When women kick ass; Why Marlene Farrugia is my current favourite MP

Here in Malta we are not that great with meeting gender quotas. This is a flaw with both parties and I’m not pointing my finger at any administration as both were, and still are, flawed in this respect. Be it the PL or PN, many times women are put on boards just so that there is a ‘skirt’ as a director of a company, and the same goes for women contesting election tickets.

There is much to be done in this respect and I look forward to the days when we have more women like Helga Ellul (who is now even a PN candidate for the MEP elections) or Claudine Cassar taking top positions with private companies and also involving themselves in public boards. And I will jump for joy the day we have more politicians like Marlene Farrugia as MPs.

I have to admit, I wasn’t her biggest fan in the past few years. During Labour’s time in opposition she was the spokeswoman for energy, but you could tell this was not what she was truly passionate about so her performance always seemed to be below par.

Marlene Farrugia

Fast forward a few months and as a government MP she is really kicking some ass. The more time goes by the more my admiration for her is growing. Reading the interview she gave to Illum only last Sunday simply reinforces these feelings. She is a strong, independent woman and the House of Representatives could really do with MPs, of any gender or allegiance, who think more like her.

Let’s face it, she has more proverbial balls than her colleagues. When Prime Minister Joseph Muscat took his stance against immigration, Marlene Farrugia was the first government MP to say she didn’t agree. But she didn’t just stop there, she also went on to propose a parliamentary committee dealing with immigration. Yes dear MPs, you cannot simply point at a problem, you should also try to have a way forward.

In her interview with Illum she also speaks about the declaration of assets and outlines how these declarations should be changed so more information in given to increase transparency. This was also a reaction to the controversy raised after Home Affairs Minister Manuel Mallia declared more than half a million euros in cash.

Marlene Farrugia is an intelligent woman and she is standing up for what she believes in, however I do believe she should have never apologised for her stint as the Health Minister’s aide. Yes Health Minister Godfrey Farrugia is her husband but that doesn’t mean a person cannot distinguish between her professional life and her private life. The witch hunt which happened to make sure she resigns was, simply put, evil. The Prime Minister, and the Health Minister, should have both stood by their decision of appointing her if she really was the best person for the post.

Having said that, the fact she did apologise does show she is humble and knows how to pick her battles.

What I can say is that Marlene Farrugia is showing everyone the true definition of Girl Power, and about time we had a Member of Parliament who was up to doing that. Kudos Hon. Marlene Farrugia.

Living in glass houses?

Glass Houses

A statement by the most inspiring Charlie Beckett during a lecture organised by the Strickland Foundation really made me think. Beckett stated that as a result of Social Media we are now living in glass houses. I don’t personally agree with this statement as I am of the opinion that on the internet we are free to share what we want to share, so it might seem like we are living in glass houses, but the glass is very heavily tinted.

However, while browsing Facebook, there are a few profiles which feel fabricated. Of course I am not one to point fingers and judge since the more time goes by the more I find myself self-censoring, choosing which picture to upload, and untagging more and more drunk pictures of myself.

Is this a symptom of getting closer to 30? It is but 6 months away now.

But I think I can trace this fear of sharing and self-censorship to the election campaign. I am very liberal, pro-choice and believe in the live and let live mantra, I have lived by this since I was able to form an opinion. My family is of mixed political colours and I have cross voted ever since I can remember.

During the last election I found myself on the side of the Partit Nazzjonalista. My belief was that they were the party which were most fit to govern in the 5 years coming and I was reasonably happy with the direction Malta had taken, especially during the economic crisis. As any party in government, the PN weren’t perfect and I was furious after issues such as the Divorce vote and the position on ACTA, but in today’s financial climate I believed the PN were a better choice.

I understand that a liberal such as myself is not aligned with a party such as the Partit Nazzjonalista but I wasn’t convinced by the alternative, even though I am more than happy for the Partit Laburista to prove me wrong.

During the campaign, I found myself blogging, posting, updating content which was more pro-PN and I found myself being called all sorts of things and being accused of being a Nazzjonalista with blinkers. I loathed such a stamp; I couldn’t even understand how people can simply put you in a neat little box because of an opinion. I never had anything to gain by the PN winning the election and neither did my family, yet I was accused of coming from a long line of Nazzjonalisti and that I had no idea about what was going on in Malta.

The worst thing is that I found myself not having the energy to rebut such statements, and found it much easier to not post anything. Why should I share my thoughts if some people out there are pricks who cannot accept that different people have different opinions, and there is always more sides to one story.

So now, here I am once again, wondering if I should hit the PUBLISH button on the top right corner. I once read that the older you get the more conservative you become, could that be happening to me? I shudder at the thought! But for now I am posting this and I will try to go back to being more of a ‘sharer’.

And in the meantime, a song which kind of relates;

Day of reflection – where to draw the line?

Social Media is a beautiful thing but in the wee hours of the morning, on the 9th of March 2013, when Malta had to wake up to vote in the general elections, social media turned ugly.

It was a whirlwind of events. Daphne Caruana Galizia, a well known journalist and blogger was arrested for expressing her opinion on her blog on the day known as the day of reflection. On this day, (for 24 hours before the crucial vote) no political propaganda is allowed to be broadcasted.

Timesofmalta.com reports this law was drafted in 1991 – when internet access was the stuff of science fiction movies – while on MaltaToday it was reported that social media and bloggers were defying the day of reflection.

Going back to The Times, the article concluded by saying that the Police didn’t answer questions about the prosecution of individuals who breach the day of reflection.

Well I guess we all got our answers now.

Now everyone is in agreement that this law is archaic, very vague and for lack of better word (it’s 4:00 am – what am I doing up?) is stupid. With its vagueness, if taken to extremes, would even take into consideration private conversations. But then what about freedom of expression? Does one law trump the other? And what is the difference between a media organisation and a private individual expressing their opinion, and what about blogs, Facebook and Twitter; are these regarded as private means of communication similar to private conversations?

The interesting thing is that a quick Google search will come back with blogposts from the previous election asking the same questions and J’accuse contemplating on the matter ahead of the divorce referendum.

What raises concern in this instance is the case of two weights and two measures. Why was Daphne Caruana Galizia arrested but the rest of the people expressing their opinion on Facebook – and yes this also included politicians and half of Malta – weren’t. Political ads on Google were still running, and so were Facebook ones.

More worrying is a page like this one who wants to appear independent at all costs yet has no shame in posting these kind of statuses;

So much for being independent!

So much for being independent!

In the mean time a page has been set up on Facebook to show support for Daphne Caruana Galizia. I understand she is not Malta’s favourite blogger but for now this cause represents freedom of expression, it represents someone being arrested in 2013 for expressing their opinion – think about it!

Daphne Caruana Galizia arrested

To the debates in the chaos of Xarabank

It’s the first week of the electoral campaign and Xarabank are gracing us with their debates. A short disclaimer is in order here saying that I loathe the usual Xarabank programmes, but these debates prove to be quite entertaining.

Three sets of debates, all about the energy policy in Malta. The premise of this programme started feeling more and more like the old Mortal Kombat games. Loving all things video games and working in the energy sector this was going to be a Friday night worth spending in.

Unfortunately I never understand who the winners of these debates are. All I know is that at the end of the day, ‘debate’ loses. Why? Well because you need a certain level of maturity to debate, and you need an even stronger mature person to chair these debates. Neither Norman Vella nor Peppi Azzopardi seem to be fit for the job. Norman Vella yesterday, simply couldn’t get Marlene Farrugia to shut up and while that says more about her than it does about him, it hurts the debate.

Tonio Fenech vs Konrad Mizzi
This was the first and main debate. The Minister responsible for energy versus the prospective Minister for energy. The PL have done a fantastic job with Konrad Mizzi, they have polished him and built him up to be a very good speaker, a worthy opponent for the seasoned Tonio Fenech. Comparing him to the Konrad Mizzi who was speaking on Dissett together with Jason Azzopardi just a few months ago, you can really tell the difference. Tonio Fenech really showed his teeth yesterday, the guy means business and knows what he is talking about. When Konrad Mizzi said there was a possibility of building the unsightly gas storage tankers underground, Tonio Fenech was quick on his mark and explained how these things are now heavily scrutinised under EU law (reasons of safety, public health and contamination of ground water). Those are the kind of arguments you want to see develop in a real debate, but it felt like when we were getting somewhere, the atmosphere would turn into a każin and the argument would be lost. Konrad Mizzi also kept saying he would explain later in simple terms, but later never arrived, and when there was a hint of an explanation on something, Konrad Mizzi decided to quote a comment by Edward Mallia, under an article in The Times’ online website.

Beppe Fenech Adami vs Marlene Farrugia
This was probably the debate which shocked me most of all. It’s the debate where Normal Vella showed he is not capable of chairing such things. You can count the words Beppe Fenech Adami managed to get in without Marlene Farrugia speaking on top of him. I consider myself a true feminist and really enjoy seeing woman like Marlene Farrugia who seems to have it all, brains and beauty, in Parliament. It’s empowering for women everywhere, but seeing her not respecting debate rules and not being able to shut up was really irritating, and didn’t really help out with the cliches thrown at our sex.

George Pullicino vs Leo Brincat
At this point, either Norman Vella was tired or he just couldn’t be bothered anymore. He started by making a pun about HFO and George Pullicino being heavy – yes, a real charmer. George Pullicino like the rest of us fatties simply smiled and started his argument, a real gentleman. It then continued with a Norman Vella tantrum, when Leo Brincat had a little bit of Freudian Slip and said something to the effects of; I’ll only answer what I want to answer. Norman Vella lost it all here. Instead of accepting Leo Brincat’s apology made later on, he continued acting offended and refused to ask him questions until the end of the debate.

That was basically it, still don’t know who won these debates. Still don’t know what happened to the televoting question which even though is not a proper measure for people’s opinions was showing a staggering 83% not trusting Labour’s proposals. This wasn’t touched upon at the end of the programme, of course the list of a bajillion advertisers are more important.

Blogging exists; deal with it.

This morning I woke up early to go for a walk and then rewarded myself with some Serkin Pastizzi. While waiting, I had a quick read at the back page of The Times and I was amused by the derivative article written by Louis Cilia titled “Let’s have a civilised debate, please.

The article started out with the usual overview of campaigns past and then quickly shifted to campaigns present. In the middle of that it turned into a complete rant against bloggers. Yes BLOGGERS!

“Many bloggers enter into the personal lives of ordinary people as well as prominent, and not so prominent, personalities, often with the direct intention of destroying their credibility (and in consequence even of those associated with them, particularly their families). Some bloggers even degenerate into hate blogs. Political parties, more often than not, have turned a blind eye on these bloggers with the excuse that they have no control or jurisdiction over them.”

As a blogger I find this incredibly offensive. Sweeping statements like the above hurt those of us who want to share their opinion about the happenings of the political scene. Familiar with that thing called freedom of expression?

It is obvious Mr Cilia is referring to Daphne Caruana Galizia – there I said it (what a shocker). Why did DCG suddenly turn into a ‘she who will not be named’ character.

Mr Cilia mentions blogs like they are some kind of 21st century plague. Some of them might well be but don’t put all blogs under the ‘rotten’ category.

This generalised understanding of anything and everything is what’s really hurting us as a nation. Instead of having the balls to stand up and name and shame someone, we postulate so we don’t step on any toes. Instead of addressing a problem from its roots we just skim the surface and continue theorising. Instead of debating we just resort to sweeping assumptions. These are the things that groom this fear for debate, this apprehension towards asking questions.

It’s not the blogs Mr Cilia, it’s people like you, who are happy to vaguely point fingers but then fall short of making any form of worthwhile statement, that hurt the debate.

Sweeping statements courtesy of Louis Cilia

An own goal for Labour

A swing and a miss for Labour. They might have won the argument, but this billboard shows real lack of maturity and sensitivity.

Granted, this billboard is funny. It’s topical and nicely designed, but did the Labour Party forget about one simple word? Consequences.

This particular billboard is making fun of the fact that the famous Brazilian company mentioned in the two debates in now non-existent. The Labour Party are going on and on about the Prime Minister not getting his facts right, and since everything seems to be fair game in politics it makes sense for them to use this strategy, but at the end of the day, this billboard is making fun of a private company closing down.

What are the consequences of this? Thirty-five people who once had a job, now don’t, is this a laughing matter? I don’t think so. A company which invested in Malta closed its doors today, is this something to make fun of? Definitely not! So much for their guidelines advocating, first and foremost, economic growth.

Maybe if the Labour Party could see a little farther than their noses, maybe, just maybe, they would have noticed this is not something a political party aspiring to govern Malta should poke fun at.

It’s not just about the billboards stupid.

taken from www.maltastar.com

Maltastar’s recent Facebook campaign to get more likes is simply destroying all the hard work the Labour marketing team have been putting into producing some quality billboards. The campaign, which was launched at the start of October, apart from conflicting greatly with the billboard’s campaign sleek designs, comes with a crass message; “Min se jirbaħ l-iPod għax jagħmel like tal-Facebook tal-Maltastar jaqbillu ma jdaħħlux miegħu meta jagħmel pipi għax jista’ jaqgħalu fit-toilet” (whoever wins the iPod better not take it with him when he goes to pee just in case it falls in the toilet).

A party which resorts to toilet humour is not the kind of party “futur li jgħaqqadna” Labour have been trying to portray so far, even if the message is constantly being attributed to a comment Austin Gatt once made. This particular campaign is a real dent in their branding, especially since it gives an impression of old Labour seeping through.

 

When you lose touch with creativity, it’s tough to get back.

In an interview with Raphael Vassallo on last Sunday’s MaltaToday, Simon Busuttil was quoted as saying “I find the campaign disappointing so far” when speaking about the current pre-election campaign (or whatever fancy name you want to give it). Well I have three words for the MEP and PN election candidate; No shit Sherlock! One reason why the PN’s campaign seems so mediocre is because the Labour Party’s campaign has been ingenious, creative and even a little cheeky.

It has to be admitted, the Labour Party are probably more organized than the Roman Empire back in their hey days. Their primary skill is their response time, and the quality of the billboard produced is always a notch above the rest.

Even if in the past days the PN finally woke up from their slumber and offered the audience something halfway decent – the message might have been spot on but the billboard reinforces the Labour one and the photoshopping skills are just appalling – the PL campaign team turned it round to their advantage.

Unfortunately this was to be expected, the new Labour billboard is an easy dig at the Prime Minister, even if the reality might be different. The PN seem to forget the reason why everyone is putting up these illegal, fugly billboards around the island. It’s to catch the eye of your floating voter not to convert the diehards, and there are a lot of floating voters out there, including a new cluster who are digitally plugged, the smart phone generation, wirelessly connected and curious. So push the boundaries and INNOVATE. You have a new player in the mix now, and that’s Social Media, so use it to your advantage and stop trying to copy. It bores us and worst of all, alienates us.

Blog Mitosis

The more I updated my blog the more I thought about it being separated between the personal tales and the local commentary.

Two things happened in the past two days; one extremely amazing which I am very grateful for and one which has left me feeling a little scared.

I start with the good. My blog was listed as one of the top local political blogs in an article on The Sunday Circle Online. I am honored that I was recognized for something which I feel is still in amateur stages, but it has given me the strength to continue on this venture, and to try to better myself and my writing. This particular article explains how my blog is not just political but also personal, and that is when I understood that for me to continue on this adventure I had to split the two.

The second one is unfortunately the wave of attacks that I am currently receiving on the Franco Debono blog. You can check them out yourself on this blogpost. Click on the link, hit control+F and type ‘melahart’.

I understand that by expressing my opinion on a public forum I am opening myself up to criticism, and I am ready to take it, but not when this stoops down to personal attacks. Contrary to what is being written I am not part of “tal-qalba” (the core). I am simply someone who comments on what is happening in the local politics scene as that is what interests me. I also understand that politics can get ugly, but I don’t expect that such banter can be found (please note Franco Debono has to approve the messages) on a Member of Parliament’s blog, no matter what my affiliation is, and please note that just because sometimes I am critical of the Opposition, that doesn’t give anyone the right to colour me any shade of blue.

So there goes, I have just finished my Blog Mitosis. The personal posts were transferred somewhere else, the local ones can be found on here, where they used to be.

So here’s to more posts, hopefully laced with a good dose of sarcasm.

RCC, JPO, OIM, oh so many TLAs

Richard Cachia Caruana, Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando, Only in Malta, oh so many three letter acronyms.

As I was browsing Facebook today I came across a status update my Immanuel Mifsud saying “Tqażżiżt naqra “Only in Malta” għal affarijiet li xbajt narahom kull fejn ersaqt. Kull darba li naqra din ir-reazzjoni nieħu l-impressjoni li hawn min qatt ma ħareġ minn dar ommu u missieru.” (I’m fed up of seeing “Only in Malta” comments for things which I’ve experienced over and over again in every other place I’ve been. Every time I read this reaction I get the impression that there are some people who haven’t ventured out of mummy’s and daddy’s house).

Too true, in fact, I immediately liked the status. The Only in Malta fad was funny when it first made its rounds on the internet, well in all honestly, it still is a little funny. But when you start repeatedly seeing it on the timesofmalta.com comment boards every time an article in published, from some baby having a stupid name, to a story about a short power cut then it becomes mundane, and frankly quite idiotic. Immanuel Mifsud’s status update cannot be more appropriate.

However, I have to say it – Only in Malta is the Permanent Representative forced to resign after the Government fails to win the majority on a resignation motion which was brought up under such spurious grounds.

Hungary’s President resigning over plagiarism scandal – yes that sounds fair, the Dutch Prime Minister having to resign over austerity measures – I totally get that, but for someone to be forced to resign because of what seems from my side of the screen, a personal vendetta? That sounds quite childlike.

Truth be told I’m still trying to understand this whole Wikileaks debacle. I read and reread the very comprehensive articles of both The Times and MaltaToday on the matter, and the more I read the more the mind boggles. I still have no idea why there was a motion in Parliament in the first place, if the AG didn’t find anything wrong with what happened.

Not a week goes past that Labour doesn’t ask for someone’s resignation, and now we’ve been served with the second one. Statistically, it was meant to happen really, but what will our fellow compatriots at the EU say. Basically Malta’s ambassador has just been forced out NOT because of some scandal, or of any wrong doings but because JPO doesn’t like him, and apparently neither does Jesmond Mugliett? Well hello Malta being the laughing stock of the EU and congrats to Stefan Zrinzo for that VERY funny comment on Twitter;

Such a joker he is, only surpassed by Glenn Bedingfield really;

I mean, what’s wrong with the opposition’s activists making fun of our political situation in such hard times? This simply means they are a step closer to getting into power, no? Never mind the national interest. This is where I lose all my hopes in democracy.