Celebrating Misrepresentation

A party and a protest. Manifestations of victory and mourning collide in Valletta when one extreme of society calls upon its supporters to celebrate their enemies’ crushing defeat while the conservatives shed tears among hyperboles and exaggerations.

It is fantastic for all the same-sex couples who can finally accede to the institution of marriage. It is sad that this moment had to be sabotaged by extremists claiming to represent the LGBTQi community but who are more intent on exacting their revenge on the conservative elements of society by going overboard and pushing an inconsistent and unrepresentative law.

Same-sex couples deserved access to the institution.

The world is not divided between those who are in favour of same-sex marriages and those who are against.

There are also those who, while being in favour of the introduction of same-sex marriages, are pointing out the inadequacies of the legislation as proposed.

There are those who, while being in favour of the introduction of same-sex marriages, do not see any reason why the current regime should be watered down instead of added to.

There are those who, while being in favour of the introduction of same-sex marriages, are not represented either by the bible-toting conservatives or by the rabid reactionaries who misrepresent the LGBTQi communities’ real interests.

The noisy battle between extremist factions has clouded out logic and reason. When this happens, the mechanisms of representation are sabotaged and society is no better off. The squabble between “confessionals” and “pseudo-liberals” has deprived the nation of real representation. Empowering minorities does not mean replacing one hegemony with another, it means regulating while bearing in mind all interests and opting for balanced solutions. By turning what could have been a proper debate to introduce a just and equitable law into a battle of extremes the participants have sabotaged parliamentary representation – aided and abetted by short-sighted politicians wanting to jump on this or that bandwagon.

We may applaud the belated introduction of gay marriage but sadly this day will go down as a sad day for parliamentary representation. We are stuck in the middle between the jokers and the clowns. Society as a whole does not deserve this type of representatives.


The other extremists
Exclusive Invite – Victory celebration.

The Marriage Equality Bill and the label on the box

The Act to amend the Marriage Act (etc) is storming through parliament as it inevitably would given the repeat of the concomitant factors that allowed for a spate of progressive cum liberal laws in 2013. We have a Labour government elected with a huge margin and therefore with a comfortable majority in Parliament that is about to kick off a new season of legislative wonder. True to form the first bill on the table is an inexpensive one – no capital expenditure is involved – yet it is a huge investment in “street cred” capital when it comes to waving the progressive flag.

It’s the timing, stupid

Speculation at a purely pragmatic political level would have it that Muscat’s timing for this bill is justified by two main reasons. The first is precisely the idea that his government is seen to be the champion of liberal rights – the great reformer that has shot Malta to the top of the tables for civil liberties. In this case the “seen to be” is crucial. There is no capital cost and more importantly no political cost because the “Taghna Lkoll” wave is in full tsunami flow and even the most bigoted conservative within Muscat’s movement will right now sing his praises for whatever liberal achievement he is told has been achieved. Yes, this is definitely l-Aqwa Zmien and Muscat will be cashing his civil liberties cheque as often as he can – he has already done so before the Pana committee (what a wonderful distraction) at the EP.

Which brings me to the second reason for the timing. Debates on civil liberties in Malta tend to be rather controversial. Like most debates in Malta the tendency is to argue broadly without much attention to either fact or detail. The added value for Muscat’s government is that civil liberties debates tend to be a particularly sensitive issue for the party in opposition. Rushing the “debate” on civil liberties at a stage when the opposition is still in disarray gives an added value to the image of “Civil Liberties Champion” that Muscat tries to portray. It helps if the argument is reduced to black and white “for and against progress” levels without any nuance whatsoever. This is the time to expose the so-called “dinosaurs”and to purportedly portray the opposition in an ultra-conservative light. Antics and misinterpretations by the dinosaurs of the like of David Agius and Edwin Vassallo will be made to stick out like the ugly conservative warts that they are. The dinosaurs will provide the perfect platform on which to build the straw man wherein to bundle together all the critics of the bill whatever their reasons may be.

The Facts of the Matter

Which brings me to the content of the legislation itself. There are a few incontrovertible facts that need to be considered.

Fact One: All parties in parliament had committed to introducing equal marriage rights in their respective manifestos (the PD is committed to the manifesto of the PN).  A manifesto by a party is a manifesto for government. It is not a manifesto for opposition. What we deduce as a commitment to vote in parliament is tied to whether a party is in government (and therefore able to produce the law as envisaged in the manifesto) or whether it is in opposition (and therefore within the limits afforded by its minority in parliament how far it can influence a bill in order to reflect its manifesto). The Bill before the 17th legislature (before the parliament elected in June) is a bill drafted and proposed by the party in government and therefore embodies its conception of what equal marriage is. I will leave it to the PN to solve its own internal disagreements however I disagree with Simon Busuttil on one point. The PN (and PD) are not bound to blindly accept any law purporting to legislate on equal marriage proposed before parliament for the simple reason that the content might not reflect their concept and drafting of a potential equal marriage. That is how and why an opposition exists in Parliament. It is part of the checks and balances for the rule of law to properly function.

Fact Two: The title of the Bill in question is “An Act to amend the Marriage Act and various other laws in connection with the introduction of marriage equality and to provide for other matters dealing with it or ancillary thereto“. Let us be clear. The purpose of the act is clearly the introduction of marriage equality. Translated into layman’s terms it is an act that is intended to ensure that the institute of marriage that has hitherto been an institute exclusive to heterosexual couples is made accessible to same-sex couples. That is clearly what the label says on the box. That is what this act should be doing. Nothing more nothing less. In other jurisdictions, such as that of England and Wales (we cannot say UK since Scot and Northern Irish law are regulated separately on this issue), the solution was simple. Very simple. Under the “Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, article 1(1) stated concisely and without any complications: “Marriage of same sex couples is lawful”.

Fact Three: Here’s a little known fact. When you read through the current provisions of the Marriage Act and the Civil Code combined you will notice a very interesting anomaly. Nowhere in the law is marriage between same-sex couples prohibited. Madness, I hear you say, why all the fuss? Well it’s not that straightforward. True, nowhere in the restrictions to marriage section is there an outright prohibition of persons of the same sex getting married. The restrictions include age, infirmity and degrees of affinity (articles 3,4 and 5 respectively) but do not, surprisingly include any specific prohibition of same-sex marriage. What has stopped a gay or lesbian couple from turning up at the registry and asking to get married then? The answer is twofold – the first is custom (consuetudine) because until now it has been presumed that society regulates marriage as a union between persons of opposite sex. The second is the more formal problem of nomenclature because even though most of the provisions already refer to spouses or “persons to be married” without being gender specific you do encounter articles such as 15(2) of Cap 255 that refer to the Registrar (or officiating officer) declaring the married persons to be “man and wife”. That, and the myriad of forms that need to be adapted to be able to accommodate same-sex couples registering their marriage, are the main obstacles to same-sex marriage to date.

Rushed Cats and Blind Offspring

So now to the Bill. We all agree that the intention is to introduce the possibility of same-sex marriage. It’s even better with all parties involved on board. All parties agree that same-sex marriage should be a possibility under Maltese law. How do we go about introducing that? The solution in other jurisdictions, as I already referred earlier, was a glaringly obvious and simple solution deserving of Occam’s Razor application of the year. In layman’s terms what is done is simply (yes simply) to add to what already exists. The England and Wales option was to declare clearly that “Marriage of same-sex couples is lawful”. Angela Merkel’s “Schabowski moment” led to a change in German law which will now state the following: „Die Ehe wird von zwei Personen verschiedenen oder gleichen Geschlechts auf Lebenszeit geschlossen.“ ( “Marriage is concluded by two persons of different or same sex for life.”). Again, simplicity is in order – to an already extant regime of marriage (between persons of different sex) is added a parallel (and equal) regime (between persons of the same sex).

That is in essence what the introduction of Same-Sex Marriage entails. Nothing less. Nothing more.Sure certain provisions of the law would require an add-on for interpretative purposes in addition to the existing provisions in order to allow their interpretation in the case of same-sex couples. It is not necessary to change these clauses into a more neutral term. What would be done is to add an interpretative section or clause (whatever the case may be) that applies in the case of the newly added parallel regime of same-sex couples. Likewise, where for some natural reason, certain marriage-related clauses cannot apply in the case of same-sex couples (as has been ably argued by my colleague Dr. Justin Borg Barthet) this would be clearly stated in the law: for example the problematics surrounding the grounds of impotence or consummation in the area of nullity of marriage could be solved by either exempting same-sex couples from their application or by qualifying their application in such circumstances.

Any law purporting to do that should (and probably would) have the support of the whole of parliament. Doesn’t Bill no.1 of the 17th Legislature do that then? Well it says that it does in its title but it goes on to do far more than that. This is where the problems start.

Same, same but different

Bill no. 1 has one major problem that pervades the whole exercise. It is in fact an exercise in declaring everybody SIMILAR and in denying the existence of DIFFERENCES by paring down as many of our major codes as possible to the LOWEST COMMON DENOMINATOR. The confusion in the drafters’ head lies primarily in their conception, or rather misconception, of equality. Equal rights you see, does not mean that everybody is the same but rather means that everybody – no matter how different – is to be treated equally before the law. This is the age-old struggle of feminism – a justified struggle that recognises that even though men and women are different (and accepting that difference) it does not mean that they should not have equal rights. This normative distinction is hard to explain in normal circumstances. What it means is that for example when it comes to salary the law ensures equality by saying that both men and women should be paid equally. Given the same job, under the same conditions, it is illegal for a man to be paid more than a woman. In order to guarantee this equality the law RECOGNIZES THE DIFFERENCE. You have a MAN, you have a WOMAN and you have a law stating that the WOMAN can not be paid less than the MAN because she is not a MAN.

Helena Dalli’s Bill tries to do something different. To continue using the example given, in order to get equal pay it tries to redefine men and women. No more men, no more women. Just persons. The wonderful thing is that if it were really a case for legislation for equal pay then this solution wouldwork perfectly. All persons deserve equal pay. Simple. This is not equal pay though. This is the institution of marriage. Remember and bear this in mind. The declared intention is to introduce same-sex marriage with all the consequences NOT to alter the current institution. The nationalist party “conservatives” got the wrong end of the stick in their criticism of the bill – they fell into the ploy of the progressives who would label them conservative dinosaurs.

The real problem of the bill is that it is a rash job that ignores all rules of legal interpretation. It opts for the more convoluted option of combing through major laws and in each instance reducing to the lowest common denominator any definition. The agenda is clear – ride the momentum and push through changes of nomenclature for the sake of winning while the stakes are high. It is not, as explained earlier, a necessary exercise. A parallel, well thought out regime for same-sex marriages would have given same-sex couples an equal foothold in the institution without whittling away from an institution that has withstood the test of time.

The honourable fight for equality has been hijacked by an extremist faction intent on pushing the limits. For a long time, the governments of this island have lent more than an ear to the bishops and archbishops when regulating civil liberties. The tide has turned and it is now the turn of the Rainbow Church to have the ear of the government. The path that has been taken is a dangerous one. The misconception (and I am not sure it is an error, more a wilful construction) of the workings of Equality lead to definitions that open the floodgates for legal lacunae.

The bill will inevitably pass through parliament as it is. Muscat wants a show of force and mistakenly interprets this as an easy victory of liberal forces while shaming the PN further for having allowed its conservatives to bleat once again. In actual fact though there is little justice and equity in a bill that is bulldozering through parliament beyond debate using the brute force and euphoria of an electoral victory. The MGRM and other lobbies purring away while dismissing any constructive criticism with their straw man argument are unable to conceive the damage to their own cause that is being wrought by this kind of legislation. Level-headed members of the public, many of whom have absolutely no bone to pick with the introduction of Same-Sex Marriages will now be more wary of any proposals from the quarter of these latter-day extremists.

Right now it is tough to speak out and try to criticise objectively because the inquisition is out en masse. Ironically for a lobby that so despises labels and labelling they seem to be quick to throw a label or two in the direction of whoever dare criticises their bulldozing project. The rule of law is in no better place when dialogue and consultation are replaced by imposition. This law will pass through parliament but it is no victory for democracy or for representation. Sadly, expect more of the same for now.






The change we need and how to vote it in


I am not a nationalist

I am not a nationalist. The very idea of being a partisan card-carrying member of a party nauseates me and I feel insulted whenever I am told by anyone that I am a “nationalist”. This blog, created in 2005 has always been a strong promoter of constitutional change. Whenever I have written, whether on J’accuse or The Sunday Times or the Malta Independent on Sunday, I have taken this philosophy with me: it has come dangerously close to a creed. The analysis is simple really – our constitutional structure has been hijacked by a two-party system, it no longer serves the people who should be the ultimate depositories of sovereign power but it serves as a structure that enables to well-oiled grease machines that serve a “career” system entrenched in a not too fine system of networks. My belief: that system needs to change.

To change that system, to really change that system, we need a blanket reform – as we say in Maltese “bl-gheruq u x-xniexel”. That change means bringing down the whole palace including the two behemoths that have striven to set it all up. Yes, a real commitment for change by any of the two main parties would be a sort of hara-kiri in many ways. A party proposing this kind of real change would consciously be subscribing to its demise while preparing to start over in the new system with new rules. That is why it is difficult to trust any one of the two parties promising change – and this in a the sanitised world of the hypothetical, not counting the contexts and realities within which we vote every time we are called to the polls.

The biggest challenge the sovereign people have had every election, particularly since deciding on European Union membership has been whether to adhere to the Gattopardian motto (If we want everything to change then everything must remain the same) as represented by the status quo or whether to push the main parties off the edge and provoke a constitutional shift for the future. The people have not been sufficiently convinced to let go of old habits. The card carrying partisans have always won the day. The race to the bottom was allowed to happen. That is where we stand today.

Corruption, Maladministration, Bad governance

I am not independent. I don’t think anyone can really be independent – whatever that word means in political discourse of today. The notion of “independent” in local discourse falls part of the cobweb infested partisan way of thinking that for a few years managed to create the myth of “super partes” – persons who were supposedly allowed to play and comment in the political arena without having their motives questioned. The whole point of accusing people of claiming to be independent today rises out of some confused attempt at trying to identify which of the two parties they are trying to back. The level of political discourse is such that people are unable to participate in discussions based on clear cut values. Add to that the zero-sum nature of our voting system and you can barely blame anyone for sticking their flag to a mast rather than arguing the nuances of policies with which they may agree or disagree.

This election has very high stakes though. Coming as it does in the age of post-truth, it is becoming much more difficult to decipher on the ground yet when one takes a step back and looks at the wider picture one finds a perfect opportunity to trigger off the much needed change that I spoke about earlier. The system is shaking at its foundations. If you want to follow a partisan narrative you will end up comparing and justifying different levels of corruption. You will still end up discussing the social and economic future of our nation in very shaky terms unless of course you are on the side of the believers of Newspeak. Marie Briguglio’s brilliant analysis of the steroid-driven economy really drove the message home insofar as this particular point is concerned. No party is really thinking about the long term sustainable future of the country – just look at transport and think of the difference between promising what people want and what the country needs. The parties’ electoral manifesto is in both cases a dangerous mix of promising the earth to everyone and everything.

Which is why this election you have to ignore their manifestos. Yes. You read that right. Ignore the manifestos. The manifestos are just the Wizard’s Big Curtain behind which, for the most part, lie small parties with small ideas. At least most of their ideas for the nation are small – meanwhile the candidates will be vying for the greasy pole: a place in parliament, a parliamentary secretariat, a chairmanship, a ministry…  If any of these manifestos were to be implemented within the current institutional framework then we will have failed. I say we as a country because whenever we allow whatever party it is to operate within a system that guarantees absolute power to the party in government with a hold on all other institutions then we fail. The signs are more evident now because of Muscat’s team’s gargantuan effort at exposing them to everyone.

Up your manifestos

Yes. Ignore those manifestos with tunnels to Gozo, slashed taxes, trains, racecourses, freebies, jeebies and heebies. The manifestos are a useless waste of paper this time round. The ONLY promise that counts is the one regarding change. Which brings me back to the original point. I make it not as a nationalist, an independent or as one who voted AD for the last few elections. I make it as a person who believes that we might already be too late to bring about this change but that it is still worth one massive try. I also make it as an expat of thirteen years, with a comfortable salary and great job who needs ask nothing of my country (and who never needed ask anything of any party) if that counts for anything in your appreciation. I make it with a genuine interest in getting a better future for the country I was born in, the one I love to love and hate.

Change. It is all written into the much maligned coalition/non-coalition agreement/non-agreement between PN and PD. It is the one promise to which I am attaching my hopes in this election. It is the one promise which I will hold each and every member of a new government answerable for. Radical constitutional reform. It is hard to trust the nationalist party on this one. I know that because I have been there before. Once in power the temptation to retain the status quo will be strong as usual. As I said, commitment to real change means radical change both for party and for the country’s institutions. Which is why there will always be opposition from those used to the past ways of operation. Which is also why the struggle will not end on June 3rd.


On June 3rd the struggle begins. First, with a vote for the coalition promising change we will set the wheels in motion. Then it is the duty of each and every person who has stood up to be counted to bring about this change  to pressure the new government to start that wave of change. It has to start yesterday. No dragging of feet, no excuses. The political parties have been allowed to play Politics for too long with the wrong results. It is time for politics to return at the service of the people.

On June 3rd my number 1 vote will go for the PD candidate in my district. I chose the PD candidate because they are our Trojan horse to bringing about this change. By accepting the difficult conditions of a coalition with terms dictated by the current electoral laws they were prepared to sacrifice the party for the good of the country.  I will continue on the nationalist and alternattiva candidates. I have never in my life been convinced by the Labour party to give even a fraction  of my vote to them. I will surely not start this time round having seen the Labour party machine put in motion to defend the indefensible.


One final note. It has been 12 years of blogging but there are still people out there who think I write anonymously. So here goes. My name is Jacques Rene’ Zammit, I am a Gozitan lawyer specialised in European Union law and I work as a referendaire (which means I assist a judge to draft judgements) at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg. I have been involved in politics for over 25 years, my first political “intervention” was a speech in the run up to the 1992 election. It was at a PN event at the Crystal Palace in Marsalforn and i spoke about the need of organisations in Gozo getting together to pull the same rope. At University I was a member of SDM during the time when a group of idealists in the organisation tried to cut off all ties from the Nationalist Party. That particular experiment was a partial failure – partisan ties are hard to break.

Among my credible adversaries at the time were Mike Briguglio and James Debono. I am glad to see that our generation produced free thinkers who believe in the country and believe in the future. I am honoured to be on the same wavelength as these two gentlemen and comforted by the idea that there are more of us out there – ready to stand up and be counted and constantly working for change.

This has been J’accuse telling you how I will vote on Saturday. I cannot sufficiently stress the importance that voters look at the country’s future before and above anything else. The future is not the cash in your wallet or the bills in your postbox, the future is the quality of your life, the social and the cultural, the possibility of living in a normal country where everyone is equal under the law, where we are all servants of the law so that we may be free. Good luck, we need it.



Pirates of the Mediterranean.


The #Maltafiles scandal has just broken. The journalistic network EIC (European Investigative Collaborations) combed through 150,000 documents leaked from Malta and concluded that Malta is a ‘pirate base’ for tax avoidance. Coming right after Panama Leaks had projected Malta into the wrong side of the limelight thanks to its having the only EU Minister with companies in Panama (and not doing anything about it), this new scandal threatens to deal a heavy blow to a crucial sector of the Maltese economy. As things stand we are definitely not in the best position to set up any form of defence.

Reputation is the key concept here. Blow after blow is being dealt to Malta’s reputation as an honest dealer on the international and European level. One lesson that many nations learnt from Panama Leaks was that in order to be able to survive in the cut-troath world of tax competitiveness it is crucial to know how to be on the right side of the fine line between tax avoidance and the abetting of illegality.

The International Dimension

Take New Zealand for example, the discovery of the use of their system of trusts by Maltese government figures led to the changing of laws in the country relating to trusts. Notwithstanding the immediate and timely reaction to shore up the damage, the ripples of the scandal are still having an effect on the NZ trust system to this day: the inquiry into the dealings by the Azerbaijan President’s daughter involve movement of moneys through New Zealand trusts.

In Panama, the founders of Mossack Fonseca – the law firm in the eye of the storm – were arrested and accused of having formed a criminal organisation that assisted persons in hiding funds of doubtful origin (read money laundering). They have only just been released on bail. Laws get changed, law firm partners get tried criminally and action is taken. All to protect a country’s reputation. That is because in the world of tax and investment competition reputation is crucial.

What happened in Malta? For over a year now the Prime Minister has stood by two of his closest operators: Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi notwithstanding the fact that they were two PEPs caught up in the Panama Papers scandal. The feeble excuse? Some sort of declaration on a hastily written paper makes it all seem – to the Prime Minister – A.O.K. Worse still, insofar as Mizzi is concerned we have the fake defrocking from his position as Energy Minister as some form of retribution for his ‘genuine error’. The hypocrisy behind this move was never more blatant than during Malta’s turn at the presidency of the EU with Mizzi turning up and chairing meetings of the EU Council of Energy Ministers.

No effort at all was made to preserve Malta’s reputation in this respect on the international scene. Joseph Muscat was quite prepared to defy everyone and everything and proceed with his headfast ways keeping both Schembri and Mizzi close to his chest while ignoring international calls that cried foul. At no instant did his particular magic formula for Malta’s economy – Muscatonomics – contemplate the huge damage being wrought by his actions and those of his entourage. The recent developments with regards to the operations of Pilatus Bank are only an aggravation of this situation. It can only get worse.

The European Dimension

The Best in Europe is what Joseph Muscat had promised. Has he delivered? There are different ways of looking at this. First there is the government spin that our economy has never been better. We have low unemployment and budget surplus flowing through our ears and noses. The ‘trickle down’ benefits for the citizen remain the famous ‘consumption bill cuts’ that earned Muscat his first ride in power. A different song is that sung by others who – as best put metaphorically by a colleague of mine – describe the situation as follows: The previous nationalist government had replaced an old car with a spanking new one and the labour government found it all set to go. What labour is doing is revving up the engine and wearing it down as fast as possible like there is no tomorrow.

Beyond the inevitable spin though there is a reputation to be upheld in the European Union too. Being the best in Europe also entails being the best in Europe by European standards and those standards are to be found in the rules of the club. It’s not about a blind adherence to the rules either, it is about understanding that the European Union is a sum of its parts and that every part of the Union can only benefit when they work together and for the same interest.

This idea is best enshrined in article 4(3) of the Treaty of the European Union:

“Pursuant to the principle of sincere cooperation, the Union and the Member States shall, in full mutual respect, assist each other in carrying out tasks which flow from the Treaties.

The Member States shall take any appropriate measure, general or particular, to ensure fulfilment of the obligations arising out of the Treaties or resulting from the acts of the institutions of the Union.

The Member States shall facilitate the achievement of the Union’s tasks and refrain from any measure which could jeopardise the attainment of the Union’s objectives”.

The principle of sincere cooperation underlies the operation of the EU as a group of states with common goals and common regulations. When boiled down to the essence it translates into “member states (and institutions) should not engage in activity that undermines the goals and effectiveness of the Union and its objectives”.

Which brings me to passports and the sale thereof. It may be ok for the government of Malta to lend lip service to the European Union as a project and as a concept. The damascene conversion of Malta’s PM from hater of all things EU to sudden prophet on the future of Europe might have become a taboo topic and yet it remains to be tested given how every action on the European stage by this government is tied to inherent contradictions and the sale of passports is the prime example.

When Malta’s Labour government decided to turn the sale of Maltese citizenship into a lucrative business it also did so with the full knowledge that the main attraction of such citizenship was that it included EU citizenship in a sort of 2 for 1 deal. The bulk of local criticism of the scheme was related to the type of purchasers who would be attracted but few chose to stress the European dimension of the problem. The low and inconsistent standards applied to the scheme and the readiness to accept anybody willing to pay were not only harming Malta but they were harming the European Union.

Did our PM care? Irrespectively of whether he was aware of the alleged massive operation of greasing of wheels when it came to the implementing of the scheme, Muscat showed an incredible nonchalance in dismissing this huge “up yours” to the European Union as one big bout of jealousy. What does that make Malta seem like in the eyes of its partners in Europe? What does it do to the reputation of the nation? Yes you guessed. We are the pirates of the Mediterranean, ready to sell our soul for a quick kill – and that kind of reputation sticks.

So when the focus suddenly shifts to a Financial Services industry and to how Malta has used a (cheap) competitive edge to attract investments here the onus of proof that Malta acts with malicious intent of the “I’m alright and f you jack” kind is much lower. Couple that with the fact that our regulatory system in this sphere has not exactly been improving over the years but rather has degenerated and you suddenly discover that one of the crucial sectors in our economy is under open fire from all sides.

This is not Luxembourg right after Luxleaks. This is not Ireland after getting rapped on the hand by the Commission for the way it deals with huge multinationals. This is passport selling Malta with a Panama Leaks associated heart of government that is now exposed with a set of files showing that its financial services system is being abused by persons of not too high a standard.

That is the difference really. On any other day, under any other government, an attack on the competitive edge of a particular sector can be weathered given the right diplomacy and the right legal action in the right quarters. Take our gaming industry – constantly subjected to a barrage of attacks by fellow EU members who want a piece of the cake. So long as we can show that our regulatory standards are high and that we operate within the limits of sincere cooperation then it as all part of a days work as members of the EU. There are forums were this battle can be taken.

This is not any other day or any other government. This is a scandal ridden government that has now got a long list of grievances which all boil down to the breakdown of governance. The strongest defence for maintaining a competitive regime is that it is done and maintained within a strong regulatory framework that allows for no nonsense. When France, Germany, Italy and more come knocking at your door asking questions as to how your financial services industry is full of huge holes allowing for money laundering operations the best platform for defence is not the deck of a pirate ship that is sinking fast.

After the Coalition: Vote Forza Nazzjonali

A week. It’s a damn long time in politics. I watched with a heavy heart as coalition talks between Alternattiva Demokratika and the Nationalist Party disintegrated. I had already set out my ideas on what should ideally have happened. The moment in time that we are living requires extraordinary moves by extraordinary people. The nation is desperately in need of a political wave of change that transcends any individual party’s interest.

So yes. When the news came out that AD and PN had not found a common ground I was angry. I’ve seen the chronological account given by Alternattiva’s members. I’ve also tried to understand the main reasons given by nationalist party. The impression I get is that on both sides there are quite large factions who are unable to step up to the occasion and understand the immediacy and urgency of the problems that this nation are facing.


Let’s look at AD first. Here they were with a huge chance of getting one of the two behemoths of Maltese politics to commit to a common programme. They knew that, like them, the PN was first and foremost interested in getting the corrupt clan out of Castille. They knew that they had a common ground on this matter of cleaning up politics. This was their trojan horse – their chance to work on a wider agenda of reform. Did they sit at the negotiating table with an open mind or with more red lines than was feasible to come to a compromise?

With hindsight and having seen the “Qawsalla” proposal I detect a bit more intransigence than was necessary at that stage. Too much mistrust was built over the years and maybe, just maybe, AD was seeing the PN in what appeared to be a weak position and therefore they tried to go for the overkill. To the third party observing the battle it seemed like payback time. The PN name had to go. It did help that there was a logic in the reasoning and that the idea was doable on paper but putting this as a deal breaker was tantamount to putting a petard under the proceedings from the start. That might be what some AD die-hards full of rancour at the PN might want but this is neither here nor there – it does not help in the battle against the incumbent and it does not contribute to any possible discussions on change in the future.


Now for the Nationalist Party. There has been much talk about whether the PN was caught unawares by the early election call. Most of the talk is rubbish because it dismisses the recent developments from within the party when it comes to proposals on transport, on the environment, on small business and the economy and on other things. The veneer of electoral preparation was almost there. The PN had been gearing for election anyway – the shock announcement might have just sped up some of its machinery into action.

I do however believe that the PN was unprepared for the election in another way. The PN is unprepared because it had not had enough time to metamorphose into a real party of values. You only have to listen to the discourse in the rallies, in the meetings in the kazini. It’s all about “il-Partit nazzjonalista this and that”. Only an hour ago I was listening to Claudio Grech speaking from Santa Venera and the discourse is all the chiaro-scuro, us and them, “remember what the nationalists havemdone for us”.

All this betrays a lack of understanding of the real predicament of the nation. It betrays a lack of assumption of responsibilities that should be combined with a willingness to change.

When the coaltion with the PD was announced Simon Busuttil was flanked by six or seven persons whom he described as representing the highest echelons of his party. The parties in lilliput need a leader, two vice leaders, one chairman of executive this, one chairman of administrative that and one probably to make the coffee. The party. The risk is always there that people are not understanding the message of this election – the crucial nature of the change that is needed – because they cling to old ideas of alternation. It is the kind that is ingrained with “good vs bad”, “us vs them”.

It’s dangerous. Very dangerous. It is so especially because this time round we cannot do without voting for the nationalist party to get corruption out of our system. The onus therefore lies on the nationalist party to be convinced about the changes that need to be brought in from day one. The coalition with Marlene Farrugia’s PD gives us a ray of hope that someone in the new formation will be hoding them accountable. Pity AD are not there too.

Which brings me to the matter of how the nationalist party dealt with the coalition talks with AD. You could sense the supercilious arrogance oozing through the statements of some exponents of the party. Comments on size and votes in the past betrayed the fact that lessons still had to be learnt about the how and why our politics works. As I argued in an earlier post not much was being asked of the PN to show a commitment to a wider coalition that transcends the single party. This test was failed and failed miserably judging by the reactions to AD by the same exponents mentioned earlier.

What now?

We are here though. At a crossroads. The battle has only just begun and the day of reckoning has been fixed. We see a nationalist party trying to battle the monster of deceipt that holds the nation in ransom. It’s going to get tougher as the earth is promised by the incumbent in order to save his skin. Forza Nazzjonali has become the last chance to get the change going against all odds.

Its members must begin to realise that they do not only represent their respective parties but also the hopes of a much wider swathe of population that goes beyond the flag waving hardcore. That swathe of population has had enough of the old republic. They expect real change and reform. We all do.

If we care for our country, if we care for real change and reform we can only but put our weight behind Forza Nazzjonali. We do so with the solemn promise that should we be successful in or endeavour to get this movement into government then that will only be the beginning. For every day on from the 4th of June we will hold the new government to its word: constitutional and electoral reform. We will not be silenced by mere talk of discussions that threaten to drag on for five years.

No dilly dallying, no excuses. No returning to the needs of the party. In order to change the whole system even the parties themselves must change. It is a tall order. It is probably also our last chance before the nation descends into the level of a tin pot dictatorship.

Hopefully, for the last time, many will have the courage and goodwill to hold their nose and vote nationalist.

“Turiamoci il naso e votiamo PN” (con tant scuse a Salvemini e Montanelli).

Akkuzaforizmi – Sejf

SkonD one news ma hemm l-ebda “sejf” fil-kcina ta’ Pilatus. Is-sejf il-muzew tal-arkaeologija qieghed le? Imbaghad meta ssemmi sejf u Pilatu mohhok itir ghal Cesri u l-Ides of March. X’tahwid simboliku. X’konfuzjoni kataklizmiku. X’mizerja ta’ poplu imdorri jahdem bil-fidi u mhux bil-logika. #ghidofmarch