The others and the electorate

Sometimes it seems that when it comes to certain issues we have not moved one inch forward in this country. When speaking of progress, government spokesmen repeat a list of statistics over and over again: tourism increased, when compared to the previous month last year; even more cars were bought (just what we need!); more people are in employment compared to last year (obviously leaving out important qualifiers, such as whether the jobs are permanent or not and what the wages or salaries are). The issues they mention are more administrative than issues that require a political long-term vision based on principles and ideas.

Another thing that is astounding is the complete lack of reaction, let alone any outcry of indignation following some very serious allegations and inappropriate behaviour by government politicians. The government’s choice of dirty end-of-pipe technology for the so- called “new” power plant at Delimara is a case in point. Whatever the government and its apologists say, the Auditor General raised some very pertinent and important issues. He even declared that some of those involved avoided questions and withheld information. Lawrence Gonzi’s attempt to dismiss the issue as something “the others” conjured up in the usual tribal war between the Nationalist and Labour parties shows the sad situation we’re in. It is the usual ploy used over and over again in our stagnant “absolute minimum” democracy.

It would have been the same, only the other way round, had “the others” been in government.

This strategy works with a large proportion of people. Others have just given up and feel helpless to do anything. It is difficult to convince people they can really make a difference. This suits the large mass parties well; convincing people that the status quo is unassailable has been their main focus in election campaigns over and over again.

There are issues that are totally avoided or where inaction is conveniently blamed on the “lack of cooperation” from “the others”. Take party financing regulations. Any mention of severing party dependence on capital, which sees donations as investments, expecting favours in return, including favourable laws, regulations and lenient or non-existent standards and enforcement, leads to the Prime Minister going berserk and populist saying taxpayers will have to foot the bill of any financing rules. The answer is simple: we are already paying through kickbacks and the wholesale rape of the country, not to mention the giving away of public land at ridiculous amounts of money to the few.

Systems of financing depending on the number of votes in elections gives a choice to the electorate who decide how financing is apportioned. This has to be coupled with strict rules governing private donations. Dr Gonzi is Prime Minister. Lack of action over the years just shows one thing: He and his party do not have the political will to bring Malta into the 21st century. Interestingly, the developers’ lobby group has come out saying it wants political donations to be made public. How about them starting with publishing a list of their donations over the past two years or so?

The issue of divorce also reflects the mentality of the PN and PL. The issue was avoided like the plague. Now we have the rhetoric minus the action. Isn’t it just silly for a party having half the MPs to avoid presenting a Bill in Parliament? Isn’t it silly for an MEP who garners practically all his party’s supporters’ votes to avoid taking a stand whether in favour or against? The truth is they want to please everyone. They want to retain the illusion that they can be everything to everyone. Impossible. Sadly, this strategy works.

Labour is promising change. We have been promised change over and over again. The undeniable fact is that so long as either the PN or the PL feel safe in the knowledge they will get their turn to a five-year “dictatorship” with a docile subservient Parliament of part-timers who just walk out when they do not want to discuss BWSC, things will not change. Yes, there is an electoral system skewed in favour of the “big boys” but, at the end of the day, it is all our fault that the status quo is maintained. Ultimately we all get the representative we deserve.

Finally, I wish to invite readers to a seminar on the right to access to divorce organised by the Green foundations, Green European Foundation and Ceratonia Foundation on October 23 at Hotel Juliani in St Julians. Those interested are asked to send a message to Ceratonia Foundation on ceratoniafoundation@gmail.com.

info@alternattiva.org.mt

The author is secretary-general of Alternattiva Demokratika – the Green party.

Published in The Times 15/10/2010

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