mardi, février 27, 2007

Carry on... Hunting

It's the latest hot news from the island of contradictions. The Wise Government of the Republic has approved spring hunting. The Cabinet voted in favour of opening another free-for-all on the flying pests that pass over islands for the forthcoming spring season. Unfortunately what should have been a minor point on the agenda of a very busy set of ministers has been splashed all over the papers (electronic or otherwise) providing us with a veritable Bird's Eye View (pardon the capitalised pun) of the rainbow like panorama of Maltese politics. If anything this event proves that half the picture really does not tell much.... or does it? Well.... j'accuse is about to rectify the situation with this in-depth report "Carry on Hunting"...

1. Analysing The Headlines

MALTARIGHTNOW: L-istagun tal-kacca fir-Rebbiegha: Il-Gvern se jikkontrolla
Strong imagery from the PN online rag. Note the reassuring message to hunters and violent protesters... there IS a hunting season and it IS in Spring. Note the appendix to the the BR: the government will control. We are obviously not told what is left to control. We are not told many things but those are pleasures yet to come.

MALTASTAR: Government gives "green" light to spring hunting
Ha!Ha! for that. Don't you just love the pun? Isn't it funny? The opposition e-paper doesn't know which news is best for its readers ears. Like a kid in a sweet shop it just stands ogle-eyed in the middle and stares and drools without much substance. They'd love to criticise the government... but that would mean that they disagree with the hunting season... and that would mean falling into the bad books of the GHKNK... definitely a no go.

THE TIMES: Malta defies EU on spring hunting
An interesting title. No contradictions here. The Times puts its neck on the line and calls a spade a spade. The title is interesting when we compare it to the Maltarightnow reporting of Minister George Pullicino's press conference and his analysis of how Malta stands viz the EU.

THE INDEPENDENT: Cabinet approves spring hunting, final dates to be established
As non-committal as possible. Hey... the cabinet approved it... the dates are still not there. We do not know how to make head or tail of all this. Is the government right? Are the hunters happy? For all the Independent cares.... boq

DI-VE: Government violating national and European Laws - Birdlife Malta
You could be forgiven if for a second you thought that di-ve had reached a conclusion on all this. They preferred quoting the Birdlife press release - and birdlife are rabid indeed.

2. the Content
So let's start with Maltarightnow (MRN). Everything is fine and dandy. First of all this was all done in consultation. The Minister consulted a committee of people who have varying interests in flying things (from snapping their photos to snapping their wings). The decision was taken at a meeting of the Ornis Committee (doesn't that sound ever so environmental?). Turtle Doves and quail can be shot at between 1st April and 20th May.

If the environmental bandwagon was not enough, Vote George Get Birdhunters explained to anyone who was listening that the people had voted in the last referendum and general election to preserve sustainable hunting in spring. We what? Somehow I do not remember the "Let's Preserve Bird Hunting" t-shirts adorning the carcades for the referendum campaign. I do remember voting to get in the EU and finally kick out hunting!!! but it seems that Vote George Get Ugly Surprises seems to think otherwise.

And then there was the funny bit about announcing stricter measures and heavier fines to ensure that the rules are observed. So that's a good one. First we misinterpret the people's will. Then we redraft the hunting rules to get an escape clause regarding when the hunting season begins (under previous byelaws hunting season could only start six weeks after an Ornis Committee decision... now it has been magicked into four). Then we also claim that (a) the Eu rules will not really apply and (b) if they do really apply it will still take the big EU machine very very long to take a decision against Malta in this regard.

Hmm. I promise he said that. Don't believe me?

"The minister downplayed the significance of the EU's infringement proceedings, saying the process leading to a possible fine from the European Court was a lengthy one". (The Times)

"Mr Pullicino explained how the process of remedial action available to the European Commission, which has promised to come down hard on Malta should it allow spring hunting once again this year in what it would consider a breach of the EU’s birds directive for the fourth year running, would take some time to be incurred, if at all applicable. Punitive fines would only result should Malta fail to comply with a decision by the European Courts of Justice*, the last of three steps in infringement proceedings, while so far, the EC has only taken the first step and issued a letter of formal notice." (The Indy)

Ok. I'd love to go on and on. I'd love to be able to see some logic in this new manoeuvre and not a calculated pandering to the GHKNK timed perfectly not to ruffle any feathers (at least not human feathers) before the Local Council elections (just long enough to vote but not long enough not to be condemned by the EU). I can't though.

It's pathetic. People keep on reminding me that a PN government is the lesser of all evils. That a vote for the PN is an inevitable and foregone conclusion if we want to retain a modicum of logic and save our face on the international arena. Will someone carefully explain what difference there is between a defiant George Pullicino vis-a-vis black and white EU regulation and a defiant Iranian Prime Minister vis-a-vis the world community and nuclear proliferation?

George Pullicino may claim to be personally against hunting (and the many threats on the GHKNK site may be more than positive proof to that) but surely his handling of this matter could have been much much much (did I say much?) better.

Last I heard, a flock of turtle doves and quail were flying in the direction of the Ministry of Environment... and just before they were shot down by a trigger happy hunter they had managed to form the following words in the sky....


The Times
The Malta Independent

* The red highlighting in the Indy quote begs the question. Is the government waiting for a condemnation by the ECJ and then acting as though its hand was forced and therefore cannot do but abide with the EU rules? Possible...but we can never be sure.

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