The Malta Independent 14 November 2019, Thursday

Equating vote with solidarity

Charles Flores Sunday, 20 October 2019, 10:36 Last update: about 25 days ago

I was intrigued, to say the least, by a most interesting discussion during a recent edition of Television Malta’s fast emerging Insights programme about the integration of – and solidarity with – immigrants living among us as they seek pastures new elsewhere. That the hottest focal point of the discussion turned out to be on whether immigrants should have the right to vote or not, however, left me somewhat confounded.

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I am sure that it was with all good intentions that the founder of the group Solidarity with Immigrants, Dr Colin Calleja, insisted that immigrants should have a right to vote in local elections “because they are living the same realities we are living. Yes, for a few months, possibly a couple of years, but do we not tend to be more catholic than the Pope, sometimes?

Giving immigrants the vote, even at local council election level, has nothing to do with solidarity. It would actually mean providing them with the dubious option of deciding things, with their vote – undoubtedly a block vote on certain standpoints – for or against village and town concerns about which they would not be bothered, once they re-embark and leave these Lilliputian shores.

The other guest on the programme, Dr Frank Portelli, was perhaps more down to earth when he insisted that “to have the right to vote and decide the future, you must live in Malta and have Maltese citizenship.” Indeed, those immigrants who do choose and are allowed to stay here and build a happy future among us by getting a job and paying their dues, should certainly be given the right to vote, not merely in local council elections but in the whole electoral process that embellishes our democracy.

In what some may regard as an amusing juxtaposition, this reminds me of the oft-raised – and no less controversial issue of giving the thousands of Maltese migrants living in places like Australia, Canada and the USA, the same right to vote and, inevitably, to influence the outcome of our elections. I have always been a vehement opponent of this proposal, not out of any disrespect to these overseas Maltese communities, but on the principle that we cannot have decisions on our future possibly being diluted by their detached stance on certain matters.

Maltese migrants there are not denied the right to vote as long as they are citizens of the country in which they have freely chosen to live, to raise their families, to prosper and to contribute in many ways to the society that has accepted them. That they should have the added privilege of voting in Maltese elections simply on the assertion that they are of Maltese origin does not hold any water for me.

You choose where to hone a decent future for yourself and your family, so you have the vote there, along with other rights guaranteed by your citizenship status. The same has to apply to the immigrants among us. If they are here for a very limited period of time, they cannot be part of the decision-making, at whatever level. Those who want – and fairly qualify – to grow roots in Maltese soil, can only be made to feel welcome and be an essential part of Maltese life, within our society that has as many attributes as it has fallacies.

 

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Western blinkers

With the world in the state in which it is today, when big countries are being run by rightist clowns who see in an innocent, 16-year-old girl warning everyone of climate change a threat to their political existence, it is no surprise that there are small, subjugated nations vociferously calling for independence. They occur all over the world, from Kashmir and Hong Kong to Catalonia and Scotland.

It is obvious, however, Western eyes and ears are all for those beyond their own home-grown problems of separatism, autonomy and independence. This can easily be gauged by the attitude of their mainstream media, which often reflects official policy smartly camouflaged in democratic tinfoil.

As in the case of the Palestinian nation, the current catastrophe of the Kurdish people has received a lot of attention, not out of any genuine wish for the Kurds to finally have their own homeland, but more because the US, or Russia, or Turkey or Bashir al Assad risk losing or on the flip side consolidating their presence on that beleaguered part of the Middle East map.

Hong Kong, of course, an undenied part of China and a former British colony, continues to get as much attention from the Western media and politicians. Bashing the Chinese authorities and watching Hong Kong Chinese rapidly destroying what has long made them a major world business centre is ok, on ideological grounds.

Then come the Catalans in Spain. The subtle, different way in which both governments and media deal with demands for increased autonomy and independence when they hail from within their fold is striking. Suddenly, separatists in Western countries are criminals and thrown into jail. The European Union, so keen in the not so distant past to see the brave, new nations emerging from the old Eastern European clutches of the USSR and Yugoslavia, prefers to ignore the Catalonia question, where you have European citizens who don’t feel they belong to Spain. Given their sad history under the fascist and dictatorial rule of Francisco Franco you really cannot blame them.

Ah, and the Scots? They have always been reluctant members of what is known as the United Kingdom and their ancient story is still unfolding. They have voted against the UK leaving the EU but, because they form part of a kingdom to which they do not feel attached, leave they will. Western and EU blinkers continue to cast a shadow on the Scottish independence dream. For Scots are in the West.

 

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You can’t bank on them

Many people in the reviving Cottonera area of these Islands have rightly shown their concern over HSBC Malta’s decision to close the Bormla branch – the said bank’s only branch within the three cities and their suburb of Kalkara. It will no doubt cause a heavy burden on the elderly who will now have to go to either Paola or Ħaż-Żabbar.

To a large chunk of the population, merely providing ATMs is certainly not enough. While it is acknowledged that social banking as we knew it cannot, in time, be salvaged; such overnight hatchet jobs being perpetrated by the popular banks all over the world show a horrible insensitivity to real people’s real lives. In the UK, for example, Barclays will be ending their services from inside hundreds of local post offices despite, the fact that no less than 15 million persons actually made use of them last year.

In this mad Orwellian nightmare, the individual has lost his place and become a number to be used and abused.

 

 

 

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