Letters: 15 March 2015

Is the Referendum Act really limited to spring hunting?

Wonder of wonders, the law allowing an abrogative referendum is there to abolish spring hunting and spring hunting only, say some learned gentlemen from the Chamber of Advocates. And wonder of wonders, all the members of this choir, all renowned, not only for their professional acumen, but also for their stance with regard to hunting in general (not only spring hunting), have declared that they will be voting No in the forthcoming referendum. 

These lawyers, presumably after careful scrutiny, came to the conclusion that an Abrogative Referendum as part of our Referendum Act is there to abolish only spring hunting, none of the other sports or hobbies, not even hunting in autumn.

Thus the legislator, back when the Referendum Act was enacted, went through all the analytical studies to give the Maltese citizen the democratic right to invoke a referendum, which right will be extinguished immediately if and when Malta’s right to derogate for spring hunting, as granted by the European Court of Justice, is voted out by a referendum.

Did you really expect that you could go and fool around collecting signatures to do away with anything you feel is in your way? Did you really think that our democratic country would allow you such power? Of course not: our Abrogative Referendum is there purely and exclusively to enable the abolition of Malta’s right to derogate for spring hunting. Little did the aspiring politicians from Alternattiva Demokratika realise the limitation of this democratic right when they declared that the spring hunting referendum was just the beginning of a series of other referenda:

“Just the start of more referenda” – Carmel Cacopardo, Malta Today, November 22, 2013 and 

“It is quite possible the same could be done on other important issues” – Arnold Cassola, the Malta Independent, January 12, 2014. 

What a disappointment.

I am not a hunter (as many might have thought) but I love fishing and in fact am also a rugby enthusiast. Currently my sport is under attack by a faction in the UK in a similar way spring hunting is in Malta. One author wrote: “Schools, coaches and parents all contribute to a tribal, gladiatorial culture that encourages excessive aggression, suppresses injury reporting and encourages players to carry on when injured.” This is a blatant lie and only serves to shock and pre-condition people. Yes, I feel that the spring hunting referendum threatens my interests in a big way.

Let us not forget that pre-EU accession spring hunting was guaranteed and endorsed, at least tacitly, by the EU referendum. Guarantees came from none other than the prime minister of the time, Eddie Fenech Adami and Simon Busuttil, then the head of the Malta EU information Centre MIC. The hunting fraternity at the time argued that EU accession would be very detrimental to hunting and trapping. I was all in favour of Malta joining the EU and staunchly argued with KSU and FKNK asking how can they keep maintaining this, given the unequivocal guarantees.

The proof is in the pudding, what followed is as clear and unequivocal as the guarantees. Can the learned lawyers in the choir give the Maltese citizens more reliable guarantees than those given to the hunters during the EU referendum campaign?          

I am no lawyer and my legal knowledge is inadequate, so I will limit myself to asking questions: Is it possible that our law book has one piece of legislation that applies only to one single issue and only that specific issue? I need to be convinced.

Our Abrogative Referendum Act is intended for the electorate to decide by means of a referendum “whether one or more provisions of an enactment shall not continue in force”, these enactments, save for a few exceptions are “an Act of Parliament and any Act passed by the Legislature of Malta and includes any Code, Ordinance, Proclamation, Order, Rule, Regulation, Bye-law, Notice or other instrument having the force of law in Malta”.

What is not controlled by law? Is it possible that the production of fireworks has no legislation backing it up? Are we saying that there is no statute whatsoever regulating the production of these hazards with the possibility of blowing up the neighbourhood in the process? How dare you Mr Legislator, allow others to abolish spring hunting and you don’t allow me to invoke a referendum to abolish fireworks, gun ownership, target shooting, horses on our busy roads, pigeons from our skies dropping excrement on our heads? Or those who disapprove of gays and gay marriages remove the new humane and progressive piece of legislation?

What right will the citizens of Malta have to reverse the decision by the referendum, say in two to three years’ time, if the majority so desire of course? 

Assuming that truly, spring hunting legislation is the only thing that could be abolished by an abrogative referendum, is this the only statute which enables Maltese citizens to invoke a referendum or did the gentlemen from the Chamber of Advocates mean that abolishing other sports and hobbies cannot be through the abrogative referendum law – without mentioning that referenda are possible through other legal channels?

Indeed, it is every citizen’s right not to be lied to.

Stephen Busuttil, Zebbug

Fooling the electorate

Contrary to claims by BirdLife Malta and other budding experts trying to influence the Maltese public that hunters are shooting endangered species of birds, the only official available population status (IUCN Red List of Threatened Species http://www.iucnredlist.org/) existing on the turtle dove and common quail upon which any hunting is approved is that provided by the International Union of the Conservation of Nature, the IUCN.

This official classification of birds indicates quite clearly and  in black on white that the species in question are considered to be of Least Concern... meaning that hunting of such birds is sustainable. The European Commission publishes all the required data for each country in the EU that hunt turtle dove and common quail in autumn.

These total quail – four million birds, whilst turtle dove number three million. By permitting such a significant number to be shot, with all its blessing, the European Commission, which oversees any excesses wherever hunting is concerned, disproves all the nonsense being fed to an uninformed public by those abolitionists out to ban spring hunting with a vengeance.

The European Court of Justice, from available data, concluded that Maltese hunters have “insufficient hunting opportunities in autumn” and ruled in a legally binding verdict the right for the government to apply a derogation for a 19 half day period under very strictly supervised conditions in spring. This derogation and the way it is being applied also has the European Commission’s approval in that it “follows the spirit of the court’s ruling”.

Both the ECJ and the Commission are well aware that Malta’s derogation is being applied “when birds are on their way to breed” and accept this fact as part of their argument that autumn hunting for these two birds in the “exceptional case of Malta” does not offer a “satisfactory solution”. So much so that spring hunting under derogation is also practised in other EU States for similar valid reasons.

It is only in Malta that the ECJ ruling and the Commission’s approval of a derogation and the government’s application of it is depicted as a disgrace and ridiculed.

What the electorate certainly realizes, taking into consideration the incessant bad press, “foreign” interference and harm to Malta’s image as a means to an end, is that no abolitionist out to ban a legally applied EU concession can match the expertise of the European Courts or the scrutiny of the European Commission and their approval of spring hunting. The choice of whether the electorate can be fooled is in their hands.

Emanuel Portelli, Naxxar

Editorial note:  Mr Portelli is wrong on a number of points – the status of the two species is ‘depleted’ and ‘vulnerable,’ and the European Court of Justice did not approve the Maltese government’s decision. In fact, the government of Malta was fined. 

A tinge of humour

With reference to John Guillaumier’s letter of 2 February, entitled ‘Religion lacks a sense of humour’, I agree with him that the subject is not on the agenda of monotheistic religions. They leave that to some erudite, capricious individuals, and of course clowns. 

A pleasant diversion from Mr Guillaumier’s general indictment would be the knowledge that there are more than 15 books entitled ‘The humour of Christ’. Besides, I have recently come across a weekly Italian magazine boasting four full pages citing 20 humorous quotations by Pope Francis. His enthusiastic spontaneity, full of satire, paradox and metaphors, makes you smile and meditate. Indeed, he is capturing the world as the most beloved and popular man living at present. 

John Azzopardi, Zabbar

Absurd blasphemy laws

Laws against blasphemy are based on a belief in an anthropomorphic God, made in man’s own image and likeness. They ascribe to Him human characteristics, such as the human weakness of being offended by mere words and insults.

These man-made laws are enacted to defend the beliefs of those who make them, rather than the honour of God Himself, who is far removed from such petty human concerns.

Just like faith itself, blasphemy is relative. What is blasphemous to Christians is not blasphemous to Muslims, and vice versa.

It’s absurd to think that God would be offended by the puny insults hurled at Him by the insignificant men living on a small planet in one of the billions of galaxies!

John Guillaumier, St Julian’s