Q&A | Generating ideas through debate | Mario Mallia

Mario Mallia says he was interested in social and environmental issues from a young age. Today he is seeking a platform, parliament, from where to push his ideals, generate ideas and work with others of different beliefs. On the ‘Forza Nazzjonali’ coalition he believes that the PN will gather the troops and close its ranks as the election draws closer, leaving the PD candidates (currently PN candidates) in the cold

Mario Mallia
Mario Mallia

How did you first get involved in politics?

I was always interested in social and environmental issues from a young age.  I owe my baptism in political activism in the 80’s to the Tan-Numri group and Zgħażagħ għall-Ambjent with the likes of Peppi Azzopardi, Julian Manduca, Saviour Balzan, Stephen Cachia, and so many more.  I also got involved in student politics and was vice president of the Kunsill Studenti Universitarji for a number of years, at a time when the University was passing through a phase of opening up to the world after a period of restrictive policies by the then Labour government. I was in my third year at university studying education when I was involved in the setting up of Alternattiva Demokratika, with so many other young activists.

Which part of the political life appeals to you?

Most certainly the generation of ideas through healthy debate and activism that implies bridging and working with others possibly of diverse views.

Why AD?

AD has always provided a sense of freedom from the straitjacket which is traditional Maltese politics. It saw through the myopic and claustrophobic confrontational politics that divides the country down the middle. AD sought the freedom to propose positions, both environmental and social, all too often beyond its time unshackled from vested interests that have blackmailed traditional politics. As part of the European Greens, AD has always advocated a sense of respect for the world around us as it recognised an inherent interdependence with it. This interdependence is an integral part of an ecological paradigm which breeds the concept of sustainability as a main pillar behind social justice.

What are the chances of an AD candidate being elected?

The current electoral system designed by the incumbents in parliament to keep other parties out, makes the election of an AD candidate a tall order. Having said that, nothing is impossible. AD keeps harping on the point that even within the current system, the stalemate can be broken. A wasted vote is a vote for the traditional parties that perpetuates a status quo that allows for a change of faces but leaves systemic dysfunction intact. If people want change, they have to vote for it.

If elected, what will you bring to the table?

Vote Green Vote Clean says it all. We can bring to the table sustainable policies that take into consideration the rights of future generations. We will also bring into the political equation a sense of ethical leadership which leads by example, working to have in place a strong system of checks and balances that keeps the executive in check. It will work to give power to the people by removing power from governments and restoring it to parliament.

This would also mean working towards a full time parliament which reduces the possibilities of conflict of interest between political and professional work, make politics and parliament more family friendly (and more accessible to women and men) and also provide the time for better quality work. AD will work on a programme of constitutional change which makes this possible. It will also work to have the environment entrenched within the constitution so that should any government waver on its obligations, it could be taken to court and forced to act.

Do you think that a similar PN-PD agreement, but with AD, would have boosted the Green Party’s chances of winning a seat in parliament?

At face value, this could have possibly been the case since there still seems to be a distrust with the PN even amongst its ranks, considering its recent past and blunders of late.  On the other hand, contesting under the ‘maduma’ as was put on the table by the PN itself, would have stripped AD of its distinct identity and made it more of the same so the allure of voting for AD and what it stands for would have been lost.  As from day one we have advocated a coalition (based on a programme) which is true to its name; a set-up which could have allowed for diverse identities to coexist, thus appealing for a wider catchment of voters. This I believe would have been a win-win situation. But the PN would have none of this. Time will tell but I believe that the PN will gather the troops and close its ranks as the election draws closer, leaving the PD candidates (currently PN candidates) in the cold.

The former leader of AD, Michael Briguglio, has said that the only reason some PL supporters sympathise with AD is because they want to split the vote to the PL’s advantage: what is your opinion?

My take is that genuine Labour supporters who feel betrayed by their own party will never feel at ease voting for the PN or anyone contesting under that name.  There is too much baggage that still needs to be unravelled and engaged with. In this respect, AD can provide these genuine people who can call a spade a spade, a political home which has stood its ground and which stands for much of what they hold dear.

Where does AD stand on abortion, euthanasia and legalization of marijuana?

AD has always declared itself against abortion. It has additionally harped on the need for the state to provide adequate support for women and children, together with an aggressive educational campaign with men to shoulder their responsibilities. AD is also against euthanasia. It is instead in favour of a ‘living will’.  This consists of a declaration which a person makes whilst still in her/his full mental faculties. Through this declaration, the person provides clear direction as to her/his will regarding therapies which the person would be ready to accept or not in the eventuality of being in a condition which renders the person incapable of expressing this right.  

AD is in favour of legalising marijuana. People who use marijuana should be treated in the same way as people who use alcohol and tobacco with the same safeguards for the distinct reason that the effects of cannabis are indeed considered as less deleterious than tobacco and alcohol, both of which are legal. Legalising cannabis would mean that it is bought from licensed outlets and it would be subject to the same taxation regime as tobacco and cigarettes. The restrictions on advertising that apply for tobacco should also apply for cannabis. This would also have the effect of redirecting police resources where it matters most; clipping the wings of the drug traffickers and drug lords that make millions selling heavy and dangerous drugs to our youth.    

How do you react to criticism that AD has failed to renew itself over the past four years?

We need to do more on this front by reaching out further to so many people whose interests are in synch with what AD believes in and fights for. Having said that, it is encouraging to see a regeneration of Alternattiva Zghazagh, serving as an incubator for fresh ideas and new faces. 

Both Labour and PN agree on one thing: that no one can deny AD’s commitment towards the environment. What is the party proposing in this year’s manifesto?

An overarching proposal is the entrenchment of the environment in the constitution.  This is intended to give the environment the attention it deserves whilst giving the right for NGOs and citizens to challenge the government in court if it fails to deliver on environmental issues.  AD has proposals that tackle land use.  One such proposal is that large residential development even if within rationalisation schemes, would be subject to the number of vacant dwellings in the locality. Another deals with development in ODZ areas wherein such development would be subject to a referendum in the locality. In the case of projects of national importance, the project would be subjected to a two-thirds vote in parliament if it is to be approved.

Manoel Island should be returned back to all, as should places like Armier among others. AD also advocates making the country carbon neutral by 2050. This implies giving further importance to the generation of energy through renewables. This includes an overhaul of our currently inadequate electricity grid to take up all the alternative energy we can generate. AD also supports the national strategy for zero waste by 2050.  On transport, AD has a myriad of proposals ranging from an ambitious project of having all cars on our roads running exclusively on electricity by 2030, to the generation of common distribution hubs for wholesalers using vehicles running on methane.  More on these and other proposals can be found on http://www.alternattiva.org.mt/candidates-2/

Mario Mallia is contesting the second and eighth districts for Alternattiva Demokratika