Letters: 22 March 2015

Participative democracy

In 1993 the PN in government set up the local councils. Thus was the principle of subsidiarity brought to the Maltese political fora. Subsidiarity is an organising principle that is based on the belief that matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest or least centralised competent authority.

Political decisions should be taken at a local level if possible, rather than by a central authority. A clear example of the issue of subsidiarity is the way the European Union works. Under the principle of subsidiarity, in areas which do not fall within its exclusive competence, the Union shall act only if, and in so far as, the objectives of the proposed action cannot be sufficiently achieved by the member states, either at central level or at regional and local level. The Union will act on certain matters only if, for reasons of scale or because of the effects of the proposed action, the result can be better achieved at Union level.

Over the years various reforms have been introduced, in particular the recent changes whereby further powers are being devolved to local councils. Unfortunately, this has not been accompanied by the much needed funds that local councils need to function properly and take the necessary positive decisions for the benefit of the locality.

The buzz word by all persons involved in local councils is “participation” and the biggest effort is to get more valid persons to volunteer their names, either as candidates or just to become involved in council activities. We tend to hear councillors complain about the lack of interest by residents in the ongoing work by the council; that residents only make themselves heard when a street light does not function, or when they suffer an inconvenience caused by some infrastructural works.

I have put my name forward as a PN Candidate for the Swieqi local council elections because I believe that “Those who are too smart to engage in politics are punished by being governed by those who are dumber” (Plato.) By this I do not mean that I consider myself cleverer than most, but that I feel that I have  particular skills that will aid me in working for the locality and to get more residents involved in the work of the council.

It is important to be the change we want to see in anything we endeavour to perform.  Although, to date, I have never had the privilege of serving on a council, over the past years I have used  social media to get residents discussing topics related to Swieqi. A page that I started four years ago entitled “Swieqi Residents” today has grown to include around 3,000 members.

These actively engage in very interesting debates and raise issues for the Council that might not have been discussed otherwise. Participative democracy is precisely this: allowing people to be involved in discussions and decisions that affect them. Today, one of the best ways for this to happen is through social media.

One will always have armchair critics who are the first to shoot down any idea and who focus only on the negative. However, today, social media remains an excellent tool to empower people and to help show that councillors really want to listen and learn what is of concern to the residents.

A positive step was the recent introduction of having local council sessions streamed live over the internet. It is unfortunate that few people seem to be aware of this opportunity to keep in touch with council activities. It is critical that local councils are empowered to promote their work better and to keep in contact with residents throughout their term and not only close to elections.

A new Swieqi local council also needs to empower residents to set up a residents’ association. The aim of such an association is  twofold: firstly, to keep the council accountable on its promises and to ensure that decisions are taken solely for the benefit of residents and the locality and not for that of any other interested parties; and, secondly, to lobby the council on priorities for projects, funds and activities.

In a locality where  there are no band clubs, no large political bars and where local sports organisations have little resources, apart from the  manpower of the faithful few, a residents’ organisation would be invaluable to help bring together the diverse aspects and interests of the locality.  

On April 11 you, the resident, have the chance of electing the people you think will do the best job in improving your locality. I hope to be given the trust and opportunity of representing Swieqi residents and the privilege to continue my work for the benefit of the locality in an official capacity. My primary aim, if elected, is to further empower residents and to get more of them to become involved in the locality. It is only together that we can achieve the results we need and want.  

Mauro Miceli , PN candidate, Swieqi

Lead pollution by hunters

The letter by Clifford John Williams on lead poisoning (March 8, 2015) made interesting reading. 

A few years back while writing my monthly column ‘A Greener Shade of Green’ in this newspaper I had stressed on several occasions that millions of lead pellets are falling annually in the soil where our crops are planted. These pellets are being discharged by some of the 59,000 shotguns registered with the police in Malta. 

Nowhere in the world are there 11,000 hunters shooting in an area of 300 square kilometres, which is the area Malta has. 

As rightly pointed out in your correspondent’s letter, “lead is a deadly poison”. The Maltese are paranoic about lots of situations yet I find that very few people are bothering about their health. It was reported that one in every four Maltese persons is dying of cancer. Is that so surprising when each day we are eating poisoned vegetables from our fields and drinking lead-contaminated water from the water table? 

Do these facts bother anyone?  If they do, then vote No in the referendum. Your vote will not eliminate all the lead pollution since we are voting to eliminate only spring hunting. Hunters will carry on polluting our soil and the water table in the autumn, but at least we would have eliminated the number of pellets shot in spring.

Maurice F. Mizzi, Bidnija