Student committee to talk about drug decriminalisation

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The Social Policy Commission (KPS) is setting up an ad-hoc committee to discuss the decriminalisation of drugs. A consultative meeting open to all students will be held on 13 September. Here, students, legal and medical experts, activists and recovered drug activists will discuss this controversial topic.

On Monday, the Ministry for Justice, Culture and Local Government organized a seminar for their ‘Raise the Bars’ campaign. Here, people discussed the Government’s White Paper that will lead to a change in Malta’s drug laws.

KSU was represented at this seminar by Social Policy Officer Becky Micallef. SDM was represented by University co-ordinator Thomas Farrugia. Pulse, who have launched their own campaign to get students to discuss drug decriminalisation, were represented by Vice President Chris Vella.

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Y4TE- Ecoserv study should not justify more spring hunting

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Youth for the Environment (Y4TE) said that hunters should not be allowed to hunt more quail and turtledoves in spring, no matter what the results of Ecoserv’s study turn out to be.

“Should the study show that ‘not enough’ quail and turtledoves fly over Malta in autumn, we do not see why hunters should therefore be allowed to hunt for more of them in spring,” Y4TE’s President Julia Farrugia said. “Perhaps if less quail and turtledoves were to be hunted there would be a boost in their population which would eventually result in more flying over in autumn.”

She said this in the wake of revelations made by newspaper MaltaToday that Ecoserv, a private company, is being paid €116,230 by the government to see how many quail and turtledoves fly over the Maltese Islands between 1 September and 31 October. If the results of this study show that only a few turtledoves and quail fly over Malta in autumn, the government and hunter’s federation FKNK will present a case to the European Commission to allow them to hunt more of these two bird species in spring.

“Allowing for more hunting of the birds in spring would be a step in the wrong direction and there should be no logical reason as to why FKNK would have a case to present,” Farrugia said.

In 2009, the Nationalist government introduced a hunting curfew of 3pm between 15 and 30 September, a period when protected birds of prey fly low over Malta. BirdLife Malta wanted to extend the curfew date till 7 October while FKNK wanted to push the curfew back to 7pm. In 2013, the new Labour government decided to extend the curfew till 7 October and push it back till 7pm. BirdLife consider this move as equivalent to removing the curfew entirely.

“Any hunting after 3pm is likely to be of protected birds,” BirdLife’s conservation manager Nicholas Barbara told MaltaToday. “Besides, by 7pm it will be too dark to ensure that the curfew is being respected.”

“The Government’s lack of a position on the issue in an attempt to please both parties has resulted in a situation where the likelihood of protected birds of prey being shot down has increased,” Farrugia said.

The autumn hunting season began. Two dead little egrets have already been found in Gozo by the Malta Armed Forces.

“This is tragic news since it shows that even though the season has only just opened, hunters are already targeting birds indiscriminate of whether they are protected,” Farrugia said. “Moreover, if hunters have already started to shoot at birds with such little care at the start at the season one wonders what the kill count will be by the end of the season.”

“The detrimental effect this will have on the bird population cannot go ignored and unless the authorities employ harsher measures Malta will end up being void of all species of bird.”

A lot has been made of the Government’s proposal to postpone next year’s local council elections. It has been suggested that this decision is simply a cover for the Government to hold the spring hunting referendum separately from the local council elections. The implication is that, while the majority of Maltese are in favour of banning spring hunting, not enough of them care that much to leave their houses specifically to vote that way. On the other hand, hunters will all go out to vote against this ban as it is something that concerns them directly.

“Much in the same way that there was a strong voter turn-out for the divorce referendum, if people are made to feel strongly about banning spring bird hunting, then there should be no such problem,” Farrugia said. “The problem with postponing local council elections lies in the fact that the same councillors will be in power for a longer period than they are meant to.”

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GUG President in apparent swipe at SDM and Pulse

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GUG (Gozitan University Group) President Ryan Mercieca has taken what appears to be a thinly-veiled swipe at fellow student organisations SDM and Pulse.

“The GUG is not like those organisations which use students to boost some political party,” Mercieca told newspaper Illum. “Our proposals are based on students’ responses to our online surveys.”

“The GUG doesn’t let anybody affiliated with a political party contest our elections,” Mercieca said. “This time, we allowed a person affiliated with a political party to compete. This person lost the election and has now been placed in a Government sub-committee for proposals on their next budget.”

Elsewhere, Mercieca denied manipulating the GUG’s annual general meeting wand which was well-attended by around 90 students.

“Students who want to attend and vote in our AGM need to register up to five days before it so that we can make sure that they all attend University or other colleges,” Mercieca said. “There were some people who didn’t agree with this procedure but it’s been in place for four years now and everyone should be aware of it right now.”

“This procedure will be inserted into our statute next year.”

The GUG held their AGM last Sunday at the Gozo Campus. Ryan Mercieca was elected President for the fourth consecutive year.

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KSU’s proposals in revised legal notice

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KSU said that the new draft of the controversial Legal Notice 76 of 2014 includes some of their own proposals. KSU had criticized the original version of this legal notice as it would have allegedly given the Ministry for Education and Employment the power to obtain any information about all students, including their ID card numbers and their parents’ names.

While the Government had said that it would only have used this information for ‘research purposes’, KSU had criticized the vagueness of the term ‘research’.

KSU had suggested that the government use ‘pseudonymised data’ as an alternative. This would involve a collaboration between the Ministry of Education and educational institutions with the latter providing every student with an index number. Therefore, the Ministry would be able to use students’ academic data to conduct the same research they had originally planned to while at the same time respecting their privacy.

KSU said that the new draft of the legal notice ensures that the Government cannot identify students unless it is required “under a specific law or it is in the best interest of the student, or if explicit consent by the parent/legal guardian is obtained”. Even in these cases, the students’ information will now have to be ‘rendered anonymous, deleted or destroyed’ afterwards, unless the students or their parents suggest otherwise.

What will the ‘research’ be though?

KSU said that it that the Ministry for Education and Employment and Data Protection Commissioner Saviour Balzan told them that students’ data will “at the moment, be used in national employment initiatives such as the Jobs+ Scheme, the Youth Guarantee Scheme and the Youth Employability Index”.

“The revised legal notice says that students’ data will be destroyed or made anonymous if they choose not to participate in these initiatives,” KSU said.

“We have taken an active role in discussing the revision of this legal notice during these last few months, even though we weren’t allowed to form part of the working group,” KSU said. “We are pleased that the working group took KSU’s proposals into consideration.”

“We are adamant that students’ data should always be respected and only used if it is in their interest.”

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SDM- “Postponing local council elections won’t solve election fatigue”

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SDM (Studenti Demokristjani Maltin) said that postponing local council elections “won’t help solve any problem related to electoral fatigue”.

They said this in the wake of the Government announcing that they will be opening a public consultation process related to their idea to postpone local council elections until 2019.

“After launching the vote16 campaign in 2013 to introduce voting rights for 16-18 year olds in local council elections, the government is now planning to postpone the local council elections to 2019,” SDM said. “This is highly contradictory. It will render the vote16 campaign meaningless.”

“We will be preparing a detailed document with proposals on how the Government can combat the so-called electoral fatigue,” SDM said.

“After launching the vote16 campaign in 2013 to introduce voting rights for 16-18 year olds in local council elections, the government is now planning to postpone the local council elections to 2019,” SDM said. “This is highly contradictory. It will render the vote16 campaign meaningless.”

SDM won the KSU elections once again last April. However, KSU have not yet said what their stance on this issue is.

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KOPIN launch student film competition

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For the past 14 years, Kooperazzjoni Internazzjonali (KOPIN) have fulfilled many projects to broaden education on social justice.

As part of their current Global Campus campaign, KOPIN is welcoming Maltese students and film enthusiasts to submit a short movie related to human rights.

‘Give a damn – use that cam!’ is an amateur short film competition, with great prizes to be won, and the deadline for submissions is October 17.

“We want to make students aware of the Millennium Development goals set up by the United Nations”, KOPIN project manager Federica Di Giulio said. “With more student activism, such as with this competition, we can bring social and global justice closer to the Maltese education system”.

This competition forms part of the Global Campus project being held in 14 different European universities in Ireland, Austria, Cyprus and Malta.

Federica spoke to Insite about the organisation’s initiatives, including activities carried out at migrant open centres by their volunteers, and providing African voluntary organisations with schemes of EU funds for overseas development.

In partnership with the United Nations’ refugee agency in Malta, KOPIN has most recently provided secondary school teachers with a social justice toolkit for students. This initiative provided teachers and students alike basic knowledge about migration, diversity and human rights.

At the University of Malta, KOPIN will again be implementing two courses with Degree Plus, that proved popular last year, about global justice.

“Numerous University lecturers will administer these courses, some of whom are themselves members of KOPIN to combine basic concepts of social justice with theory and practice,” Di Giulio said.

For more information about KOPIN visit, and for details about their short film competition click here.

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