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Petition Calls For ‘Open Elections’ For PN Leadership

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Recently launched social and economically liberal publication Liberal View is calling for open elections among Maltese nationals and EU citizens residing in Malta for the new Nationalist Party leader.

“We want the Nationalist Party to become a truly European party”  said Matthew Mizzi, founder of the Liberal View - adding, “The Labour Party amended its statute in 2009 to provide for the direct election of party leader from a Congress of Members. The Nationalist Party, Malta’s second largest party should follow suit.”

Mizzi, currently reading a Master of Laws at King’s College in London, spoke out against voting in the 2013 General Elections due to the way political campaign has degenerated. [Read More Here] Following the result, which saw the Labour party win by a landslide, he set up the aforementioned online blog, the liberal view – claiming that a growing sector of the Maltese population identify with liberal ideals. Earlier this week, the blog also called for the Nationalist Party to embrace the opportunity to fully reform its structures with an open approach.

The petition, called Say, was launched earlier today via online petitioning site change.org. It holds that the PN administrative organ- The General Council, should amend the party’s statute to allow EU citizens residing in Malta to become party members and thus allowing them to actively participate in the election of a new party Leader after having registered as party members.

This pledge follows reports that the PN is expected to commission a study into the party’s dismal which consigned it to the opposition after 15 years in power.

Speaking to InsiterOnline, Mizzi held that the cause is implemented in other countries – namely the U.S. Republican Party, the British Liberal Democrat Party and Italy’s Democrat Party – parties have a say in who becomes their leader.

“Our message is simple: We want to participate in the Nationalist Party’s future; We want to be able to choose the new Nationalist Party leader” he continued.

The petition can be found here [link].

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Local Firm to Produce ‘Groundbreaking’ Electronic Car

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Nadur based Energy Innovators  ’Silex Power’ have announced their intention to begin production of an innovative battery powered car in July 2013. “A full charge will last over 620 miles and will take roughly ten minutes to re fill!” Said ‘Silex Power’ CEO Jonathan Grech during an interview with Fox News.

 

The Chreos will pack a whopping 640 horsepower battery powered engine, which Grech insists will average zero to 62mph in less than 2.9 seconds.

The firm’s plans to produce the ‘ground breaking’ luxury electric car, have already been met with scepticism from critics who said “it’s hard to believe that Grech and his small Maltese team are going to pull off a major automotive upset here. Mr. Grech seems sincere, it may be that he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know yet.”

 

The slinky-looking four-door sedan will hit the market in a limited edition of 300 cars and is set to be on the market by 2015. Grech also admits that a prototype is yet to be produced—the much-circulated pictures of the Chreos are artist’s conceptions. “Pricing is not yet disclosed, and will not be until the prototype is ready, when we will present to the press the full information about the car,” Grech said.

 

“Some 20 Silex Power engineers are toiling over the Chreos”, Grech said, and together have experience working for McLaren, Mercedes, Ferrari, Lamborghini and Honda. Grech himself doesn’t have an automotive background. His company designs real estate projects, and Grech says he brings knowledge of software and IT to the project that will help optimize the battery pack’s performance.

 

Grech declined to identify the battery pack, which is set to be produced by external suppliers and could yield such performance, but did go so far as to say it is in the testing phase, and “comfortably meeting our expectations.” He said that “high-density” batteries of the type needed to deliver the Chreos’ stellar performance will be available by the 2015 target date.

The Chreos’ striking design was executed by Maltese stylist Reuben Zammit, also responsible for a 2+2 Bugatti prototype, a Mazda RX-7 based X3, and the KC-427, a modern take on the high-performance Cobra.

 

Grech says the biggest interest in the car is coming from the Russian and Chinese markets, but a North American and European version is also possible. The would-be automaker says later and cheaper mass-market Silex models will definitely be aimed at the U.S.

Asked what he’d say to critics who doubt the Chreos’ ability to achieve on the road the performance it has on paper, Grech said there are already battery chemistries demonstrating capabilities beyond those demonstrated by Tesla Motors, and that claims of 10-minute charging are “not out of this world.”

Watch the Silex’s Chreos concept video here

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2013 Elections Library Poll: How will the Library Vote?

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A third of University students who frequent the UM Library will vote PN this Saturday, Insite’s 2013 Election Library Poll has revealed. This contrasts sharply with national polls that have consistently shown Labour to be in the lead.

Over 400 students at the University Library were asked which party they will vote for in this weekend’s general election, averaging approximately 100 daily responses between 26th February and 1st March. Students studying at the Library on these days were given the following options: PN, PL, AD, ‘Not Voting’ and ‘Don’t Know’.

In line with the idea that University is traditionally a Nationalist stronghold, PN held a comfortable lead from the get go, leading the poll with a total 10.7% margin.

A high amount of ‘Don’t know’ votes was also registered, reflecting nation-wide polls, which are claiming that as much as a quarter of the electorate is still undecided.

The poll reflects pleas made by both the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader in an attempt to secure floating voters last weekend. The Library Poll revealed that 22%  of students haven’t made their minds up – the same as the number of students who said they would be giving PL their vote.

One in three respondents is either undecided or would not reveal who he or she intends to vote for (see: Don’t Know & Not Voting), equalling the number of students who said they would be voting PN.

As indicated in nation wide polls, these two categories are instrumental in determining this week’s general election. At a mass rally held in Sliema yesterday, Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi urged party supporters to ‘convince two people to vote PN each.”

7% of Library Poll respondents indicated they would vote AD. Nationwide polls consistently indicate a sharp increase in those who decline to answer as polling day draws nearer.

AD voters seem to be the most volatile category. When margin of error is taken into consideration, AD suffers the highest percentage shift. Margin of error calculations point towards the possibility of AD votes being between 2% and 8% (A drop to from 7% to 2% would mean a 71.5 % decline in Library Poll respondents who would vote AD.)

This could be a result of students’ desire to vote AD being overwhelmed by party pressures and/or ties to the major parties, and is also reflected in nation wide polls.

Among the 1% of miscellaneous responses were references to Independent candidate Nazzareno Bonnici ["Tal-Ajkla"] and expletives directed towards the survey.

Disclaimer: The sampling frame may not include all elements of the whole student population. Insite acknowledges that the student population at the Library may not be representative of the entire University.

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KSU Deputy Leaders’ Debate Closes Off Campus Electoral Activities

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KSU hosted the final instalment in a series of political debates held on campus in what has been an informative, if at times repetitive, string of political activities held for the University of Malta alumni.

A jam-packed common room saw all but one deputy leader attend The KSU Deputy Leaders’ Debate- PN Deputy Leader Simon Busuttil expressed his disappointment at the absence of both PL deputy leaders.

“PL has two acting deputy leaders in Louis Grech and Tony Abela, and I can’t believe neither of them are here.” He said.

KSU president, Mario Cachia told insiteronline, “KSU was very disappointed that the PL did not send Mr. Grech or Dr. Toni Abela for the debate.” Adding, “It was quite disappointing that the PL informed us just the day before, that neither Deputy Leader could attend, and they would once again be sending Dr. Owen Bonnici.”

Dr. Owen Bonnici (PL) joined Busuttil (PN) and Cacopardo(AD) for his fourth visit to the common room in two weeks having represented the PL at each campus debate with the exception of the insite Leaders’ Debate. (watch debate here)

Cacopardo discussed the government’s failure to address key issues, which he described as “intrinsic to good governance”.

“In 2008 they (PN) told us they would address public tenders and they didn’t, and now they are avoiding both the whistle blower and party financing issues” , He said.

Cacopardo poked fun at the PN’s recent involvement with local business magnate Zaren Vassallo, “ Now they’re borrowing money from the bank of Vassallo” he said referring to a €250,000 loan from a company owned by contractor Zaren Vassallo to the PN’s company media.link communications, eliciting laughter from the audience and no response from Dr. Busuttil.

Dr. Busuttil discussed the PN’s ‘track record on decision making’ insisting, “It was sound judgment that saw growth in the local tourism industry and allowed for students to enjoy a free university.” Dr. Busuttil went to draw comparison between dire economic conditions in countries such as Spain Italy and Cyprus and that of Malta.

Dr. Busuttil made reference to opposition leader Joseph Muscat’s view of the Cypriot economic model as an ideal, asking the audience “Muscat wanted to do it their way, and we didn’t, now it’s up to you to decide who you think was right?”

Answering a question posed by insiteronline on whether the PL consulted the Malta Chamber of pharmacists on the sustainability of its proposal to deliver medication to elderly, Dr. Bonnici said, “ We already spoke about this proposal to individuals in the medical profession, particularly ex-infirmary staff who are no longer working in this area, and are ready to start re training in order to undertake this kind of work.”

Mr. Cacopardo was the only party representative to take a clear stand on pensions, insisting second pillar pensions are “the only responsible decision”, while Dr Busuttil discussed the PN’s proposal to cover students’ National Insurance contributions towards their pensions.

Cacopardo went on to discuss female participation in the local work force, taking the government to task for particularly low participation rates in women aged over 40: “The employability of women aged over 40 is the direct result of a PL socialist government” was Dr Busuttil’s response.

In a debate organized earlier this week by The Times Dr. Muscat and Dr. Gonzi both catagorically denied the possibility of a discussion on euthanasia.

Insiteronline asked Dr Bonnici whether this position taken by Dr. Muscat is reflective of the PL’s progressive movement, to which he replied, “This is an issue of human dignity. We have always let these things be decided by the people themselves… Look at our position during the divorce debate, same with IVF. I am convinced that Dr. Muscat is a politician who believes in civil rights and has always made his positions very clear.”

Questions from the floor touched upon issues raised by students in previous debates and mostly focused on criticisms leveled by  Malta Employers’ Association Director General Joe Farrugia on ‘the political bickering’ over job creation figures.

 

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Parking Complex Won’t Solve University Parking Problem – Bicycle Advocacy Group

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The Labour Party’s proposal to build a multi-storey parking complex on campus is a ‘cosmetic’ solution to the University of Malta’s parking problems, according to UM Student and Bicycle Advocacy Group (BAG) member Saviour Agius.

“There are a number of contradictions at play here. Roughly 11,000 students attend the University of Malta and the great majority live close by, but I doubt whether the number of students who cycle to University exceeds 30,” said Michael Rosner, lecturer at the department of Intelligent Computer Systems and BAG member.

The UK curently holds the lowest percentage of EU citizens who cycle on a daily basis (3%). Mr Rosner believes that the first step for UoM is to strive to achieve this 3% figure on campus.

“This would mean an increase of roughly 10 times the current amount of student cyclists – it’s a tall order, but an achievable figure,” he said.

Mr Rosner indicated that the shift towards cycling involves three factors: Infrastructure, which boiled down to the introduction of safe cycle lanes and clear signage; Legal provisions, as Malta doesn’t currently enforce a minimum passing distance for cyclists; and Education.
“We need to tackle the perception of cycling as uncool; we need to make cycling sexy,” said Mr Rosner, refering to the popularity of cycling among students in foreign Universities.

“We need cycle lanes, real ones. Lanes suddenly ending along a main road is unacceptable,” said Mr Agius.

BAG is proposing the introduction of ‘cycle routes’ which it believes will serve as “afunctional solution to many of Malta’s transportation problems”.

“This is a network of cycle routes and paths which offer an alternative to main roads. Bicycle-friendly routes can create a network between the University
and the surrounding areas – after all most students live in areas relatively close by,” said Mr Agius, adding that this solution is aimed at students living relatively close to campus.

“The ‘Calamatta road’ behind University counseling services offers an ideal connection between UoM and San Gwann, and ultimately a host of other destinations,” added Mr Rosner.

BAG has consulted Transport Malta, local bus serve provider Arriva and local councils across the island and is planning a the network of cycle routes which they believe is “a more realistic solution to congestion”.

“Eventually, students will be able to download apps highlighting routes all over the island,” said an enthusiastic Mr Rosner.

In a meeting with BAG two weeks ago, the Prime Minister showed his support for the a project while insisting that a comprehensive study of cycle routes would need to be completed before the project could be undertaken.

“There are many solutions to parking problems at UoM. I approached KSU at the start of the academic year and discussed the possibility of KSU parking permits consisting of units that would cover, say, 75 % of the academic year. This would mean that once these units are spent, one cannot park on campus anymore, encouraging car pooling and the use of public transport,” said Mr Agus. Unfortunately the scheme was shot down by KSU who felt it would require additional personnel and funding. ” I can’t see why a camera system similar to that in Valletta  wouldn’t work, ” is Mr Agius’ response.

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Manifestos Under The Lens at Pulse Electoral Proposals Conference

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Over 80 student questions received by student organisation Pulse over the last few days, contributed towards their official reaction to the electoral proposals of the three major parties.

A well-attended Electoral Proposals Conference held at KSU common room and organized by student organisation Pulse, saw Owen Bonnici (PL), Prof. Arnold Cassola (AD) and Karl Gouder (PN), defend their respective proposals in response to Pulse’s official reaction, 
“We shall discuss points that have been emphasized, discussed and not discussed at all through out the electoral campaigns of all three parties,” said Pulse general secretary Ryan Spagnol.

In stark contrast to a conference held by Christian Democrats SDM, students were spared from having to sit through what resembled more an episode of Xarabank than a civilized discussion.

In his opening remarks, Dr Gouder discussed the ‘three pillars’ of the PN electoral programme, highlighting the link between employment and a ‘sound educational system’.

“ We are building a knowledge-based society with technology at the forefront of our educational system,” he said.

“ ‘Maghna taf fejn int’, it says it all. We’re not skirting any issues, you know where we stand,” said Prof Cassola AD International Secretary. He went on to highlight his own party’s pillars saying, “ We’re focusing on social injustice, environment and civil liberties.”
Responding to Dr Gouder’s comments on the PN’s, “Track record on employment,” Prof. Cassola insisted that while creating jobs is important, the government had, “Hung low wage earners out to dry.”

It wasn’t just the PN that had done low wage earners a disservice insisted Prof Casolla, he illustrated this by comparing the wages of cleaning staff at the University (€ 6 per hour), to that of wages for cleaning staff negotiated by General Workers Union’s Tony Zarb (€3.50 per hour). Prof. Cassola also discussed his party’s objection to disabled workers receiving 55% of minimum wage, describing the amount (€350 per month) as, “miserable”.

PL’s spokesperson on Higher Education, University, Research and Culture, Owen Bonnici, insited, “While we have taken great strides forward in education, there is still so much to be done,”- “50% of 19 year olds don’t continue their studies and this is not acceptable.” He said.

Dr Bonnici indicated that the government’s increased spending, wasn’t reaping enough benefits, “ Bologna spends far less than we have been spending, but they have far better results,” he said.

Dr Bonnici closed with an anecdote of a conversation he had with Malta Union of Teachers’ Kevin Bonello, where Mr Bonello implored Dr Bonnici to introduce tablets gradually. This informed PL’s decision to introduce tablets at fourth grade drawing comparison to a PN proposal which he said “Isn’t well thought out.”

(Interesting anecdote seeing as in response to a question posed by insteronline earlier this week, Dr Bonnici had expressed his regret at not consulting MUT on the introduction of tablets.)

Prof. Cassola’s view on Tablets was met with disapproving head shakes from both Gouder and Bonnici. “While they are an important educational tool, there are more pressing issues, you can’t just promise to give people toys” – “We need to make classes smaller, the ratio is too high… this will create more jobs for teachers and fill the schools that you (PL and PN) are going to be building every year.”
 The AD International Secretary also discussed democracy at the University saying, “ We understand disproportional representation more than the two big parties.” -alluding to the electoral system of student council, to which Dr Gouder replied “The PN has never interfered in student politics” which invited sniggers from members of the crowd.

Cassola also discussed PL’s proposal to provide stipends for students who repeat a year, asking, “ Why have you created this apartheid between University students and Higher Secondary students? Why aren’t you proposing to offer this extra stipend to University students too?”  To which Dr Bonnici responded, “The largest Number of student drop outs occurs at the end of post secondary, our proposal is aimed at ensuring that these students get the chance to enter University.”

Responding to a question posed by insiteronline on the financing of research at the University, Dr Bonnici assured the conference that research is a priority, “Our plan is to collaborate with the private sector to finance research at University, small projects have already begun in this regard and we believe that this is the way forward.”

Answering to the same question Dr Gouder added “I agree, but it’s also important to point out that the government needs to fork out more money on research, we have already done so with projects like ‘Bio Campus’.”

In an interview (read here) published on insiteronline, the Dean of the faculty of Engineering Dr. Ing. Betts described Bio Campus, as “Cosmetic” if investment is not increased.

Stay tuned for a comparison of the official SDM and Pulse reactions to the Electoral Programmes.

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