NEWS | Sunday, 22 July 2007

‘Don’t add insult to injury’, Martin Debono tells Joe Saliba

James Debono

Sliema’s Labour councillor Martin Debono has taken umbrage at Joe Saliba’s attempt to rekindle the controversy surrounding his architect’s warrant in a face-to-face debate with Labour counterpart Jason Micallef, on MediaToday’s Reporter on TVM last Tuesday.
“I cannot believe that Nationalist party secretary-general Joe Saliba is resurrecting an injustice I endured for 10 whole years, to attack me. In so doing he is only adding insult to injury,” Debono said.
His reaction to Saliba’s allegations concerns the fact that Debono had been awarded an architect’s warrant during Alfred Sant’s Labour government, despite not having his qualifications recognised in Malta. Saliba listed the case in a hit-list of controversies during Labour’s short-lived 1996-1998 government.
“What hurt me most is that my case was mentioned as an example of corrupt decisions when the facts show that it was Nationalist governments who denied me my warrant, despite having two degrees from Kent State University in the United States,” Debono said.
The MLP councillor claims that after returning to Malta in 1986 he joined six other architecture students with foreign degrees pressing for the recognition of their degrees in order to gain a warrant.
At that time, university authorities asked him to attend extra courses at the University of Malta to satisfy the criteria for the warrant.
Upon the change of government in 1987, he was told that he could not get his warrant because the law stated that only degrees issued by the University of Malta are recognised.
But on that occasion he was promised that the law would soon be changed to enable students who studied in foreign universities to get a warrant.
Recognising he had no real future in Malta until the law was changed, Debono left for Australia, where he acquired a warrant to practice his profession: “Before leaving, I wrote a letter to the Prime Minister telling him I was being exiled from my country.”
While abroad, Debono then received news that three students with foreign degrees had sat for examinations that enabled them to get a warrant in Malta. Debono returned to Malta, where he claims he was never submitted for an examination to acquire his warrant.
His case was eventually raised by Opposition leader Alfred Sant in parliament. “The first time I went to Sant he dismissed my complaint because the first exams were held when I was out of the country. But when other exams were held and I was still left out, Sant told me that this was a clear case of discrimination,” Debono said.
After Sant’s election, Debono was called for an interview conducted by four architects and was awarded the warrant. He claims he even received a recommendation from the University of Malta. He has denied allegations of foul play and blames the Nationalist government for not issuing a warrant earlier.
“After opening my file, ignored for so many years, it turned out I’d had the necessary requirements anyway. I’d conducted a course in local masonry, at the University of Malta.”

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