Sociologist, local councillor, activist from Malta

Monday, November 13, 2017

Witches and politics - Michael Briguglio

Picture: The Salem Witch Trials

Times of Malta, 13 November 2017

In 1983, sociologist Diana Meehan analysed images of women on television. She suggested that representations on TV cast ‘good’ women as submissive, sensitive and domesticated while ‘bad’ women are rebellious, independent and selfish.
Through her analysis, Meehan identified common stereotypes of women as depicted on TV. These included ‘the harpy’, who is aggressive and single; and ‘the bitch’, who is a sneak, a cheat and manipulative, and ‘the witch’, who has extra power but is subordinated to men. Other stereotypes include the ‘good wife’, the ‘victim’, the ‘courtesan’ and the ‘matriarch’. Three decades later we still encounter such stereotypes in various forms of communication.
Which takes me to an article penned by Daphne Caruana Galizia in The Malta Independent (September 10). She wrote that the other side of the coin of advances in gay rights is the reality of what she saw as the real victims in Maltese society, straight women: the ones who are ‘bullied, harassed, ill-treated, patronised, pimped out or beaten up by straight men’. Little did Caruana Galizia know that she would herself be a victim, this time of a most cowardly act of bombing which robbed her life.
Caruana Galizia, who was often labelled as the ‘witch from Bidnija’ also frequently wrote about certain politicians who parade their wives as if they were some form of voiceless yet fashionable trophy.
Luckily, some female activists are deconstructing this narrative through brave initiatives such as Occupy Justice, which, incidentally was itself bullied by the caveman discourse of the likes of Tony Zarb.
True, Malta has advanced in certain policy initiatives related to gender equality. But let us not kid ourselves: we remain a European laggard in this field.
In this regard, a recent initiative organised at the University of Malta was almost prophetic in its choice of subject. ‘Women’, was organised by the Humanities, Medicine and Science (HUMS) programme, and it left much food for thought and action.
The seminar’s chair Clare Vassallo dedicated it Caruana Galizia, who had just been murdered a few days before. Indeed, the event was characterised by an eerie feel due to this macabre happening, but I could also sense a feeling of resolve among those present: a resolve to combat prejudice against women.
As Vassallo put it, Caruana Galizia started a whole new type of investigative journalism in Malta, and despite the insults, she remained fearless until the very end.
Vassallo also spoke of Virginia Woolf, who once observed that despite the richness of literature written by women, this was often obscured in patriarchal societies, where men wrote about women and where brave authors like Woolf herself had to overcome various hurdles to make it to the public sphere.
Another speaker, Edwina Portanier Brejza illuminated the audience with a host of examples of female inventors in the world of science, while Christine Galea discussed the Catholic narrative of equality of complimentary roles, something which perhaps deserves more debate in a world of increased diversity and fluidity.
Other speakers included Anthony Frendo, Charlene Vella and Charles Savona Ventura, the latter discussing what he calls the ‘five shades of purple’ in gender.
Of particular interest was the talk by Maria Theuma from the Department of English. She discussed the ‘cyborg’ theory of celebrated sociologist Donna Haraway. The latter had once proposed that our bodies are increasingly immersed with technologies in fields such as medicine and communication. While this can lead to dystopian futures in terms of ethical considerations, it can also serve as a source of liberation and self-creation.
And this self-creation can be applied in the fields of politics and activism. Caruana Galizia’s creative use of the blog was a case in point. Her articles were uploaded at all times of the day, and the whole country was hooked.
What made things even more interesting was that her blogs were shared in the social media and included tonnes of feedback. Many seemed to trust her more than the authorities when they provided her with information about corruption, bad governance and abuse of power. Everyone could become a co-author with Caruana Galizia, who articulated the information with her powerful pen.
It is now our duty, women and men, to ensure that Caruana Galizia’s writings live.

Front Favur ic-Censura - Michael Briguglio

Il-Mument, 12 ta' Novembru 2017

Ftit tal-granet ilu fettili nippostja xi ahbarijiet dwar censura minn media lokali fis-sit pubbliku fuq il-facebook tal-Front Kontra c-Censura.

Ftit wara irrealizzajt li gejt ibbanjat minn dan il-grupp. Iva, ibbanjat. Iccensurat. M’ghadx ghandi access ghal dan is-sit pubbliku ghax l-amministratur Mark Camilleri ghogbu jibbanjani minnu, kif stqarr huwa stess fuq il-facebook.

Tajba din! Jigifieri jekk xi hadd jippostja ahbarijiet dwar censura li ma jdoqqux ghal widnejn Camilleri, dan jigi ccensurat. L-attivist kontra c-censura sar jiccensura huwa stess. Qisu meta jkollok revoluzzjonarju li jsir tirann. Sewwa qal Albert Camus fil-ktieb ‘ir-Ribell’ meta wissa kontra l-assolutizmu.

Ta’ min jghid x’kien fihom il-posts tieghi. Wahda kienet dwar allegat theddid fuq muzicisti li kienu ser idoqqu f’kuncert ghal Daphne Caruana Galizia. Din l-ahbar deheret fuq Lovin Malta. Jien stess nista’ nikkonferma li hemm muzicisti jibzghu minn vendikazzjonijiet: Meta ftit granet wara n-netwerk tas-socjeta’ civili organizzat sit-in simboliku quddiem id-depot tal-Pulizija, stedinna numru ta’ bands. Kien hemm min accetta. Izda kien hemm ukoll min xtaq idoqq izda kellu jirrifjuta  minhabba li bezghu minn dak li jista’ jigrilhom galadabra jahdmu fic-civil.

Post ohra tieghi kienet ahbar li deher fuq is-sit newsbook. Hawnhekk, gie zvelat li Jonathan Ferris akkuza lill-Avukat Ġenerali peress li dan ta’ l-ahhar irid li l-każ ta’ Ferris jinstema' bil-magħluq. Ferris stqarr li dan imur kontra d-drittijiet tiegħu li għandu jkun protett b’mod xieraq mill-istat. Ta’ min niftakru li Ferris tkecca mill-FIAU talli dan ghamel xogholu fil-konfront investigazzjoni ta’ kriminalita’ ekonomika.

Vera gejna qeghdin sew. Il-Front Kontra c-Censura saret ticcensura hi stess. Ma nahsibx li din hi kumbinazzjoni. Mark Camilleri kien canvasser ta’ Owen Bonnici qabel l-elezzjoni tal-2013, u wara r-rebha Laburista giet mahtur chairman exekuttiv tal-Kunsill Nazzjonali tal-Ktieb. Qed jithallas eluf kbar ta’ Ewro mit-taxxi taghna f’dik li tista’ tissejjah hatra ‘taghna lkoll’.

Qabel l-elezzjoni tal-2017, il-Malta Independent (29 ta’ Mejju) irraportat li istess Mark Camilleri rega’ appoggja pubblikament lill-Partit Laburista u qal li ser jaghti l-ewwel preferenza  lill-Helena Dalli tal-PL u t-tieni preferenza lill-Alternattiva Demokratika. Qal ukoll li Simon Busuttil huwa ‘iktar korrott b’mod ovju’ minn Keith Schembri u Konrad Mizzi.

Ovjament Mark Camilleri ghandu kull dritt ghall-opinjoni tieghu, u nippreferi li persuna jghid x’inhi l-affiljazzjoni politika tieghu milli jinheba wara diskors oskur ta’ ‘newtralita’.

Izda nemmen li l-pozizzjoni ta’ Camilleri fil-Front Kontra c-Censura m’hijiex tenibbli ghas-semplici fatt li ghazel li jiccensura posts u kontributur sempliciment ghax ma jaqbilx mieghu. Liberta’ ta’ l-espressjoni? Ahjar nidhaq.

Monday, November 06, 2017

Passports without a soul - Michael Briguglio

Times of Malta 6 November 2017

When Joseph Muscat’s government introduced the controversial cash-for-passports scheme in 2013, it attempted to pacify criticism by promising that the scheme would be temporary. It is now clear that the scheme is the main reason why the government is registering a budgetary surplus. Malta is now dependent on the selling of passports and there are no signs that the government will stop the sellout. Joseph Muscat’s recent passport-selling trip to Dubai, a few days after the brutal murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, is very indicative of his priorities.
This is surely not something to boast about, especially when one considers Malta’s declining reputation due to tax avoidance schemes, money laundering, Panama Papers, corruption and institutional breakdown.
Indeed, the surplus of bad governance is overshadowing Malta’s financial surplus. The mechanisms of the passports scheme itself are very telling in this regard.
The government’s financial figures for the first eight months of 2017 included a €33.6 million increase from ‘Fees of Office’, which mainly refer to Malta’s sale of passports. In 2016, Malta registered a surplus of €112.9 million, and income from the sale of passports amounted to €163.5 million.
Seventy per cent of the funds generation from the sale of passports are deposited in the so-called National Development and Social Fund (NDSF), which was set up in July 2016, and prior to that such funds were temporarily recorded in a treasury fund. According to the government, the fund now has €309 million.
This is just about all the financial information which citizens of Malta are being given on our country’s sale of passports. The government also publishes information regarding those who are granted Maltese (and EU) citizenship, but this is cheekily muddled up in a list which also includes persons who were granted citizenship through naturalization. This year government went a step further and has so far failed to publish the list of persons granted citizenship.
I think that the government is having it too good on this matter, and here I am not only referring to the treatment of this matter by the Opposition, civil society and the local media. I am also referring to the negligence of the European Commission. I wonder what Jean-Claude Juncker has to say about Malta’s governance today, especially since the nightmare of bad governance and dubious deals has entered darker territory with the murder of Caruana Galizia.
Last year I wrote another article about the passports scheme in this newspaper, and to date various questions which I asked remain unanswered.
Specifically, what is being done with the revenue deposited in the fund referred to above? How is it being spent? Who decides on the allocation and utilization of funds? What are the timelines? Is there a business plan? Which specific areas are covered by the fund?
Following Labour’s massive exploitation of the power of incumbency in the run-up to last June’s general election, I can add other questions. Are such funds used for both capital and recurrent expenditure? How much was spent during the electoral campaign? Has expenditure increased following the election? When will itemised expenditure be published?
Let us keep in mind that the National Development and Social Fund is not part of the highly regulated EU funding framework. Thus it benefits from more flexible decisions and greater ministerial intervention. Spot on for incumbency.
Malta’s sale of passports is yet another example of the soulless state we are experiencing. It is soulless as short-term financial considerations are running roughshod over other concerns such as security, ethics, sustainability and transparency.
This is the same soulless State that is built on an infrastructure of buying votes through favours, resulting in increased dependency on ministers at the expense of true citizen empowerment. The soulless State is built on micro-power that spreads through the capillaries of society, where the government presence is all over the place. The sale of citizenship provides a financial base to this mechanism, resulting in an increased addiction to the malaise.

Muscat Negattiv - Michael Briguglio

Il-Mument 6 ta' Novembru 2017

Il-Prim Ministru ta’ Malta Joseph Muscat ghandu habta jghid li min ma jaqbilx mieghu huwa negattiv.

Hekk jaghmel meta l-media li m’hijiex ikkontrollata mil-Partit Laburista tirraporta dwar kazijet cari ta’ koruzzjoni u governanza hazina.

Hekk jaghmel meta’ ghaqdiet mhux governattivi iqajmu kwistjonijiet relatati mal-faqar, l-ambjent u l-prekarjat.

Hekk jaghmel meta s-socjeta’ civili tinghaqqad u titkellem b’mod car dwar il-qtil ta’ Daphne Caruana Galizia, dwar il-Panama Papers, dwar il-krizi ta’ l-istituzzjonijiet.

U hekk jaghmel meta deputati parlamentari ta’ l-oppozizzjoni jezercitaw id-dritt u d-dmir taghhom li jiskrutinaw l-operat tal-Gvern.

Izda kif kien spjega tajjeb Mark A. Sammut fil-ktieb L-Aqwa fl-Ewropa. Il-Panama Papers u l-Poter (2016), Joseph Muscat ta’ spiss juza tattika biex jizgwidana minn dak li jkun verament ghaddej. Jurina z’qed taghmel l-id il-leminija izda jahbi l-id ix-xellugija.

Joseph Muscat juza l-lingwagg ta’ ‘tkunx negattiv’ biex jitfa l-attenzjoni fuq l-avversarju politiku minflok fuqu nnifsu bhala kap tal-Gvern.

Il-Prim Ministru gieli jipprova jizgwidana iktar billi jipproponi mizuri godda fl-eqqel ta’ krizi politika. Mhux ta’ b’xejn li l-Gvern jiffoka fuq press conferences dwar materji li ma jkollhom x’jaqsmu xejn mal-krizi istituzzjonali.

Fl-eqqel tal-Panama Papers u fl-eqqel ta’ l-inkubu relatat mal-qtil ta’ Daphne Caruana Galizia, il-Gvern ta’ Muscat tarah jipproponi u jintroduci mizuri relatati mal-pensjonijiet, id-dizabilita’, il-liberatijiet civili u elf haga ohra.

F’dan il-kuntest jehtieg li ma nhallux lill-Prim Ministru juza r-riforma kostituzzjonali biex jizgwidana.

Halli nkun car : Pajjizna jehtieg riforma kostituzzjonali. Jehtieg li l-hatriet importanti ikollhom kunsens u fiducja wiesgha. Jehtieg li pajjizna ikollu gvern izghar u socjeta’ ikbar. Jehtieg li pajjizna ikollu iktar poteri dicentralizzati u inqas Ministri li jahtfu hafna poteri taht idejhom.

Izda jehtieg ukoll li Joseph Muscat jiehu decizzjonijet urgenti sabiex pajjizna jaffronta l-inkubu relatat mal-qtil ta’ Daphne Caruana Galizia u ma kwistjonijiet bhall-Panama Papers.

Qabel mal-Prim Ministru inehhi l-Avukat Generali u l-Kummissarju tal-Pulizija, difficli jkun hawn fiducja f’dawn l-istituzzjonijiet rispettivi. U jehtieg ukoll li l-Prim Ministru jaqbel ma’ l-oppozizzjoni u s-socjeta’ civili u jizgura li jkun hemm kunsens wiesgha ghall-hatra ta’ avukat generali u kummissarji tal-pulizija godda. Dan jista’ jsir b’approvazzjoni ta’ zewg terzi tal-Parlament.

Joseph Muscat ghandu opportunita’ li ma jibqax ikun negattiv dwar riforma urgenti f’dawn l-istituzzjonijiet. X’qed iwaqqfu milli jaghmel dan ?