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PD are dictating the agenda - Timothy Alden

Since the election of its two MPs, and the formation of its new executive, Partit Demokratiku has consistently dictated the agenda in Parliament. The fact that the MP pensions Bill was shelved is testament to that fact.

The threat of an elected political party of principle has hardly been ignored by either of the major parties. Both have been in a state of constant reaction to the efforts of Partit Demokratiku, but the power of their own media machines has made this less obvious. When objecting to the MP pensions Bill, Partit Demokratiku also raised the fact that pensions for the public should be the next item on the agenda – a battle cry taken up by Adrian Delia in his U-turn on the Bill.

Let us consider a timeline of events to highlight this leadership trend. The problems at Mount Carmel Hospital were identified by Partit Demokratiku as major causes for concern as far back as September, before any scandals brought brief national attention upon the issues there. MP Godfrey Farrugia pressed on this matter consistently, until the problems at Mount Carmel Hospital could no longer be ignored.

Similarly, as regards the Vitals saga, Partit Demokratiku was in December already calling for the annulment of the contract in question, returning the three hospitals to the Maltese State. This line of reasoning would only later be taken up by the Nationalist Party, and the Times of Malta reported at the time that PN had only taken a “mild stance” on dealing with the Vitals scandal.

It can clearly be seen that the contribution of a third party in Parliament is immense

At the same time, Partit Demokratiku’s press release, ‘Let’s give a slap to SLAPP actions’ in defence of The Shift, would light the path for the Nationalists to present a Bill to protect media freedoms and fight the possibility of journalists being silenced by lawsuits from abroad.

It was also Partit Demokratiku which helped to publicise the archaeological des­truc­tion at Tal-Qares, and later the threat to Wied Għomor, and it was also Partit Demo­kratiku that initiated the discussion on revamping the Fuel Service Stations Policy, and likewise put Bulebel and the tuna fish farms on the agenda of the Environment and Development Planning Committee.

Partit Demokratiku was also the first to stand up to the hunting lobby in Parliament, and remains the only party to have done so in generations. When the extension of hunting hours was opposed by Partit Demokratiku, the Nationalist Party and the government scrambled to react, and found themselves both in agreement with the hunters and at odds with NGOs and schoolchildren. The roundtable discussions promised by PN never materialised.

In the case of Żonqor, local councillor Charlot Cassar called for a parliamentary initiative to take Żonqor back. The plan at the time was to convince a Labour MP to lead or second the Bill, and Partit Demokratiku stood by in support, ready to fill in should the Labour Party refuse. Catching wind of what was going on, the Nationalists rushed out themselves with a Bill to take Żonqor back, one which re­quires the government to violate a legal contract with the American University of Malta were it to be passed in its current form. That Bill has since failed. PD is instead proposing a Bill to close ODZ loopholes by changing the Strategic Plan for the Environment and Development (SPED).

Partit Demokratiku also nominated Philip Micallef to the Permanent Committee Against Corruption, and Alfred Baldac­chino to a vacant Opposition seat on the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA), after long months of the seats being empty. The Nationalists reacted with seemingly asham­ed haste, so much so that their first nominee to the ERA was ineligible. Regardless, both seats were filled within a week, proving that when there is a will, there is a way.

Delia has also stated the need for a National Masterplan, for which Partit Demokratiku had already tabled a Private Member’s Bill in August. It is easy to imagine he shall propose his own version in an attempt to obscure the initiative of PD, as we can see is often the case elsewhere, most recently with pensions.

In conclusion, it can clearly be seen that the contribution of a third party in Parliament is immense. As a good governance watchdog in Parliament, Partit Demokratiku has also consistently pushed for a Commissioner of Standards of Public Life and the implementation of the Public Administration Act. Through Partit Demokratiku, many issues become topics of national importance which would otherwise be ignored.

The value of the third party is consistently being proven, as without it, it seems the two larger parties would more often find themselves in agreement, as has been the case with petrol stations, Mercury Tower, the Villa Rosa development, MP pensions and many more besides.

Timothy Alden is the deputy leader of Partit Demokratiku.

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