MaltaToday | 22 June 2008 | LETTERS

LETTERS | Sunday, 22 June 2008

The merits of the Sette Giugno riots

First of all I would like to show my appreciation for the interesting article on Dr Antonio Cassar Torregiani’s letter (8 June, 2008) which I feel throws a refreshingly new light on the historical backdrop of the Sette Guigno 1919 riots.
However, I found Mr Evarist Saliba’s attempt in “Using and Abusing Sette Giugno” (15 June) to question the status of this day as a national holiday and also the merit of the monument commemorating these events in Palace Square, very surprising and with little historical basis. Let me explain.
History shows that popular riots represent an outpour of strong sentiment in favour or against some authority and the riots of 1919 were a popular angry response of an increasingly destitute populace in the face of rising prices which, from Dr Cassar Torregiani’s letter, one can surmise received a totally insensitive response from the British authorities ruling over Malta at that time. These popular riots also coincided with the strenuous efforts of the political class to achieve more rights of representation for the Maltese (or rather, in those times, for property-owning males!) and also by university students defending their own rights. The fact that the rioters were allegedly not animated by lofty ideals of self-determination does not in any way diminish the importance of this event. Such a viewpoint is in my opinion reminiscent of a very old fashioned traditionalist view that, given that the rioters damaged property, they committed a mortal sin which reduces to ashes any good that came out of such acts!
In this traditionalist viewpoint only the educated and property owning classes could conceive, understand and strive for ideals, whereas the “populace” could only act out of self-interest. All revolutions and riots in any part of the world were rarely if ever solely animated by lofty ideals but normally by bread-and-butter issues, which are intrinsically linked to issues of representative democracy, self-rule and other political ideals. A cursory look at what has been happening in Palestine for the last 50 odd years clearly justifies my argument.
Ironically the justification for elevating this day to a national holiday deserving widespread support with various strata of society is provided by a single fact elicited from Dr Cassar Torregiani’s letter, which shows that his appeals for a subsidy on bread was met with derision by the foreign rulers and the high-positioned lackeys surrounding them in Malta. Since these were unelected officials they had no reason to protect the interest of the population, whereas any Maltese government from 1921 onwards was always subject to popular scrutiny and always upheld the principle of no taxation without representation.
My final point is that notwithstanding the farcical horse trading between our main political parties that resulted in a world record of five national holidays of equal standing, Sette Giugno remains a day worthy of national commemoration since it led to self government that ultimately led to a Republican, independent peace-loving nation which is a member of the European Union. That is a historical truth that is challenged only by a few.
Michael Debono

Gozo public transport behind the times

Your article ‘Gozo bus drivers don’t accept kartanzjan’ (8 June, 2008) takes the usual swipes at Gozitans who in the eyes of many Maltese are nothing but tax-dodging crooks who don’t pay VAT, income tax and horror of horrors, pay €1.15 rather than €4.05 for their ferry ticket.
In one’s view, your article should have taken a more constructive approach and enquire why, in the words of Austin Gatt’s right-hand man, buses in Gozo are not subsidised to allow a discount for elderly citizens, as Maltese buses do. If your writer had been more probing, he would also have discovered that whereas millions of liri have been invested by the state in helping Maltese bus owners acquire new buses (some of which we have learnt are never used), no such subsidy has been granted to Gozitan bus owners who instead purchased second-hand buses.
Rather than picking up on a relatively trivial issue, your writer should have enquired why the public transportation system in Gozo is, and has been for ages, in such a shambles, which defies the efforts of successive administrations. Your writer could have discovered that bus services have over the years decreased rather than expanded. From one particular village, Kercem, there is no public transport at all, with the result that those who do not own a private car have to walk to Victoria. No wonder that the island is clogged with traffic.
In my view, the solution to the public transport conundrum in Gozo is quite simple. The bus-owners argue that most services are not economically feasible because of the low level of traffic. How can a service be judged not feasible if it is not provided? However, in order to overcome this kind of argument, in addition to the regular bus routes which surely need beefing up, two circular shuttle services by a 14-seater or similar should operate round the clock. One service would go to the western villages whereas the other the eastern villages. These services, which have been successfully operated in the Park and Ride scheme, would allow greater accessibility to Victoria thus permitting more economic activity. They would also lessen the traffic pressures on the roads and in and around Victoria besides reducing CO2 emissions and so forth.
My appeal goes to the various local councils, whose constituents stand to benefit most from a better public transport system, to try and organize such a service and to exert more pressure on the Transport Authority, the Transport Ministry and the Gozo Ministry to improve the poor public transport situation in Gozo.
On the other hand, these entities should co-ordinate their efforts better to permit a better deal to Gozo residents. Is it a case that the public transport system in Gozo, as is the case with various other sectors, is falling between too many stools with the result that no one is directly responsible for it? It is high time for the Gozo public transport system to catch up with the 21 century.

Joseph Ellis

Manwel Dimech Bridge – it’s not for pedestrians

Motorists are now pleased that after many months this bridge has been opened to traffic.
What about the pedestrians who had a 10-minute walk from Baltic Street down to St Julian’s centre? They still have to either walk via Swieqi or Ta’ Giorni to reach their destination, or take a bus. Some service to the citizen...

Vincent Mercieca
San Gwann

Panto pandemonium!

“Mayday! Mayday!” and muffled commands, butts of rifles jabbing down into the turf, bodies flopping themselves behind barriers of sandbags. “Heap up the ammunition! For the Manoel boys!” buffered by more gun rattle, trigger-snap and cartridge clinking.
And so the Civil Revolution for the rights to the “who” and the “where” to perform this year’s Christmas Pantomime goes on.
Possibly not the likeliest candidate as an issue to be discussed upon a national-scale council, yet being an actor and thespian myself, such a topic would stir my interest quite favourably, and thus I feel but naturally inclined to voice a very important speculation I have made upon our current theatrical kamikazes.
This issue, although seemingly long-wrought out by the granted economical “ancient grudge” and the excusable “rivalry” between one theatrical company and another (to pun off Shakespeare), are, in a nutshell, at a court-headed quibble over two aspects mainly; firstly, whether more than one theatrical company should produce a Christmas Pantomime, and secondly, and possibly more relevant, what company should produce it at the Manoel.
The former issue, although still in a tug-of war by some hammerhead renegades is very much already answered. It simply wouldn’t be adhering to democratic values if one were to deprive a prospective company of wanting to produce its own version of this acclaimed annual event. It is definitely true that the MADC have produced the Christmas Pantomime for a highly successful 30 years and running; and to claim to the standard set by this company I may vouch by my witnessing first hand whilst being in last year’s cast. Such a record would naturally incline one to feel rather hesitant about change. Why mess with a good thing, right? Not necessarily. I do adhere to the concept that change is a fundamental factor of art, and I would be unerringly interested and blatantly curious to see what other companies may bring to the scene. All this being decided under legal circumstances, of course. Such a trend has as yet been inaugurated with (in the strictest way of looking at it) having a Maltese Panto in Catholic Institute and an English one in the Manoel. Yet, as both productions cater for different spheres of the population I do not suspect that they have much to wage war over. I am currently a student at Masquerade Theatre School, one of the companies who would like to try their hand at producing the Pantomime this year. Masquerade, of course, is no newcomer to the scene and Anthony Bezzina, its founder, has in fact also directed pantomimes for the MADC back in the hey-day. The nitty-gritty of the argument however rises in the logical reasoning that the Pantomime audience is rather familiar to referring to the Panto as “The Manoel’s Panto” opposed to it being of any specific company. Thus, the rat race to acquire the legal rights for the Manoel has begun.
Being closely affiliated with both companies, I choose to reserve my opinions further than this. My intention through all of this preamble is rather a message to people like myself – middle-people in the cross fire, aspiring actors, as well as, and mostly to those who call themselves loyal members of a certain company or other. Now that there will be a choice of companies with which one may work for, the foremost resource that would possibly be exploited is the conscience of actor. One would be made to feel disloyal to the extent of guilt for choosing to work with a rival company over one you are mostly familiar or affiliated with. Do not noose your art for loyalty.
In a business like the theatre business there is only commitment to a production; loyalty to a company defeats the very reason you choose to be an artist. Do not restrict your art. Choose what is best for you; this is a business, not a family.
Erin Stewart Tanti

Malta should lead the way in shark conservation

Sharks have indeed all but vanished from our waters (‘No more Jaws in the Med’, June 16), but at the same time there are many new yet fleeting opportunities to turn the situation around.
Malta has done more than any other EU member state bordering the Mediterranean and is therefore well positioned to lead the concerted action among fishing nations that is now so urgently needed.
Sharkman’s World Organization, a member of the Shark Alliance, has for the past years been working hard to raise local and global awareness to the plight of the sharks. The Shark Alliance is calling on all EU member states and the EU Commission to take serious positive action towards conservation of shark species, not only in the Med but also in all European waters and wherever EU vessels fish.
Most easily and immediately fixable are the lenient EU and Mediterranean bans on shark “finning” (when fishermen chop the fins off sharks and then dump the animals back into the ocean, often while they are still alive). The EU and international fisheries bodies should follow the lead of Costa Rica and the US and replace the current complicated weight ratio enforcement scheme with a simple requirement that sharks be landed with their fins attached.
The EU could set the stage for this and other improvements (such as sorely needed catch limits) through its new Plan of Action for Sharks, currently under development. EU Fisheries Ministers must engage now to ensure a meaningful plan and immediate follow-up actions in 2009.
All Mediterranean countries should use national legislation to protect threatened shark species. Malta has done this for white and basking sharks, but it is time to expand this list to the species revealed in the Lenfest scientific study as depleted (porbeagles, makos and threshers in particular). It is also high time to expand the number of shark species listed under the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS). Whereas the EU deadline for CMS proposals has passed, all North African Mediterranean countries and Croatia have until July 3 to make such proposals for consideration at the December Conference, and all EU countries can support pending EU proposals in late June.
Mediterranean countries have never had a better reason or opportunity to safeguard the region’s beleaguered sharks. Governments should heed the dire warnings in this latest scientific study and act immediately to conserve remaining sharks in the Med. This action is necessary to prevent the extinction of these awesome predators... and Malta should lead the way.

Alex Buttigieg
Sharkman’s World Organization
San Gwann

What honeymoon?

I am too old to write but I found a friend to write for me. At my age there are a lot of things I cannot do anymore but I can still think clearly. A few months ago I asked my friend who in his opinion should lead my favourite party. His reply was quick and very affirmative. He said that the first four or five years it should be George Abela and eventually Joseph Muscat. He even gave me a copy of an article he wrote for the newspapers but which he never submitted because he did not wish to influence or do any harm to the MLP delegates. There was no need for me to ask him more because I was in complete agreement with him. We also agreed that although Evarist and Marie-Louise were a credit to the MLP it was Michael Falzon who showed the Maltese people that a political party is not there to divide a nation but to unite it and that showed great courage and wisdom.
The following is a quoted sentence as reported in the newspaper form the long-awaited new leader of the MLP: “The honeymoon is over Dr Gonzi (Prime Minister), we are back in business”.
A very large number of people who are becoming more free and conciliatory in politics will need a clarification to the interpretation of that introductory statement. It is a great pity for everybody that a clarification is needed so early from a person who has just started a somewhat tough political life. His three predecessors were replaced mostly due to internal pressures from within the same political party. It seemed that it was the powerful cliques within the party itself that took the decisions and not the leader. The time now appeared over-due that these cliques be removed so that the party and its leader would provide a new conciliatory approach.
Ideally it would have benefited both the MLP and the entire country had Dr George Abela been elected to lead the MLP for the next five years and have Dr Joseph Muscat being prepared to take over eventually. Dr Abela has already proved that he is not afraid of anyone within the party and that he is badly needed to clean it up. He has proven that he is not prepared to say things to please just a few within the party. Dr Muscat said in his first political message only what those (militants?) within the party want to hear. That does not appear to be the ideal initial step to obtain the sympathy or the votes of those (who are free to choose) who are not chained to the party. There are many traditional sympathisers of the MLP who would have preferred to have Dr Abela as the party leader at least for the next five years.
There are also many traditional PN sympathisers who would have liked that. They are those who would not be afraid to vote for the MLP just to have a change and to convey a strong message to the PN. The history of these islands is studded with fine examples of its people. The future looks good because more and more of these people are understanding that the freedom to choose what is better for the entire country supersedes what is better for them individually. Time will give the answer even it seems unlikely for me to be here to read it. It was the MLP who gave the PN the possibility to win three consecutive majorities of votes. I do not wish to be alive if they give them the fourth consecutive majority. The PN are not my favourite party but with a leader like they have and the results they achieved it is not easy to replace them. With Dr Muscat and Dr Abela working really together the MLP will definitely win the next election and I am prepared to bet my whole pension on that.
A positive thinking person does not look at the mistakes and scandals of a few people but at the plans projected for the future and which can be enjoyed by the entire nation irrespective of partisan politics. It is politics which is meant to serve people and not the other way round.
The MLP would be wise to help the present government contribute to improve this country so that when it is their turn to govern they may find themselves with an easier job to perform and they would have every right to say that they contributed to that state of affairs.
What kind of honeymoon are the PN enjoying? Trying to solve the rising prices of oil and of food and trying to keep Air Malta and the Shipyards and ST Microelectronics operating and other serious national problems? A honeymoon may take place when those serious problems are solved and a honeymoon is not meant to be destroyed but to be encouraged and enjoyed.

Giuseppi Borg
St Vincent de Paule Hospital

A wart on the landscape

It has been over a month now since MEPA halted work on the so-called “Dwejra interpretation centre”. The problem as I see it is that the work was stopped because of “possible deviations from the approved plans”, those deviations being the use of concrete instead of steel. Surely the main problem is that this monstrosity is going to look like a wart on the landscape no matter what is used for the actual framework of the building?
Whoever approved the construction of this ugly structure should be suspended immediately pending a full investigation. You can tell from the skeleton of the building that this is going to be a quite modern looking structure. Perched at the top of the hill overlooking the Inland Sea, I ask you: in what way is this going to fit into the Dwejra environment?
I find it very hard to believe that an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was carried out in this case. Having said that, we have to remember that EIAs are bought and paid for by the developer, which is the main reason why this situation has to be changed. This is obviously a classic case of getting around the regulations. Proposals for a restaurant in this location have been turned down three times but by calling it an “interpretation centre” that makes all the difference!
Once again I would direct MEPA to their own Policy BEN 2: which states; Development will not normally be permitted if, in the opinion of the Planning Authority, it is incompatible with the good urban design, natural heritage, and environmental characteristics of existing or planned adjacent uses, and is unlikely to maintain the good visual integrity of the area in which it is located.
It would appear that this structure breaks all of those rules and in so doing should be demolished immediately and the area returned to its former state.

James A. Tyrell
Northern Ireland

No rest for the wicked

The Antichrist does not rest and used your paper of Sunday 15 June for a free advert of his deception.
In an ordinary letter published in your paper a certain Majinka Brocklehurst advertised a book (including a colour picture of the cover) by a certain Malcolm Brocklehurst, who appears to be a close relative of hers. As described by her, this book ‘The Secret History of Christianity’, appears to attempt a serious perpetuation of the lies and malicious insinuations in the fictional book, ‘The Da Vinci Code’.
Apparently, the book’s author is cashing in on the financial success of the blasphemous book his is based on, while obviously the letter writer has tricked you into allowing an unpaid advertisement of a possibly plagiarised book likely to be offensive to the majority of the Maltese. This is not good for your paper’s reputation and certainly not good for your business.

John B. Pace
Victoria, Gozo

Is MEPA taking the p*ss?

Wow... I am now living in Canada and when I read about such things that are going on back home, it makes me sad.
With every election, I hope that things will change for the better and that bribery and favouritism would stop, but it seems it is too much to expect from the Island. May God bless our Island.

Mary A. Smith

Mass development in Attard is making traffic impossible

Enclosed please find attached herewith, for your attention, site plans indicating vacant land reserved for Diplomatic Quarters.
This land has been retained by the Archbishop’s Curia of Malta, for a proposed Church, Convent, School and Administrative Offices.
May I suggest to the relevant authorities to have at least St Catherine’s Street widened, to ease the congestion of traffic leading to the Tal-Mirakli Chapel. The mass development that has been built over here recently, makes it impossible to drive through to Lija as the road is too narrow to allow other thoroughfare to pass without hassle.

Emmanuel Grech

Top-notch seminars going to waste

The foreign speakers being brought to Malta by the Department of Industrial and Employment Relations, for a series of seminars spanning several months, bring a fresh perspective to issues of industrial and employment relations.
My only regret is that I cannot attend many of them as they are held during working hours. I believe such seminars, co-financed by the European Union Transition Facility Programme – 2005, would be of interest to many workers who like the undersigned cannot spare working days from their off days to attend.
Therefore I would like to suggest that such seminars are video or at least audio recorded and broadcast during periods which the national or even a commercial broadcaster deems inappropriate for the more popular programmes, and thus would capture this niche market of people who would not normally tune in on this frequency.

J. Bonett Balzan

Siggiewi and its law-abiding residents

I read with interest your article on the wardens at Siggiewi and I ended up confused whether to laugh or cry on the comments made by our mayor. I invite you to send one of your journalists in Triq Salvu Curso in the area known as ‘tal-Kercippu’ to verify the following:
1) Lorries being driven on a continuous basis since the early hours of the morning, even though most of the streets in the area have a no entry sign for heavy vehicles. (2) Illegal parking (double or triple parking) especially around 5pm, by customers of ‘Master Prices’ discount store, as well as in front of private garages.
For the past year I have sent emails to Perit Musumeci to have our street painted with parking bays, but the answer I got from the council so far is that these cannot be done “for some reason”.
As regards Green wardens, I am surprised how they never noticed the pile of cardboard boxes and plastic on a daily basis, come rain or shine, in the front garden of the same store. The thing is that with every gust of wind all this rubbish ends in our driveways.
By the way, I only just learnt now through your paper that we had Green wardens!

Simon Scicluna

Prime Minister acting as interested party in Manchè inquiry

The Manchè Inquiry is not an independent inquiry. It was called by the Home Affairs Minister who also appointed its Chairman, while the truly independent judicial inquiry, instituted by the Attorney General to inquire into the same matter, was already in existence and had not finished its work. The Prime Minister, who is ultimately responsible for the Police Force, is acting as an interested party, “pro domo suo”.

Joseph A. Muscat
Via email

Xarabank never gave MLP a fair hearing

What a laugh! Peppi Azzopardi was surprised that the five prospective candidates for the leadership of the Malta Labour Party would not be appearing on Xarabank. Why the surprise? Is it because the MLP Electoral Commission refused their participation? Or because it would not be coerced into giving its approval?
Someone once said you can fool some people of the time, and you can fool some people all of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time. Mr Azzopardi should look to himself and realise he never gave the MLP a fair hearing. His attitude during his programmes speaks volumes – pussyfooting around the Nationalists and badgering the Labourites. The programme before the election where Dr Gonzi was interviewed was an exact opposite of the one where Dr Sant was on. A leopard never changes its spots!

Pauline Saliba

Valletta terminus: still an eyesore

Every day people use the bus service and although the public was promised a renovation of the bus terminus some years ago, today it is still an eyesore. To walk on the waiting footpath you risk an accident as all the space is taken by the merchandise of the Kiosks taking the risk of getting run over by one of the buses. Even so, the footpaths are full of holes waiting to break somebody’s foot, or dirty oil to slip on; come summer or winter there is no shelter for the persons waiting... It is a shame to see that nobody seems to care, and here we are, fully joined with the EU, talking and talking and talking, with no constructive result to this everyday requirement that the public can enjoy.

Michael Neville Cassar

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