Home
Marshalling action on climate
Friday, 06 September 2013
 

As a boy, I often left the cinema after a James Bond film with my head buzzing with a sense of adventure. But it was only last month, on a private visit to the Marshall Islands, that I came a little close to feeling that I was in a Bond film.

 

I should very quickly add it was a fleeting feeling. Think of the one of the scenes when Bond, travelling by seaplane, helicopter or glider, soars above the Pacific and then starts to land, at first sight, in the sea... only for a landing strip to suddenly emerge from the water. Well, that’s the feeling I had when arriving at the capital of the Marshall Islands, Majuro: a water landing until the airport literally emerged from the sea.

 

The Marshall Islands are made up of five islands and 29 coral atolls, a chain of ring-shaped coral reefs that encircle a lagoon. They are one of only four nations in the world whose territory is made up of atolls. This is more than just a point of geographic or touristic interest. As we shall see, in an age of climate change it shapes the islands’ political and economic identity as well.

 

The basic facts about the Marshalls seem to be designed for one of those lists of Most Curious Things. The phone directory appeared to be one photocopied page. For a lawyer, the fact that the islands’ Exclusive Economic Zone is nearly one million square miles is astounding. For a Maltese politician, the fact that the islands attained their independence 22 years after Malta did, makes our independence seem less young. 

For a tourist, the taxi driver’s casual reply to a question about the presence of sharks can be wincing: “Sure, in the ocean there are tiger sharks, in the lagoon white tip and black tip.” With one fell blow, the ocean to one side of the road, and the lagoon on the other, seemed less enticing.

 

However, some of the other islands are well known for scuba diving. There are over 1000 species of fish and 250 species of hard and soft coral. There are many war relics, not least the world’s foremost aircraft carrier wreck dive, the USS Saratoga at Bikini Bay atoll.

 

The war history is so rich and varied because of the islands’ broader history and strategic location. Contact with Europe began relatively early. During there is evidence that during the 16th century at least eight Spanish ships sailed through the Marshall Islands.

Although foreign visits subsided over the next centuries they resumed in 1788 when British captains Marshall and Gilbert sailed into the islands. Hence the name Marshall Islands.

 

Whales were present in the early 1800s but when kerosene was introduced in 1850 whaling declined as whale-oil became obsolete.

 

As one might expect, next came the missionaries came from Honolulu and today Christianity is a fixture of the religious landscape.  There are over a dozen places of worship, mainly Christian, in Majuro: Catholic, Seventh Day Adventist , Jehovah Witness …

 

The European and later the American connections have not been constant, however. In 1914 Japan took control of the Marshalls from Germany. They wanted an eastern defense perimeter and officially were instructed by the League of Nations to administer it. In 1936 Japan left the League but kept the islands and fortified them.

A response was not long in coming once the Second World War started. The US launched its first attack in the Marshalls on 1 February 1942. Four years later, Bikini Atoll would be the site of some notorious nuclear tests.

 

Despite this history, some of it including terrible military experiments with consequences for the Islanders, Marshallese culture remains quite unique. Society was, and still is divided into three: the chiefs (Iroij), clan heads (Alap) and workers (Rijerbal).  The chiefs have control of land tenure, dispute settlement and resources. The clan heads maintain the land and supervise daily activities. The workers, as their name dictates, work.

 

I am sure it is no romantic utopia. Enough to say that this month the Marshalls will host the annual conference of the Pacific countries, with most delegations being led by a head of state. The way for the conference is being paved by international donations.

 

The Japanese have given bricks to build bus shelters! The US is using army personnel to upgrade the only college. Countries are donating luxury cars and cash. For example, Japan has donated two cars and Korea, five. Taiwan, which is recognized by the Marshall Islands, has donated $300,000. The weekly paper proudly shows the Marshallese authority receiving these gifts from donors.

 

Definitely no utopia. It would still be a pity to see this culture disappear, however, especially through no fault of its own. Such an existential threat does exist: climate change.

 

The atolls do not rise more than a metre above sea level. Which means they are very vulnerable to rises in the sea-level, which are caused by green-house emissions.

 

If these low-lying islands are to be saved, cuts in emissions must be embarked on immediately, with no delays in the set timetables. As the EU’s Climate Action Commissioner, Connie Hedegaard, told a panel of experts when they met in the Marshall Islands earlier this week, we are already late.

 
 
Il-MEPA u c-Certifikat ta' Konformita
Sunday, 25 August 2013

 

Ftit tal-jiem ilu l-MEPA
ħarġet stqarrija għall-istampa tinforma lill-pubbliku li qieg]da testendi l-perjodu tal-validità taċ-ċertifikati ta' konformità maħruġa mill-awtorità tal-ippjanar minn sitt ġimgħat għal tliet xhur u dan b]ala parti mill-politika tal-gvern sabiex tibda titnaqqas il-burokrazija fl-operat ta’ din l-awtorita’ flimkien ma’ spejje\ \ejda li l-kunsamatur kien irid i]allas biex jer[a’ japplika jekk ma ju\ax dan i`-`ertifikat fi \mien sitt gimg]at


Inħoss li din hija waħda minn dawk il-passi li pajjiżna jeħtieġ biex tiġi ndirizzata l-burokrazija żejda.

Ċertifikat ta' Konformità maħruġ mill-MEPA huwa mezz ta' konferma li kwalunkwe żvilupp ji[i mwettaq skont il-permess kif approvat u maħruġ mill-MEPA.


Tali ċertifikat ta’ konformità huwa wkoll użat biex il-klijent ikun jista’ japplika għall-provvista tal-ilma u / jew is-servizz tal-elettriku.
Meta ssir applikazzjoni g

ħal ċertifikat ta' konformità, l-applikant permezz ta' perit jiddikjara li l-i\vilupp ikun sar b'mod konformi mal-pjanti approvati u l-kundizzjonijiet tal-permess ma]ru[ mill-MEPA. I`-Ċertifikat ta’ Konformità normalment jinħareġ wara spezzjoni fuq il-post minn wieħed mill-uffiċjali responsabbli tal-MEPA li ji\gura li tali \vilupp ikun sar skont l-istess permess ta' \vilupp.

 

B]ala e
żempju nsemmi dak l-i\vilupp li jkun sar f’`erti positijiet fi`-`entru tar-ra]al jew belt (village core) fejn l-applikant jikkonforma mal-kondizzjoni tal-permess tal-MEPA li ]afna drabi jkun esi[enti li jkun jinkludi aperturi tal-injam u kuluri spe`ifiki biex ji[i ssalvagwardjat l-ambjent fil-qalba tar-raħal. L-istess japplika għall-ka\ ta’ faċċati ta’ bini biex ikunu f’konformita mar-rekwiżiti ewlenin tar-raħal inklu\ strutturi ta’ gallariji.


Dan il-perjodu ta’ estenżjoni ġie diskuss u miftiehm mill-Kumitat Parlamentari dwar l-Ambjent u l-Ippjanar g]all-Iżvilupp.
B'validit

à ta' tliet xhur g]all-`ertu servizzi, l-applikanti issa se jkollhom prattikament bi\\ejjed \mien biex iressqu l-applikazzjonijiet tag]hom kemm għall-applikazzjonijiet għall-ilma kif ukoll g]ad-dawl.

Skont ir-regoli li je\istu l-ebda talba g]as-servizzi tal-ilma u l-elettriku ma’ jistg
ħu jiġu kkunsidrati jekk ma’ jkunx hemm iċ-ċertifikat ta’ konformità meta ti[i ipprezentata xi applikazzjoni g]all dawn is-servizzi.


Pero’ nixtieq in]ares minn na]a differenti tal-istampa ji[ifieri minn dik in-na]a fejn ]afna jg]idu ajma.

 

Il-punt tieg
ħi huwa x’ji[ri jekk l-i\vilupp s]i] ji[ifieri jekk titwaqqa’ binja u ssir binja [dida u dan isir mingħajr ma attwalment ji[u mwaqqfa s-servizzi tal-ilma u l-elettriku tal-istrutturi qodma u jitkompla ji[u mog]tija dawn is-servizzi matul tali żvilupp b]ala servizz normali u mhux b]ala servizz temporanju sakemm jitlesta dan l-izvilupp?


Meta dan ikun il-ka\, meta jitlesta l-i\vilupp mhux se jkun meħtieġ li ji[i ppreżentat iċ-ċertifikat ta’ konformità li jkun hemm b\onn biex issir applikazzjoni mal-ARMS g]ax kull ma jkun me]tie[ huwa li ssir talba għal bidla fl-isem tal-utent tas-servizz irre[istrat mingħajr tali ċertifikat.
G

ħal numru twil ta' snin din qed to]loq forma ta' diskriminazzjoni bejn ir-residenti fl-istess \ona. Bejn dawk li jkunu osservaw dawn ir-regolamenti u kellhom jid]lu g]al `erti spejje\ biex ikunu f'konformità sħiħa mar-regolamenti tal-MEPA u dawk li fil-fatt ju\aw din is-sistema.

 

Nie]u ezempju:


Ftit tas-snin ilu wa
ħda mill-iskejjel tal-gvern li tinsab fi\-\ona tal-qalba tar-raħal iddeċidiet li tibdel it-twieqi kollha tal-faċċata u bidlithom minn struttura tal-injam g]all-dik ta’ aluminju ming]ajr ebda problema, madankollu opposti dik l-istess skola u fl-istess triq fejn saru numru ta' żviluppi separati ma kellhomx l-istess opportunità li jwaħħlu kwalunkwe bibien jew twieqi bħal dawn u ma kellhom ebda għa\liet ]lief li jonoraw l-obbligu tag]hom skont il-permess tal-MEPA biex japplikaw g]as-servizzi meħtieġa tal-elettriku u l-ilma. Biex i\\id l-insult għal u]ud minn dawn in-nies fl-istess żona u ftit piedi bogħod minn xulxin saru u g]adhom qed isiru \viluppi oħra fejn anke twaqqg]u u tellg]u mill-[did il-binja i\da \ammew l-istess servizzi u filwaqt li ma’ mxewx skont il-permess billi wa]]lu aperturi tal-aluminju, ecc. ma ntalbux i`-`ertifikat ta’ konformita. Dan jgħodd ukoll għall-faċċati u anke bibien ta’ garaxxijiet u l-u/u ta' garaxxijiet.


Fil-verita s-sitwazzjoni hija ntollerabbli u n]oss li dawn l-anomaliji g]andhom jinqatg]u darba g]all dejjem.

 

Su
ġġeriment tiegħi huwa "Da]]al lill-kunsilli lokali f'din il-kwistjoni biex jikkordinaw u ji\guraw li r-residenti kollha huma ttrattati l-istess". Mingħajr l-involviment dirett tal-kunsilli lokali wieħed ma jistax jara mod biex jieqfu tali effetti diskriminattivi li ilhom sejrin għal għexieren ta' snin u b’hekk inroddu lura l-istruttura tal-qalba tar-raħal lill-poplu tal-lokalità

 

 
The pope from afar
Monday, 25 March 2013
  In his homily at the inauguration Mass, Pope Francis urged his listeners around the world to “be protectors of God’s gifts!” I have been as fascinated and charmed by the new pope as anyone else, of course, as taken by his manner of dignified simplicity as I have been intrigued by the international implications of his country of origin. But his reference to gifts made me smile a short while later.

 

As the international and religious dignitaries lined up to meet him, I noticed that some came bearing gifts. I asked myself, mischievously, whether the Pope would “protect” the gifts given him with the same tenderness that he urged the world to protect the weak and vulnerable.

 

 One young mother (I don’t know which government her husband was representing) presented the pope with a white papal skull cap that seemed a size too small for Pope Francis. What she was thinking of, I don’t know, and I’m not sure the pope, listening politely to her, did either.

 

Even before the morning’s celebrations began, controversy had arisen in Taiwan over the gift that President Ma Ying-jeou planned to present: a Franz vase embossed with the design of a magpie. According to Taiwanese beliefs, the magpie is a symbol of blessing and joy. But an Opposition politician criticised Ma for lacking “an understanding of European culture”, where a magpie is often understood as a bad omen. Whether the gift was given in the end, I don’t know.

 

On the other hand Joseph Muscat's gesture inviting Lawrence Gonzi to accompany him and President Abela was definitely a move in the right direction. Although I have no idea if there wise men bore gifts.

 

No doubt, however, the most significant gift, symbolically speaking, was given earlier by Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s: a mate gourd and straw for drinking the nation’s traditional tea. It was a sly reminder of the pope’s national identity.

 

Kirchner made no secret that she has asked Pope Francis to mediate between Argentina and the UK over the islands the former call the Malvinas and the latter calls the Falklands. 

 

This request, however, comes in the wake of two events last week. First, in a referendum, the inhabitants of the Falklands voted nearly unanimously to remain subjects of the British crown. Second, UK prime minister David Cameron was asked what he made of the declaration by the then Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, last year, that the Malvinas had been “usurped” by the UK. Cameron replied, with British aplomb, that he “respectfully” disagreed with Cardinal Bergoglio, while making it sound that he would re-fight the Falklands war if he had to: “The white smoke over the Falklands was pretty clear.”

 

The issue was raised again by the international press on Tuesday, which noted that the UK delegation was one of the most low-key. The Queen was represented by the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester (21st in line to the throne), while Her Majesty’s government was represented by the minister for faith and communities, Baroness Warsi, and a minister without portfolio, Kenneth Clarke.

 

Warsi, however, played down the nature of the delegation, saying that its selection had begun before the new pope had been elected. She also meaningfully added that she was sure the pope understood that longstanding Vatican position that it was a bilateral matter between Argentina and the UK. 

 

My own view on the dispute is greatly coloured by my recent private visit to the islands (two, East Falkland and West Falkland) in December. Last year was a memorable one for the islanders since it was the 30th anniversary of the British-Argentine war. 

 

The referendum had not yet been held and I was curious to know if the 2500-strong community would consider independence, rather than belonging to one country or another. They were adamant, however, that they wanted to remain British. No Argentine pressure is going to change their position. Indeed, Argentine maneuvers to isolate the islands by a communication and transport embargo is having the opposite effect on the Falklanders.

Being there made me think about why the issue was so important to two large prosperous countries. The Falklands present an unforgiving environment. It is a tough place to live in. The capital, Stanley, has brightly coloured houses to somehow limit the monotony of the surrounding landscape. Almost treeless it is home to half a million sheep and several different types of penguins. The rock hoppers impressed me most and their awkward movement on land is compensated by their excellent swimming at sea.

The issue goes beyond geography. Although the proximity to Argentina makes the latter’s claims seem natural, the dispute between the two countries can be traced back some 200 years. 

 

Much closer to our time, the 1982 war may have begun as an attempt by the Argentine military junta of the time to distract the country from domestic troubles. The UK itself decided to recapture the seized islands when the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was battling for political survival. Her military victory enabled her to win the general election a year later.

 

It is troubling to think that both Argentina and the UK are, once more, suffering from domestic troubles. One should hope militarism will not tempt either of them. If it does, Pope Francis, who wryly described himself, on the day he was elected, as a pope “from the end of the world”, may find his far-off homeland shadowing him very closely.

 

 

Polls

Malta In EU - How Do you feel?
 

Links











Who's Online

© 2014 John Attard Montalto MEP
Joomla! is Free Software released under the GNU/GPL License.