5 questions we should all be asking after the MaltaToday story about Martin Galea

I am not one for conspiracy theories but the story about what happened to Martin Galea, and how this has been handled, is a very worrying one. 

image by -independent.com.mt

image by – www.independent.com.mt

One thing is for sure. The Government is surely doing a really poor job when it comes to public relations. ‘Competent’ and ‘professional’ are not words that comes to mind when reviewing all the details about how Galea’s ordeal was handled and the latest information revealed by MaltaToday, an article that reads more like a short story rather than a news report, have just made matters ten times worse as their recent news items raises even more questions. You can read it by clicking here.

Question 1

“According to Khaled – who learned about Galea’s disappearance from the Ambassador – Galea was taken away from his chauffeur-driven car for his own safety. It was not an abduction, Khaled insisted.” 

So how come there is a very conflicting story on The Times where it says that Galea was kept in a cell most of the time? Added to this are the various reports of a ransom request to Galea’s employer and possible payment and denials by the Prime Minister that the Maltese Government had received any such request.

Question 2

If you watch the video by the Independent, after Galea gets off the plane the first thing he does is thank Marisa Farrugia for saving his life. Are we saying that the only person who was involved in this whole thing, who was actually there, had no idea about what was going on? Let’s not forget that Galea is also an ex AFM captain.

Question 3

Whilst on the topic of Marisa Farrugia, the person Martin Galea has attributed his freedom and safety to, why did the government feel the need to send an experienced diplomat to Libya to assist the ambassador (who had by the way hurriedly returned to Libya after fleeing a few days before this happened), given that she was on suspension and under police investigation? Weirdly enough the story only popped up on MaltaToday too but none of the other newspapers. 

Question 4

“Asked what was the role of Maltese Consul Marisa Farrugia in the whole operation, Khaled repeated several times that Galea returned home thanks to the Ambassador and the Zintanis”

Why was the Ambassador nowhere to be seen in the entourage when Galea returned back home safely? Why didn’t the Prime Minister thank him personally when listing all the people who helped in this expedition? Why is Khaled trying to undermine the importance of Marisa Farrugia’s role?

Question 5

Why on earth was this story given to MaltaToday by Khaled M. Ibrahim Ben Nasan – who according to MaltaToday is a representative of a sub-committee for the fight against corruption and smuggling in Libya – but not by the Government of Malta if this is true. Since the Maltese Ambassador to Libya is peppered all over the article then there must be some kind of official version surely. 

Another thing that is worrying is the attitude of certain people online saying that the Government did the right thing by keeping everything under wraps. This is a dangerous stance to take. Malta is a democratic country and we have every right to know details about international relations. Keeping the public, and more importantly, the family informed with general information on the situation and progress would have not increased the danger to Mr Galea’s life. This kind of situation is thankfully very rare in Malta but other countries have dealt with similar cases and kept everyone informed. In a democratic country, such news should have never been broken by a newspaper, even though kudos should be given to The Times of Malta for breaking such a story. 

When I grow up I want to be Sai Mizzi

sai mizzi

Who wouldn’t want to be Sai Mizzi when they grow up, it’s probably one of the best jobs out there.

Having Energy and Health Minister Konrad Mizzi as a hubby wouldn’t be so bad. He’s reasonably good-looking for a politician and seems to be quite intelligent too (now that’s a combo which is hard to come by). We also both worked for Enemalta at some point so we could have a few stories to share over a nice bottle of Pinot Noir. Actually scratch that, it’s summer, let’s go for a chilled Chablis.

Then there are all the other benefits! Even though I am the Minister’s wife the government will have no qualms about directly appointing me as a special envoy to China, without a call for application too. Oh and the wage that goes with that is apparently the same as an ambassador’s.

I’d still won’t be 100% sure about what my job would entail – I’m guessing turning up to a few meetings and maybe getting a Chinese company to set up a free trade zone in Malta would do – but I do have enough information about the wage and benefits that I will get.

Let me list them here*;

So my taxable salary would be around €33,000 while my non taxable salary would be around €40,000. I’ll have a nice settling-in allowance and a Rep allowance of around €6,000. A child allowance and educational allowance of around €20,000. Then there would be free medical care, dental care, an outfit allowance (say what?), fixed telephone service, mobile phone expenses will be fully paid too. And let’s not forget a fully paid residence, use of an official car plus fuel and of course business class flights y’all. Ka-ching on my Emirates miles! 

All in all that would rank up around €160,000 a year. Sounds like a good deal to me. Well so are the perks of being the Minister’s wife.

Of course when I’m asked a legitimate question by the largest newspaper in Malta I’ll just lie to their faces and tell them that anyone who believes I have more than €3,000 a month must be suffering from a lower than average IQ. After all that’s how we handle media in the country I’m an envoy for. 

Yes, life as Sai Mizzi is definitely something to aspire to!

*Sai Mizzi’s contract is available on the Times of Malta

48 hours left! Keep GM out of Europe Commissioner Tonio Borg.

source: Twitter

source: Twitter

This morning I received an email from avaaz.org – an online activist community which promotes activism on several issues like climate change, human rights and in this instance genetically modified food.

The email explained how Commissioner Tonio Borg will be, in the coming days “granting approval to the first new genetically modified crop across Europe in 16 years despite serious doubts about GM’s long term health and environmental impacts.”

The motion is set to approve Du Pont’s Maize 1507 which is a crop designed to produce its own pesticide. Deputy Prime Minister Louis Grech has already rejected the crop because of scientific evidence which concerns safety of GM crops. These include “contamination of organic crops and the environment; their impact on climate due to the excessive need for pesticides; the destruction of biodiversity and local agriculture; and the effects of GM food on public health” says azaaz.org.

Malta together with another 18 EU member states have already given the thumbs down to this crop. However, Tonio Borg has pushed through a compromise. This will let each state decide for itself whether to allow cultivation. Thos goes against EU wide policy and would open up countries to lawsuits from companies who want to push this crop.

It is well knows that Tonio Borg listens to us Maltese and that is why you need to write an email to him and let him know what you think of this.

Here is my message to EU Commissioner Tonio Borg;

To EU Commissioner Tonio Borg,
Former Maltese Commissioner John Dalli approved a GM potato and his decision was reversed. Please don’t make the same mistake. I have personally really admired your work especially in the height of the Libya crisis and I was rooting for you when you were being grilled to become EU Commissioner. So far you didn’t disappoint (especially after you halted the use of bee killing pesticides)! Please do not approve Du Pont’s GM corn.

Kindest regards,
Mel Hart
(ID card number)
Malta

Vodafone reveals shocking mass tapping by Government of Malta

I read with incredulity an article on The Guardian which said that Malta is one of the most spied on countries in Europe according to recent data made public by Vodafone.

If you were worried about what the word privacy meant as a consequence of Snowden’s leak then this will have you ditch your mobile phone line and start using otter applications on your smart phone which let you make calls over VoiP.

What is most worrying is that Malta is one of the states (together with Albania, Egypt, Hungary, India, Qatar, Romania, South Africa and Turkey) who said that it would be unlawful to disclose any kind of information regarding the content which was intercepted or wiretapped over the mobile network.

According to data by the Malta Communications Authority, by the beginning of 2013, Vodafone had a market share of 50.38%. During the same year the total number of mobile subscribers stood at 539,452, meaning that Vodafone’s subscriber base is around 271,776.

Of these 3,773 were wiretapped or intercepted in 2013, or to put it in simpler terms 1.4% – which leads itself to the question – do we have so many criminals in Malta or is there something else going on?

Vodafone malta spying

Per percentage of the population Malta was only surpassed by Italy in the these numbers, however, since the Mafia in Italy need a lot of policing this is understandable. But whereas all this information is disclosed by the Italian Government in Parliament, in Malta, the Government said it was unlawful to disclose information of how and what kind of content was intercepted.

This data is only available for half of the population of Malta and we still have no idea what kind of information Go and Melita provide to the government. The way this information is being provided to the Government is cause for concern but what is most worrying is the lack of transparency of how this is being done.

The Government has a lot to answer for one question is pertinent – Why is at least 1.4% of half the population of Malta being spied on?

The unacceptable face of racism

Norman Lowell - Imperium EuropaNorman Lowell has been seen at the forefront of a far right movement in Malta for years now. Him and his party are the Maltese equivalent of another swivel-eyed loon in the UK – Nigel Farage and the Ukip party. But while Farage has been dubbed the acceptable face of racism (as if something as horrible as racism can ever have an acceptable face), listening to Norman Lowell speak will unearth everything that is wrong about racism.

With the MEP elections coming up, Imperium Europa have stepped up their PR to try to get more votes. How do they do this? By scaring people and presenting their opinions as facts. Their YouTube channel has a running theme of “Informa ruħek” (inform yourself) and presents nothing but scaremongering.

Just in case you really want to inform yourself about migration of non EU nationals have a look at this infographic drawn up by the European Commission which, unlike the arguments of Imperium Europa, is based on actual number and statistics.

The recently banned Imperium Europa MEP advert is what you would expect from a far right party. The advert uses fear and sweeping statements to influence and is filled with racist undertones. Even though the advert says that Imperium Europa are against illegal immigration it uses images of refugees and people of colour fighting in Paceville. There is also a picture of a patient’s hand suffering from Ebola, a disease whose symptoms start within 2 days after infection. Why am I mentioning this? Because it is unlikely that anyone with this virus survives such a journey but since it looks scary and only parts of Africa are hit with this horrible virus then IE’s reasoning seems to be “might as well stick it in the advert”.

Imperium Europa saying they are against illegal immigration is misleading, especially when seeing the imagery used in the video which is meant to incite hate and fear. Many have argued against the decision to ban the video saying this is curtailing freedom of speech, but freedom of speech is not universal and hate speech does not fall under it.

What is really worrying about the story is the fact that the Broadcasting Authority approved the video and only after public outcry did it decide to ban it.

The video is available elsewhere, on Facebook and YouTube. I’m sharing it (and I have given this a lot of thought) because anyone with two brain cells can find it and because I cannot stand this having 15 thumbs up on YouTube and only 2 thumbs down. Comments are also disabled on the video (surprise, surprise).

Below is the banned advert, however if you do choose to watch it and feel like Imperium Europa might have a point then you owe it to yourself to have a look at the picture and video further down.

The picture is a screen grab from a video released by an Italian newspapers La Repubblica. In it you can see two victims of the sunken boat off Lampedusa, a man and a woman hugging each other. Death is what migrants from Africa face when crossing the Mediterranean sea. Pushbacks, which is what Imperium Europa stand for, is a barbaric act.

Lampedusa tragedy

The images in the video below are disturbing so please proceed with caution.

Finally, I know I will probably get bombarded through the comments section by Imperium Europa fans for this post. I will be removing any comments which break the rules of common decency. Remember that your freedom of speech is not universal.

 

A step closer to a more liberal Malta – Civil Unions Bill approved

marriage equality + civil union

It is with great pleasure that I read about the passing of the Civil Union Bill. Finally Malta is a step closer to being a more liberal and awesome country. A big congratulations goes to the Labour Party for sticking and delivering this promise.

I know I am not known to be vocal supporter about certain decisions the current Government takes but this is definitely one that should be saluted. This is a celebration of love and the LGBT community deserves this win.

I must admit that I’m quite disappointed to see the PN taking this kind of stance towards the bill. A free vote would have shown the PN as being the fresh, new party they were saying they wanted to be. Abstaining is not only a bad PR move considering circumstances but also brings back bad memories of the divorce issue. With a free vote the party would have shown its a mixed one of liberals and more conservative members, something the rest of the country understands. Bringing in the issue on adoption as an excuse frankly doesn’t hold water as gay adoption is already possible through single parent adoption. The PN would have really shown itself as being a renewed party and this was a missed chance.

So once again congratulations to the Government of Malta for passing this bill.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat was quite right when he tweeted the following:

 

The 7 best moments of the Cabinet Reshuffle on Twitter

After all is said and done and the dust has settled on the recent Cabinet Reshuffle it’s interesting to look back at the best moment that played out live on Twitter. Click here if you want to read about all latest changes in the cabinet.

As a social media harlot I am ecstatic to see Twitter being used by Malta’s journalists and politicians to break the latest news. The rest of the local community of course joined in the reshuffle fun and the best seven moments have been reproduced hereunder.

Number 7

Filthy cars arriving at Girgenti.
https://twitter.com/DanielaBartolo/statuses/449924030163075072

Number 6

Andrew Borg Cardona calls it! One hour before it is made official.

Number 5

Miriam Dalli, journalist at MaltaToday once again tries her luck and complains about being hungry.

She then posts a picture of the advent of food.

And also manages to get food for the rest of the media hanging outside Girgenti

Number 4

Owen Bonnici is probably the best there is to take Culture a step forward in Malta it has to be said that yet again Culture hasn’t been given its due importance – or respect for that matter – as it’s now been relegated under Justice.

Number 3

Matthew Vella contemplating on the family affair.

Number 2

Franco Mercieca announces his definitive resignation with a tweet that screams relief.

Number 1

Satiristan comes back from retirement and takes the Number 1 spot.
https://twitter.com/Satiristan/statuses/449940351797956608

And finally the Prime Minister’s Twitter account posted the following photo with the caption:
A chat with my good friend Godfrey Farrugia,thanking him for his contribution. Sure he has still more to offer. 

Cabinet reshuffle

Don’t yet have a Twitter account? Sign up now and use the follow buttons above to follow some of the best locals on the social network. And don’t forget to follow yours truly on @melahart.

Sausage fest at The Economist event in Malta

rosie-womens-equality

Recently, it seems that everywhere I look I’m bombarded by adverts for a ‘Roundtable meeting with the Government of Malta‘ organized by The Economist. It is being held in a week’s time at the Hilton, and looks like it will tackle a few interesting topics and it’s great to see such engagement from the present Government.

Going through the list of speakers however I was struck by one glaring thing. Out of the 56 confirmed speakers, only 1 is a woman. Worse yet, there is no female Maltese speaker at this event as the only female speaker is Anna Diamantopoulou, a former European Commissioner from Greece.

Is this just an unfortunate coincidence or is it possible that even though we’re in the 21st century, locally we still have this idea that women and business shouldn’t mix?

What I am really worried about is the kind of message this sends. A Roundtable meeting with the Government of Malta discussing Invigorating Investment and Growth and the female representation is just a token and almost nonexistent. Just for a visual representation, this is how the whole speaker list looks like.

Male/Female represenation at The Economist even in Malta

Many might think I’m making an issue when there shouldn’t be one, but think about it – what does it say about us as a country, when a high profile event such as this one is completely devoid of a local female speaker?

The concept of token females on the boards of government entities disturbs me and I was never a fan of positive discrimination. Back in 2012, when Vivienne Reading set aggressive targets for women on boards of public companies I cringed. To me, this was somehow saying that women are not recognized as competent decision makers and cannot make on their own merits and legislation is needed to make this happen.

Seeing the above example I feel like I was wrong in my line of thought. There needs to be a system which ensures that capable women are given a fair chance to attain decision making positions because many of us are still predisposed to a more patriarchal system and appointing women to boards still feels like it’s not the natural thing to do or that it should be a mere token representation.

On a more positive note, the European Commission today released a press release about the Gender Pay Gap in the EU. Malta holds the second place of lowest pay gap, just after Slovenia at 6.1%. Even though the number should be 0% this is something we should be proud of as a country.

Malta Weekly Roundup – Saviour Balzan, Kevin Plumpton and the Government Gazette

Well of course this week this happened;

It’s finally over, well at least I hope it is. The IIP debate has taken too much of a center stage and other, equally as important, issues have been taking center stage. The best tweet on the matter probably came via the lovely Kristina Chetcuti.

I can’t hide the fact I’m a big fan of Saviour Balzan’s videoblog. He’s a vlog pioneer locally and they to tend to be quite hard hitting, probably more than his weekly MaltaToday columns. This weak was a particularyl vicious one. It was all about how Sandro Chetcuti, a canvasser for the PL in last March’s election, has been nominated as chairman to the Malta Developer’s Association which leads to a conflict of interest. Amongst other things Sandro Chetcuti is said to be a “żatat” and “wieħed li jħobb jippoppa sidru“.

Have a look at the video for Saviour Balzan’s opinion on the matter:

Kevin Plumpton, PN MEP candidate and president of MŻPN didn’t think twice about posting a message on Facebook in the hope of attracting a few followers. Instead he attracted a shit storm when he posted the following on his Facebook page;

KP

After all was said and done it seems like Plumpton is still an MEP candidate, but I wonder if he received Simon Busuttil’s blessing before he posted this:

If you are a fan of design have a look at the latest government gazette which features the “Industrial Property Registrations Directorate Notices

You’re welcome!

Crowdfunding and the local arts. Photographer Kris Micallef talks about his crowdfunded project REGNVM.

If you fancy yourself as a supporter of local artists make sure you keep an eye out for any crowdfunded projects out there. The amazingly talented, local photographer, Kris Micallef has decided to launch his project, REGNVM on Indiegogo with the aim to publish a limited edition book and host a solo photographic exhibition.

Crowdfunding is a fascinating resource and so many people around the world are making use of websites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo to gather support and raise funds for their projects. According to Gartner Research Crowdfunding has grown by 300% since 2009 when it generated $1.6 billion to an estimated $6.2billion in the last year. It is the opportunity local artists have been looking for so Melahart.com caught up with Kris Micallef to see what made him choose the crowdfunding route and his thoughts on the process.

REGNVM | Teaser from kris micallef on Vimeo.

1) What made you go down the crowdfunding  route?

I knew from the start that the project is going to cost a lot and that getting sponsors from local companies was not going to be so easy. I had already heard about the idea of crowdfunding and had personally helped out a couple of artists raise their target by contributing to their campaign by buying their books and prints. I thought the idea was amazing and it would really be great if it could work for me too, knowing that it would help me realize my first exhibition in Malta and also my first publication.

Kris Micallef REGNVM2) You reached your crowdfunding goal, did you expect it was going to happen with a week still left to the deadline?

Yes and no. The type of crowdfunding scheme I chose had certain terms – if I reach my goal within the allowed period I receive 96% of what I raised and if not I receive 91% of what I raise. Therefore, I set a target of EUR5,000 which I think is quite a big amount but not too difficult to reach. I was very pleased to see so many contributing to this project – ordering copies of the book, fine art prints, postcards or even simply contributing without selecting any of the goodies! What is even more surprising is that not only did I reach my target in less than 60 days (the allowed period for a crowdfunding campaign), but I have also raised another EUR1,000+ with 5 more days to go! This is great as it will help me pay for other costs such as the exhibition prints, framing, venue fee, invitation printing, model fees and so on.

Kris Micallef regnvm 23) Crowdfunding is not as easy as simply posting your project online.  Tell us what the hardest part was.

The hardest part was preparing the campaign. Together with the help of my creative director, a total of around four weeks was spent working on the crowdfunding campaign. This mostly involves the preparation of the necessary information and ‘perks’ for the contributors while, at the same time, making sure that the campaign is affordable to individuals and feasible for us too.

The second hardest part was pushing it publicly. Out of hundreds of people I spoke to regarding crowd funding very few knew it existed and how it worked. This is because it is a relatively new concept. However, once people understood the mechanics, many contributed in helping me reach my target. The campaign was shared several times on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr and has reached various countries. Not only Malta but also Canada, Brazil, Germany, Spain, UK, Czech Republic, South Africa, Belgium, Netherlands and Italy.

4) And finally, do you think crowdfunding is the way to go for local artists looking to take their work on to the next level?

Definitely! It’s a great tool for artists to help them realize their projects. A successful crowdfunding campaign depends on various factors which need to be properly thought through – a good project is of course one of them but also an achievable target and a good marketing plan.

If you want to support Kris and his REGNVM project you can click here. Only 5 days are left and it would be crazy to pass this opportunity up as some awesome goodies are up for grabs.