Alternattiva Demokratika is the only party that addresses the fact that the war on drugs has failed and needs to be re-thought.

Among others we have three main proposals: That personal use is decriminalized, that there is a classification between soft and hard drugs and that cultivation for personal use is considered as personal use and not a separate crime that carries a minimum prison sentence.

Yet, the PNPL ended up talking about drugs anyway. For all the wrong reasons.

In an electoral campaign that is based mostly on scandals involving members of both parties, the PN attacked the PL for having Toni Abela in the knowledge of drugs being taken in a PL club and not reporting it.

The PL attacked back on their newspaper Maltastar.

http://www.maltastar.com/dart/20130226-alleged-drug-abuse-at-pn-club-unreported

From “your party is more corrupt than usour party” the talk of the campaign is changing into “your followers use more drugs than ours”.

2000 votes in one district can elect an AD deputy. A deputy focused on the issues that really affect the Maltese people rather than hiding the skeletons in his closet.

A deputy that will insist all drug users should not be arrested. Not only if they’re his party’s supporters snorting cocaine in the party club’s toilet.

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The first election I followed closely was that of 2008. I had just joined AD and was much greener (pun not intended) back than. I couldn’t, for instance, understand the sceptic look my colleagues gave when electoral promises such as regulating party financing and investing in renewable energy were made.

I only understood later, when the promises failed to materialize.

By now I’ve got much more used to the way Maltese politics is done, the empty promises, the not-so-indirect vote buying and the superficial way issues are addressed by the PNPL in their attempts to please everyone.

Yet, this general election, the first one that I’m contesting has become even more surreal than that. The issues are barely being discussed, even superficially. They’ve literally been given secondary importance.

Instead, the PNPL just ended up competing on which side can unearth most skeletons from the other side’s closet. The PL attack on Austin Gatt and Zaren Vassallo while the PN retaliate on Anglu Farrugia and Toni Abela.

On a positive note, I strongly believe this will be the first election where AD elects at least one candidate in parliament. While the PNPL are playing “the other side is dirtier” game, we’re talking about issues. And more and more Maltese people, especially but definitely not exclusively they younger ones, are realizing this.

While the PNPL are busy throwing as much mud as possible on each other, we’re talking about increasing the minimum wage, equal rights regardless of sexual orientation, regulating party financing, the overdevelopment of our land and rape of our countryside, spring hunting, decriminalizing the personal use of drugs and a dozen other issues that directly affect the life of the Maltese people.

The choice is now yours. 2000 votes in one district can elect an AD candidate.

Apart from the usual individual favours granted to individuals by the PNPL in order to gain their vote, both factions of the duopoly have now immersed in a competition for who’s going to give the largest amount of freebies to the electorate, together with reducing taxes.

 

Well, who wouldn’t love a free tablet for his kids, a thousand Euros in his bank account, more sick leave, while having his electricity bill and his taxes reduced?

 

Some people are easily duped by this Father Christmas politics but others choose to use their mind and think. Needless to say I’m appealing to the latter who will definitely be asking the million dollar question: Where is the money coming from?

 

Those who love to think and analyse will immediately realise that the magic solutions such as “25,000 new jobs”, “the tablets will generate a lot of employability through education” and “your electricity bill will go down in a short time” are just pies in the sky.

 

There are, of course ways where we can significantly increase the country’s finances by cracking down tax evasion and benefit abuse (both measures which Alternattiva Demokratika supports wholeheartedly) as well as taxing land speculation which the PNPL choose to ignore.

 

But the truth is that quick-fix measures that will make our economy flourish in as short time, especially amid economic crisis, don’t exist.

 

In other words in the short and not-so-short run, this bazaar way of doing politics will only result in one or more of the following:

 

 

  1. The promises are not delivered and people will be disappointed

 

  1. New taxes which aren’t included in the PNPL’s electoral programmes

 

  1. Bankrupting the country

 

 

I feel sure that no rational voter finds these option desirable.

One of the issues Alternattiva Demokratika has been harping on for a long time is the complete lack of regulation and transparency on party financing. Needless to say, we were completely ignored by both sides of the PNPL. It doesn’t suit any side to disclose who the contractors financing their party (thus pulling the strings) are and how much they are paying them. Or to have any law that regulated these payments.

 

There have been contractors who have even admitted in the open that they finance both parties – equally!

 

Which is why I had to put my glasses on and take a second look when I read this on the times:

 

“Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi this morning again asked where Labour is getting its electoral campaign funds from, saying it must have already spent €1m in the campaign”

 

He’s right, mind you. But you really need to have a cheek to ask this question when you lead a party that has consistently avoided any kind of law on transparency and regulation!

Alternattiva Demokratika has many times claimed that there only cosmetic difference between the two large parties, hence the term PNPL. On immigration, this couldn’t be more true.

Many have the wrong impression that the PL are the tough guys on immigration while the PN are for tolerance, respect for human rights and Christian values. Bullshit. The only difference is they way they talk about it, the package. The policies are exactly the same.

The only “difference” is that while the PN talk about voluntary burden sharing with the EU, the PL talk about compulsory burden sharing. Once again, this difference is no difference at all for a very simple reason. Burden sharing is EU law and whether it’s voluntary or compulsory isn’t up to Muscat or Gonzi to decide. In fact, all parties in Malta, including AD, support compulsory burden sharing and consider the present scenario as unfair to the border states. But the reality is that many EU countries, already struggling with their own far right problems, will never agree with compulsory burden sharing. (Keep in mind that if such a mechanism is to take place, it would not have to cover only Malta where asylum seekers are a few thousand but also other countries like Greece, Cyprus and Italy where they run into millions).

On issues that can actually make a difference for the immigrants and minimize the costs for the Maltese, such as revising detention policy and grant work permits instead of a permit to work, as suggested by AD, the position of the PNPL is exactly the same.

Same thing on the minimum wage controversy. AD is the only party for increasing the minimum wage. Yet, the PN managed to spin it that Muscat is the evil anti-worker pseudo-socialist that wants to freeze the minimum wage. Truth is, the PL are just against increasing it, which is the exact position of the PN.

These two examples, amongst many others, make it clear that unlike most other EU countries that have a variety of parties with different beliefs and ideologies in parliament Malta has less than two. Most of the time it just has one: PNPL.

The first time I voted, I cast my No1 to a random PN candidate and my No2 to AD.

I didn’t like the PN much but considered them as a lesser evil. Then I realized that I should give my No 1 to support the part and principles I believed in because at the end of the day, the world will not end if either the PN and PL is in government and my no 1 vote gives a very strong message – a message against blind tribalism. After my first election I am proud to have given my number 1 vote to AD each and every election with no regrets.

By the time, my interest in politics grew, and the more I came to know about Alternattiva Demokratika, the more I liked them. To the extent of eventually joining the party, and will be contesting Local Elections on Mosta next March.

If one had to ask me what I find different in AD, I will point mainly towards two things, which I will call Freedom and Direction.

Freedom

No one in AD has his hands tied. It doesn’t accept donations from people/companies it may have a conflict of interest with and no one in the party has any personal interest that may jeopardise his position in politics, be it with a construction magnate, a contractor or a North African tyrant.

In other words we are free. We say what we believe is right because no one is pulling our strings.

Direction

In modern Europe, one hears about political ideology much less than before. In a way this is good. Fewer people are fossilized into ideologies of both left and right and many try to avoid any of the two extremes. This is partly due to the atrocities committed by both sides in our not-so-distant history.

However, in many European countries ideology has died completely, to the extent that democracy is not undermined by tyrants who oppose free and fair elections but by the fact voting for a party or another doesn’t actually make any difference.

This can’t be more true than in Malta where I describe both parties’ ideology as a “mad rush to where they think the votes are

They use the term “rainbow party” as if it is some kind of compliment! In MEP elections, you could have voted for hunters advocate Perici Calascione or environmentalist Alan Deidun, both contesting on the same party ticket (PN). On the other hand, in the same PL opposition, you have ultra-conservative Adrian Vassallo but can still vote for a liberal like Evarist Bartolo. So on and so forth.

I don’t consider that as a rainbow but a complete mess.

Needless to say, we in AD do not always agree on everything. That would be against human nature. We do have our squabbles. However these are usually sorted out in a short time and without any resentment, not only because we mean well but also because unlike in the examples mentioned above, we don’t have people who are diametrically opposed to each other.

In short I think of Green ideology as left of center, liberal and one that puts a lot of weight on ecological issues. That said, this is not (and should not be) shrouded in dogma and a refusal to make a compromise, but a clear direction.

We do not promise a quick-fix for Malta’s problems like populist parties. Anyone who proposes that is either lying or hallucinating.

However, we do offer something different. A change that while I’m sure there are people who honestly mean it in both PN and PL, for the reasons mentioned above, can never deliver it.

The first word I heard when visiting Block B in the detention centre for migrants at Safi was “Freedom”. Which, as Col Brian Gatt had informed us beforehand, is the first word any visitor hears as soon as he approaches the immigrants.

Though we didn’t visit the warehouses where the conditions are worse especially due to overcrowding, the inmates at Block B didn’t complain about the conditions they were kept in. Miles away from a one star hotel, but the atmosphere wasn’t tense. The relationship between the officers and the detainees also looked very positive, and it is clear that Col Gatt is looked at as both a person in authority as well as someone who deserves respect.

What struck me was their reaction to the amount of time they have to remain detained. I expected anger towards this aspect, and while there was a certain amount of anger, what was clear from what they said and their body language is a sense of awe. They simply couldn’t understand why they were being detained for so long (18 months).

I tried to be honest with the detainees as much as I could. I told them that we were a small political party and the only party in Malta that suggests a 6 month maximum detention period, rather than the irrational 18 months. While I promised we’ll keep on insisting on the more reasonable 6 month maximum, this wasn’t likely to change any time soon.

I also tried to explain the reason why. First of all that since they entered the country in an irregular manner they needed to be monitored. Quite reluctantly they understood this. But why for so long?

The truth is that up to a decade ago, one would barely see a black person in Malta. Unlike most other Western European countries most black people entered the country as asylum seekers, on boats, sometimes in large numbers. This created a sense of shock, not necessarily racism but while we have our fair share of racists, it was more a question of fearing what was new, things we hadn’t been exposed to before – in this case, seeing a substantial amount of black people in Malta

I tried to explain that it is this was caused automatic and long term detention. That the hysteria that was felt in the country in 2002 has decreased a lot since Maltese people now meet immigrants on a day to day basis and know them personally. Also, that detention gives the Maltese people a sense of safety that what is yet “unknown” is being closely monitored.

Some understood, others didn’t. “No one was a afraid when we saw the first white people in Nigeria”, one immigrant told me.

That is what I told them. Unfortunately, there is more.

I didn’t tell them that since 2002, Malta has seen the birth of two extreme right movement, who aside to the lunatic ramblings, also decided to contest elections (one of them Alleanza Nazzjonali has by now closed shop, the other, Imperium Evropa has actually went further extreme and intends to finish what Hitler didn’t).

In order not to cause any agitation I refrained from telling them that the only reason they were being detained for so long is that both government and opposition lack balls and are afraid that they lose some votes to the remaining extreme right party if they dare rock the boat.

That their real fear is not that black people let loose will become werewolves, but that a hallucinating neo-Nazi gathers his few, but fanatically loyal followers, tell them that the blacks were let loose to rape their women and eat their babies – and then, contest elections.

What I did tell them is that what we, the Greens are asking for is not abolishing the monitoring of people who enter Malta in an irregular manner. I explained that some time in detention (maximum 6 months) is necessary. That the monitoring should go on after the immigrant is released through regular signing at police stations and mandatory health checks.

What we are proposing is nothing more than common sense, humane and cost efficient. The only reason these people are being detained for so long is that both government and opposition lack balls.