Xbieha alternattiva ta’ Malta

Ir-reputazzjoni u l-identità ta’ Malta ġew repetutament mżebilħa mill-Membri Parlamentari Ewropej tal-Oppożizzjoni matul l-aħħar snin. Il-MPE Nazzjonalisti daru l-Ewropa bl-għajta li Malta hija stat mafjuż sabiex itappnu s-suċċess ekonomiku tal-gvern preżenti.  Il-qtil tal-blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia (li binha għandu konnessjonijiet tajba ma’ għadd ta’ ġurnalisti barranin) mhux talli wassal għal infiq ta’ miljuni ta’ Ewro sabiex jiġi solvut, iżda involva wkoll diversi titjiriet ta’ Ministri, politiċi u Membri Parlamentari Ewropej f’konferenzi u programmi televiżivi sabiex inaddfu isem Malta.  Għalhekk, li jkunu eletti l-aħjar Membri Parlamentari Ewropej, huwa vitali sabiex ireġġgħuna lura għar-reputazzjoni tajba li Malta kellha qabel ma bdiet din il-kampanja orkestrata kontriha u kritika xejn ġustifikata xprunata minn politika partiġġjana flimkien ma’ għatx kbir għall-pubbliċità mhux ta’ ċerti politiċi u ġurnalisti Maltin biss imma wkoll  ta’ ċerti Membri Parlamentari u ġurnalisti Ewropej li qed jagħmlu isem għalihom infushom minn dan l-avveniment xokkanti, li, li kieku mhux għar-rabtiet mill-qrib tal-familja Caruana Galizia mal-eks-mexxej tal-oppożizzjoni Simon Busuttil li tilef postu fl-aħħar elezzjoni, kieku ftit li xejn kien jagħmel ħoss. Simon Busuttil u l-klikka tiegħu llum probabbilment jirrappreżentaw il-mod kif jaħsbuha biss madwar 5% tal-popolazzjoni meta wieħed jikkunsidra illi huma biss fazzjoni tal-oppożizzjoni li llum tgawdi biss ftit iktar minn 22% tal-appoġġ tal-elettorat.  L-impenn ta’ Lorna Vassallo bħala Membru Parlamentari Ewropew ikun li twassal f’diversi lingwi, f’irkejjen differenti tal-Ewropa, il-messaġġ li Malta għadha wieħed mill-iktar pajjiżi sikuri fid-dinja fejn iċ-ċittadini igawdu minn libertà tal-espressjoni sħiħa.

L-Immigrazzjoni, it-terroriżmu u l-Afrika

Dawn it-tliet punti qegħdin jitqiegħdu taħt l-istess titlu mhux għax għandhom direttament x’jaqsmu flimkien, imma għaliex l-elettorat jaħseb li huma relatati.  Dan qed iqanqal sentiment ta’ razziżmu kif ukoll xokkijiet sismiċi fis-sistemi politiċi tal-pajjiżi kollha Ewropej. L-esperjenza ta’ Lorna fil-Ministeru għall-Affarijiet Barranin u Promozzjoni tal-Kummerċ matul l-aħħar tliet snin u l-għarfien wiesa’ tagħha tal-kontinent Afrikan kif ukoll dak Ewropew jagħmluha l-kandidat ideali sabiex titkellem dwar is-suġġett.  L-istati Ewropej qed iħallu l-immigranti jaqsmu l-Mediterran u wara jerġgħu jaqsmuhom bejniethom.  Soluzzjoni bħal din hija biss temporanja.  Is-soluzzjoni għandha tinstab fuq l-art Afrikana nnifisha.  Għandha tingħata aktar għajnuna lil stati Afrikani ħalli l-Afrikani jibqgħu l-Afrika.  U kif jista’ jsir dan?  L-ewwelnett, billi nibdlu l-mod kif inħarsu lejn l-Afrika.  Għal għexieren ta’ snin l-Ewropej bigħu lill-kontinent tagħhom daqslikieku kien xi ġenna tal-art, mingħajr problemi.   Min-naħa l-oħra, il-Punent dejjem wera stampa tal-Afrika bħala l-kontinent li pprovda biss ġuħ, nixfa, faqar u ebda ħjiel ta’ tama.  Dawn iż-żewġ xbihat waslu għand l-Afrikani nfushom, tant li qed jirriskjaw ħajjithom u jħallu ħwejjiġhom kollha warajhom bl-idea li fl-Ewropa jsibu ħajja ferm aħjar.  Li noħolqu impressjoni ġdida tal-Afrika jfisser li d-dinja tal-Punent tiżvela il-progress li sar fl-Afrika lid-dinja.  U progress sar.  Min-naħa l-oħra, l-għajnuna finanzjarja tal-UE m’għandhiex tingħata biss lil pajjiżi li huma maħkumin mill-gwerra imma wkoll lil pajjiżi jew bliet li diġà kważi laħqu livell li jħabbatha ma’ tal-Ewropa.  Għandna ngħinu pajjiżi sinjuri Afrikani bħall-Afrika t’Isfel u lis-Seychelles sabiex isiru Ewropa fl-Afrika.   Għandha wkoll tingħata iktar għajnuna lil pajjiżi Afrikani li qed jilqgħu fi ħdanhom uħud mill-akbar kampijiet tar-refuġjati fid-dinja, bħall-Kenja. Li ngħinu lill-pajjiżi Afrikani li sejrin tajjeb jilħqu l-livell Ewropew huwa importanti daqs li nonfqu l-flus sabiex titmewwet il-problema tat-terroriżmu ġewwa s-Somalja.  Lorna temmen li għandna noħolqu iktar konnettività bl-ajru permezz ta’ Ftehimiet ta’ Servizzi tal-Ajru, li nżidu l-investiment dirett Ewropew fl-Afrika li jagħti lill-Afrikani salarji u kundizzjonijiet tax-xogħol Ewropej jew permezz ta’ investimenti u kumpaniji Ewropej jew permezz ta’ investimenti u kumpaniji Afrikani li jħaddnu valuri Ewropej sabiex ikunu dawn li jsiru l-kalamità tal-immigranti Afrikani fil-futur.  Dawn tal-aħħar, jistgħu jkunu sempliċement żidiet ma’ salarji Afrikani diġà eżistenti sabiex jilħqu salarji Ewropej.  Il-flus li llum huma ddedikati sabiex jieħdu ħsieb l-immigrazzjoni kif ukoll il-protezzjoni tal-fruntieri jistgħu bil-mod il-mod jibdew jiġu ddedikati għal inizjattivi bħal dawn minflok.  L-interess tal-istituzzjonijiet Ewropej fl-Afrika u fl-immigrazzjoni wkoll għandu bżonn jikber, jekk xejn bit-twaqqif ta’ Kumitat fi ħdan il-Parlament Ewropew dwar il-Migrazzjoni (li sal-lum lanqas biss jeżisti) kif ukoll iktar Delegazzjonijiet tal-PE ddedikati lil pajjiżi individwali Afrikani ’l isfel mis-Saħara, billi s’issa il-PE għandu biss Delegazzjoni waħda dwar l-Afrika t’Isfel minn 49 pajjiż Afrikan.

Mill-banda l-oħra Lorna hija totalment favur il-ħolqien ta’ kurrituri umanitarji fl-Afrika, il-migrazzjoni legali lejn l-Ewropa u boroż ta’ studju ta’ Afrikani ta’ suċċess, kuntratti ta’ xogħol staġjonali għal Afrikani fl-Ewropa, kif ukoll investimenti tal-enerġija ta’ gvernijiet Ewropej fil-kontinent Afrikan.  Fil-verità ċerti pagi fl-Ewropa mhumiex ħafna iktar minn dawk f’ċerti pajjiżi fl-Afrika.  Jekk l-Afrikani jsiru jafu b’dan, ma jirriskjawx ħajjithom biex jaslu fl-Ewropa

Lejn Unjoni Ewropea ħielsa mit-tallaba u minn nies jorqdu barra

Minkejja l-fatt illi Malta hija l-pajjiż bl-ikbar densità tal-popolazzjoni fl-UE u minkejja t-temp favorevoli tagħha, Malta hija wkoll l-uniku pajjiż illi m’għandu l-ebda tallaba fit-toroq u l-ebda nies jorqdu barra.  Dan kollu huwa riżultat ta’ leġislazzjoni tal-passat fejn it-tallaba saru illegali kif ukoll l-implimentazzjoni organizzata u effettiva ta’ politika tal-akkomodazzjoni soċjali mill-eks-Prim Ministru soċjalista Dom Mintoff fis-sebgħinijiet.  Madankollu, minbarra s-suċċessi ekonomiċi riċenti li attiraw lejn Malta kemm ħaddiema li ġejjin minn pajjiżi sinjuri  Ewropej tal-Punent kif ukoll gruppi aktar umli ta’ ħaddiema Afrikani u Asjatiċi li huma disposti jgħixu flimkien taħt l-istess saqaf fi gruppi, il-kera f’Malta sploda u li l-gvern ilaħħaq mad-domanda dejjem tikber ta’ akkomodazzjoni soċjali saret problema reali.  Id-djar Maltin huma darbtejn u nofs ikbar mill-medja tad-djar Ewropej skont l-Eurostat tal-2017.  L-idea li wieħed jgħix mal-ħbieb lill-Maltin lanqas biss tgħaddilhom minn rashom.  Imma, anke minħabba f’hekk, it-theddida ta’ nies li jorqdu fit-toroq qed issir dejjem iktar urġenti.  Lorna temmen li mhux talli Malta se jkollha tissielet sabiex tipprovdi akkomodazzjoni soċjali għal min l-iktar li għandu bżonn, imma talli Membri Parlamentari Ewropej Maltin għandhom joħolqu ir-rieda sabiex anke fl-Unjoni l-problema ta’ nies jorqdu barra tibda titmewwet u tasal fi tmiemha.  Bħala Membru Parlamentari Ewropew, l-ikbar ħolma Maltija ta’ Lorna tkun li l-Unjoni Ewropea ssir l-ewwel blokk ekonomiku mingħajr tallaba u mingħajr nies jorqdu fit-toroq fid-dinja, xi ħaġa li ma tantx tidher li ngħatat priorità fuq l-aġenda politika tal-UE sal-lum.  Bħala ċittadina Maltija, li għexet ħajjitha kollha f’pajjiż mingħajr tallaba u mingħajr nies jorqdu fit-toroq, taħseb li wasal iż-żmien li din il-problema tittieħed bis-serjetà.  Jekk l-iżgħar stat bl-aktar nies kull kilometru kwadru rnexxielu jegħlibha, kif stati ferm ikbar m’għamlux dan?

Kampanji oħra lokali

Leave domestiku għal persuni mhux miżżewġa u ġenituri li jgħixu waħedhom

Ċerta riċerka riċenti wriet li persuni adulti li mhux irtirati kif ukoll ġenituri li jrabbu lil uliedhom waħedhom u li joqogħdu għal rashom huma l-aktar żewġ kategoriji ta’ familji li huma f’riskju ta’ faqar. Persuni li jgħixu waħedhom bla tfal huma minoranza bla vuċi li normalment huma meqjusa li għandhom ħafna ħin għalihom infushom.  Lorna Vassallo rriċerkat dan is-suġġett b’entużjażmu bi preparazzjoni għall-artikli tagħha li tippubblika kull ġimgħa.  Irriżulta li għalkemm persuni waħedhom u koppji huma ttrattati l-istess fejn jidħol leave għal skopijiet ta’ rikreazzjoni, persuni waħedhom jibbenifikaw minn nofs il-ħin liberu ta’ koppja wara x-xogħol u jkollhom jieħdu ħsieb kulma jinqala’ fid-dar waħedhom.  F’Malta għandna 9.6% tal-popolazzjoni (41,476 persuna) li huma persuni adulti li jaħdmu li jgħixu waħedhom.  Għandna wkoll 17,037 ġenitur li jgħixu waħedhom (4% oħra tal-popolazzjoni).  Dawn kollha jridu jlaħħqu mal-istess manutenzjoni u żamma tad-dar u xogħol ta’ kuljum daqs koppja flimkien.  Minnu nnifsu dan iwassal sabiex persuni waħedhom jużaw il-leave kollu għall-bżonnijiet domestiċi tagħhom minflok għall-mistrieħ.  Iktar minn hekk, persuni waħedhom huma dipendenti fuq paga waħda għall-ispejjeż kollha involuti u biex tgħaxxaqha mhux l-ewwel darba li l-ħlasijiet mitluba għal servizzi għal persuna waħedha huma ogħla minn dawk għal koppja, e.g. fil-każ tal-lukandi jew taxis.  Li wieħed jittratta lil persuni jgħixu waħedhom u li huma responsabbli minn djarhom l-istess bħal koppja li qed taqsam il-leave u l-ħin liberu mix-xogħol bejn tnejn sabiex tlaħħaq mal-bżonnijiet ta’ kuljum qed joħloq inġustizzja maż-żewġ klassijiet li huma l-aktar vulnerabbli fis-soċjetà.   Bl-introduzzjoni ta’ leave domestiku għal persuni li jgħixu waħedhom, bla tfal jew bit-tfal, kemm jekk il-leave huwa mħallas jew le, jekk hux imħallas mill-privat jew mill-gvern, jagħti persuni waħedhom id-dinjità mistħoqqa.  Minn laqgħat speċjali li kellha Lorna Vassallo ma’ unions tal-ħaddiema kif ukoll mal-Assoċjazzjoni ta’ Min Iħaddem matul il-kampanja tagħha, jidher li l-Assoċjazzjoni ta’ Min Iħaddem tista’ tikkoopera dwar l-introduzzjoni ta’ leave lil ċertu setturi tal-impjegati billi tikkunsidrah inqas diffilkultuż minn dak għall-ħaddiema kollha bla distinzjoni, miżżewġa u mhux, f’daqqa.  Lorna Vassallo temmen ukoll li għandu jiġi introdott leave speċjali għal persuni b’diżabbiltà jew persuni li jieħdu ħsiebhom.

Lejn Parlament Nazzjonali aktar rappreżentattiv u sabbatical għal nisa fil-politika.

Is-sistema elettorali Maltija hija s-sistema tal-Vot Waħdieni Trasferibbli (Single Transferable Vote) fejn il-votant ikollu lista sħiħa ta’ kandidati sabiex jivvota għalihom skont il-preferenza.  Fil-fehma ta’ Lorna Vassallo din hija l-iktar sistema elettorali demokratika fid-dinja.  Barraminhekk, medja ta’ 93% tal-votanti fil-fatt jivvutaw f’kull elezzjoni ġenerali (il-persentaġġ jaqa’ konsiderevolment f’dawk tal-Kunsill u tal-Parlament Ewropew).  Minkejja dan, però, is-sistema elettorali tagħna hija ferm ’il bogħod milli tkun perfetta.  L-ewwelnett, skont l-Interparliamentary Union, Malta ġiet fil-146 post minn iktar minn 190 pajjiż jew parlament indipendenti fid-dinja f’Ġunju 2017, bi 8 deputati nisa biss minn parlament ta’ 67 fl-aħħar elezzjoni ġenerali. Problemi oħra bis-sistema elettorali preżenti hija li kandidati ġodda (li qatt ma telgħu qabel) għandhom żvantaġġ ovvju billi huma biss 20% tas-siġġijiet li fil-fatt ikunu disponibbli għal deputati ġodda fi kwalunkwe elezzjoni ġenerali.  Difetti oħra joħorġu mill-fatt illi f’ħafna mil-leġislaturi madwar 80% tal-persuni eletti bil-voti tagħhom jew bil-wirt għandhom kunjomhom jibda bl-ittri tal-ewwel nofs tal-alfabett (A-M) minħabba l-fatt illi meta l-votanti jivvutaw bl-addoċċ dejjem jivvutaw minn fuq għal isfel skont l-alfabett sempliċement ħalli jkunu imlew il-polza tal-vot.  Din, fiha nnifisha, iġġiegħel kandidati prospettivi b’kunjom żvantaġġjuż milli jikkontestaw għall-elezzjoni u kellha impatt negattiv għall-aħħar fuq ir-riżultati miksuba minn kandidati nisa validi.   Fil-bidu tal-karriera politika tagħha, Lorna kienet kontra l-kwoti favur sezzjoni jew oħra tas-soċjetà, inklużi n-nisa. Però ġaladarba saret taf l-affarijiet iktar minn ġewwa, u irrealizzat kemm mezzi finanzjarji u mod ieħor ikollhom irġiel diġà fil-parlament iktar minn xi ħadd għadu jibda, illum Lorna hija totalment favur parlament aktar rappreżentattiv anke jekk dan jeħtieġ diskriminazzjoni pożittiva favur in-nisa u possibilment gruppi oħra tas-soċjetà.  Hija pproponiet ukoll soluzzjonijiet varji għall-problema ta’ persuni li huma żvantaġġjati minħabba kunjomhom.  Il-PM Muscat jitkellem spiss dwar it-tieni Repubblika u stabilixxa miri ċari għal żieda drammatika ta’ rappreżentazzjoni femminili fil-Parlament sal-2020.  Lorna tittama li tkun tista’ tikkontribwixxi f’dawn it-tibdiliet elettorali li għandhom iġibu bidla kbira fil-Parlament Malti speċjalment fejn għandhom x’jaqsmu n-nisa.  Meta tħares lura u mill-esperjenza ta’ matul is-snin, Lorna taħseb illi l-introduzzjoni ta’ kwota għal kandidati nisa m’hijiex biżżejjed sabiex tqanqal il-ħeġġa meħtieġa u twassal għal iktar nisa fil-Parlament fil-ġejjieni.  Minflok, hija favur l-introduzzjoni ta’ kwota favur in-nisa fil-Parlament (i.e. kandidati nisa li jikkuntestaw b’suċċess u jkunu eletti mhux sempliċement jikkuntestaw u ma jitilgħux) kif ukoll favur l-introduzzjoni ta’ sabbatical għal nisa fil-politika i.e. li mara impjegata tibbenifika minn ħlas tal-paga sħiħa fuq ix-xogħol meta hi tapplika għal perjodu ta’ leave minħabba politika, bil-perjodu ta’ żmien li tista’ tibbenifika minnu jiddependi minn liema elezzjoni ser toħroġ għaliha.  Lorna tiġġustifika din il-konċessjoni tas-sabbatical a bażi tad-differenza bejn il-pagi bejn in-nisa u l-irġiel li hija statistikament ippruvata, il-fatt li 99%+ tan-nisa ma jgawdux l-appoġġ ta’ raġel tad-dar (househusband) li ma jaħdimx uffiċjalment versus persentaġġ għoli ħafna ta’ rġiel li normalment ikollhom is-sostenn ta’ mara tad-dar li teħdilhom ħsieb id-dar u l-familja, kif ukoll il-fatt illi huma n-nisa li fil-fatt jispiċċaw jieħdu ħsieb lil uliedhom u t-tindif minkejja l-avvanz tal-mara u l-ugwaljanza fuq il-karta.  Fil-każ ta’ nisa li jaħdmu għal rashom, il-ħlas għal sabbatical ikun jista’ jiġi kkalkulat fuq il-medja ta’ dħul fuq medda tal-aħħar snin riċenti, filwaqt li fil-każ tan-nisa tad-dar, il-ħlas tas-sabbatical jista’ jiġi kkalkulat b’referenza għall-aħħar impjieg li kellhom qabel ma abbandunawh sabiex jieħdu ħsieb il-familja.  Il-gvern għandu jħallas is-sabbatical billi din hija miżura politika.

Persuni b’diżabbiltà

Billi Lorna Vassallo soffriet minn diżabbiltà għal sena minn ħajjitha, hija għandha esperjenza personali ta’ kif il-ħajja ta’ persuna b’diżabbiltà hija ħafna iktar għat-telgħa.  Il-gvern preżenti għamel passi ta’ ġgant ’il quddiem f’dan il-qasam.  L-ewwelnett, gvern Laburista ġdid ma jwaqqafx il-benefiċċju tad-diżabbiltà lil persuni bi bżonnijiet speċjali li jsibu xogħol.  It-tieni, liġi antika li kienet tirrikjedi li ċertu persentaġġ tal-impjegati jkunu nies b’diżabbiltà fis-settur privat u pubbliku u imma li ma ġietx implimentata għal għexieren ta’ snin issa ngħatat il-ħajja bl-impożizzjoni ta’ multi għal dawk li ma jħarsuhiex.  Gvern Laburista pprovda wkoll akkomodazzjoni fil-kommunità għal persuni adulti b’diżabbiltà sabiex jibdew jgħixu ħajja indipendenti jew semi-indipendenti u jiġi assikurat li jkunu kapaċi jgħixu waħedhom wara l-mewt tal-ġenituri tagħhom li jieħdu ħsiebhom.  Lorna temmen ukoll, però, li għad baqa’ xi jsir sabiex jiddaħħlu iktar miżuri favur dawn it-tip ta’ persuni.  Hija favur li jiġi pprovdut trasport b’xejn lejn ix-xogħol lil persuni b’diżabbiltà mentali wara assessjar minn bord apposta e.g. fil-każ ta’ persuni li jsofru minn dipressjoni, skizzofrenija, bipolari jew kundizzjonijiet oħra li jirrendu vjaġġar permezz ta’ karozza tal-linja fi sfida kbira u sewqan jew mixi fit-toroq perikoluż għal xi raġuni jew oħra.   Hija temmen ukoll li persuni b’diżabbiltà għandu jkollhom ‘leave’ speċjali.  U partikularment hija favur l-introduzzjoni ta’ penali meta xi ħadd jinsulta persuna oħra b’diżabbiltà, mard jew kundizzjoni ta’ saħħa, anke jekk fuq bażi individwali, kemm jekk il-persuna tkun fil-fatt b’diżabbiltà jew le, u b’hekk tali insulti jsiru punibbli bil-liġi fihom infushom għalkemm mhux bi priġunerija, simili għal kummenti razzisti.  Dan għandu japplika għaċ-ċittadini kollha, inklużi ġurnalisti u membri parlamentari.  Malta kellha esperjenza qarsa ta’ din il-libertà eċċessiva tal-espressjoni meta l-PM Muscat stess ġie muri daqslikieku jsofri mid-‘Down’s syndrome’ liema xbieha ġiet ċirkolata fuq il-medja soċjali minn persuni li jappoġġjaw lill-oppożizzjoni jiem biss qabel l-elezzjoni tal-2017.  Politiċi oħra ġew insultati pubblikament li kellhom tfal b’diżabbiltà (mingħajr ma kien veru) jew għax kellhom kanċer.  Fil-fehma ta’ Lorna Vassallo tali aċċidenti m’għandhom qatt jerġgħu jseħħu f’isem il-libertà tal-espressjoni.  Id-drittijiet sesswali ta’ persuni b’diżabbiltà huwa wkoll wieħed mis-suġġetti li Lorna Vassallo hija lesta li tiddiskuti mal-Kunsill Nazzjonali tal-Persuni b’Diżabbiltà.  Lorna Vassallo temmen ukoll li għandu jkun hemm kwota fil-Parlament għal Membri Parlamentari bi Bżonnijiet Speċjali li tirrifletti l-persentaġġ ta’ persuni b’diżabbiltà f’Malta.

Alternative Image to Malta

Malta’s reputation and its identity have repetitively been marred by its own opposition MEPs over the past few years. Nationalist MEPs have toured Europe calling Malta a Mafia-state in order to counterweigh Malta’s economic success.  The killing of a local blogger (whose son has good connections with a number of foreign journalists) not only cost the country millions of Euros to be solved but also involved the flying of various Ministers and the involvement of various Government politicians and MEPs to conferences and television programmes abroad to clear Malta’s reputation.  Having the right MEPs, fluently speaking in the main European languages, is vital to restore Malta’s reputation to that which it enjoyed prior to the commencement of the orchestrated unjustified criticism fuelled only by partisan politics as well as an insatiable thirst for publicity not only by Maltese politicians and journalists but also by certain foreign MEPs and journalists who are making a name for themselves out of this shocking event. The killing would otherwise wouldn’t have had international publicity were it not for the close connections of the Caruana Galizia family to the defeated ex-leader of the opposition Simon Busuttil. The said Busuttil represents only a faction of the opposition which hardly represents 5% of the Maltese population considering that the whole opposition is supported by only 22% of the electorate.  Lorna’s mission as an MEP will be to convey the message of Malta being one of the safest countries in the world in various languages across Europe.

Migration, terrorism and Africa

These three issues are put together not because they are actually related, but because the electorate thinks they are related.  This is causing xenophobia as well as sysmic shocks to the political setup of all European states.  Lorna’s experience at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Trade Promotion and her very good knowledge of the African continent as well as the European one for the last 3 years make her the ideal candidate to discuss the matter.  European states are letting migrants cross the Mediterranean and then distribute them amongst them.  This is but a stop-gap solution.  The solution lies in Africa itself.  Helping African states so that Africans stay in Africa.  And how is this to be done?  Firstly, by re-branding Africa.  For decades Europeans have sold their continent as the be-all and end-all.  On the other hand, the western world has always portrayed Africa as the continent of hunger, drought, poverty and hopelessness.  These two images have reached Africans themselves so much so that they are risking their lives and abandoning all their belongings thinking that in Europe they will fare much better.  Re-branding Africa means that the Western world reveals Africa’s progress to the world.  And progress there is.  On the other hand, EU aid should not only be directed to the most war-torn countries but the ‘already almost there’ countries too. Helping South Africa, Seychelles, and the richer states to become a Europe in Africa, creates an actual Europe in Africa.  More help should also be directed to African states that are hosting the world’s largest refugee camps, like Kenya. Bridging the gap between Europe and the richest African states perhaps is more vital than throwing money at terrorism in Somalia. Creating more connectivity to the African continent through Air Services Agreements, increasing European direct investment in Africa which awards European wages and conditions of work on African soil either through European investments or companies or through African investments or companies embracing European values should become the magnet for future African migrants.  The latter could be achieved simply by topping-up already existing African wages to a decent European level.  The money which is today dedicated by European states to deal with migration and protecting their boarders could gradually be dedicated to such initiatives instead.  The EU institutions’ interest should also be stepped up, if anything with the creation of an EP Committee dedicated to Migration (which does not even exist so far) as well as more EP Delegations dedicated to particular African states, as until now the EP has only got one Delegation for South Africa out of 49 Sub-Saharan African states.  On the other hand, Lorna is totally in favour of creating humanitarian corridors in Africa, legal migration to Europe and scholarships to successful Africans for short periods of education, seasonal work contracts for  Africans in Europe as well as European governments’ investments in energy in the African continent. In reality some European wages are in fact not much higher than those of some African countries.  If Africans get to know this, they won’t risk their lives to reach Europe.

Beggar-free, homeless-free EU

Inspite of being the most-densely populated country of the EU and inspite of having friendly weather, Malta is the only EU state devoid of beggars and homeless people. This is all the result of a legislation which makes begging illegal when it comes to beggars and a very organised and effective social housing policy implemented by the socialist-leaning Labour ex-PM Dom Mintoff in the seventies.  However, due to Malta’s recent economic success which is attracting wealthy Western European employees as well as more humble groups of African and Asian workers, rents have rocketed and keeping up with the social accomodation demand has become a real problem.  Malta’s houses are 2.5 times larger than the EU average according to Eurostat 2017. The idea of living with friends in Malta is almost unknown.  But the threat of people sleeping on the street is now ever more visible. Lorna believes that not only has Malta to struggle to provide homes and accomodation to the most needy, but Maltese MEPs should also trigger a wave of tackling homelessness in Europe.  As an MEP Lorna’s wildest ambitions would make the EU the first beggar-free and homeless-free continent in the world, something which seems to have never been on anyone’s agenda until now.  As a Maltese citizen, having lived in a beggar-free and homeless-free country her whole life she thinks that it is high-time that begging and homelessness be taken seriously in the EU.  If the smallest and most densely populated state in the EU has tackled these problems, why haven’t much larger states done so?

Other local issues

Domestic leave for people and single parents living alone

Certain research has shown that people of working age living alone as well as single parents living alone are the two categories of household most at risk of poverty.  They are also a silent minority who are usually perceived as having a lot of time for themselves.  Being a single person living alone herself, and knowing what a hard life her single friends lead, Lorna Vassallo has enthusiastically researched the subject in preparation of her weekly articles.  It resulted that although single and married persons are treated equally when it comes to vacation leave, single persons benefit from half of the free time of a couple after work and have to deal with all household chores alone. In Malta there is 9.6% of the population (41,476) who are single adults of working age living alone.  There are also 17,037 single parents living alone (another 4% of the population).  All these have to carry out the same amount of work as a married couple when taking care of their home as well as their daily needs.  This inevitably results in single persons living alone using up all their leave for domestic purposes and not for rest. More so, single people have only one income to rely on to pay for all expenses and to make it worse, usually services for single people are more expensive e.g. hotels and taxis. Treating single persons managing their own household on a par with a couple sharing their vacation leave and free time to catch up with their daily needs is creating an injustice to the two most vulnerable categories of society.  Introducing special ‘domestic leave’ for single persons living alone, with or without children, whether paid or unpaid, and whether paid by the government or the private sector, gives single people dignity. From special meetings Lorna had during her campaign both with workers’ unions as well as with the employers’ association, it seems that the employers’ association could be cooperative to introduce such leave as it views the introduction of special leave as easier than introducing across-the-board leave for all workers, married or unmarried, at a go.  Lorna Vassallo also believes special leave should be introduced for persons with special needs.

Towards a more representative national Parliament and a sabbatical for women in politics

Malta’s electoral system is the Single Transferable Vote (STV) system where  voters have a list of candidates to vote for according to preference.  In Lorna’s opinion, this is the most democratic electoral system in the world.  Moreover, an average of 93% of voters actually vote in the general election (the percentage falls considerably when it comes to local council and EP elections).  Notwithstanding, the system is far from perfect. To start with, according to the Interparliamentary Union, Malta ranked as 146th out of 190+ countries and independent parliaments in the world in June 2017 having only 8 female MPs out of 67 as of the last general election. Other problems with the present Maltese electoral system is that new candidates (i.e. non-incumbents) are at an obvious disadvantage with only 20% of seats being available at any given election to accomodate newcomers, making it extremely difficult for women who are always beginners.  Other flaws of the STV system is that in almost all  legislatures around 80% of elected candidates have their surnames starting with the first half of the alphabet (A-M) due to the fact that haphazard voting usually results in voters opting to vote from top to bottom of the ballot paper in order to fill in the whole list.   This is in itself keeping candidates with disadvantageous surnames from running for elections at all and it has severely and directly affected valid female candidates’ performances in past elections. At the beginning of her political career, Lorna Vassallo was against quotas in favour of a section or other of society, including women, however a deeper insight of politics, and a good knowledge of how many more means and money incumbent men in parliament have over a beginner makes Lorna Vassallo today fully in favour of a more representative government even if it requires positive discrimination in favour of women and possibly other groups in society.  She also proposed various solutions to even out the alphabetical disadvantage of candidates from the bottom end of the ballot paper.  PM Muscat often speaks of the Second Republic and has set goals for a dramatic increase of female representation in parliament by 2020.  Lorna hopes to be able to contribute to such electoral changes that should bring about an overhaul in Maltese parliament especially the much-needed change when it comes to women.  With hindsight, Lorna thinks that introducing a quota for female candidates falls short of the required impetus required to have more women in Maltese parliament in the future.  Instead she is in favour of introducing a female quota in parliament (i.e. successful female candidates not just female candidates) as well as behind introducing a sabbatical for women in politics i.e. allowing employed women to benefit from full pay at their place of work inspite of their political leave, the length of time of the sabbatical leave depending on which elections they run for.  Lorna justifies such sabbatical basing herself upon the fact that there is a statistically proven pay-gap between men and women, at least 99%+ of women do not have supporting (otherwise unemployed) house-husbands whereas more male candidates would have a supporting  (otherwise unemployed) housewife, and the fact that women take on most of the housework and child-caring tasks even if they have husbands and inspite of equal rights between the sexes on paper.  In case of self-employed women, the sabbatical pay can be calculated upon average income in the last few years preceding election whereas in case of housewives, with reference to their last job before quitting to take care of the family. Needless to say, in all cases, government should shoulder costs of sabbatical.

Persons with disability

Having been disabled herself for one year of her life, Lorna has first-hand experience of how a person with disability’s life is more of an uphill struggle. The present Maltese government has made big strides forward with regard to persons with disability. For a start, the new Labour government does not stop disability benefits when a person with disability starts working.  Secondly, an old law which required the employment of a certain percentage of workers in the private and public sector which hadn’t been implemented has also come to life by the application of fines for those employers who do not comply.  The Labour government has also provided free accomodation in the community for adult persons with disability who can live independently or semi-independently so as to ensure their well-being after the demise of their caring parents.  Lorna also believes, however, that there is still room for new measures to be introduced in favour of persons with disability.  She is in favour of free transport to work even for persons with mental health problems after assessment by a special board e.g. in case of persons suffering of schizofrenia, bipolar, depression or other conditions that make bus trips a big challenge and walking in the street or driving dangerous for some reason or other.  She is also for special leave for persons with disability.  And particularly she is in favour of introducing insulting people with disability or disease, even on an individual basis, whether they are actually disabled or not as non-criminally punishable at law in itself, very much similar to the way rascist comments are punishable.  This should apply to all citizens, including journalists and members of parliament.  Malta has had bad experience of such excessive freedom of expression especially when the PM was portrayed in a meme as suffering of down’s syndrome which was circulated on the social media by supporters of the opposition days before the general election. Other politicians were publicly insulted of having children with special needs (when in fact it was not even true) or ridiculed because they suffered of cancer.  In Lorna’s opinion, such incidents should never occur again in the name of freedom of expression. Sexual rights of persons with disability are also one of the subjects she is more than ready to discuss with the relative National Council of Persons with Disability in Malta.  Lorna Vassallo is also in favour of introducing a quota in parliament for persons with disability depending upon the percentage of people with disability at any given time.