible for these decisions and now have the audacity to criticize Alfred Sant for taking them!






Claire Bonello

The Malta Independent on Sunday 2 ta’ Lulju 2006


Dear Dr Gonzi,


We don’t seem to be on speaking terms. However, the four words I painted on a poster are said to have been noted by you. Hopefully, a full-blown letter might be read with the same rapt attention and mulled over with the same degree of intensity. You see, Dr Gonzi, I have many questions to ask you. Quite a few popped into my head when I caught sight of you inaugurating a three-month old five-star hotel in Balluta Bay. It belongs to Charles Caqnu Polidano, the same person who just a few days ago, ran across a crowded square and slapped me on the face over the head of my two-year old daughter, terrorising her and other young children in the process. But that is by the by, and Mr Polidano will have had ample opportunity to present his version of events.


Mr Polidano has been in the news lately. In an interview published on 2 June, the MEPA audit officer Joe Falzon singled out a case that represents all that is wrong with this country. A case where the authorities showed us how Mr Polidano is treated by the authorities. Does this sound familiar, Dr Gonzi? Just in case, you don’t have the press clipping somewhere handy, I’ll remind you. In his report, Mr Falzon stated:


“In my report I made a comment to which the MEPA took exception. It was the only comment they reacted to. I said they had chosen to take an easy decision to avoid a more painful one in connection with the same developer. I have no problem specifying which case I was referring to – the Solemar Hotel case. Not only did he (Charles Polidano) develop the land illegally, but he also encroached on public land. Instead of sending a bulldozer and pulling the thing down his development was sanctioned. Moreover, the land was sold to him and he was given the right of first refusal.”


What do you make of that Dr Gonzi? Don’t you find that shocking? Maybe you can dismiss it and put it down to the government headed by your predecessor – a sort of let bygones be bygones sort of thing. I’d have expected you to act differently if something like that happened on your watch. But when the Xemxija case cropped up (if you haven’t had time to chat about this over canapés after the hotel tour – it’s the one where the hillside was hacked away illegally leaving a house hanging precariously in mid-air), we got more of the same. An inquiry board was set up – it gave its damning indictment and then we conveniently forgot about it. Where is that report now, Dr Gonzi? Stashed away under a thousand and one hotel brochures, or pictures of me with my poster to be used for dart practice? What concrete action are you going to take about it? Please don’t give us that waffle about the inquiry simply being there to make proposals. With the number of proposals that have been made, you’re starting to look like the girl everybody wants to marry.


The inquiry report states that there have been 82 stop and enforcement notices issued to the same developer. Even if we had to assume that these were given out over the past 10 years, it adds up to a very unhealthy total. How many times was direct action taken and illegal development removed? I don’t know Dr Gonzi; I’m guessing that it happened in a very small number of cases. I would love to be proved wrong.


The compilers of the report down a challenge for you, Dr Gonzi – they asked the authorities (not only MEPA) to give out a clear message which shows that they are not willing to tolerate a situation where one particular individual feels that he can defy the powers of the State and does whatever he wants with no regard to laws or established rules. What are you going do about it? Will you finally take action or shoot the messenger again? Do you find it easier to pillory the critic rather than the law-breaker?


I am sure that Charles Polidano is not the only contravener of our planning laws – his flouting of the law happens to be very clearly documented and publicised as are his political connections – I mean, is it every hotel that gets the Prime Minister to inaugurate its premises? There are other titans in the construction and business camps.


They straddle both sides of the political divide, enjoying the immunity, protection and friendship of MLPN politicians. I do not envy their millions, their concrete palaces, their gas-guzzling mega-cars. They are theirs to enjoy. But they have taken something from me Dr Gonzi; they have completely destroyed my faith in the legal system. They have made me realise that they can get away with anything – that the law affords no protection and no safeguard from the rich and powerful. With the complicity of the authorities they have undermined the rule of law and are laughing at the rest of us. We have to cower in their shadows – ordinary people who have become second-class citizens doomed to carving out a life for ourselves in the debris they engulf us in. That, Dr Gonzi, is the truth – the truth that resonates deep within every Maltese person’s soul. It is a sad and frightening truth, one which we have had to face everyday and which we have become so accustomed to, that we have accepted it as inevitable. We go about our lives knowing that there are two classes of people – the untouchables and the unprotected. Whose side are you on, Dr Gonzi?





Helena Dalli

The Times 8 t’Awwissu 2006


The condition of decay within the Nationalist Party and the government reached a new high the other day.


As member of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), I had the opportunity to, again, witness first hand that there are people who can stoop even lower than one can possibly imagine in their bid to cover up their misdeeds. Not only that, they also get assistance in this endeavour by some of those appointed to do the opposite.


I again also witnessed first hand the mockery made out of the concepts of accountability, transparency and efficiency. How the very basic idea that money that comes out of the people's pockets should be accounted for by those who spend it in their name is turned on its head. And, finally, how the wheels of the PN's network are set in high-speed mode when it comes to cover the backs of those who foul up.


When, at the PAC, we asked Richard Muscat (Mr Muscat is Ambassador to Ireland) how he, without issuing quotations, bought travel tickets directly from the PN's travel agency, he replied with a terse "no comment".


When we asked on what criteria Mr Muscat, twice, engaged by direct order the services of a particular contractor for the provision of an internet radio service he replied that he knew the owner of the company because he is a friend of his son and had been going to his house ever since they were at school together. Thus, he gets the direct order amounting to tens of thousands of liri. In return for the awarding of the contract without having to compete with others, the beneficiary employed Mr Muscat's son with his company for the duration of the job for the Voice of the Mediterranean radio station.


Déjà vu? No surprise. The friends of friends networks and political patronage are very much alive in modern Malta.


We all remember Ombudsman Joe Sammut's report which had pointed out that he has evidence that "Air Malta employs summer workers on political considerations". And that "The whole promotions exercise in the Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) is a mess... they keep giving promotions en masse and inventing new anomalous criteria... Corruption is very difficult to define but I had cases whereby an individual would have scored, say 400, on the AFM's performance appraisal report and then someone with lower marks would be appointed".


Was something done about this? Yes, something worse than doing nothing: the Prime Minister attacked the Ombudsman, passing on the message that government bodies, authorities, public corporations, are inviolate, even when investigations by people in authority, such as the Ombudsman and the Auditor General, who were appointed because they enjoy the trust of all of the people's representatives, show that they are not being accountable and transparent.


And so it happened again in the Voice of the Mediterranean case. It doesn't matter that rather large sums of money claimed to have been spent at restaurants were not accounted for since no invoices were presented; that hundreds of thousands of liri were squandered on new premises when the station was in a financial mess; that some Lm10,000 literally went up in smoke as they were spent on pyrotechnics; that fire-fighting equipment, which should have cost Lm13,400, ended up costing us taxpayers Lm48,000...


The then permanent secretary at the Foreign Ministry, Gaetan Naudi, now Ambassador to Spain, witnessed all this, and said throughout the questioning at the PAC that, as was his duty, he followed the way the money was being spent, but did nothing about it. On the other hand, VOM board councillors Alfred Zarb and Mannie Spiteri had warned and reprimanded Mr Muscat about his spending, advising him to abide by government financial regulations; it was, after all, taxpayers' money he was squandering. They told Mr Muscat he should have the good sense to get at least three quotations for purchases exceeding Lm1,000. All this was like water off a duck's back for Mr Muscat.


Still, in the face of all this, the Nationalists - there are four members representing the government and three members representing the opposition on the PAC - voted against a motion moved by the opposition asking for a magisterial inquiry.


And for those who prefer a chuckle whenever possible, news of what followed this motion provided an opportunity for some grim laughter. The PAC then saw the passing of a motion by the government members (four votes in favour, three votes against) to investigate the workings of the Office of the Auditor General.


Regardless of how this Office's workings are evaluated, certain facts established in the report and confirmed in the PAC showed enough shortcomings on Mr Muscat's side to merit a magisterial inquiry. Apart from being unconstitutional, this ludicrous decision (to investigate the investigator) certainly goes against the people's interest because it may serve to daunt those at the Auditor General's Office, now, and in the future.


In the meantime, His Excellency continues getting his rewards, while many wonder why he is being so protected..... Who knows? What is for sure is that the rot continues to thicken indeed.


In the internal report which the PN commissioned with the remit to analyse its performance in government, the party was told that the government was not on the side of the people where it should be and strange decisions were being taken. The recent Voice of the Mediterranean episode illustrates this observation perfectly well.






The Malta Independent on Sunday


The Malta Independent on Sunday, 7 ta’ Jannar 2007


Sack MTA and replace it with Birkirkara 


We have all been given an object lesson on branding this past week – by the unpaid people at Birkirkara FC.


By inviting AC Milan to hold their winter camp here, they have branded Malta for the millions of supporters that Milan has all over the world.


By getting a world-known name here, Birkirkara provided Malta with an entrée to the millions of supporters’ homes for free, or rather for the expenditure involved in getting the venture off the ground.


By logging on to the club’s website, or television station, they could see for themselves our wide green spaces, blue skies and friendly people in a way that none of those CNN adverts ever did.


When the Malta Tourism Authority, under a different chairman but the same minister, tried its hand at branding Malta it ended up getting so confused it started calling everyone Brand Malta. Thousands of liras later, and with a different chairman and board, the Brand Malta campaign became a homelier affair, yet it still pontificated to the Maltese as if they, and they alone, were the cause of the lack of tourists. That may well be one of the reasons, but surely that does not explain the whole situation.


Now Birkirkara, and also those who invited Bocelli, and the other world-famous names, to Malta have shown the way. Or at least one good way.


People in our main markets must have heard about Malta but they have never been in a situation where they could really see for themselves what Malta and the Maltese stand for. Of course, we can shout till we’re hoarse about our millennial culture, our temples and our history, and also about our tourist attractions and accommodation; we can go to all the fairs we want to, but we will never get them here.


People, and this is elementary about contemporary culture, identify with their idols, in this case football heroes. And people tend to go to where they have seen their heroes enjoying themselves. Why we, for instance, have completely failed to capitalise on the blockbuster films that were shot in Malta is a complete mystery when one considers that only Popeye Village remains.


The Milan training camp has also brought out one other important aspect that no Brand Malta campaign ever could do. It offered the Maltese, for free, what they have long wanted to have, a familiarity with the team they support. Consider the scenes in Golden Bay as two very ordered lines of supporters or onlookers stood one arm’s length away while their heroes ran through the sand.


Yet, it is also true that, just as we say after most World Cups, it is not right for Maltese, of any hue, to support so enthusiastically a foreign team or a foreign national team.


It is also true that the scenes at the airport when Milan came would never been seen in Milan itself. And it is also true that sometimes the fans’ overwhelming love for the champions they were seeing in the flesh could lead to some embarrassing situations, if not actual danger for the players’ life and limb. There is much where we ought to grow up – but that is not the point we are making.


The point is that Birkirkara, and Birkirkara alone, have identified what needed to be done to get Malta’s name known wherever there are Milan fans and known in a positive way. Such a simple thing as persuading a club to hold its winter camp in Malta projects a positive image of the island and its other, unknown, attractions.


In these final days that Milan will be spending here, and especially on Tuesday, let us all continue to maintain this positive image, at the same time showing we do have a national dignity to uphold as well. Finally, after so much negative publicity as regards illegal immigrants, it is good to see Malta and the Maltese being praised for being hospitable.






Jason Micallef

The Malta Independent on Sunday 23.9.2007


Your editorial “Is it just moonshine?” of Sunday 16 September leaves little doubt that your newspaper is slowly, but surely, joining the Nationalist government’s damage control brigade.


Worse than this, it strengthens the view shared by many that with this new editorial slant, The Malta Independent on Sunday is being reduced to an English language version of the Nationalist Party’s written media.


I came to this conclusion on the basis of two previous extremely partisan and politically loaded contributions that appeared in your newspaper in recent weeks.


In your edition of 26 August you allowed the publication of one of the most obnoxious personal attacks against Dr Alfred Sant in the vitriolic opinion piece “Growing old gracelessly” written by your regular correspondent Daphne Caruana Galizia. This was an article that even die-hard Nationalists found very crude, objectionable and far beyond the limits of journalistic decency.


On Sunday 2 September you published, under your signature, a list with the names of people appointed chairpersons to government boards and corporations by the 1996 Labour government.


Was it by strange coincidence that this list appeared on the same day that another English language Sunday paper carried an interview with Joe Saliba, general secretary of the Nationalist Party?


During the course of his interview with MaltaToday, Mr Saliba replied to a particular question “… by presenting a list of 23 public officials who were changed when Labour was elected in 1996”.


This was more or less the number of names on your list. The least one would expect from an unbiased and objective journalist is a balanced article giving also a list of Nationalist politicians or activists who today occupy key positions, from the presidency of the Republic down to the most insignificant of government boards.


The cherry on the cake came with the editorial of Sunday 16 September. In a very weak attempt to reply to a sensible and down to earth leader in The Times of Saturday 15, your editorial tried to shore up some credibility to a Nationalist government, which will go down in history for its miserable record of unfulfilled or delayed projects.


I shall not bore your readers to tears with a long list of such projects, perhaps you, or one of your journalists, can do that one day to prove your objectivity.


You remarked that the Grand Harbour plan announced with such pomp and circumstance by the Nationalist government “has been met by a sea of apathy submerged in an ocean of doubts and undermined by snide remarks”. How could it be otherwise?


This project has been launched by a stale 20-year-old government who could not even manage to meet the deadlines on the Merchants Street embellishment project. It is also the same government who took 17 years to build a hospital, a feat meriting a shameful entry in the Guinness Book of Records.


The reference to the Malta Labour Party and its plans for the regeneration of the Grand Harbour region in your editorial comment is most unfair. You must be aware that the Labour Party is in a process of consultation with all the localities and organizations in the area and that it will publish its plan when this phase is concluded.


In your negative assessment you bring Labour’s process down to a photo-op without the slightest respect for the interlocutors who are being heard by the Labour Party.


Il-Mument could not have done better.








Desmond Zammit Marmara’

The Times 6.11.2007


An important question that many floating voters are asking is: What would it be like to have Alfred Sant as Prime Minister if Labour wins the forthcoming general election? The Nationalist Party media has, as expected, already started the process of the demonisation of Dr Sant. The Nationalists have even come up with the ridiculous assertion that Dr Sant is too old for the post!


Let me start with this question of age. Anybody who really knows Dr Sant will vouch for his tirelessness and energy. An early riser, his day often consists of countless meetings, paperwork, public appearances and speeches and he even finds time to indulge in writing great works of Maltese literature. Suffice to say that in 2001, at the height of the European Union membership national debate, Dr Sant published La Bidu, La Tmiem, a monumental 892-page historical novel in Maltese, widely acclaimed by the critics. This is the person whom the Nationalists are trying to portray as a tired old man!


Now let me turn to Dr Sant's role as Prime Minister.


His 1996-98 record speaks for itself: The embellishment of Bugibba, the completion of the first phase of the Chadwick Lakes project, the successes in the war against drug trafficking, the successful hosting of the second Euro-Mediterranean Conference, a sustained drive to eradicate illiteracy, a plan for the socio-economic regional development of the southern part of Malta, a special scheme of financial assistance whereby Gozitan non-governmental organisations could benefit from aid for infrastructural projects, public works in Gozo at the Cittadella, Ghajnsielem, Marsalforn, Ta' Dbiegi crafts village and Xlendi, a marked increase in Gozo-based tourism, an increase in the rate of economic expansion leading to an increase of 14 per cent in the Gross Domestic Product in the first three months of 1998, control of the deficit to about Lm18 million in the first six months of 1998, the allocation by Libya of a sum of $10 million annually for an indefinite period and for the scope of private investment in Malta, visits of Labour delegations to Canada and Australia, which left positive results for Maltese emigrants. Need I go on?


The PN media has done its utmost to present the 1996-98 Labour government as a failure, citing the fact that it only lasted 22 months. Dr Sant failed as Prime Minister and, if entrusted with leading the nation once again, he will repeat that failure, the Nationalists stress. Nothing could be further from the truth! The 1996-98 Labour government was the victim of circumstances beyond anybody's control, a purely internal dispute that had nothing to do with the government's performance or with that of its leader.


An important point to consider in this pre-general election period is the particular character of Dr Sant's national leadership. What some people do not seem to realise is that Dr Sant is, first and foremost, a technocrat and only secondly a politician. He is, above all, the expert manager of a competent team that gets the job done in the most efficient manner. In other words, he delivers in the best way, the least costly one and within the shortest possible time period. Dr Sant's characteristics as Prime Minister, in fact, could be compared to those of highly-respected ex-Italian Prime Minister Lamberto Dini, who was also a technocrat first and a politician second. Furthermore, Dr Sant always tells the truth to the nation; he does not try to take citizens for a ride as a partisan political leader does. He goes for the long-term interests of the nation, not short-term, ad hoc solutions as a leader of lesser calibre does.


Let me give an example. Take the case of inflation in Malta. How did Nationalist Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi try to solve the problem? Through price stability agreements, by means of which companies/importers/retailers are bound not to increase their prices up to the end of March 2008. This is a politically-motivated solution, surely not in the national interest and criticised even by economic analysts as unwarranted government intervention in the functioning of the free market. One asks: What happens after March 2008? Dr Gonzi's style of leadership, therefore, is characterised by easy, short-term solutions which only solve problems in the immediate future but, on a long-term basis, leave the problems without an adequate solution.


What would Dr Sant do as Prime Minister? As an expert, a technocratic Prime Minister, Dr Sant would create an agency responsible for monitoring free market and competition conditions and which would conduct a report, every six months, to see how prices are fluctuating on items such as food, medicines and education. The free and competitive market would continue to function as before but the problem of abusive monopolies and price-fixing would be effectively tackled. The agency would have "teeth" and unjustified price hikes would be immediately dealt with in the interests of consumers as well as the business community itself.


In other words, Dr Sant is proposing a long-term strategy and solution that would effectively tackle the problem. Even Dr Gonzi has now realised that this is an extremely valid Labour proposal.


This is the crucial and important difference between Prime Minister Gonzi and Prime Minister Sant. Dr Sant gets the job done effectively and efficiently. Dr Gonzi takes ages to accomplish something and he tends to go for the short-term, temporary solutions rather than long-term effective ones. If one peruses the last budget presented by the PN government, one finds several proposals that had already been presented in last year's budget. They have not been accomplished and have been presented once again this year. Moreover, the Nationalist government included measures freely borrowed from Labour's published proposals!


I will conclude on the question of integrity. Has Dr Sant, both as Leader of the Opposition and as Prime Minister, ever been associated with the slightest hint of corruption? Has the 1996-98 Labour government ever been criticised on the issue of corruption? Of course not! I do not want to be unfair, so I will openly state that I believe Dr Gonzi to be a man of integrity. However, the record of his government, for which he is ultimately responsible, is a negative one where the prevention of corruption is concerned, even if, on a personal basis, the Prime Minister's record is impeccable.


Thus, Dr Sant is the citizen's natural choice for Malta's next Prime Minister. If you want the country to move forward at a faster pace with a government that shows more respect towards the ordinary citizen and under a competent leader, vote Labour.






Dolores Cristina

The Times 17.10.2008


The feeling was surreal. The framed photograph and the flowers placed by his party colleagues made the parliamentary seat look even emptier than it was. As we stood in silence paying our respects to Karl Chircop, I expected him to walk into the room with his loping gait and the ever-present smile on his face.


It was a grim experience with a Carmelo Abela who was visibly moved and openly shed tears like a man who was feeling the loss of a friend. You don't expect your friend to die at 43. Death is grim at any time and at any age but it is grimmer when it cuts a full life short and deprives a wife of a young husband and four children of their father and a mother of her son.


Everyone in the room experienced a sense of loss, some to a greater degree than others.


The general perception is that members of Parliament from different sides of the House are constantly at one another's throat and invariably at loggerheads.


One of my friends, who should have known better, was surprised when she saw me in what was obviously a friendly conversation with a member of the opposition. She admitted that she had expected us to ignore one another at best or to provide instant entertainment by going for one another in the middle of a party. First timers sitting in the Strangers' Gallery are sometimes surprised at the easy flow of members chatting to one another and sometimes crossing from one side to the other.


There are some strong friendships between Nationalist and Labour MPs.


Thank God for that. We are women and men who have a life outside politics, who have families we love, who have family problems, who share "a place of work" that is very demanding and very taxing. We may appear to be aggressive in public but there is another side to all of us.


Karl was a gentle person and a gentleman.


He brought his patients' problems into his parliamentary contributions.


When he spoke about housing, about unemployment, about health matters he was using first-hand experience and he was not just speaking about issues but about real people who needed their lives to change for the better.


He said what he had to say and then let it ride.


On one occasion he rushed into the room and immediately started his 40-minute contribution, rather breathless from the rush. At the end of it, he crossed the room, sat down next to me and said that he had been visiting a family that needed a social worker more than it needed a doctor but he could not bring himself to leave their home until he had taken the time necessary to give them some peace of mind even though he knew he was running late.


That, in my book, says all there is to say about the man.


Rest well, Karl.


At exactly twice Karl's age, Jane Spiteri passed away.


Co-founder of the National Council of Women in 1964, a social worker, a probation officer, an educator, Jane fought all her life for everything she believed in. And she believed in so many things. With an incredible tenacity and stamina she battled through life, always looking and seeking for change. She had an opinion about everything and she made sure it was heard, loud and clear. Amazingly comfortable with everyone, she would look people straight in the eye and say it exactly as it is. One might not agree with her but she always made a point that was worth considering.


Nothing was impossible as long as the goodwill was present. A dreamer and a visionary to the very end, she lived life to the full, always in service to others. A quiet revolutionary in so many ways.


At her funeral I could not resist an aside to my friend that Jane was probably telling the Lord that he had to reorganise his choirs of angels. My friend said she was positive that Jane was querying if there was an equal representation of female and male saints looking down on us.


Impossible to think of her as being still for a minute. Her mind leapt from one thing to the other, always coming up with fresh ideas.


The last time I saw her she was in a hospital bed doing her best to run the ward.


That's the Jane I know and the Jane I want to remember.


Her family wrote this of "Aunty Jane":


"Bold were you when no one dared.

"Wise and calm when troubles stirred.

"Never left a stone unturned.

"Your will to help is your mark of fame.

"No one like you..."


No one like her.







Albert Spiteri

The Times 17.11.2008


I wonder who wrote the editorial of in The Times on November 12. It was totally dedicated to the negation and rebuttal of Joseph Muscat's reply to the budget speech given by Tonio Fenech, Minister of Finance, a week earlier. It could easily have been written by the minister himself or some ambitious backbencher eager to look nice with the minister or the Prime Minister. Whoever it was though, stopped far short of tackling Dr Muscat's critical analysis of the budget speech. This extremely partisan editorial complained that his budget reply was given with a view to the gallery and of being very political. Since when have budget speeches and the ensuing replies stopped being as much publicity exercises as policy statements? There is nothing more exposing than a government's budget speech and the opposition's reply to that speech. What on earth did The Times expect of Dr Muscat? Why did it not say the same of the budget speech itself? The Times must certainly agree that the budget speech was also well delivered and animated by the minister and intended for the gallery while, because of its very nature, being highly political. That is exactly what I expected from the Finance Minister. Give, dear editor, one single example throughout the years that the PN was in opposition that the opposition leaders (George Borg Olivier and later Eddie Fenech Adami) did not play for the gallery in their budget speech replies. More so since such parliamentary sessions started being transmitted live on air. Give us one single example in which The Times accused the opposition leader of playing to the gallery or being too political! Again, that is exactly what I would have expected from the Leader of the Opposition then. Another sordid interpretation of goose-gander fairness and honest comment as defined by The Times. This same editorial complained that Dr Muscat's reply was too political. Simply incredible! I am certain that this is the very first editorial anywhere on earth that criticised a politician for being a politician while conducting a budgetary critical analysis. How absurd can one get! What can one expect from a leader of a political party during his budget speech reply? It is the opposition leader's duty to be exactly that. Am I to understand that The Times suggests that technocrats should replace politicians and start debating the running of the country? Should we move our Parliament to the University building at Tal-Qroqq? In his stupendous reply Dr Muscat was fair, lucid and to the point. He was technical, scientific, political and extremely clear. Such clarity of thought and simplicity of speech comes only to him who is gifted with the right background, moral fibre, personal integrity, courage, high academic achievement, sharp intellect and, to cap it all, the soaring EU credentials enjoyed only by Dr Muscat. This is what makes him so unique among our parliamentarians and this is what made his reply such a pleasure to listen to and concentrate upon.






Albert Gauci Cunningham

The Times 4.6.2009


There were many who approached me and asked how come I am writing in favour of the Labour Party. Some seemed shocked, others snubbed me but most agreed with my point of view. I have to admit that coming from a very Nationalist background it was pretty hard to try Labour out and though the PN is in its worst form right now it still was a bit of a shock to go to the Labour Party headquarters in ¨¤amrun and speak to people I had criticised so much. And yet I still don't understand why so many disgruntled and hurt Nationalists who believed that the PN had really learnt its lessons before March 2008, and who are now realising their mistake, find it so difficult to try Labour out.


Let's face it, as things stand right now this might end up as one of the worst, if not the worst, Nationalist legislatures ever. Lawrence Gonzi, who was the PN's biggest asset, is slowly but surely becoming one of its biggest liabilities. Arrogance is at a record high, broken promises galore, finances out of control and decisions go diametrically opposite to what we voted for such as in the Delimara power station saga. The PN has become the "no" party; no to everything anyone says especially if that someone happens to be called Joseph Muscat. The party thinks it can bull-doze anything it fancies down our throats and tragically it is taking the shape of a quasi-dictatorial party (election campaign apart).


So what's the difference between me and most of the others I meet? Simple. The others moan, groan, complain and sulk but in the same breath try to find every imaginable excuse to vote PN when push comes to shove while I decided to break my family "tradition" and act!


Being gay and quite liberal I decided to take a step towards the left which unfortunately in Malta seems to be considered as a "bold" move. When the PN became too arrogant and deceitful to handle I decided to "march" to the Labour HQ and see for myself if it's true that whether we like it or not we have to remain stuck with this conservative lot forever and ever. What did I find within the Labour party? Did I find all the ©¤amalli and nincompoops that we were always indoctrinated to believe the Labour Party to be made of? Not at all. What I did find is a group of people who accept even a once ardent Nationalist supporter with a very Nationalist background like me with open arms. I found a party in which some of the young members I've met openly say they are pro-EU and some even voted "Yes" for the EU, but most of all I found an environment where people are full of energy and ideas all working to build a coalition of citizens from all walks of life.


Is the PL perfect? Definitely not! Will it falter? I have no doubt it will and let's be fair, the Nationalists have done a lot of good to this country and the young generation is quite appreciative of the fact that it was Eddie Fenech Adami's PN that fought for the fulfilment of our European dream. Yet it's time to move ahead now, it's time for the Nationalists to re-invent themselves and shed the arrogance, it's time Malta is given back to those who can build bridges with the people and it's time to embrace the past and prepare for the future. It's time to go Labour! And June 6 is only the first and the smaller part of this equation.






Jo Said 20.2.2013


“Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do. I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners.” – Dedicated to Kevin Drake.


Last night I was watching a political debate which, I must admit, impressed me as awesome by the way it was delivered. After having published my article entitled “Whoa! Slow down with the barrage”, in which I emphasised how raucous the Maltese political scene gets when nearing a general election, last night’s was a cultured, civilised and pleasant discussion to watch and follow.


But, most particularly was the presence and participation of an acquaintance of mine who I had not seen, nor heard of, for years. He looked quite frail last night and he also seemed to have lost weight. But, I said to myself, I do know this chap. Of course he is Kevin Drake. He must have been ill, I thought to myself. Sometime later, it was his turn to speak, and he amazed me with his delivery.


He stated that he suffered from ME – a disease I had not heard of before, so I googled it to find out that it is a slow killer, rattling the patient from the energy one normally has and gradually making one feel tired, unenergetic and even lazy to the tune that it kills mobility. ME is the common name for Myalgic Encephalopathy, sometimes also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis.


Despite the fact that the Department of Health now accepts ME as a genuine medical condition, diagnosis can still pose a problem because ME symptoms are similar to those present in a number of other medical conditions. In addition, there are no examination findings which can confirm the diagnosis. This means there has to be a process of elimination (the exclusion of other conditions) before a diagnosis of ME can be made.


I mention Kevin by name because he made it public last night and he was so honest in his pursuit for harmony in society, given, especially, his condition. His heart-rending speech was amazingly touching as he spoke of the aches and pains he and others like him go through. Kevin even admitted, humbly enough, that he is normally shy to go out as others would look down on him because of his ailment.


The man used to be a high profile character in the media circles; he also used to be an actor as well as director of a radio station which – and this is where the push comes to shove – belongs to the conservative political party presently at the helm of power in Malta. But yesterday’s forum – programme, if you will – was being organised by, and transmitted on the other party’s TV station – the Labour party, in opposition. The timing is volatile as a general election is due in three weeks’ time.


In fact, Kevin spoke of the support he is now giving Labour and why he turned red from his rooted deep blue DNA. He also quoted blue eyed boys and girls telling him off as if he was committing a crime to vote Labour. In his words they besmirched him with comments like “your mother would be turning in her grave” for doing this. I never had realised that society had reached such an abyss in the venom, malice and malevolence sphere!


However, Kevin rebutted all this and he made the crowd stand to a deserved and merited ovation when he stood up and quoted from the Maltese national anthem “Give, oh God, the virtue, the knowledge, the love to the ones who lead this country, encourage and inspire unity in all the Maltese, and grant to all of us everlasting and endless peace.” 


He then looked towards the leader of the opposition, who, together with his wife, was present for the transmission, and for whom Kevin said he would vote, and he accentuated with a broken voice “THIS IS WHAT WE, THE CITIZENS, ASK FOR” knowing full well that a bright future beckons, given the winds of change. Unsaid but understood was Kevin Drake’s deep belief that Labour shall deliver.








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