The Times, Friday 20th January, 2012
Like some other members of Parliament from both sides of the House, Franco Debono was right in raising certain issues during this legislature. Yet, his strategy of holding the government at ransom for his issues confirmed that, in spite of the parliamentary Whips, the government here is made up of a coalition of individuals, unlike practically all European countries where governments comprise coalitions of parties.
The Franco Debono issue has shown that Malta, more than ever, requires reforms in its democratic system to ensure as much fair parliamentary representation and stability as possible. It is for this reason that Alternattiva Demokratika has been proposing an electoral system similar to the German one, which ensures representation both through election at district level (as is the case in Malta right now) and also through a national quota.
In the past days, many have asked me what AD would do were we in Dr Debono’s situation.
If we are represented in Parliament we would propose reforms in various areas and would work with the government and the opposition to attain them.
If we form a coalition with another party, we would agree on a joint programme and work to achieve it when in Parliament. If the programme is drawn up on the basis of mutual respect and understanding stability can be ensured. This is the norm all over the EU, where coalition governments operate on the basis of fair representation leading to a functional government. Green parties frequently feature in such coalitions.
Being a responsible party, we would respect the fact that we would be a minor partner in a coalition. We would surely not resort to threats to have our way at all costs as this would not only bring about unwarranted instability in Malta’s democratic system but would also mean that we would be committing political suicide.
AD has made its position clear on the Franco Debono issue through press statements and various TV interventions, including on Xarabank and TVAM. We made it clear that were we in Parliament we would have acted as a responsible party and that we were not rubbing our hands in anticipation of an election.
Many contacted me to express their support for our responsible approach, yet, some others expected us to join the speculation brigade and to issue a press release every five minutes on the matter. We said what he had to say on the issue and we will say more when we deem fit to say so. However, this does not mean that we should simply shut up on other issues, from the local to the national, European and global.
One local topic is the destructive development at Wied il-Għasel, Mosta. Indeed, as Mark Anthony Falzon remarked in The Sunday Times (January 15), while the Franco Debono issue monopolised media attention, the development in this valley was still taking place. AD is the only political party opposing this development together with environmental NGOs and the inspirational Ħarsien Patrimonju Mosti, which, unlike the locality’s local council, is doing its utmost to lobby on this issue.
I invite readers get more information on this at www.it-tarka.com/ and to sign a national petition opposing the development.
AD is speaking on various other local issues, from the need for more accessible public spaces to the need for better infrastructure because we feel we have the responsibility to do so at all times. Everyday democracy means that issues related to quality of life should be high on the political agenda.
On the national front, we are also declaring our position very clearly on a myriad of environmental, social and economic issues.
Just to mention a few, and to show how we can be clearly distinguished from other parties, we are the only party calling for a sustainable water policy when illegal boreholes are bringing Malta close to a water crisis.
We are the only party calling for a balance between sensible economic policy and progressive and socially just fiscal measures, such as those against property speculation, when more than 25 per cent of properties are vacant in Malta.
We are the only party calling for equal rights for LGBT persons and other minorities in family and social policy.
We are calling for the modernisation of censorship legislation and for humane and sustainable policies on immigration.
Unlike PNPL, but like experts in the field, we are calling for the decriminalisation of drugs for personal use and real help for drug users, rather than imprisonment, which only increases problems for such victims. Cheap populism is not on our agenda.
AD is the only party not held to ransom by egoistic lobbies such as Armier squatters, hunters and trappers, firework fanatics, contractors with cash and destructive developers.
Voting for AD would, therefore, be a vote for change in the style of governance and for stability. If one believes in giving priority to social justice, civil rights, environmental justice, sustainable development, ecological modernisation and, last but not least, the reform in the institutional set-ups for the enhancement of democracy, one knows where one stands with the greens. Voting for the Nationalist Party and for the Labour Party would mean voting for the political status quo.
Mr Briguglio, a sociologist, is chairman and spokesman for economy and finance, Alternattiva Demokratika – the Green party.