Archive for January, 2009


January 19, 2009

EPP has the worst track record on environmental legislation

 Alternattiva Demokratika’s two candidates for the European Parliament (EP) election in June said yesterday that the Green group in the EP is the only group that has been consistent on the issue of air quality. AD chairperson Arnold Cassola addressed a press conference yesterday in the busy Zabbar Road in Fgura, together with fellow candidate for the EP election Yvonne Ebejer Arqueros, and AD spokesperson for energy, industry and transport Ralph Cassar.

Prof. Cassola said it is a known fact that traffic is one of the biggest sources of pollutants, but Fgura and the surrounding areas also receive a significant load from the Marsa power station, which the government said will be decommissioned by 2015. Prior to the referendum on Malta’s accession to the EU way back in 2003, he said, the government had promised the Maltese electorate that this power station would either conform to EU standards by the date of accession, or else close down.

Mr Cassar said members of the European Parliament (MEPs) elected on the AD ticket would form part of the EP’s Green group, and this would guarantee a voice in favour of cleaner air. He said that a study carried out by Friends of the Earth (Europe) in 2004 ( showed that the European People’s Party (EPP) group – which the PN’s Simon Busuttil and David Casa now form part of – have the worst track record as regards environmental legislation. The study states that the EPP group had voted against strengthening environmental legislation about 80 per cent of the time between 1999 and 2004.

Mr Cassar said that a more recent example of Dr Busuttil and Mr Casa’s choice to side with the polluters is when they voted in favour of weakening existing EU targets on carbon dioxide emissions and postpone attainment of targets (Davies report, plenary vote 24 October 2007).

Prof. Cassola commented: “Does the government know whether the air quality limit values for particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide, as stipulated in the EU air quality directives, are being exceeded in busy roads such as Zabbar Road in Fgura, St Joseph High Road in Hamrun, Aldo Moro Road in Marsa, and Mrabat Road in Sliema, among others”.

Ms Ebejer Arqueros added: “I live in this area and the problem of pollution is very evident. Some years ago when I started teaching in a school here, the first thing that caught my attention was the large number of children on asthma medication.” She said AD has always been consistent on the issue of air quality, unlike some who talk about the environment days before an election, only to forget all about it the following day. The promises made on the Marsa power station in 2003 are a glaring testimony of how low air quality is on this government’s agenda, she said.

Prof. Cassola said an integrated approach is necessary to tackle the issue of pollution and poor air quality. First of all, the public transport system has to run for longer hours, be more frequent and reliable, he said. “Moreover, increasing the tree cover of the area, controlling sources of pollution such as the Marsa power station and the Marsa incinerator and creating more pedestrian zones are all tangible issues that could greatly improve air quality. “AD has the energy and experience to tackle these issues, while resisting the polluters’ lobby. It is consistent in working for improving people’s quality of life. It is in everyone’s interest to strengthen AD’s voice by electing AD MEPs on 6 June.”

Don’t believe the counterfeiters!

January 14, 2009

The Nationalist Party’s poor green credentials
Ralph Cassar

Having PN executive committee members like Caroline Galea (Sustaining The Green Debate, January 7) and PN candidates for the European Parliament writing articles extolling the supposedly green credentials of the Gonzi government does not make the PN green; not even pale green.

Consulting opinion polls and realising that the middle class have become more aware of green issues must have led the PN to plagiarise AD’s eco-Gozo proposal (with no real progress as yet) to do a volta face and profess the importance of renewable energy while not so long ago Austin Gatt rubbished alternative sources of energy. In the same breath this government is ignoring Maltese scientists and experts in this area who are calling for a strategy different from the government’s Sikka l-Bajda adventure. Indeed, how can one believe a Prime Minister who vowed that he would build a golf course in Xagħra l-Ħamra only to change course at a later stage on the basis of political expediency? The area previously earmarked for a golf course by none other than Lawrence Gonzi himself is still just a national park on paper only.

Hopefully, the NGOs entrusted with running the Majjistral Park will put their expertise to good use to get the government moving. Throwing around buzz words and slogans to dupe the misinformed does not make Dr Gonzi and the PN green. Far from it.

Ms Galea says that “climate change and alternative energy grabbed the limelight in 2008”. They may have grabbed the attention of the strategists at Pietà, but climate change and alternative energy have been on progressive green agendas for at least 20 years now. Wind energy is comparable or even cheaper than fossil fuel energy. As regards bio-fuel, extreme care must be taken not to make staple-foods from which ethanol is made-prohibitively expensive. If a field of corn is priced at the price of conventional fuels what we face is a world with even more poverty, hunger and threats to our collective security.

As for the complaint of “dragging our feet”, as Ms Galea remarked, who has been in government for the last 20 years almost uninterruptedly? The Nationalist government is still dragging its feet. The budget measures on renewable energy are but a drop in the ocean, and are more or less just cosmetic “look we’re doing something” measures. The way forward is first of all fuel efficiency, followed by sustained serious investment and incentives in renewable energy systems.

Another important issue is the urgent overhaul of the public transport system – another case of feet dragging and, worst of all, promises that nothing will change for years on end, obviously because getting at least one more vote than the opposition parties is the all-important target for the PN.

What about the building spree because of the Nationalist government’s decision to rezone whole areas of the country, allowing citizens to be buried alive in their homes – Attard, Swieqi, Sliema, Iklin, Lija, Balzan and many other places – and more than 4,000 permits outside development zones?

What Ms Galea has failed to mention is the regressive “leadership” of the European Peoples’ Party in the European Parliament and of other conservative governments.

The EPP and Angela Merkel, not to mention Silvio Berlusconi, have consistently given in to multinational corporations and diluted measures intended to seriously tackle climate change and pollution.

According to Friends of the Earth Europe’s EU vote watch, although sometimes MEPs vote tactically and “sacrifice” a certain vote in order to win another, the EPP is the worst political group by far when it comes to voting on environmental (including quality of life and pollution) issues. It ranks last of all the political groups, voting in an eco-friendly manner only 21.7 per cent of the time( The facts are crystal clear, propaganda will not change the truth one bit.

At the European level we need Alternattiva Demokratika MEPs to work for progressive, ecologist and visionary policies. Go for the original; not for a very poor counterfeit.

Victor Galea – Segretarju Generali ta’ AD fuq l-2009

January 14, 2009

(artiklu pubblikat ghall-ewwel darba fil-gazzetta ILLUM)

Jien nahseb li ser tkun sena interessanti.

Probabbli tul ix-xahar ta’ Jannar in-nies jibdew jircievu l-kontijiet tad-dawl u l-ilma. U dan ser ikun ta’ thassib ghall-maggoranza tal-familji bi dhul medju. Izda f’Marzu, imbaghad, ghax ikunu waslu l-elezzjonijiet, il-Gvern ihabbar trahhis fir-rati tad-dawl u l-ilma. Soltu storja nsomma.

F’April jrid jinbidel il-President u jkollna president jew presidenta, li suppost tgawdi ir-rispett ta’ ghadd kbir ta’ Maltin u Ghawdxin. Ma nafx kemm il-gvern nazzjonalista li m’ghandux il-maggoranza assoluta tal-voti tal-poplu Malti u Ghawdxi, jerga’ jissogra jinnomina xi politikant iehor nazzjonalist. Nittama biss li ma jintghazilx xi hadd li jkun maghruf kemm hadem ghal xi partit izda mhux ghall- pajjiz.

F’Gunju wiehed irid izomm f’ghajnejh li l-Maltin u l-Ghawdxin kollha ser ikun mitluba jivvutaw u jaghzlu membri ghal Parlament Ewropew u ghal numru ta’ kunsilli lokali. Hawnhekk il-poplu ser jerga’ jfakkar lill-gvern li huma ghandhom il-poter fuq il-vot taghhom. Allura ma nistaghgibx li nerga’ nara manuvri ma’ xi kategoriji ta’ votanti, bhalma gara bejn Gonzi u dawk li bnew illegalment fl-Armier lejlet l-elezzjoni generali. Lanqas nistaghgeb jekk, minkejja li l-insib spicca fl-1 ta’ Jannar, in-nazzjonalisti jippruvaw jilghabu xi loghba ohra mal-kaccaturi u n-nassaba. Probabbli wkoll naraw xi applikazzjonijiet miftuha ghal-xoghol mal-Gvern u forsi anke xi sorprizi fil-hatriet. L-esperjenza urietna li l-kilba ghal poter taf taghmel minn kollox.

Mill-banda l-ohra, nahseb li nibdew naraw xi rizultati ta’ xi riformi mwieghda qabel l-elezzjoni. Fosthom dik tal-ligi tal-kera, tal-kunsilli lokali u tat-trasport pubbliku. Inhoss li din ta’ l-ahhar hija l-aktar wahda li ser tolqot b’mod immedjat lil ghadd kbir ta’ nies. Ironikament, ir-riforma tat-trasport pubbliku suppost tibda mill-gzira t’Ghawdex, fejn it-trasport pubbliku huwa kwazi inezistenti – allura anke jekk inzidu xi rotta, din tkun okkazzjoni tajba fejn nistghu naqtghu xi zigarella u narawhom fuq l-ahbarijiet tat-tmienja ghax xi hadd jiddeciedi li din l-ahbar ghandha news value. Interessanti naraw kif Austin Gatt u Govanna Debono ser jahdmu flimkien biex ma jirfsux kallijiet.

Bil-haqq insejt ir-riforma tal-MEPA! Bhal hafna tibdiliet ohra li saru huwa inutli li tbiddel il-work practice jekk ma tbiddilx il-work ethics. Nifhem li din ta’ l-ahhar ser tkun bicca xoghol iebsa ghal Lawrence Gonzi, li nehha din ir-responsabbilta’ minn idejn George Pullicino. Id-diffikulta’ tibqa li wara li darrew lin-nies jemmnu li ‘mhux kemm taf imma lil min taf’, issa jriduna nahsbu b’mod iehor. Ma nahsibx li taht tmexxija ta’ gvern immexxi minn partit wiehed wahdu f’kollox, ‘kollox huwa possibbli’.

Nahseb li din is-sena wkoll tibqa is-sena tas-skiet u fomm maghluq fuq affarijiet li suppost isahhu d-demokrazijka f’Malta Ewropeja. In-nies mhux ser jinsew il-manuvri li nkixfu lejn tmiem is-sena li ghaddiet mill-e-mail ta’ Pawlu Borg Oliver fejn talab lill-Gvern jerga’ jibda jghaddi lill-Partit Nazzjonalista informazzjoni personali u sensittiva ta’ nies privati li jkunu marru ghandu b’xi ilment jew talba ghal ghajnuna. Ghalhekk mhux sorpriz li matul din is-sena wkoll, Lawrence Gonzi jibqa’ sieket dwar dan ukoll.

Mill-banda l-ohra, zgur li din is-sena ser nisimghu hafna kliem ta’ ottimizmu kemm mit-tmexxija nazzjonalista u anke mit-tmexxija laburista. Diskorsi.

Fuq livell internazzjonali, nahseb li hemm stennija dwar il-hidma tal-President Amerikan Barak Obama. Nahseb l-akbar stennija hija kif dan l-ewwel President Afro-Amerikan ser jahdem favur il-paci u s-serhan tal-mohh f’dinja mbezza’ mill-kunflitti, traffikar tan-nies f’pajjizi b’mod irregolari, gwerer, guh u ngustizzji.

Nahseb li naraw tibdiliet drastici dwar il-politika Ewropea rigward dak li kien jissejjah is-suq hieles f’dinja globalizzata.

Indunajna issa li s-sinjur aktar ma jkollu aktar irid, xi drabi b’detriment ghal min hu ifqar. Nahseb li fejn qabel il-gvernijiet tal-pajjizi hallew liberta’ assoluta lis-suq b’rizultat li l-ekonomija dinjija falliet; issa naraw li l-gvernijiet ser ikollhom jaghtu kaz aktar il-harsien socjali tac-cittadini taghhom. Allura nistenna li nara Ewropa aktar socjali.

Fuq livell personali, nahseb li ser tkun sena fejn ser inkompli nitghallem hafna affarijiet godda fosthom kif norganizza l-quccija ghat-tifel, li f’Mejju 2009 jaghlaq sena.

Gonzi u d-demokrazija

January 5, 2009

Il-Prim Ministru tal-minoranza tal-Maltin u l-Ghawdxin bl-ghajnuna ta’ dawk li jiddependu mill-PN biex jkollhom programm fuq it-TV (… u ejja tafu min hux?)… jilabghuha tal-paladini tad-demokrazija… imma l-kilba li ghandhom biex ikomplu jaqsmu kif jghidu bl-ingliz ‘the spoils’ huwa inkredibbli!… hawn taht qed nirriproduci artiklu ta’ Arnold Cassola dwar kummenti ‘illuminati’ hafna ta’ Gonzi :)) … dalwaqt ukoll artiklu ta’ Victor Galea fuq aktar tahwid u tqanzieh…

L-Artiklu tac-Chairperson ta’ AD Arnold Cassola, ippubblikat fit-Times f’Dicembru 2008:

Sixth seat gymnastics

by Arnold Cassola


The EU has paved the way for an agreement on Ireland holding a second referendum on the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty by October 31, 2009.

Generally speaking, this referendum will be introducing four new main guarantees for the Irish people: These consist in the following: 1. retention of one EU commissioner per member country; 2. full national autonomy in applying tax rates; 3. retention of the Irish concept of neutrality: 4. autonomy in the implementation of any laws related to the right to life, education and family values.

Nobody can foretell the outcome of next year’s Irish referendum result in October. However, if the Irish people vote in favour of ratifying the Lisbon Treaty, this would have two immediate institutional repercussions on our country.

The first thing is that Malta would maintain its right to have a permanent commissioner in the EU Commission. Which means that, by January 2010, we would have a new commissioner in place of Joe Borg who has already announced that he is not interested in serving a second term.

The second institutional implication would mean that Malta would get an added sixth seat in the European Parliament, to be taken up also probably as from January 2010.

We Maltese and Gozitans shall be electing our members of the European Parliament on June 6. When we go to the vote, all Maltese citizens will know that they are voting for five MEPs who will take up their seats in July 2009 and for a possible sixth MEP who, pending the result of the referendum in Ireland, would take up the seat six months later, in January 2010.

It is obvious that all Maltese electors will be going to the vote with this frame of mind. Which is why it would be very unseemly and untoward for the Maltese government to try and disallow the citizens to elect the prospective sixth Maltese MEP, through their vote, as from June 2009. The Prime Minister’s utterances in this regard raise grave concerns as to his intentions. Following the agreement at the latest EU summit, he was asked whether this meant Malta would be voting for six MEPs next June. He immediately answered that “this would still not be the case if the treaty is not in place by June. In the current undecided scenario, it was still too early to say how the eventual sixth MEP would be chosen”.

He added: “Let’s not jump the gun”, reminding journalists that the treaty’s ratification was not a foregone conclusion. “We will decide when we get there. The most important thing is that we have been assured that our sixth MEP will be in place as soon as the treaty is ratified.”

In this first declaration to The Times, Dr Gonzi already puts in doubt the Maltese people’s right to indicate their sixth MEP preference as from the June elections.

In his declaration to The Malta Independent, the Prime Minister went a sure step further: “Dr Gonzi confirmed that, come June MEP elections, Malta will be voting for a total of five European parliamentarians while the ways and means of electing an MEP for the sixth additional seat would be decided upon at a later date”.

Here, the Prime Minister’s views are clearly exposed. He is openly stating that on June 6 the Maltese people will be called upon to indicate their preference only for five MEPs. Then, four months later, he will decide “the ways and means of electing the sixth additional seat”.

Can you imagine the scenario? Spending around €1 million of citizens’ tax money to hold elections on June 6 and then spending another considerable amount to elect another MEP in another election four months later? Or is the Prime Minister already thinking of depriving the people of their right to choose by nominating somebody directly through Parliament?

These suspicions are further strengthened when one reads what Simon Busuttil, the Prime Minister’s right hand-man, his favoured one for the PN secretary general post, has to say about the subject: “But once the Lisbon Treaty will not be in force by next June, when the next European Parliament elections are due, we will still be electing five members, not six” (The Times, December 17).

Such declarations are not said off the cuff but reveal a readiness to deprive the people of their democratic right to choose a sixth elected representative. It is obvious that, legally, if things stay as they are, the electoral office can issue a writ only for the election of five MEP seats next June. But, knowing that a few months later there is the possibility that a sixth seat comes up, this can be remedied through a resolution in the Maltese Parliament, which allows the Maltese and Gozitan electors to decide also on June 6 for the possible sixth seat, when and if this comes up.

Since we are living in a democratic country, where it is the voters who choose their representatives and not the government or the Parliament of the day, I am expecting the Prime Minister to table this resolution in the Maltese Parliament as soon as the House reconvenes in January.

Failure to do so would mean complete disrespect of the people’s will.

At this stage, the onus of re-establishing the people’s sovereignty would lie in the hands of the Leader of the Opposition, Joseph Muscat, who should table the resolution himself.

I look forward to seeing whether we shall be regaled with further sixth seat gymnastics following the Christmas recess.

Dr Cassola is chairman of Alternattiva Demokratika – the Green party.,