You Get What You Vote For

One thing is sure about the political atmosphere in Malta – there is a serious general distrust on politicians.

Can one blame the Maltese citizens for this? Isn’t it completely understandable that while people are losing their jobs and finding it hard to make ends meet they only see incompetence and greed from most of our elected politicians?

Corruption (with or without the hard evidence), increased income for MPs and ministers, contractors admitting they finance both parties, religious fundamentalism, lack of respect for democracy, and now the latest – chronic absenteeism from Parliament from about half its members – are the main causes.

Yet, while everyone is complaining these same people keep getting elected, election after election. Why?

Before I got involved in politics I used to believe that incompetent people and parties keep getting elected because what I call “the ancestors syndrome”. That people vote for the party/candidate that their parents and grandparents used to vote for. Needless to say, these voters are significant in number. Yet I don’t believe that’s the main reason why we keep on electing the greedy, the incompetent and the fundamentalists.

The other reason is perks. One may not agree with a politician (or more likely doesn’t even have an clue on what that politician stands for), yet he votes him in because he found him a job, helped him jump the queue in the Hospital waiting list or helped him get a promotion.

Such things are not even an open secret anymore. They have ceased being a secret. Some people talk openly, even brag about the benefits they gain by befriending politicians.

What many fail to ask is: Why should I go to a politician to get a job? Why do I have to wait months to get a necessary operation done in the first place?

True, there is a recession going on. But I don’t believe for a minute that it’s the only or even the main reason our standard of living is so low. Millions of Euros are lost due to bureaucracy, graft and mismanagement. To pay MPs who don’t even bother attending Parliament.

Can this change? Yes, and the only solution is to stop voting in the greedy, the corrupt and the incompetent in our parliament.

If you want change, you have to vote for it.

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Before we say “No Way”

Alternattiva Demokratika Żgħa­żagħ agrees with Sedqa clinical director George Grech’s call for discussing some form of decriminalisation of drug use, meaning considering addicts as patients who need specialised help.

The attitude of the government is extremely irresponsible. Drug addiction is on the increase and so is availability. Yet, while many drug users get busted frequently and end up serving prison sentences, most drug traffickers (whom Dr Grech rightly calls “a different kettle of fish”) rarely make it to the law courts.

Ironically, while the Maltese government takes a puritan approach towards the possibility of decriminalisation, it considers the equally devastating addiction of gambling as an investment.

We cannot keep burying our heads in the sand any longer. The drugs are not coming. They are here and an increase in drug dependence is an inconvenient reality. Rather than avoiding ruffling feathers, it is imperative that the government starts giving more weight to the experts and, above all, starts gathering the point of view of all stakeholders on this urgent issue.

Drugs and Denial

One of the major problems professionals working with drug addicts face is denial. Most people attending treatment for drugs find it hard to admit even to themselves that they are addicts, even if their addiction has literally wrecked their lives. These professionals have become too familiar with statements starting “I do have some kind of a problem with drugs, but …..” The second part of the statement could be a million things such as “I’ve never been to prison or a mental asylum”, “I have a University degree” or even “the real problem is my partner, if only s/he understood me better I would stop using drugs”.

These addicts do realise that something is going wrong in their lives and that in some way drugs are contributing to their problems, but the professionals also know that real progress starts when these addicts can say “My name is Joe and I’m an addict”, and really believe it.

Amid both global and local experts claiming that the war on drugs has failed both the Maltese government and the opposition are behaving like these addicts. They don’t believe there’s anything really wrong in the present system. Like the addict that admits that he does somewhat have a bit of a problem, they don’t deny completely that a problem with drugs exist in our country. They can’t. Nearly everyone has an addict in his extended family.

Yet if someone hints that what we’ve been doing all along might have to be reformed, they categorically say “No way”. Even if that someone happens to be Dr George Grech, the clinical director of Sedqa. Unfortunately cheap populism is not allowing a mature debate on this issue.

Unless we take our heads out of the sand and put drug reform, which may includes implementation of the proposal of Dr George Grech concerning the decriminalisation of certain drugs for personal use, on the table we can’t move forward on this escalating problem. Pretending everything is going on fine, when in fact it isn’t, is no different behaviour than that that of the addict that thinks he might somewhat have a problem, but it’s not a real issue. It’s useless having experts as George Grech and then ignoring their proposals.

 

Robert Callus