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.

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.

According to Dr Chris Said, the cohabitation bill which overtly discriminates against same-sex couples and ignores crucial issues such as taxation, is “based on what the government believes is right and is acceptable to society.”

I beg to differ on the generalization about what is acceptable to society but for the sake of the argument, let’s say he’s right.

So? Does that make discrimination justifiable?

One of the very basics in human rights law and ethics is that minority rights should be respected irrespective of what the majority thinks, as long as fulfilling those rights doesn’t involve denying the rights to others.

It is definitely not the case here. Not-liking-gays-getting-married is NOT a human right. It’s bigotry.

If you’re afraid that same-sex couples getting married is going to affect your own marriage because “it weakens the institution of marriage” is such a twisted way of thinking that maybe you weren’t really suited for marriage in the first place. What the heck are you thinking, that your wife will leave you because Olga and Priscilla next door are going to tie the knot?

Same-sex marriage is about treating equals as equal. It doesn’t interfere on the rights of the majority in any way and those who oppose it are motivated by either bigotry or irrationality.

Needless to say, the PL were quick to point fingers at Chris Said accusing him of “homophobia”. Ironically, Joseph Muscat has already stated clearly he believes marriage is for people of the opposite sex only. In other words he doesn’t consider gay couples as equal either.

Introducing same-sex marriage isn’t just about LGBT rights. It’s also a reflection on whether our government (and opposition) really believe in equality in diversity or whether they consider it as just a slogan.

I’ve been harping against Malta’s rainbow parties (hence PNPL) that promise everything to everyone, attempting to please all, for a long while by now.

Obviously pleasing everyone is logically impossible when it comes to enacting laws. That is, unless you manage to dupe all sides that you are actually giving them something.

I’ve also been harping many times against Malta’s irrational, unsustainable and utterly cruel laws on drugs. At this very moment, people who harmed no one are rotting in our prisons, at the expense of the taxpayer.

Thus, with national elections in sight, Justice Minister Chris Said, threw a bone at those outraged by our oppressive laws on drugs.

First-time drug users arrested for simple possession will be able to avoid court!

Huh? The bone has no juice at all. Well OK, it will save them the lawyer fees. Otherwise this law changes nothing.

Why?

In practically all cases, people arrested for the first time for simple possession get, at worst, conditional discharge. No prison. No fine. And the police conduct will become clean after the term of the conditional discharge is over. In most cases, for such a minor offence this means in less than a year.

What makes this legal amendment nothing more than a gimmick, is the word “simple” before the word possession.

Contrary to popular belief, simple possession and personal use are not the same thing by Maltese law. Yes, people who never sold a single gram of any illegal drug can – and are being – accused and convicted of crimes the equivalent of trafficking. Crimes that carry a minimum effective prison sentence – in other words a sentence that cannot be suspended, or even changed for work in the community!

How? The following cases of possession of drugs fall in this category. They may be cases of possession but it is not “simple”.

1) Cultivation: Any kind of cultivation of illegal drugs (the most common being cannabis) is punished with an effective prison sentence. Even if the amount is so small that when consumed doesn’t even get your cat high. If it’s in a pot and grows from a seed, that’s cultivation. You’re going to jail.

2) Import/Export: If, while getting high in Amsterdam you forgot to throw all the stuff away before boarding the plane. If you left some weed by mistake, or intended to smoke it at home. Even if, once again, the amount is miniscule, that’s still not simple possession. That’s import. You’re going to jail.

3) Sharing: Most drug users share drugs. Cannabis users pass a spliff around. Heroin addicts sometimes share the same spoon and needle (which is very dangerous, but goes beyond the purpose of this article). Friends may buy LSD or Ecstasy together and share it. No intent for profit, nothing more than the equivalent of “ghamillu drink” at the bar. If the police want to seek the pound of flesh and are able to prove it is not simple possession. It’s sharing. You’re going to jail.

People are, at this very moment in prison because their possession was “aggravated” due to of one of the reasons above. And after this legal amendment, this gimmick, passes, people guilty of these offences, will keep on going to jail. It changes nothing.

There are, obviously other serious anomalies in our laws on drugs which are not being addressed. Repeated offenders of even simple possession can and do get imprisoned. There is also no classification between soft and hard drugs which gives an incentive for dealers to import hard drugs, where the big money is. Not to mention the fact that punishment for anything related to drugs is disproportionately harsh especially when compared to violent crime.

But even on the issue that this law is supposed to address – not sending first time drug users to jail – this law changes nothing. The ones affected by this law are the ones who wouldn’t have been going to jail anyway.

As I write, many Maltese people are biting their nails to see whether Franco Debono votes against the government or abstains. Half of them wish he abstains, the other half hope he’ll bring the government down. “Nazzjonalisti u Laburisti”, same old story.

Much less noticed are two young gentleman spending days braving the cold at Valletta City gate collecting signatures for a petition against the obnoxious development of 24 apartments and 26 garages in the middle of the picturesque valley of Wied il-Ghasel, Mosta. They are representing Harsien Patrimonju Mosti, that has been pulling a hard fight against the rape of the valley for years. They are also fighting a battle against time since though pending an appeal next June, the construction is going on at this very moment.

What has this got to do with what’s going on in Parliament and democracy? Much more than you think.

Before it degraded itself into mud throwing and petty bickering, most of the “Franco Debono issue” was about transparency, accountability and democracy. And while I may disagree on Franco Debono’s tactics, about the issues he put brought to surface I can only say one thing – He is right.

As can be seen in the well documented saga of the destruction of Wied il-Ghasel on Harsien Patrimonju Mosti’s website www.it-tarka.com the rape of the valley was given the green light through a process marred by conflicts of interest, lack of accountability and a massive exploitation of legal loopholes.

The destruction of this valley, like all the other past and present environmental scandals goes against the interest of Maltese citizens who have a vote. Yet, even at the risk of losing their votes without gaining others to compensate (for instance losing the votes of conservatives but in return gaining the votes of liberals when taking a stand on divorce or gay marriage) the abuse goes on.

Doesn’t this raise an eyebrow or two?

Isn’t it a pity that the much needed arguments on transparency and accountability Franco Debono was talking about have descended to petty bickering and mudslinging before even seriously discussed?

PS: I urge everyone who really love this country to download the petition from www.it-tarka.com print it, sign it, distribute it amongst friends and post it in the provided address. With around 30,000 signatures, the President will be asked to intervene. By the time of writing around 19,000 signatures have been collected.

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.