[WATCH] Labour MP tells students 'give us a chance'

Labour MP tells University students "give us a chance to change things."


The deputy leaders debate organised this morning by the Kunsill Studenti Universitarji (KSU) turned out to be a dour event, a far cry from the boisterous leaders' debates held in recent weeks at university and Mcast.

Labour MP Owen Bonnici told students "Give us a chance to change things," as he repeated Labour's 'Malta Taghna Lkoll' mantra.

Slamming the PN's "tribal" and scaremongering campaign, Bonnici said a new Labour government would unite the country.

Although the KSU intended to hold a debate between the deputy leaders of all three major parties, Labour had other thoughts. Labour deputy leaders Louis Grech and Toni Abela were unavailable for the debate, and were replaced by MP and tertiary education spokesperson Owen Bonnici.

In the poorly attended debate, the Labour MP faced the Nationalist Party deputy leader Simon Busuttil and his Alternattiva Demokratika counterpart Carmel Cacopardo.

Unsurprisingly, Busuttil expressed his surprise over Labour's decision to send Bonnici instead of the party's deputy leaders.

"The Labour Party has two deputy leaders to choose from, yet it could not send one of them," Busuttil quipped.

All three party representatives faced a number of questions posed by the KSU moderator and covered a number of predictable subjects such as education, health, pensions, job creation and the environment.

While Busuttil and Bonnici battled it over how many jobs were actually created in the last five years, Cacopardo accused the government of encouraging the creation of precarious jobs, by allowing government tender applicants to pay wages which were way below the minimum wage.

Bonnici also highlighted the need to address youth unemployment which he said reached 15%.

"Claims of full employment of young people are false, there are over 4,600 young people currently seeking a job," Bonnici said, while pointing out the greater rate of unemployment in Gozo.

Busuttil stressed that the Nationalist Party should be judged over the results it achieved in strengthening the economy and its investments in education, health and job creation.

He insisted that the government had taken tough decisions such as closing the drydocks to prioritise other areas such as education and health.

Noting that Malta did not experience the same unrest as other neighbouring countries did, Busuttil said: "One of the very few times that people protested was when the government decided to stop subsidising the drydocks to the tune of €50 million a year, and Labour leader Joseph Muscat was down in the streets too. We took the right decision to stop subsidising the drydocks and prioritise government spending and channel that money to education and health."

On his part, Alternattiva Demokratika's Carmel Cacopardo said the PN should not only be judged on its achievements but also over what it failed to achieve.

Lambasting the Nationalist Party for failing to introduce a number of laws it had promised in 2008, such as the whistleblowers act and the party financing law, adding that such legislation needed to be introduced for the sake of the whole country.

"The PN says it would introduce a party financing law every five years but then says it had no time to introduce it. Now we recently got to know that instead of asking for a loan from a bank, the PN got a loan from Bank of Vassallo," Cacopardo said in reference to the €250,000 loan its media company took out from one of construction magnate and former PN mayor Nazzareno Vassallo's companies.

In reply to Busuttil's claim that the PN government was prioritising its expenditure, Bonnici said the PN administration had "prioritised a new Parliament, a bridge to nowhere in the Grand Harbour and a €500 wage increase to ministers at a time when people were asked to make sacrifices."

When the debate turned to the environment, Cacopardo said that the two big parties "encouraged abuse," making reference to the illegal Armier boathouses.

Pointing out that both Labour and the PN tried to seek an arrangement behind closed doors with boathouse owners, Cacopardo added that the PN was now claiming that it would compensate illegalities.

"If Malta really is for all, than Armier is ours too as are our water resources," Cacopardo said, taking a swipe at Labour's electoral slogan.

Referring to the 70,000 vacant properties in Malta, the Green Party deputy chairperson said that his party would introduce a property tax on third vacant properties onwards and implement a moratorium on large-scale development and hit out at the PN's rationalisation of development boundaries in 2006 which led to a building spree and the destruction of the environment.

Cacopardo also explained that AD's manifesto was proposing that local communities should be empowered and given residents the final say on development projects. This, he said, contrasted to Labour's Mepa reform, which relegated local council and residents' voice to one on 15 on the authority's board.

He added that projects should be submitted for the community's consideration in a referendum after all studies would have been concluded and made available for a reasonable time.


However in the case of development projects of national importance, Cacopardo said that Parliament could intervene and take a final decision after ascertaining that the objections of the local community are addressed.

On his part, Busuttil acknowledged AD's contribution in terms of environmental protection, however he said that the PN government had resolved a number of issues such as recycling, sewage treatment and floodwater relief.

He also pointed out that not all the vacant properties belonged to the government and the government cannot seize or tell private owners what to do with vacant property as Labour administrations had done in the past.

The students were then given the opportunity to quiz the three politicians, however the questions were straight out of the Labour and PN newsrooms, with students more intent on embarrassing Busuttil and Bonnici rather than addressing students' concerns. 

Wouldn't it be a great boost to the economic, social and educative scenes if AD's proponents were put to good use by the New Movement, after elections.
L-importaturi taz-zigarelli zgur jivvutawlu lil-Gonzi !
Like very much Caccopardo`s idea about the local community havinfg the very last say; in other words nothing will get done.