Last week during a press conference held in front of our Law Courts, we reacted to a story issued by Malta Today whereby the Attorney General (AG) proved BirdLife Malta right on the issue of finch trapping. As leaked in the media the Attorney General warned the Government that its legal arguments to justify the application of a derogation were “inherently weak” and moreover warned that Malta stood no chance of successfully defending its case in court and should not apply the derogation. Well, apparently, irrespective of what the Attorney General says, the Maltese Government did just that.
Now what are we saying here? The Attorney General in Malta is not a bunch of lawyers or a legal firm but a constitutional body with defined functions. Apart from the fact that it is supposed to be leading the defence of the Maltese Government’s legal arguments to win the ECJ case! So when the Government chooses to ignore the legal advice of the Attorney General it should then assume its political responsibilities. In fact the AG is quoted to continue saying to the Government that no amount of rhetoric would stop the ECJ from throwing out Malta’s case. Probably meaning that rhetoric might have weight on the local media but it has no bearing in a court of law.
So what’s the twist? Parliamentary Secretary Roderick Galdes pulled out his only trump card and said that our claims were “pure speculation”! When I was watching him on One News, I was actually imagining him pouting his lips and saying this is all fake news! To clarify Mr Galdes, it wasn’t BirdLife Malta which claimed this but MaltaToday apparently quoting the Attorney General.
And that’s what MaltaToday did again the following day in response to the Parliamentary Secretary’s rebuttal. It then published further evidence about the correspondence between the Attorney General’s office and Galdes’ Wild Birds Regulation Unit (WBRU) head Sergei Golovkin. MaltaToday even quotes an email of the 7th August 2014 where the AG’s office clearly explained to the WBRU head that “the derogation would per se run counter to the purpose and spirit of the Birds’ Directive.”
Before we continue with the story, let me explain what the WBRU’s role is! So quoting from gov.mt website one of the roles of the WBRU is “ensuring compliance with the provisions of EU and international Acquis concerning conservation of wild birds, including but not limited to the provisions of the EU Birds’ Directive, the Bern Convention, the Bonn Convention and other relevant EU and international instruments”.
Let’s grasp this better. Do I correctly understand that the institution set up by the Parliamentary Secretariat for Agriculture, Fisheries and Animal Rights to ensure compliance to the Birds’ Directive, is in the AG’s words acting against the purpose and spirit of the Birds’ Directive? Shocking news, not quite! I think this strengthens BirdLife Malta’s long standing feeling about the WBRU.
Oh and read the next paragraph from gov.mt about the role of WBRU, “Ensuring correct implementation of spring hunting and autumn live-capturing derogations”. So my question is when the Wild Birds Regulation Unit Sergei Golovkin as quoted on MaltaToday states that “it is no longer a situation of opting to apply derogation, but a situation of implementation of government decision and its defence in the face of potential legal challenge”, how does this fit in the correct implementation of autumn trapping derogations?
Well in the midst of all these lies the truth is that this is not fake news but sad news! What’s even sadder is the Government’s lack of action on all that is illegally happening on trapping. As stated in our press conference, out of a sample of trapping sites reported to WBRU, 46% turned out to be non-registered and illegal – the majority of such sites situated on prime habitats within Natura 2000 sites which ERA is obliged to protect and manage. BirdLife Malta’s conservation team has also uncovered a rampant illegal trade associated with finch trapping. Have a look at this video about the illegal trade of finches in Malta. It is sad.
This is what BirdLife Malta is all about.
By Darryl Grima, BirdLife Malta President