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LETTEERS | Sunday, 24 February 2008

MaltaToday survey

The report on the opinion poll carried out last Sunday (10 February) showed that 32% of respondents would opt for the MLP while 30% for the PN. However at the end of the report you gave additional critical information on the party allegiance of the respondents in your sample, namely that 43.3% of respondents voted for the PN in 2003 against the 28.7% who voted for the MLP.
This means that your sample roughly was represented by 60% of respondents from the PN camp while only 40% from the MLP camp. Thus the survey was unintentionally biased in favour of the PN camp, notwithstanding the final result. Everybody knows that the political class in 2003 consisted of 51.8% PN voters against the 47.5% for the MLP.
If appropriate weights are applied to the raw results of the survey and these are adjusted to reflect the actual political divide, the results would read 38% for the MLP (a weight of 47.5/40 applied to the 32% of the MLP) and 26% for the PN (a weight of 51.8/60 applied to the 30% for the PN). In the case of points scored by the leaders the results would now read 39% for Dr Sant and 31% for Dr Gonzi.
This adjustment would further explain other results included in the survey, but which do not reconcile with the overall picture given by your report. More specifically, how can one explain that while there is only a 2% pointsdifference between the parties, only 60.6% of 2003 PN voters stated that they would vote again for the PN and that 10% of 2003 PN voters would opt for other parties?
This trend has been seen all along the Malta Today surveys carried out to date. In fact many argue that the political situation has not changed at all since the election for members of the European Parliament, when the PN scored one of its worst results in history. It is true that the margin of error is large at +/- 5.7%; but the gap is too large for comfort in the PN camp. Many doubt whether the PN can bridge this gap by election time.
Further surveys may throw more light as time rolls one, but finally only the elections can confirm or otherwise the outcome from such surveys. The credibility and future of your paper may depend heavily on this matter.

Carmel Tonna
Gzira

I’m currently finishing my MSc in Economics in Copenhagen, where I specialised in Finance. As you might know we use a lot of statistics in our area. Having read your survey last Sunday, I am utterly disgusted by how this survey was carried out and the article written.
This survey is a big offence to me as a student who dedicated so many hours studying for complicated exams, some of which where 48-hours exams, but I think it’s even more offensive for all the Maltese who don’t even realise these flaws and therefore are completely misguided on the current political opinion.
This article doesn’t even come close to amateur journalism let alone any scientific ways of carrying out such studies. I am mostly surprised at the fact that besides no where in the article it is stated that the survey is inconclusive, (in my opinion this should have been in the title of the article, since this is the only scientific finding you really obtained and there is nothing wrong with stating that) there isn’t even a summary of what the findings mean.
I do not know if MaltaToday has any political inclination to any party, but this article, which was the biggest story of your Sunday paper, was not neutral at all.
As they say criticising and stopping there is useless. So here are a couple of suggestions from someone who knows something from the statistics field.
First of all try to get professionals with proper education to carry your surveys, if this will prove to be expensive at least go to the Statistics or Economics department at the University and get some students to do these surveys for you, believe me even though they are undergrad. students, they will do a much better job than this mess of an article. If you are not willing to do any of this then stop doing these phone calls that you make (believe me they are nothing more than phone calls) to have catchy front pages and hoping to bank some extra euros.
I am sorry to use this kind of tone but I am very disappointed, most especially since Malta is overwhelmed by media being politicised and I expect publications like yours and the few others to remain neutral and be professional.

Alex Vella
Via email

These surveys are a big waste of time. The best one is the actual vote. See you then, babes.

Emanwel Galdes
Via email

Daphne is not a groupie. Promises to sue

It is not my custom to respond to criticism, but I do like to set facts straight. When your columnist Pamela Hansen wrote about me last Sunday “at the EU accession celebrations she even formed part of the EFA entourage ascending the steps at Castille”, she was wrong. By EFA, I assume she means the former prime minister, though it has become common practice even among writers of good breeding to refer to statesmen and lesser beings by their initials. I was not a guest at the EU accession celebrations, still less part of the Prime Minister’s entourage as he ascended the steps of the Auberge de Castille. I was enjoying, that evening, a very pleasant supper at the Floriana home of a friend of my husband, where we had a quite spectacular grandstand view of the proceedings.
I have had occasion to remark to Mrs Hansen before now that if she ever wishes to verify one of the many rumours about me, all she has to do is ring me or email. She has preferred several times not to accept this invitation and to repeat the figments or her or other people’s imagination instead. This is unfortunate.
Her reference to me as a “PN groupie” is not only childish and irresponsible, but it is actually seriously offensive and libellous. Groupies are women who follow rock-groups about for the express purpose of having sex with them. Because I subscribe to your newspaper’s position on Malta’s libel laws, I will not sue this time, but if Mrs Hansen or another one of your journalists makes a similar suggestion, I will do so immediately.
As a correspondent to MaltaToday pointed out last week, “writers expressing their opinion in your newspaper attack both major political parties, thinking that being above party politics is something intellectual… It gives them a sense of independence/impartiality.” He is right, and those of your contributors who do this are wrong. It is impossible to be an intelligent person living in Malta and not have a preference for one major party over another, or for one choice of prime minister over another. As just such an intelligent person, I have made my observations and on this basis, my choice. Because that is what the newspaper I work for pays me to do, I write about my choices and observations. The insidious suggestion made by some of your contributors that I do so because I am paid or otherwise persuaded by the Nationalist Party is also untrue, offensive and libellous, and smacks of socialist totalitarianism (if you don’t agree with me, then somebody must have bribed you). For a start, it assumes that I have no brain or personality and must be paid to reach conclusions because I am incapable of reaching them of my own volition. This contrasts with the reality that my distinguishing quality is a very strong, opinionated and extremely decisive personality – indeed, too strong, opinionated and decisive for some.
Sitting at the back and throwing bottles at the stage, as one British commentator once described the role of columnist, is not my way of doing things. Pamela Hansen and others among your writers might be unsure of their electoral choice or even afraid of publicising it, but I have never been one to sit on the fence or not have the courage of my convictions. My preference for the Nationalist Party is a choice made on the basis of my observation that it offers the best in terms of government, and certainly the best in terms of prime minister. I would be inane and childish to write and speak as though both parties and both leaders are somehow equal when to any thinking person they are obviously not.
Sadly, Mrs Hansen is one of those columnists who fell into the trap of launching their careers by attacking me personally or professionally. Several others have done the same, and the worst ones of all, I am afraid to say, are the women, which makes me ashamed for my own gender. They behave as though there is not enough attention to go round, and they have to attempt to hack me to bits so as to get some for themselves. Perhaps they should remember that none of us are selling anything, and that therefore we are not in competition with one another. Some of these columnists have ceased to attack me, but others like Mrs Hansen have carried on embarrassing themselves by doing so, forgetting that I am a columnist paid by a newspaper and not a politician paid out of public funds.
Your former columnist Claire Bonello has referred to me in the past in MaltaToday as a “Nationalist pom-pom girl” (the Labour Party’s pom-pom girls notoriously participated in video porn) and now here we have Mrs Hansen calling me a “PN groupie”. I cannot for the life of me understand why these women insist on scurrilous innuendo in my regard, putting cracks in the assumption that misogyny and the suspicious fear of high-profile women is the preserve of men. Their remarks are not deeply offensive only to me, but also to my husband of 23 years and to my adult sons. Mrs Hansen titled her piece ‘And now for a bit of fun’. I am dismayed to see that this is how she obtains her amusement.
 
Daphne Caruana Galizia
Ta’ Xbiex

Disgusting behaviour

It was disgusting to watch the way the university students behaved towards Dr Alfred Sant during the debate held on Monday, 18 February.
Is this the enlightened elite who receives its stipends from the taxes that all Maltese pay, be they Labour, Nationalist or any other denomination? They should have been courteous and polite enough to listen, with equal interest, to all the speakers.
And what about that uncouth youth who kept mouthing rude words in front of the camera? His mother must have been so proud! If he’s an example of the last 20 years of education, the country really does need a change.

Pauline Saliba
Naxxar

Doorsteps and guilt

More and more people are writing to newspapers calling for something to be done about the number of stray cats and dogs on our streets.
Some letters blame the government for under-funding animal welfare organisations; some blame the animal welfare organisations themselves for not responding quickly enough when they are needed. Others point out that some people “only remember such organisations when they want animals removed from their doorsteps… because they are a nuisance to them or they feel guilty” (‘In defence of animal organisations’, The Sunday Times, February 3).
I welcome this debate even when people have a dig at the animal welfare organisation that I represent. But is the need for animal welfare really entering the public consciousness, or are people merely reacting to their own inconvenience or sense of guilt?
Malta’s shamefully large animal stray population has been something of a taboo subject for years. Yet despite the evidence in front of our eyes, we blithely claim to be animal lovers. Of course some are, but there are also many misguided people who fancy the idea of keeping pets but do not understand the commitment necessary to do so properly, and are all too ready dump the animals and their litters when it suits them. Not knowing where to take them and not wanting to put them down, these self proclaimed animal lovers happily dispose of their unwanted and sick animals in streets and fields. I say “happily” because many of these people absolve themselves of any guilt by cheerfully claiming they are placing these animals in God’s loving hands.
Of course, many die of starvation and ill health but some survive as scavengers and reproduce prolifically. In the absence of laws to prevent this practice, strays have multiplied in the wild for generations and the problem has now turned full circle: with nowhere left to go, homeless animals are turning up on our doorsteps and people want the government and animal welfare organisations to do something about it.
Which brings me back to my original question: are peoples’ complaints motivated by genuine compassion or just by self interest?
Criticising the government is all very well but let’s be clear, governments did not create the problem: it was created by the man and woman on the street. Blaming governments and animal welfare organisations for not doing enough about strays smacks of the same mentality that created the problem in the first place.
This “out of sight, out of mind” mentality, which perversely also advocates a blanket “no-kill” policy towards strays, is of course a cop-out. And the idea that we can simply build sanctuaries to house all our discarded animals is preposterous. One might get away with this attitude in a large country where there are established procedures and infrastructure to deal with such problems but on this tiny island there simply isn’t enough room. One only has to look at Maghtab. Out of sight, out of mind was never going to work there and it is surprising that anyone ever thought that it would. And it’s the same with strays: it was always inevitable that they would end up back on peoples’ doorsteps.
It is time to stop covering up the symptoms and treat the disease. The stray population is turning into a flood and it has to be tackled like a flood, attending to the root cause and the effects simultaneously.
The first thing we need to do is stabilize the stray population. This can be achieved through a national neutering programme. Thereafter strays will slowly die off through natural causes. The five animal welfare organisations (SPCA, Gozo SPCA, Island Sanctuary, Noah’s Ark and Thomasina Cat Sanctuary), which make up the Association of Shelters and Sanctuaries, have agreed to a plan with the government to implement this programme but we need three things to happen first: government money to pay for it; government supervision to oversee it; and new animal welfare laws to enforce it. It is difficult to see how a national neutering programme could possibly work until these three things are in place.
At the same time we need to stop people dumping their unwanted animals and adding to the stray population. This will require a nationwide education and awareness campaign to remedy decades of ignorance and indifference; strict enforcement of new laws to deter further dumping; and the provision of support facilities so that people will have somewhere to take their unwanted pets.
This two-pronged solution is not a quick fix and will require better liaison between the government, the animal welfare groups and the public than has existed in the past. There is however light at the end of the tunnel.
The funding for the neutering programme has already been allocated. A monitoring procedure to oversee it is in place and new animal welfare legislation was on its way to parliament when the General Election was announced. Additional government funds are also being made available to the five animal welfare organisations to modernize their facilities.
I am also quietly confident about the more complex, longer term initiatives designed to increase public awareness and provide better support facilities. The welfare organisations can and do work together and are making slow but steady progress on this front by focusing their efforts on the younger generations – the future custodians of our animals. Children today are more generally aware and more receptive to animal welfare issues and offer the best hope of getting the message home to their less enlightened parents and grandparents.
The three sanctuaries are providing food and shelter for an increasing number of strays which would otherwise be on our streets. These voluntary organisations are an essential part of Malta’s embryonic animal welfare system and there will always be a need for them as the stray population could never be reduced to zero. Sanctuaries however cannot address the underlying causes of the stray population, and that was never their function.
That is where the SPCA comes in. It was set up as a charity by the RSPCA to promote compassion and prevent cruelty to animals through education, advocacy and example. It receives a minimal grant from the government but relies overwhelmingly on voluntary staff and public fundraising. It is committed to long term programmes designed to raise awareness of the appalling consequences of ignorance and indifference; it promotes a positive attitude to rehabilitation and adoption and gradually aims to foster a new, caring generation intolerant of cruelty to animals in all its forms. The SPCA is not a sanctuary and its core objective now is to reduce the stray population by tackling the root causes of homelessness.
As part of this strategy, the SPCA has prepared outline plans for its new re-homing, rehabilitation and adoption centre. This will provide modern accommodation for a greatly increased number of unwanted animals, both strays and private pets. The new centre will include education and training facilities (for both animals and people) as well as modern veterinary and quarantine facilities. The main dual-function of the centre will be to rehabilitate animals for adoption while teaching people about animal welfare in general and adoption in particular. It will, in effect, be a national recycling centre.
I began by saying that I welcome a public debate on these issues and I would like to end by encouraging more people to write in with their views. I have tried to widen the debate by explaining why we have such a large stray population and what needs to be done to rein it in. If the solution seems difficult to implement, that is because it is a measure of the magnitude of the problem we face. But one thing is certain: the longer we leave it, the harder it will get.
I am sure people will continue to criticize our animal welfare organisations: I would only ask them to think seriously about what we are trying to achieve. Those who want the stray problem swept under the carpet – or off their doorsteps – will probably have stopped reading this long ago. Those who want us to tackle the root causes of the stray population – and I know there are very many people who do – could very usefully contribute to the debate. If we are going to deal with this problem seriously we have to confront the out of sight, out of mind mentality that has perpetuated it.

B. Cassar Torregiani
By email

Where are the environmentalists?

In November 2007 I wrote that a leading pro-environment NGO had made a very bad mistake in accepting that its President be appointed to the board of MEPA. I argued that his voice “will be just one amongst about 15, all hand-picked Government appointees” and “MEPA (for MEPA read the Government), on the other hand, will be able to deflect or attempt to deflect any criticism of anti-environment decisions by loudly pointing out that a member of a prominent NGO participated in the discussion and even voted on it.”
I also said that “the doctrine of confidentiality and collective responsibility will mean that the NGO representative will not be able to criticise, in public, any board decision he disagrees with, but will be expected to assume responsibility for it.”
It gives me no pleasure to realise that I have been proved right so quickly. Only a couple of weeks before the election, MEPA has sanctioned no fewer than 13 illegal boathouses built right next to the inland sea at Dwejra – one of Malta and Gozo’s most beautiful spots, and Nature Trust – whose president, Mr Vince Attard, accepted a seat on the board of MEPA – meekly “accepts” this decision. Not only that, but it was reported that Mr Attard actually voted in favour of this rape, despite the fact that his organisation and other environmental NGOs had been fighting for years to have them removed!
The ‘reasons’ given for this incredible decision, if they can be dignified by that term, is that the use of trucks would have caused greater damage. I’m sure it would. But one doesn’t have to be an engineer to realise that these boathouses could have been dismantled by hand, brick by brick and the debris carted out. Sure, it would have been expensive and time-consuming – but isn’t Dwejra worth it?
Another “reason” given was that the removal would have disturbed an endemic plant growing on the “rubble” next to the boathouses. Again, surely, with the assistance of trained horticulturalists, this plant could have been temporarily transplanted and replaced on completion of the work.
I’m afraid that these “reasons” are nothing more than lame excuses – the best that could be found to justify this shocking decision.
The burning question, of course, is what the other environmental NGOs, like the FAA, are going to do about it. They had a brilliant success opposing the ruination of Ramla l-Ħamra- one would have thought this would have filled them with courage to fight this new battle.
Instead all we get is a deafening silence. Are we to understand they are condoning this new assault on the Maltese environment? If so why?
One would not like to think that they have sheathed their claws because the election is close. They garnered strong support because they gave the impression that they are apolitical and all they care about is the environment. If, now, they show that they are ready to abandon their mission because of political leanings, they will lose all respect and credibility.
They will become a joke, like so many other jokes on this blessed island of ours.

Victor Laiviera
Naxxar

A Labour government would be disastrous

With all due respect, survey or no survey, you must have got it all wrong. There is no way people in their right frame of mind will trust Dr Sant and Co. once again.
The choice is very clear. Labour has no vision, is full of the usual false allegations and vote-grabbing wild promises... Labour is short of any serious ideas about “governance” and must look at its past before expressing ‘hollow’ slogans such as “zero tolerance” towards nepotism or corruption.
Labour is a stage-managed party of theatrics and stoops low into personal and fierce criticisms. It will do everything to grab power... please... be more precise in your surveys, which sound like misguided prophecies.
The race is much closer than anyone thinks and it will be the new 17,000+ registered voters that will make the difference in the end.
I cannot see a future with Labour in government and the consequences would be disastrous for everyone, Alternattiva included.

Martin Vella
Kalkara

Misleading survey

Your headline news on survey results are misleading, at least according to your own data. While you focus on the raw results as forefront fodder, you try to explain paradoxes further down in your report. At least, to your credit, in last Sunday’s report you tried to explain or reconcile the wafer thin difference between parties with other data which clearly shows that the PN is in serious trouble, according to your latest opinion polls.
However, I could not understand why your samples repeatedly include an excessive prevalence of PN voters. Such samples tend to produce wafer thin results, one way or another. Maybe your interviewers tend to identify themselves, unintentionally perhaps, with the PN camp when calling respondents.

Carmel Tonna
Gzira

What is happening to Dwejra?

I was horrified to read the notification of a MEPA public meeting in one of the English language newspapers. There were 24 applications/reconsiderations for building construction permits in the area of the Inland Sea and the pjazza at Id-Dwejra!
How is this possible? This area is a declared Heritage Park!
The applications are mostly for the construction of boathouses, additions and extensions to existing boathouses. Applications to change the use of boat houses and a summer residence to commercial outlets, restaurants, diving centres, bars, etc. Extensions to a summer residence, to name but a few.
Quite aside from the devastation to the environment such construction work will result in, as is already apparent, could someone please tell me where all the resulting sewage and drainage is going to go to? The Inland Sea is already very polluted and the gully going down to the Azure Window is very odoriferous at times!
It is quite clear that MEPA is trying to push these applications through before the elections, something I find quite disgusting, and certainly the Maltese and Gozitans do not deserve such treatment! MEPA should rather issue a permit to resurface the road...

Lesley Kreupl
Gharb

Sleeping with the enemy

Saviour Balzan (17 February, 2008) is too sweeping in his statements about the “closeness” of environmental NGOs to political parties, and on their silence in particular circumstances. Even when we have good information, we do not have the means of rapid public reaction. And when public reaction involves disagreements with other NGOs, there are always siren voices whispering caution against “being used”, against promoting division, against breaking ranks.
At the moment we are being invited to be a party to two statements: one concerns the various environment proposals of the political parties and the other involves the Musumeci guidelines for MEPA reform published in another section of the Sunday press.
Pride of place is taken by Dr Gonzi’s promise to see personally to MEPA reform on re-election. This had been preceded by changes in the planning regulations proposed by minister George Pullicino a week before Parliament was dissolved—the timing being coincidental, of course; but it still making the whole exercise futile.
A whole range of people, from philosophers to queens, acclaimed the Prime Minister’s determination to deal with MEPA as he had dealt with the country’s finances—grab the “offender” by the scruff of the neck and quickly lick it into shape. Yet the analogy is flawed. There may be little permanent damage one can do to national finances; but a good part of the severe damage which has been done, and continues to be done to our environment by the vagaries of MEPA, cannot be undone by Dr Gonzi, nor by Dr Sant for that matter. For that reason, the promise of reform has in this case a significant bogus element. If one combines that with the MEPA reform proposals of PN candidate Robert Musmeci – proposals designed mainly for the greater comfort of developers – the clarion call for reform begins to sound like a tin whistle.
There are other coincidences and near-coincidences here. The promise of MEPA reform came a few days after approval of the “villa with swimming pool”, half in and half out of the development zone – in the vicinity of the Xaghra Circle. And it was followed by the wholesale whitewash of the Dwejra shantytown, variously described as ‘boathouses’ or ‘summer residences’, and this on the eve of an election. There was not one bleat from Dr Gonzi or Dr Sant about any of this.
But the greatest coincidence is that the invitations for joint Press Releases are coming from Nature Trust (NT) people. And NT, one might remember, had their president put on the MEPA board in a move –according to minister Pullicino – designed to give environmentalists a voice at the very centre of power. Now as Balzan pointed out, NT voted for sanctioning the Dwejra shanties on the grounds – if one might so describe a very slippery slope – that “they were not on the [NT Dwejra] management plan and that more damage to the Dwejra environment would have been incurred by removing them than will be incurred by leaving them there” – a curious piece of reasoning given that permanent presence will cause continuing damage and removal would allow recovery. We may even hear another apology for this vote under the sign of the green whistle this coming Sunday. So that “voice” will have turned out to be worse than the silence of the lambs.
With apologies to Balzan because of the chance physical resemblance, the trouble with this place comes not from supine or silent NGOs, but from too many descendants of red-haired Esau, ready to sell their birthright and ours for a plate of minestra.

E.A. Mallia
Attard

PN’s credibility at rock bottom

It is now evident that the Nationalist Party will do anything in order to hold on to power at all costs, as if it were theirs by right. Up to now we have witnessed blatant lies, arrogance, censoring and intimidation towards One journalists, provocation and vile personal attacks.
We heard the former president of the Catholic Action, now Prime Minister, say that he expected the Opposition Leader to celebrate the introduction of the Euro with him, when he knew too well that Dr Sant was recovering from a serious illness. All this is happening with the help of the so called independent media and opinion writers, and the deafening silence of the Church.
The latest move in this campaign was the “debate” at the University where an organised mob of students, who I presume expect to be the ones to carry out the Malta 2015 vision, were intolerant and at times vulgar towards three political leaders, especially Dr. Sant. Gonzi, of course, was given a different treatment. If the Prime Minister thinks that he scored any points with this disgusting show, he is wrong, very wrong.
The PN’s credibility has now hit rock bottom. They are ashamed to show their ministers as they are a liability to the party, and Gonzi promised to make changes to an eventual future PN cabinet. He stopped short of mentioning any names but the electorate has a right to know before even considering giving him another mandate. He also promised to take MEPA under his direct responsibility: all things he could have done a long time ago.
The people are sick and tired of this administration and in Dr Alfred Sant they definitely see an honest, sincere and above all incorruptible person that is very hard to find in politics.
That’s why they will vote for change, a new beginning.

D. Azzopardi
Attard

Inconsistent AD

Saviour Sammut of Safi wrote about the situation in Malta as he sees it , and asked me to “militate in my pet party” to get the changes the country needs to have. He may be surprised, but I don’t have a pet party, and I never held any party membership. I was one who followed and supported Alternattiva Demokratika as a pressure group, bought and read their paper and supported the “Insalvaw Fond Ghadir” campaign and agreed with the rent Law reforms which they promoted. But it seemed that after certain articles the paper seized to be published, and Mintoff and Abela went back to the MLP fold.
Now we have Rossignaud resigning, claiming that he does not want to be part of a party which is being used by Labour to beat Gonzi; we had a “maybe” with Ray Bondin and a Cacopardo posing as a whistleblower with his own report on a waste recycling project at the backyard of the Laurence Gonzi’s private residence. Not to mention the strange position that the Italian member of parliament (Arnold Cassola) is in. So much for AD’s consistency.
I also yearn for a country where projects are done on time, and renewable energy would be more in use. But I am sorry, dear Saviour, I cannot agree with you when you wrote that to “achieve this we should vote for the green party: AD”.
Before voting for AD, I can only think of three possibilities: Alfred Sant prime minister and Harry Vassallo minister of the environment; Alfred Sant prime minister and AD and PN in opposition; or Alfred Sant prime minister with Gonzi in the opposition and no seat for AD.
With some stretch of imagination, even if AD gets four seats in parliament we will still have Dr Sant as prime minister. If AD aren’t going to make a coalition with Labour , with whom are they going to make a coalition to govern: AN? Can anybody imagine Harry controlling Alfred, who keeps coming up with his red herrings each time he is faced with a problem? I don’t want to vote for party X to get party Y to power, when I would have preferred party Z more than party Y.
Sorry for the disappointment, Saviour, but these are the real possibilities, and I am not going to take the risk idealists like you are taking.

John Schembri
Zurrieq

Europe is about animals, too

Like many people in Europe, I expected that when Malta joined the EU the abysmal treatment of animals there would improve. At first, with the introduction of the Animal Welfare Act 2002 the situation looked promising.
Time has passed, however, and there has sadly been little change.
Cruelty to animals is rarely punished and strays are poisoned in the streets with seeming impunity. The training of officials in recognising breaches of the Act is highly suspect, as is their will to prosecute offenders. When offenders are successfully prosecuted, the penalties handed down to them are woefully inadequate.
The Animal Welfare Council, so pivotal to the success of the Act, is ineffectual and lacking in commitment. Any proposals it has managed to create have so far been shelved.
I respectfully ask you to carry out an urgent revision of the Animal Welfare Act in consultation with the Partnership for Active Animal Welfare Societies (PAAWS) and ensure that representatives of these groups comprise half of the Animal Welfare Council. Since your judiciary tends to apply the minimum penalties for infractions of the Act, I would also ask you to increase these, with higher minimum fines and mandatory prison sentences for repeat offenders. Many thousands of liri change hands at dog fights and to fine the offenders a few hundred liri is derogatory and no deterrent.
I also urge you to open an aggressive investigation into the disappearance of street cats and the ongoing widespread poisonings. Maltese NGOs are doing considerable neuter and release work using their own limited resources. Please allocate funds to the collective “SOS Animals Malta Animal Welfare Fund” to enable them to continue this vital work, thus controlling the numbers of strays and reducing the risk of their unauthorised and
sadistic killing.
Meanwhile your Government refuses to ban the spring shooting of migratory birds in blatant breach of the EU Bird Directive. The EU is a democratic institution, membership of which carries a responsibility to abide by its rules. No member country can pick and choose which ones it will follow.
If the rules are inappropriate for Malta, perhaps its membership is as well. Please send a clear message that Malta will not tolerate cruelty to animals.
Until such time as you do, I will regretfully be taking my holidays in countries that do more than pay lip service to animal welfare.

Anneleen Wittenberg
Belgium

Upholding Christian values

AN’s recent billboard at Balzan demanding the closure of Dar il-Kenn adjacent to the Good Shepherd’s Home in Balzan – used for housing immigrants including mothers and children – is despicable, cruel and above all unchristian.
Azzjoni Nazzjonali repeatedly professes that its values are based on sound Christian principles and yet this billboard depicts the complete opposite. In fact it denigrates the traditional characters of the Maltese people as known all over the world. The Maltese have always been renowned for their kindness, hospitality and generosity irrespective of colour, race and beliefs.
Dar il-Kenn has been providing a sterling service and is manned by full-time workers and many volunteers. I for one have been providing, together with another medical officer, free medical services and I am extremely proud of this.
AN’s billboard is an insult and an injustice for all the hard and dedicated work provided by Maltese to offer a free service to those less fortunate than us. I strongly deplore such callous attitude and I sincerely hope that all Christians, whatever their denomination, raise their voices and object to this unaltruistic behaviour now before it is too late.

Dr V. S. Zammit
Via email

Di-ve: do the full job

So what about corporate social responsibility on behalf of GO? If you have a journalistic arm you do the full job.
 
Steve Pollacco
Halifax, UK

What happened to recycling used cooking oil?

A few years ago, Wasteserv, under contract with the Government of Malta (GOM), commenced the commendable process of recycling used edible oils to turn these into biodiesel.
To this effect good quality containers were made available against a deposit and a few responsible citizens and foreign residents went faithfully to make their hand-ins whilst collecting their empties, etc.
Regretfully this campaign did not achieve the possible success it deserved for two reasons:
1) Very little to none publicity was given to the system – very few of my Maltese friends had ever heard of the existence of this form of recycling, let alone of any “intake” stations.
2) In the whole Sliema, Gzira, St Julian’s, Swieqi and St Andrew’s area ,the intake locations (petrol stations) were limited to TWO! One at the top of Savoy Hill , which has been closed since December 2007, and Wembley’s garage at St Andrew’s.
On the other hand, general waste is collected everywhere and every day: recycling of paper, glass, metal and plastic is being stimulated with a multitude of containerised intake stations. Has the recycling of used cooking oil, which caused considerable damage to the drainage systems, and the environment, disappeared from the agenda of Minister Pullicino?
Disregarding the exact dates and hours during last month January, my wife went to hand in two oil containers at the petrol station of Savoy Hill, to find it had closed down and has remained so ever since New Year’s day. No notice, no information. She then phoned the Sliema Council to obtain information on an alternative take-in location. They had no relevant information and directed her to WasteServ.
She then phoned WasteServ’s head office, which could not give any relevant information either, so it directed her to WastServ – Gozo!!
Subsequently she phoned WS Gozo who informed her of the Wembley Garage intake. The following day she travelled to St Andrews to discover that Wembley has not received empty containers for some considerable time.
She then contacted WS Gozo again to report this failure. They assured her a few days later that Wembley now certainly has empty containers available.
Again she travelled to St. Andrews to receive the same information as before: No empty containers!
Last Thursday, my wife attended a social function at Villa Arrigo. Since both Robert Arrigo and his wife, the Sliema mayor, were in attendance she approached Mr Arrigo to voice her complaint especially in regard of the lack of relevant information from the Sliema Council. As soon as she returned home she was phoned by the Sliema Council, assuring her that they had contacted WastServ who assured them definitely of the now available container at Wembley’s.
Last Friday my dear wife – who doesn’t give up easily – returned once more to Wembley’s, St Andrew’s where she was laughed at for being so dumb as to return for the third time for these non available containers!
Subsequently I decided to write to the Paper in the hope that the Pullicinos, the Harry Vassallos and all relevant environmentally conscious and responsible people and organizations in this republic take note, and assist to redress this gross neglect for the good of our small, very dense society.
You can’t expect busy housewives, who often don’t have a car available, to travel from coastal Sliema to Mriehel, for example, where we just found out there seems to be another intake station.

Kees de Jong
Sliema

A cry for help

This photo was taken on the moon but on Marsacala Road, Zabbar.
The condition of this Main Road is indescribable. Disastrous is a very mild adjective to use.
Through your newspaper we would really like to ask Prime Minister to invite Queen Elizabeth and/or Pope Benedict to visit Malta as soon as possible and take a ride to the south of Malta, for a change, and pass through Marsascala Road; by doing this maybe we can experience some dramatic changes to our roads.
On their way back we would suggest them to pass from Marsascala bypass to take a tour at the Recycling Plant and at the same time continue the wonderful road experience they started from Zabbar. To encourage them to take this Tour we will offer road assistance near each hole in case of car breakdown.
We also volunteer to pay their flight ticket which would be cheaper (through low cost Airlines) than repairing our cars.
Since we read your newspaper regularly we would be grateful if you could publish this article and pictures may be it could be of an asset to raise our call of “HELP!”
By the way we pay our dues to the government regularly, since we are employed so it is quite reasonable if we have our share.

Carmel Borg
Zabbar

Hurtful comments

I refer to the article ‘PhDoh! University messengers can’t read English’ in last Sunday’s issue of MaltaToday (17.02.2008).
The course mentioned is an indication of the University’s commitment to the continuous learning and development of its employees and the willingness of the Beadles to look for ways to improve their skills in English and Maltese. The article included gratuitous comments which were incorrect and also hurtful.

Patricia Camilleri
Director, Communications & Alumni Relations
University of Malta


 


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MaltaToday News
24 February 2008

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After GO’s silence, Sonny dives into election talk

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