Letters: 20 December 2015

Corruption probe into Borg ill thought-out?

It was worrying to read the highly critical comments by the Ombudsman on one of the youngest government junior ministers, and loudly brayed by the Opposition to call for his instant sacking, despite his achievements.

Furthermore, other commentators have taken it onto themselves to use this matter as a public weapon with which to castigate the Maltese government. The theme is that it must be right because the Ombudsman said so – all very unfortunate when Malta is enjoying such fine current world publicity after the Valletta Summit and CHOGM, and a retiring partner of Deloitte insists that “the best is yet to come for financial services”. The highly public and well-publicised criticisms do great damage to Malta’s international reputation.

However it is even more disturbing now to read Perit Robert Musumeci in The Times, asserting that the planning Ombudsman’s report contained two glaring errors and omissions of fact which make the whole report by David Pace very questionable indeed. This in itself is also extremely worrying, because the position of Ombudsman is a vital part of democracy and governance, therefore his findings must be factually accurate, utterly pragmatic, independent, politically balanced and fair.

The Ombudsman’s job is not to take sides, and yet the very use of the word “devious” when describing methods used is judgemental enough to create unfair criticism, especially when those methods were both legal and logical.

So it may be that there is a scandal, but it may not be the one the Opposition is trumpeting around the world, to the detriment of this great country.

We need to know why and how the Ombudsman reached his damaging conclusions after investigating the matter, but managing to make grave errors of factual accuracy as claimed by the planning expert and specialist, Robert Musumeci. How and why was his “investigation” commenced, and was the case or complaint prepared and given to him by outside parties? If so why did he not investigate their possible motives, interests or indeed political preferences. Did he refer to other experts in the field?

Certain journalists, who claim to have analysed the case, should also perhaps wonder why they simply took the Ombudsman`s word as fact. A proper investigation by a journalist looking for the truth might well have exposed the same errors as quoted by Musumeci.

Indeed it is clear according to Musumeci that the Ombudsman did not compare like with like: (a) the first application quoted by the Ombudsman related to about half the area of Borg’s application, and (b) the first application was for one building, whereas the second was for two buildings, which completely altered the situation under the applicable rules.

So why did the Ombudsman ignore this in his report? Instead he accused MEPA of a “grave error” – now it seems that the grave error was his, not MEPA’s. Proper investigative journalism might even have exposed ulterior motives.

It is probably fitting that now a corruption probe will take place because that will most likely reveal where the “scandal” really exists. It may also reveal yet another own goal by the Opposition, aided and abetted by media bias and sloppy journalism. It could even lead to the resignation of a man whose post requirements are honesty, trust, accuracy, balance and reliability.

In making these comments I have relied on my long experience as an investigative journalist, a forensic accountant, a Westminster lobbyist, a legal advisor and corporate executive.

Mike Turner, Valletta

Barts students educated in Maltese hospitals

I was very disappointed to see that internally circulated information of the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery was leaked to your journalists and published (‘Barts will eat into Mater Dei resources, PM told’).

I would have greatly appreciated that as the Faculty and myself were brought in the public domain I would have had prior notification about this and even given the possibility of vetting the contents of the article.

Please be informed that there has been major progress in the discussions and considerable flexibility has been shown by both the Faculty and Barts in order to work together in a spirit of collaboration and mutual support. In addition there have been strong re-assurances on the expansion of the health services by the ministers concerned, hence allaying the worry about the limited clinical facilities.

Professor Godfrey LaFerla 

Chairman, Faculty Board

Editorial note: MaltaToday has published the contents of Prof. LaFerla’s letter to the highest authorities in good faith. This newspaper will keep raising the issue of whether the privatisation of parts of Maltese healthcare will be in the best interest of the patient. In asking questions on the Barts deal, MaltaToday believes the fundamental question to be asked is why students paying Queen Mary University London €35,000 a year to become doctors will be educated inside Maltese hospitals

Malta as a voice of reason, II

Referring to your engaging December 10th editorial (Malta as a voice of reason) wherein you refer to the letter we wrote to the Prime Minister regarding Malta’s commitment to France’s military venture against IS, we would like to highlight the following points. 

To start with the signatories to the letter were five not six as your editorial claims. 

The editorial declares that ‘There is a war going on – officially declared by… IS, but in which various European countries are now embroiled.’ We beg to the differ regarding the truth of this assertion. Various intertwined wars involving some European nations, the US, various Arab governments and fundamentalist groups among others have been going on for decades. IS is the latest actor to come to the scene; its coming into being and growth not being unrelated to support given to the organisation by European allies in the region.

In one of your paragraphs you refer to IS’s campaign of terrorism and murder, something that according to your piece makes it ‘entirely underserving of the status of Statehood that it craves’. Various governments and states, including some supposedly democratic ones, have been/are conducting campaigns of terrorism (i.e. the deliberate killing of innocent individuals to achieve political/economic goals) and murder.

Ought we to stop treating them as sovereign states? How could one call the American carpet bombing of the mostly civilian city of Sirte during the Libyan uprising against Gaddafi? What about Israel’s modus operandi in the West Bank and Gaza? And don’t we recognise Saudi Arabia as a state, even though the Saudi regime engages in internal and external terrorism and murder as you rightly recognise in your editorial; a state’s whose ideology is not very dissimilar from that of IS?

And with regard to Syria, did not Assad’s government itself carry out attacks against civilians, and murder? This does not entail that we recognise IS as a state; we only want to clarify that being a state on the one hand, and terrorism and murder on the other are not mutually exclusive. 

As to our neutrality clauses, these commit us to actively work for peace. Even if IS is not classified as a state, war and bombings will not bring about peace, but foment further terrorism and murder, as your editorial rightly acknowledges. That is indeed one fundamental reason which we believe should commit Malta not to venture in this mission.

Despite these points of divergence, we recognise a number of other points the editorial makes (on the role of Turkey, on the need to eradicate terrorism by winning hearts not battles, etc.) and cherish it as an exercise in dialogue and reasoned engagement on an important topic. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about some other media outlets – including some that are founded by our taxes – who prefer to focus on trivialities like the President’s attire, runaway peacocks and stolen teddy bears rather than dialogue with voices that are not mainstream on a particular issue. Soft censorship?  

Michael Grech, Sammy Meilaq, Charles Miceli, Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici, Mark Montebello