Zminijietna supports Editor of Students’ Organisation Newspaper

Zminijietna supports Editor of Students’ Organisation Newspaper ‘Realta’

Zminijietna – Voice of the Left finds the decision taken by the University Rector, Juanito Camilleri, to ask the police to proceed legally against Mark Camilleri, editor of the student’s newspaper Realta, possibly imprisoning him, an intimidation.

“Zminijietna declares its full support and solidarity to Mark Camilleri, holding that the whole issue is set to a right wing, conservative ideological agenda, meant to undermine the freedom of speech on the campus and elsewhere.

It is ironic that no action was taken when SDM, which is represented in KSU, interviewed Norman Lowell, known for his racist and xenophobic ideology, which interview was also held at the KSU boardroom. Could it be that no one objected to this behaviour because SDM holds a privileged status at University?

Zminijietna joins other youth and students organisations such as Moviment Graffitti and Alternattiva Demokratika Zghazagh in their support and solidarity to Mark Camilleri.

Zminijietna appeals to other students’ organisation to extend their support and solidarity to Mark Camilleri, a colleague who is a victim of a conservative plot to punish and intimidate whom they classify as radical or progressive.

“It would be a dark day for democracy in Malta , a member of the European Union to send a person to prison because of his liberal thinking.”

David Pisani
Zminijietna – Voice of the left.

Should Poverty be victorious in Europe?

The European commission president Jose Manuel Barroso told a gathering of civil society representatives on Monday (28 September) that the European Union needed to do more to tackle social issues such as poverty.  On the other hand, while calling for greater European action to deal with the regions’ poor, Mr Barroso ruled out any move on taxation. “It is impossible to harmonise this. We are not a federal state,” he said.  However, one would think that it goes undisputed that the European welfare state touches almost every aspect of its economy and society. So far, in the mainstreams’ perception, Europe managed to avoid the shamefully unjust American system. After all, the welfare state basically exists to provide insurance for citizens buffeted by the changing economy. As such, if the small size of European economies and their openness to external bigger shocks made them more volatile, we would expect a larger welfare state to cushion the poor, from these shocks. Alas! the evidence does not support this view. At present, 79 million people in the EU live in poverty, despite the fact that they inhabit the richest economic area in the world.

The question of who receives most from the EU budget has continually caused strong debate between net donors and net recipients, and upcoming discussions on funding for the EU’s next financial period 2014-2020 are unlikely to pass off smoothly. Germany and other higher tax member states complain however that low-tax countries, such as Ireland undermine their ability to support expensive social welfare programmes.

Let us not undermine the fact that redistribution of income by means of taxes, transfers, and other means is a policy measure, and therefore is a result of the politico-economic process. The role of institutions in economic redistribution, is flexible and ultimate reflect the deeper forces. Before Brussels’ army think of moving towards an American welfare system, some factors must be seen in contrast to Europe: The United States is a country of immigrants. It stands to reason that those who left their countries of origin in search of fortune to escape poverty were the most risk-taking of the lot. American history also confirms the role that racial divisions played in limiting the welfare state. It also makes us aware that the introduction of minorities, such as the new immigration into Europe, might create a potential for entrepreneurial politicians to create hatred in order to gain support. It might be a foolish step not to see the difference between European and U.S politics without recognizing the strong differences in beliefs between the two areas.  Different perceptions about the poor can also lead to a different tolerance of inequality.  Europeans may be more offended by inequality because they perceive it as intrinsically unfair. Americans on the other hand, may be more tolerant because they see inequality as a fair result of individual effort.  One cannot deny the fact that some right-wing politicians have worked hard to instill the idea of the poor as morally incompetent and irresponsible layabouts. As such, American beliefs about the poor should be seen as the result, not the cause, of successful American anti-redistribution politics. Educational institutions played its role too.  The right-wing ideology continues to dominate schools through a system of local funding.  Public-schools have been a local affair, where ‘prominent’ citizens have been able to ensure that the curriculum does not directly attack their interests or counter their views.

In the 1960s the United States government mounted a well-publicised War on Poverty. However no such programmes or measures have ever commanded enough resources, facilities and public support to have a widespread impact.  But, since 1981 there has not been even any War on Poverty-it is as if victory had been declared, when in fact there was no such conquest.

Indeed, as President Reagan is said to have remarked, ‘We declared war on poverty, and poverty won’.

It remains to be seen which direction the majority of the Brussels-based army of people in the EU, seeking to gain greater prominence for their own agendas is moving to, as they are keenly aware that the next few months represent an important policy-shaping window regarding the EU’s direction for the next few years. Would this army be mobilized to defend against poverty in Europe? Would they nullify the belief that it is not only moral weakness and laziness? Would they be able to see clearly why there is a sense of hopelessness in the lives of the poor and why some are so privileged? Or would they also choose to declare the ‘victory of poverty’? At best, one can hope that there will be consensus for some sympathy for the downtrodden when the Member States will be approving a new work programme for the commission at a spring summit next year. The commission is also set to launch a consultation period for a future European economic strategy that will take over from the much-maligned Lisbon Agenda that expires in 2010.

The European Greens are very much concerned about poverty in the European Union. Indeed, the Greens are deeply concerned about the present EU’s lack of democratic transparency, its bureaucracy and the dominance of neo-liberal economic policies which are causing more inequality. This is resulting in a strong skepticism towards the EU.  The way the globalization process is organized, has led to a fear among citizens that social ‘certainties’ are evaporating. European Greens are for a European social model and believe that the most sustainable choice in this regard is one that ties social justice with ecological justice. Here,  EU member states should  opt for measures that increase social protection and confront discrimination, whilst reducing their ecological footprint as a precondition for a just and sustainable development of other parts of the world as well.

The Greens’ vision of a Green New Deal opts for such policies, where socio-economic inequality can be tackled through policies which create green jobs and social justice in the process.

Nighat Urpani

Spokesperson for Social Protection

Alternattiva Demokratika – The Green Party spokesperson for Social Protection


No cruelty in use of guide dogs

Robert Callus, ADŻ- Green Youth, Mosta

After a coalition of organisations, including ours, started a campaign about animal cruelty in circuses, some felt they should excuse the circus and punish the protesters.

Apart from the ridiculous libel suits filed, a few tried to apologise for this cruelty on this newspaper, both on the online version as well as through a letter to the editor.

Their tactic comprised of comparing circus practices with other practices such as dolphinariums and bull-fighting in Spain, both of which we definitely condemn. However, comparing circus animals with pets is unbelievably absurd.

One person went completely overboard by comparing them to dogs guiding the visually impaired (Charles Camilleri, December 17). Justifiably, individuals as well as advocacy organisations for the blind felt offended.

While I can speak on behalf of my organisation, I feel confident that all coalition organisations disagree with Mr Camilleri’s ill and unreasonable comparison. Circus animals live a life of horror and pain while guide dogs live a most fulfilling life.

I believe anyone who owns and cares for a dog clearly understands what I mean.

Apart from this, unlike circus animals, these dogs are helping people live independently and are not in the profit-making business. Although one cannot assume Mr Camilleri’s intentions, his message surely was to justify animal cruelty in circuses rather than to denounce the use of dogs by the visually impaired.

However, just in case he is really worried about guide dogs, we would like to advise him to get his facts straight. We refuse to accept both Mr Camilleri’s implication that the use of guide dogs is a form of animal cruelty and the idea that the circuses’ exploitation of animals could in any way be justified.

Corruption: The Most Underrated Crime

As young boy I remember my father mentioning the word korrotti (corrupt). I used to laugh at him thinking he was saying karrotti (carrots) in slang. I was too innocent to realise he was talking about a heinous crime that has become so much socially accepted we’ve learn to live with. A crime which has different implications according to the merits for each situation. Nearly always they are dead serious. A crime that makes trafficking of drugs as well as humans across borders possible, that is the main cause for famine in third world countries as well as being usually implicated in projects ruining the environment. An act so powerful than was not only one of the main factors of bringing down the USSR, but together with fanatic Nationalism is the reason why neither Russia nor most of its former satellite states ever really recovered. (A saying in Russia goes: After Lenin we had de-intellectualisation; after Stalin de-stalinisation; but after Brezhnev we never had any de-corruptisation).

Corruption has such a devastating effect because it infiltrates every sector of society, and hinders law enforcement as well as any real reform, be it economic, legal or environmental. How can one, for example stop human trafficking when the traffickers move innocent people across borders for purposes of slavery if the former haven’t got protection from some of those who are meant to be there to protect the victims? Why would dictators leave thousands of overworked humans live with less than 2$ a day if multinationals were not pumping them millions to turn a blind eye?

Despite all this, compared to other crimes, on both a local and international level we rarely see people convicted of corruption, and when we do they rarely get serious penalties. I attribute this to mainly two reasons. First of all, corruption is invisible. Unlike a small time thief or even a bank robber, those most responsible do not break into houses themselves, or hold a gun towards a person’s head. Though they might be responsible for thousands of deaths, they are rarely if ever seen with blood on their hands. Due to this, their crime seems a minor one. It rarely creates public outrage. It has become socially acceptable. Lately we’ve seen the violent attack on Italian leader Silvio Berlusconi. The perpetrator, Massimo Tartaglia, a person with mental health problems, is seen as one of the most dangerous people in Italy. We’ve all seen the blood on Berlusconi’s face. Yet, in reality, Tartaglia’s crime is a minor one compared to the six charges against the same leader. The latter’s charges of bribery are easily forgivable. They left no blood or broken noses. At least not directly.

The second reason while corruption rarely sees the light of day is that the corrupt are usually wiser than the common thief. We believe that a person bribes another for only one reason – getting from him the particular thing he wants. Yet there is another, less obvious albeit more sinister reason. The big time corrupter not only gives a bribe to the small time corrupt, but knows it. Now that you’ve taken your bribe you are an accomplice. Maybe you accepted a small cheque to close your eyes for a seemingly innocent deviation from the law. However if the person who bribed you is making big dirty money, from say drug trafficking, you are afraid to report him. If you do so, that little cheque you accepted will come to light. And the higher he is, the more he can harm you for your little escapade. You are now under his thumb. You might be disgusted with what he is doing, your guilt feelings might be killing you, yet you have to remain silent. Otherwise he’ll ruin you.

If we, as a society make a genuine effort against corruption we might not stop it, but we could give it a very significant blow. I suggest three simple steps:

1) Realise and convince ourselves this is a serious crime hurting ourselves and our society from every angle possible. The aim of this article is towards this step.

2) Refuse it. Many of us will have one or more opportunities to accept bribes, no matter how small they are. If we categorically decide to refuse any bribe we will not only doing what is legally and morally right but we are free. We are under no ones thumb.

3) Enforce the law and increase punishment. This is only possible if the first two steps are accomplished. If we as a society realise how serious this is, even to the extent of letting its crackdown affect our voting in elections, rather than run after the Party leader that makes the most charismatic speeches, the law makers will start putting it on their agenda. We can only do this if we are free from it ourselves.

(While following these steps will definitely harm this malady, other measures have to be taken. A case in point is a clear and enforceable Whistleblower Act.)