MaltaToday: Letters - Sunday, 30 December 2007
LETTERS | Sunday, 30 December 2007

Gorg Mifsud Chircop: an appreciation

I would like to express my earnest gratitude to, and inestimable respect for, Dr Gorg Mifsud Chircop, who was of great help to me during the research (PhD fieldwork) on Maltese music I carried out these last years.
Mifsud Chircop guided my musical first steps in the islands. He introduced me to the universe of l-Ghana and the ghannejja, to the bars and l-Imnarja.
He was an authentic and unassailable cultural reference point for me, a precious font of knowledge, but also a wise counsellor and genuine friend. I shall never forget his generosity, his simplicity, his love of Maltese culture; always ready to impart and to share with enthusiasm and availability.
Infinite thanks, dear Dr Mifsud Chircop, for all that you have bestowed on me. May your soul rest in peace to the sweet music of Angels.

Giovanna Iacovazzi
Sorbonne, Paris

Fr George Dalli’s pragmatism

I refer to Fr George Dalli’s interview (MaltaToday 23 December 2007). Matthew Vella has obviously not known Fr Dalli for a very long time. Were it the case he would have enquired about the “radical” changes Fr Dalli has gone through over the years. I will only touch upon two questions: the celibacy of the priesthood and the ordination of women.
I have had occasion to discuss both subjects with Fr Dalli, when I lived with him at the Catholic Institute. The music then was diametrically opposite to what it is now.
Then, Fr Dalli stressed the need for celibacy simply because, as he put it to me, a married priest, with wife and children, will not be able to dedicate his love to the people indiscriminately. In the interview he actually says that, “… I believe my celibacy has helped me dedicate my love to the people…” The question arises automatically: If it has helped you, why should it not keep on helping those who go for the priesthood?
In the past, with regard to the ordination of women priests, Fr Dalli was equally emphatic in his words. He told me that if Jesus had wanted women to partake of the ministerial priesthood, he would have had no qualms in appointing them himself. Jesus was radical enough in his teachings and actions. Suffice it to mention the appointment of Peter as the head of the church. He made a pontiff out of a fisherman who denied Him not once but thrice.
I would be very interested to know what brought about the change of heart. Hopefully the change is not only the result of “political” pragmatism on Fr Dalli’s part.

Tonio Farrugia,

Losing our marbles

I am sure that, like me, many other readers were very taken aback to learn (Sunday Times, 22 December) that Lm15,000 from the Lotteries Good Causes Fund was presented by Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi to the Tal-Karmnu Parish in Valletta to go towards paying for the laying of marble flooring of the church’s presbytery.
Marble flooring? “Good Cause”?
The general understanding of the term “good cause” is an action that relieves a pressing social need like helping the poor or disabled, hardly the laying of a rich marble floor! At most, the term might cover the promotion of sport or culture, and in fact the website list of activities eligible for help through the Lotteries Good Causes Fund includes social, cultural, educational, sports, philanthropic or religious activities. Now, the only area which relates in any way to churches, would be “religious activity”. The question here is: does contributing towards the installation of a marble floor in a church count as religious activity?
Under the Lottery rules relating to any project applying for funds, it states that, “the key activities presented in the project should support and empower persons who are in the relative sector”. In what way are people supported or empowered by praying on marble, rather than on tiles or other flooring? Would the needs of the parishioners not have been better met were the Lm15,000 spent helping the many social cases in the area? Anyone receiving funds must also give proof that the project being proposed gives value for money. I don’t know how that could be claimed in this case.
I should like to point out that I’m not anti-religious in any way, but this is not a question of religion, but a highly questionable church embellishment. And surely it adds insult to injury when we consider that the parish in question is one of Valletta’s poorest ones which includes the famous “Mandragg” slum and a high incidence of social cases.
Finally, given that this floor was laid between last February and April why has it taken until now for this kind donation to come forward? I’m often accused of being cynical but could it be that Lawrence Gonzi decided to use the Good Causes Fund as an exercise in vote catching?

James A. Tyrrell,
N. Ireland

Buskett Road: what a shame!

For more than 20 years, people who pass from Rabat to Buskett had to go through farm sewage which flows along the road at the bottom of the hill leaving Rabat. This sewage is disposed by the farm through the fields onto the main road, and then spills over into the beautiful valley of “Wied ta’ l-Isqof”.
Several people walk along this road, many of them tourists on their way to Buskett and Dingli Cliffs, having to pass through sewage puddles and with cars splashing through this manure and foul-smelling dirt. People have been complaining about this terrible situation for years and years, but no one has ever taken action. All the Presidents of Malta have had to pass through this gutter instead of the red carpet to go to Verdala Castle.
The health office (Sanità) in Rabat, and now in Zebbug, was contacted various times but its reply always was that it could not take any action.
Even after the residents and people in general have been suffering this inconvenience for 20 years, it seems that the authorities are still weak and can do nothing to solve this problem.
Is it time to ask for EU assistance?

John Dingli
Tal-Virtu, Rabat

MEPA’s perennial blunder

What cheek MEPA’s PRO must have, to try to exonerate MEPA from the latest blunder it committed in giving the green light to the construction of yet another hypermarket, while previously having correctly refused development permits for construction on other sites in the vicinity.
The facts speak out loud enough for themselves.
In her letter, Sylvana Debono ends by insinuating that one of the reasons for Mepa to go ahead with giving the green light to this development was because “no third party objected”. Is this a new criteria by which MEPA issues permits? What does she expect? Tom, Dick and Harriet to scrutinise all the applications to start telling her and her MEPA bosses where to issue permits and where not to? And for what purpose? If the DPA’s (MEPA’s own Environment Directorate), and the Agriculture Department, and MEPA’s case officer all jointly recommended that it should be refused how on earth will John Citizen ever expect to get it right with mighty MEPA’s final say?
Weren’t these themselves objections enough? Will MEPA ever listen to the layman’s objections? Are the members of the DCC (the politically appointed Development Control Commission), so naïve that they cannot foretell the barrage of criticism any permit issued in ODZ would stir?
The Minister for the Environment, in explaining the reason behind the recent rationalization process of the ODZ, had pronounced that these were definite and binding for many years to come. How embarrassing to disprove him in this manner.
Can Ms Debono explain the inconsistency of refusing permit to Tom. Dick and Harriet for development in the same area while granting it for others? Can she explain how come in the Mellieha petrol station case, when residents were objecting about its proximity to the school and suggested it be constructed on the opposite side of the road, MEPA rightly refused because it was an ODZ area?
Can she explain why even the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage was also kept in the dark about this development?
When MEPA was processing an application for a new government secondary school in fields opposite the supermarket site, the area was identified as “an area with considerable archaeological potential.” MEPA then rightly ordered government to commission an archaeologist to “monitor the excavations” and to “submit a fortnightly report until the completion of all excavations” during the building of the school. Yet, MEPA did not impose the same conditions on the developer of the supermarket across the road. In fact, there is no mention of this factor in any of the conditions attached to the development permit issued to Polidano. Without any archaeological monitoring on site, the contractor has already cleared the fields, destroying all that came in the bulldozers’ way.
Can she explain why, contrary  to normal procedure, no Local Council (in whose outskirts it is being constructed) was informed of this development to get feedback? Can she explain why no retail impact assessment was asked for this “essential” construction of yet another supermarket?
Can she explain why MEPA refused a similar application from the same construction magnate to build yet again another supermarket in another outside development zone, this time in Mosta, concluding that “there is no justifiable reason from a planning point of view why this development is located in this area and not elsewhere” and because it then considered it as an “ unacceptable urban development in the countryside”. Why, shouldn’t this one, in a green belt buffer zone between Kirkop and Safi, have been refused on the same grounds? If this is not another crystal clear case of shameful inconsistency, I don’t know what to start calling it. May I remind Ms Debono that with regard to the Mosta supermarket application, MEPA refrained from even holding any consultation sessions because: “the proposal is not acceptable in principle”. Why this change of heart and two weights two measures with the Kirkop/Safi application?
Deafening silence!
She definitely has no answers. She only has blunt excuses, the size of which can cover this construction for many times.
MEPA has disgraced this country and, in public view, it must surely be lagging far behind all other institutions with regard to public trust and credibility.
I have no qualms about this or any other construction magnate building as  many supermarkets as he likes and turning all built up area into a jungle of ugly sites and complexes; but it is indeed shameful to allow him to build on what has been defined in local plans as area of agricultural value. This I say for the sake of our children and future generations, and not for mere personal interest. In the Zebbug main road he could make use of many vacant mega showrooms which have been lying idle for decades on end.
Ms Debono tries to hide behind the blunt excuse that the site lies approximately 100 metres from the building scheme. What does she expect? We’re talking of tiny Malta, here not the Sahara Desert. Doesn’t she know that barely 100 metres away from this earmarked supermarket one can find other groceries and supermarkets? Did that make any difference to the DCC at MEPA? And then she comes up with the ridiculous excuse that it is an essential service to the communities. How does she know? Has she conducted any study before uttering such a generic, highly subjective statement? Is a 10-minute car drive to the next hypermarket such a long distance for the communities? The same construction magnate is building yet another hypermarket in nearby Luqa.  Come, come, Ms Debono, please come up with more serious talk.
What use is it to try to instil in our kids respect and reverence for the environment through commendable educational and cultural initiatives of Ekoskola , 34U, etc., when they see us grownups making a mockery of the environment?
The DCC should be seriously contemplating saving face, even if at the 11th hour, by redressing the issue and revoking the permit before it is too late. It will have to shoulder the costs and expenses of compensation to the developer and replenishing the area into its original pristine state of fields, forming part of buffer green zone with an undisputable agricultural value.
Would anyone now blame other field owners, whether in this area, or for that matter in any other area, to institute Constitutional proceedings against MEPA on the grounds of being discriminated against, if other permits for further developments would not be meted out equal treatment?
Nothing can excuse such perennial blunder, Ms Debono. We expect a public apology from MEPA’s PRO for this shameful act, rather than a feeble attempt at an excuse of this sort! Erring is already a grave thing in itself, but persisting to err is diabolical.
Turning the green belt into yet another urban sprawl will be yet another dark blot on MEPA’s lost credibility in terms of blunders and inconsistencies.
Saviour Sammut
AD, South Malta

Respect our intelligence

Please respect our intelligence and do not to continue to make a fool of yourself, even if in the dubious company of Dr Alfred Sant. Is it too much to expect that you read the book and that you listen to a broadcast before presuming to rubbish them publicly?
Nowhere in his book or during the Bondiplus interview did my brother Evarist say that “the CIA had elected Alfred Sant in 1996.” He simply quoted factually an incident where an American industrialist claimed that an employee at the American  Embassy in Rome, possibly a CIA agent, had claimed that “they” had assisted  the MLP during the election campaign of 1996. That claim was not at all far-fetched at the time because of well known causes of friction existing between the USA and Malta, also identified in the book.
I am taking the liberty to e-mail you myself because at the moment my brother  is abroad and I do not know if he could be bothered to reply himself to your  rash and unjust criticism.

Dr Francis Saliba
Received by e-mail

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MaltaToday News
30 December 2007

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A shot in the foot

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2007 - Thumbs up or down?

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