Just do it
Just do it
After campaigning heavily for a reform of the rent laws for months before the last elections, it was a small satisfaction for the Greens to have the issue mentioned by the President at the state opening of Parliament.
There was some discussion of the issue also in the long, bleak summer months. There were encouraging signs that the matter was being discussed behind closed doors, that the government was doing its homework on the issue. Then a long silence.
What is the matter with these people? Throughout our campaign before the election the PN government said absolutely nothing about reforming the rent laws. We were asking for a tripartite, all stakeholder discussion to address a major economic and social issue. It was too hot a potato for the PN before last April.
Probably noting the response to our campaign and reading the figures compiled on the issue, the new PN government realised that something would have to be seen to be done about it. They got the President to say something, to make a promise in the government's name. It appears to have been enough for the Nationalists.
After 15 years of prodding government backsides, I have got used to how the system works. Saying something about a hot issue is the ultimate bravery of any government hanging on to power by a whisper. It has to be prodded endlessly until it begins to move.
Only when we have made it very, very obvious that it is a win-win situation for government will they get off their hands. On countless issues and particularly environmental issues we have had to face the rear end of a recalcitrant goverment. In the end they wake up to the situation and run along quite happily. It could take years.
When they finally do move, they tend to claim all the credit. Who cares? The job gets done. My one frustration is that it takes so long to get them to look at a situation in the face. Years get wasted. In the case of the rent issue, decades have been wasted; decades of blatant injustice and unquantifiable misery.
I am tired of writing about the rent law injustice, the rent law stupidity. It is time for action. It is time that we got a lobby group together and pushed the government off its hands.
Evidently the first to be called to muster are landlords who suffer from the virtual expropriation that our obsolete rent laws effect. The call is also made to everybody who recognises the injustice of antiquated rent laws and also to tenants who realise that a change must come and want to be reassured that no hardship is intended to them.
What can and must be done immediately is to end the infamy of the inheritance of leases. Once the government seems paralysed, the rent lobby can frame an amendment to the laws and present it as a private member's bill in Parliament.
Every MP will be asked whether he or she is prepared to present the bill or second it. It is a very simple process. MPs who refuse will have put their name to the current injustice. Those who plead party discipline in their defence will be accusing their party of the injustice. It really is that simple. It is the first target of the rent law reform lobby.
It is the necessary first step on a journey to bring about a return to reason and fairness in a sector that is bringing about the dissipation of capital assets worth many, many millions, prevents the creation of a free market in property rental and warps both the artificially minute rental market and the property market itself.
What we want to achieve is an optimised use of resources, the use of the 25 per cent of properties that lie vacant across the country, the easing of pressure on areas outside the development zone and the creation of a rental option related to the earning capacity of potential tenants. It is a long haul and we need all the help we can get.
The invitation to join this lobby is open to everyone without distinction. All one has to do is to write to: AD - the Green Party, 10, Triq Manwel Dimech, Sliema, or e-mail me at hcvassallo@..., giving one's name and contact details.
We propose to deal in this case as we have done in countless others throughout our history: we provide what knowhow we have in a common cause and employ what talent we find to assist us. We don't care what your political affiliations are and you are not selling your soul to the Greens by working with us.
Just writing in and allowing us to claim truthfully that thousands of people have made that minor effort, could tip the balance and overcome the government's inertia. Just do it. If it takes a little more than that, it will be done.
Dr Vassallo is chairman of Alternattiva Demokratika - the Green Party