As the heat continues to bake the Maltese islands, it looks like the saga concerning the relocation of the Valletta hawkers is not going to end with a simple transfer down Merchants Street.
Yesterday was another hot day for the Monti saga, as the GRTU issued a harsh press statement heavily criticising the government for allowing hawkers to park their cars in St George’s Square, right in front of Parliament, free of charge.
The GRTU deplored the ramshackle collection of trucks, vans and tents that made their way to one of the most prominent squares in the capital, going so far as to state that it would withdraw its support for the Controlled Vehicle Access system forthwith if nothing was done to remove the eyesore.
In a clear swipe at Minister Austin Gatt, the chamber for small and medium enterprises insisted that the commercial community of Valletta pays high licence fees and is not allowed the privilege of free parking in the capital. It said that this community invested millions of liri into their businesses and between them employs as much as two Smart Cities (presumably more than 10,000 employees).
Back came an immediate retort from the Ministry for IT and Investment who said that it could not understand why the GRTU was making such a fuss about parking in St George’s Square, when the hawkers’ vans used to be parked right in front of St John’s Co-cathedral for years.
It also categorically denied the hiding of this decision to move the vans to St George’s Square, adding that the GRTU had probably approved this arrangement.
However, the ministry sent out conciliatory overtones to the chamber, thanking it for its support for the CVA initiative, and advising that it would be amiss to throw away everything due to an oversight on its part.
In the meantime, the hawkers moved to the lower part of Merchant’s Street under protest after their temporary location in Freedom Square was barricaded and put under guard by policemen.
The ministry revealed that the Union Haddiema Maghqudin had requested a meeting to sort out the differences pending the logistical difficulties of the site. The ministry said that it accepted to hold a meeting with the hawkers adding that it was open to discussions on the subject to improve the hawker’s activity in Valletta.