Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Malta Today: AD manifesto founded on social justice, environmental protection, civil rights

Alternattiva Demokratika launches manifesto based on three pillars: social justice and minimum wage, environmental protection and less development, and increased civil rights for minorities and LGBT.
Saturday 19 January 2013 - 12:33 by Nestor Laiviera

Alternattiva Demokratika chairperson Michael Briguglio and spokesperson on energy Ralph Cassar.

Alternattiva Demokratika has unveiled a 28-chapter-long electoral manifesto which AD chairman Michael Briguglio described as founded on three pillars: social justice, environmental protection, and civil rights.

Launching the manifesto during an AD AGM that approved the manifesto at the Osborn Hotel, Valletta, Briguglio said that the manifesto was the fruit of two years' worth of consultation with AD members and spokespersons.

Briguglio said that a sub-committee tasked with the manifesto focused on examining AD's past policies to determine which ones could and should be upgraded to keep pace with national and international developments.

He explained that the manifesto was founded on a strong social awareness that lays down the need for a strong sense of social justice, greater environmental protection, which were mainstreamed into several other areas, and greater civil rights, which were also mainstreamed into other areas.

AD's manifesto kicks off by pledging that AD will remain "the strongest defenders of what is left of Malta's environmental heritage", committing itself towards "better public spaces and better infrastructure", as well as "not being held hostage by big business, hunters, trappers, fireworks fanatics, Armier squatters, and big land developers."

It emphasises the need for more sustainable land and water policies, and calls for "socially just economic and social policies" such as increases in minimum wage and disability pensions, socially just pensions, and taxing on third vacant property onwards.

On Environment, AD's proposals include a strong emphasis on better water resource management, better land use through solutions for Malta's abundant vacant housing, and the need for sustainable development.

"AD considers that the water extracted from illegal boreholes as the misappropriation of a publicly owned resource," AD's manifesto reads while calling for more efforts to reign in reckless water extraction and greater vigilance and regulation.

On Housing, AD's manifesto says that the number of vacant resident properties are well in excess of the 53,000 vacant dwellings documented in the 2005 census. "This clearly shows how the building industry was given a free reign, building in an uncontrolled manner with substantially more land being built up." AD is calling for an end to large-scale residential projects, pledging a moratorium on this type of development.

It also proposes "the creation of an active and realistic rent market with a tax reduction on rent income of 15%".

AD also proposes that the state funds the creation of housing for renting to low income individuals and families, as well as that a plan be drawn up for social housing for immigrants coming out of detention centres.

On energy, AD outlines several proposals, revolving around a focus on renewable energy and policies that prioritises this. Among them is the proposal that all buildings should have space for renewable energy installations, and conform with energy efficiency regulations with full use of double glazing. Water heaters should be obligatory, including in existing buildings where there is space on the roof.

AD also proposes that the new Delimara Power Station be shifted to gas, and should switch from Heavy Fuel Oil to diesel in the interim period. It also proposes that Malta be involved in efforts to harness social energy from the Sahara desert.

On family policy issues, AD pledged to remain a progressive party, in favour of "humane social policies and equal rights for all, including minorities in family and social policy, such as person with disability and LGBT persons."

Among them, AD is pledging universally accessible child care services, and, in collaboration with the private sector "the State should provide free services to those who need them."

AD is also proposing the extension of maternity leave to 20 weeks with pay, the introduction of paternity leave of 2 weeks paid leave, with Government either carrying part of the financial burden or consider financing it completely.

On civil rights issues: the Green Party affirmed its support for issues such as gender equality, the right for IVF "without discrimination", full equality in marriage and other family rights for same-sex couples, "decriminalisation of drugs for personal use, whilst helping victims rather than criminalising them," and animal rights.

"Free IVF treatment offered by the public health service should facilitate matters for prospective parents who are infertile. There should not be discrimination on any grounds for access to this service, and applicants should be offered professional counselling," AD says.

On cohabitation, AD says that the state should recognise the rights and obligations on couples who have lived together for more than five years, as well as the introduction of a public register that enables couples to register their cohabitation if they wish to.

"Relatives or friends constituting a household should enjoy the same rights as heterosexual and homosexual couples who are cohabiting where house, hospital visits, inheritance, and social benefits are concerned," AD's manifesto reads.

Regarding sexual orientation, AD's manifesto calls for "full equality between same-sex couples and heterosexual couples in every aspect of life."

It insists that "the state should open the institution of civil marriage to same-sex couples and hence provide the same rights and obligations to all couples (irrespective of whether they are heterosexual or of the same sex)." It also insists on full equality regarding the right to IVF treatment, and to adoption "regardless of sexual orientation and civil status."

AD also expressed its willingness to cooperating with another party on a joint programme, saying that as a minor party "we will strive to develop politics by consensus and will not resort to threats to have our way at all costs, conscious that this would bring instability."

AD's manifesto also calls on the decriminalisation of drugs for personal use, and that the victims of drug addiction and dependency are to be considered as persons in need of help and not as criminals. "At the same time, decriminalisation also ensures that recreational drug users, including those who cultivate soft drugs for personal use, are not criminalised for their lifestyles."

Decriminalisation is explained as "whoever is caught with an amount of drugs for personal use should not be considered a criminal, and a victim of drug addiction and dependency should be considered a person in need of help and not as a person that has to be punished." AD also calls for the regularisation of cannabis use for medical reasons.

AD also takes on the Church-State agreement, calling for greater religious diversity and greater State supremacy and detachment from the Catholic Church, proposing that annulment proceedings before the Ecclesiastic Tribunals should not take precedence for annulments before the civil courts, and that Article 2 of the Constitution be amended to "place all religions and beliefs on an equal footing."

Alternattiva Demokratika's manifesto also lays out considerable constitutional and Democratic reforms, starting from a proposal to establish a "double threshold", whereby a second district quota of 16.6% "would allow an individual to be elected on this/her own stream for one's district" alongside a national quota with a threshold of 2.5%, equivalent to two quotas for a party by represented in Parliament.

AD is also proposing that composition of Boards/Commissions of National Importance be in the hands of President of the Republic as head of State, and not at the political whims of a Prime Minister.

"We must end this culture whereby elections results in a Winner-Takes-All situation" said Arnold Cassola during the AGM, referring to how a government has free-reign on the appointments of top public service positions and even in government owned corporations and companies.

Cassola also said that AD is supporting the debate that Malta's Members of Parliament become full-time MPs and are required to leave the private sector while they sit in parliament. "People who are elected should be required to resign from their jobs for those five years."

AD's manifesto also proposes that the President should be elected by an electoral college made up of all MPs and all elected Mayors of 68 localities, and not simply by MPs.

AD also calls for wider access to broadcasting, saying this "should not depend on representation in parliament but should be widened to all political parties and civil society organisations who respect the constitution and do not incite hatred against minorities or ethnic groups, cultures, and identities."

AD also re-iterated its position on introducing stricter rules on party financing and donations, coupled with the introduction of state party financing of political parties. It calls for the establishment of a system whereby donations in excess of €5,000 should be declared and those over €40,000 should be made illegal.

It also proposes that the state should graint on an annual basis to all political parties €3 for every vote obtained on a national lvel, during a general or a European election, and that the spending limit per candidate be increased from €1,400 to €4,000 - a figure which would include the expenditure made by the party at a national level divided by the number of candidates presented.

"Any expenditure made by third parties to asssit the canddiate should also be included."

It also insists that political parties should present their accounts every year for verification by an independent commission appointed by the Auditor General.

AD also proposes the strengthening of the Office of the Ombudsman, insisting that the Ombudsman should enjoy the powers to investigate all public administration sectors, including the prison, the police force, detention centres, homes for the elderly, and mental institutions.

On Immigration, AD's manifesto proposes that children of foreign residents living legally in Malta, including refuges and people who were granted asylum in Malta, that were born in Malta and/or attended the cycle of school locally, "be granted citizenship automatically."

It is also proposing that the detention period be lowered to 6 months from the existing maximum detention period of 18 months, adding that this " should be considered exceptional in particular cases when things cannot be done otherwise."

On Justice, AD's manifesto calls for the curbing of the delays in criminal and civil cases by measures such as full-functionality of the courts in Summer, an increase in magistrates and judges, and more resources allowing inquiring magistrates "to carry out initiatives on his/her own initiative and on the basis of reports by the public on any illegal matter."

AD also calls for suspects to be given the right to a lawyer during criminal proceedings, including interrogations, and also proposes the establishment of a professional committee to review the "legislative vacuum about the rights of children in the law courts."

AD is also proposing that judges and magistrates be no longer be appointed by the Government but by the President of the Republic and subject to confirmation by Parliament.

On pensions, AD's manifesto pledges that, if elected, AD MPs would present a motion in parliament whereby all Maltese citizens should be treated equally with regards to pensions, and whereby MPS will not have privileged pension rights."

"A minimum guaranteed pension of not less than 60% of the average national income should be given to everybody and not only to those born after 1962."

On the minimum wage, AD reiterates that the minimum wage should increase and be extended to part-time and contractual workers, that the COLA be adjusted every six months and not every year, and that the way it is calculated be updated.

On economic and fiscal policy, AD establishes itself in favour of a "Green New Deal", which among things requires that employees receive fair remuneration and good working conditions "and not precarious employment."

On Gozo, AD's manifesto opposes the development of an air-strip, favouring instead a shuttle bus service from Gozo directly to the airport, as well as the re-introduction of the catamaran service to Sliema and Sa Maison.

"If elected to parliament, AD will work to explore direct sea links to and from Gozo, and to other countries in the continent."

AD also proposes the establishment of an inclusive Parliamentary Committee for Gozo Affairs made up of all Gozo's MPs. "The Standing Committee will ensure transparent and serious governance by the Ministry of Gozo."

The manifesto also hits out at what it describes as "the prevalent stagnant clientelist nepotism which pervades Gozitan life" and pledges in its stead to establish an institutive framework that guarantees meritocracy, and the safeguarding of citizens' rights.

[You can read the complete manifesto here.]

No comments:

Post a Comment