The Malta Independent 17 August 2019, Saturday

The right to vote

Owen Bonnici Friday, 26 April 2019, 08:09 Last update: about 5 months ago

Trying to deny 130,000 people their right to vote in 23 localities at the upcoming elections, is nothing but a grave mistake by the Nationalist Party. Having said that, this comes as no surprise as we are now accustomed to the Nationalist Party’s tactics. The party in Opposition, obviously for partisan reasons, is playing with democracy – and this is not the first time that they are going down this road. In fact, they have now become experts in this field.

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It is clear that the Nationalist Party wanted to neutralise the elections in 23 localities – all situated in the South.  Denying the people’s right to let their voice be heard, in this case, choosing their representatives is definitely a no-go.

It is more significant that this shameful tactic came from the party who describes itself as the champion of democracy and the rule of law.

A democracy that this Government is constantly strengthening not only by implementing laws and measures in the justice sector, but also with the Local Council Reform Act which has as a main priority that of giving a stronger voice to the citizens in their respective localities.

There is one way to answer back. A strong turnout with strong vote in favour of all the candidates on the Labour ticket.

We all have two main choices in the upcoming elections. Choosing between a party who cannot even organize itself, let alone the whole of Malta and Gozo and a party that is giving results in all sectors both on the national and local level.

It is good to note that the Nationalist Party is trying, just trying, to put forward an image of unity, to hide the fact that even some of their own are moving away from them and contesting the coming elections as independent candidates. No need for a thesis to explain why this is happening.

This Government believes in local government. In less than a month, the Maltese and Gozitans will be placing their vote. They have an easy and clear choice.

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Our reforms are benefitting all.

 

The Drug Dependence (Treatment not Imprisonment) Act is managing to reform lives and provide a second chance to those who earn it.

Last week, - four years following the coming into force of the Drug Dependence (Treatment not Imprisonment) Act - I announced that through the mechanisms introduced by this landmark legislation, a total of 50 people who were charged with various drug-related offences have been given a second chance in their life, after being deemed by the Drug Offenders Rehabilitation Board (DORB) to have successfully overcome drug addiction. 

The Drug Dependence (Treatment not Imprisonment) Act was a defining moment in the way the State deals with victims of drug abuse. Four years down the line, results are showing that genuine victims of drug abuse should be seen as people needing assistance and not criminals. In fact, the new drug laws provide various means of assistance to people charged with drug offences and strong incentives to kick the habit.

The new law provided various reforms with the aim of addressing victims of drug abuse as people who principally need assistance to overcome the habit. 

The new law provided that persons found in possession of a small number of drugs for personal use be tried in front of a Commissioner of Justice, rather than the Court of Magistrates. If found guilty, a fine of EUR50 to EUR100 is imposed for possession of cannabis, and a fine of EUR75 to EUR125 for possession of other drugs. This decriminalisation exercise had the effect of dealing with cases of simple possession from a social perspective and the results have been very positive. 

Secondly, the law provided that in the case simple possession of drugs other than cannabis, if a person is found guilty of this decriminalised offence twice in the period of two years, that person – rather than be considered a recidivist in terms of the Criminal Code – is referred to the DORB for treatment in order to overcome drug abuse.  

It is positive to note that out of a total of 2,710 people who were charged with simple possession, only 88 fell in the last category of being mandatorily referred for treatment for being found guilty twice in the period of two years. This effectively suggests that the arraignment in front of the Commissioner of Justice is leaving the desired effect.

Thirdly, the law provided that in the cases of aggravated possession and certain cases of drug trafficking, the Court of Magistrates may, upon an application of the accused, refer the accused to the DORB for treatment. 46 persons were referred for treatment to the DORB by the Court of Magistrates.  

Results show that from a total of 134 cases referred for treatment either from the Commissioner for Justice (88) or from the Court of Magistrates (46) in the last four years, a total of 50 persons were deemed by the DORB to have come out of the habit. Out of the total of 50 persons, 30 persons were referred from the Commissioner of Justice and 20 persons were referred by the Court of Magistrates.

Fourthly, the law provided that in the cases of aggravated possession and certain cases of drug trafficking, which attract a punishment of mandatory imprisonment, the Court of Magistrates is empowered to give an alternative punishment other than imprisonment upon positive advice of the DORB.  Out of the 20 persons who were referred by the Court of Magistrates and have successfully kicked the habit, 3 people have already been granted a judgment of non-imprisonment and the rest (17) are awaiting sentencing.

Yes, initial results show that the Drug Dependence (Treatment not Imprisonment) Act is managing to reform lives and provide a second chance to those who earn it.

 

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