ADZ – Wied il-Ghasel Development Must Be Stopped (Press Release)

ADZ – Malta Green Youth has called on MEPA to halt further development in Wied il-Ghasel during next Thursday’s appeal. As the last remaining natural valley passing through a village-centre, which MEPA itself lists as an area of ecological importance, the valley should be protected accordingly.

Reuben Zammit, chairperson of ADZ, stated: “Irreversible damage has
already been done to the valley. Further incursions would deprive us
of yet another of our few remaining undeveloped areas and of what
little is left of our countryside and natural waterways. We therefore
join Alternattiva Demokratika, Nature Trust and Harsien Patrimonju
Mosti in clamouring for an end to this madness. MEPA cannot possibly
ignore the objections of 24,000 Maltese who hold the valley at heart.”

Last Sunday, around 20 individuals joined ADZ in an extensive tour of
the valley lasting over four hours. The tour was conducted by a
professional guide who pointed out the natural as well as historical
beauties of the valley and contrasted them with the man-made scar that the contested development constitutes.

Voting Age at 16

Alternattiva Demokratika has renewed its call for the voting age to be reduced to 16 for local, European and general elections.

Party leader Michael Briguglio said at a press conference that this would be a concrete change which entrusted young people with a key decision in their life, just as they were entrusted to take up employment and further their education.

Reuben Zammit, chairman of Green Youth, AD’s youth arm recalled that AD had lobbied for universal suffrage to be extended to 16-year olds since before the 2008 general elections.

“Malta’s youth should be allowed to have a say as much as anyone else in politics, more so since today’s decisions and policies will form the world we must live in tomorrow.”

Behind a Digital Burqa

Though the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims in Europe interests me a lot, I didn’t really follow the debate on whether the burqa should be banned or not. I believe the issue has been polarised by anti-Muslims who use it as an excuse to create fear of Muslims as well as by Islamists who want also want to create the fear that “they want to take away your religion”

I sympathise with neither.

On the issue itself, I think both sides have a point. When it comes to the rights of women, I’m completely against the ban. I believe a woman should be free to go out stark naked or fully clothed as long as she’s not coerced to do so.

On the other hand there’s the issue of security. Could a person use such a garment to hide his identity when committing a crime? Should someone be allowed to enter a bank if even her face is not recognizable? I think the answer is obvious.

There is a place however, where hiding your identity is completely permissible and it’s being done left, right and centre. This place is the Internet.

The example I will bring is also on the issue of Muslims in Europe (and the U.S)

I find this video completely disturbing and believe it is a threat to national security much more than a woman wearing a burqa.

First of all, the statistics are wrong – completely. If I get the numbers of how many Muslims are in Europe and how many children they have randomly from a bingo-bag, I’ll probably be more accurate.

Needless to say the speculation on those numbers on what will happen in 30 years time is pure fiction.

This video has already been seen more than 13 million times.

What I find most disturbing about this video is that we don’t know whose done it. All we have is a nom de plume “friendofmuslim”. Worse still, comments on the clip are disabled. (there are dozens of video clips like this on Youtube, made by different anonymous people since the statistics between one clip and another contradict themselves).

I am against censorship in general. However, one does not only have rights but also obligations. And here, the obligation is that you own up to the lies you are saying. If I start squandering Tom, Dick and Harry, I can be taken to court and ordered to pay damages.

This is only possible because my identity as author of this blog is public knowledge. On the other hand, who knows who the heck is “friendofmuslim

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.

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

Fear of the Vaccine

An increasing number people in Malta are refusing to take the vaccine against the H1N1 virus. This is worrying, very worrying. I won’t enter the specific merits and dangers of the virus or the vaccine but the socio-political connotations of this.

Let’s face it. Like many other Europeans, many Maltese are losing their faith completely in elected politicians. While this can lead to more serious things such as civil unrest in the longer run, it is having also immediate consequences. The scepticism about the vaccine is one of them.

What many are asking is: Has the vaccine been tested enough? Is there a lot of scaremongering about H1N1 just to sell a product? In whose interest is the vaccine being given? Those of the pharmaceutical industry (one of the most notorious on an International basis) or mine and my health?

The BWSC saga definitely doesn’t help. Allegations (of corruption) on their own may mean nothing in a Court of Law. In the Court of Public Opinion it is different matter. Many people have strong suspicions, or even certainty that public interest (our health, environment and tax money) has been compromised for the profit of the few.

It seems that even having elected MPs taking the vaccine in front of a camera is not enough to convince people to trust authorities that the chemical injected in their body is in their own interest.

Do you blame such people when they’ve been lied to over and over?

The Difficult Road to Equality

Around the world, a percentage of the population are transgender since they feel that the sex that was assigned to them at birth is not congruent with their gender they identify with. Malta and Gozo are no different than the rest of the world, and a small percentage of the population have difficulty with identifying with the sex that corresponds to their sexual organs.

In 1994, the Maltese Law Courts introduced the possibility if changing one’ sex on the official documents if a person who suffered from gender identity disorder had undergone irreversible sex reassignment. A number of transgender persons requested this change in documents by going to court and after presenting a certificate of the irreversible surgery, a medical expert is appointed by the court to physically examine the person verify the surgical procedure. This in itself continues to discriminate against post-operative transgender persons because it violates their human dignity and does not allow the possibility of self-identification.

Since 2008, I have accompanied Joanne Cassar to court for her Constitutional Court Case against the Public Registry where she is requesting for her right to marry a person of the opposite gender. After two years of court sittings’, deferred sessions, a psychological profile assessment, and sitting at the back of the court room in support towards Joanne and many other transgender persons ….finally a judgement was called.

Throughout these two years, I was without a doubt that the Public Registry had violated Joanne’s human right when her marriage bans were not issued. The strong belief did not come about from thin air, but it is based on the fact that the European Court of Justice had already ruled a judgement in favour of a transgender person from the United Kingdom, and the benefits of being a citizen of an EU member state is that such a judgement cannot be disregarded in the member states.

It is every person’s human right to choose to marry and form a family, and this is enshrined in the United Nations’ Declaration of Human Rights. Should the Public Registry appeal this recent decision taken by Judge Ray Pace , the case continues for the final stage of appeal at the Maltese Constitutional Court, however European Court of Justice case law cannot continue being ignored by the Maltese State and although the path to victory may be longer, the result is positive for my friend Joanne and the members of the Maltese Transgender Community.

 

Colette Farrugia Bennett

Green agenda and sexual health policy

Andrè Vella, secretary general, ADŻ-Green Youth, Balzan

In response to Charlene Valen­tina Giordimaina’s letter (Holistic Sex Education, November 10), I would like to draw her attention to ADŻ-Green Youth’s holistic policy towards sexual policy, which can be found on our blog at https://maltagreenyouth.wordpress.com/ . Once she goes through it, she will realise that our view of a holistic youth sexual health policy goes beyond the simple use of contraceptives. It encompasses an educational campaign to prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and to adopt safer sexual practices.

It is for this reason that we decided to disparage Gozo Bishop Mario Grech’s comments directed at a truly holistic approach to sexual health. For a campaign based solely on the notion of abstinence is not effective. In fact, our view concurs with Philip Carabot’s and others who dismissed Bishop Grech’s comments.

In today’s day and age, we should move away from mediaeval myths about contraception. Although Ms Giordimaina does not seem to think so, holistic teaching incorporates contraception. Does she think that teachers are currently failing or “abusing” students by teaching them also about contraception?

Asking Questions and Demanding Answers – Greens in Parliament

As the youth section of the Green Party, one of our ambitions is to have members of the Party in government, especially through a coalition. However, while this is what every Party aspires for, even more than that, we find it of utmost importance that we have Green MP’s, even if not in government. There is a lot a Member of Parliament can do, that activists can’t. One of them is asking the right questions and demanding the right answers.

 

I am writing this just after reading an article in the papers about Dr Adrian Vassallo (PL) asking the Home Affairs Minister, what happened on the issue he himself had raised on pornography being available for tourists in hotels. Obviously very few people care about such a non-issue. However, the point is that Dr Mifsud Bonnici had to reply to Dr Vassallo’s question. He tried to be evasive as much as possible but he did state that the Police are investigating into it. Needless to say Dr Vassallo will sooner or later raise the issue again as to how the investigations are proceeding.

 

While Dr Vassallo is fighting windmills, and most MP’s ask a lot of superficial questions, I’m sure that a member of Alternattiva Demokratika would not only ask more relevant questions, but also demand non-evasive answers.

 

A clear example is the power station extension controversy. While the PL had a precious opportunity to ask direct, non-open ended questions and demand specific answers to what is really going on, they just turned the issue into a farce. The issue turned into whether a PN member of parliament wanted to say yes, but happened to say no. Was it a genuine mistake or the Nationalist MP actually wanted to say no? A Freudian slip, or maybe it’s because he had been drinking before the vote? Obviously, the PN rebutted with equally ridiculous answers – that even a Labourite MP wasn’t clear in her vote.

 

Do we really care about that? An Alternattiva Demokratika MP will not offer favours or jobs to friends and their friends. However the electorate can be promised that a Green MP will not ask how many tots of whiskey a rival MP has drunk. Or whether tourists are allowed to watch pornography on their Hotel Television.