MaltaToday | 03 August 2008

NEWS | Sunday, 03 August 2008

Minister answers for haughty Heritage Malta chairman

JOSEPH Said, who has business interests in property, banking and the media, not only reserves the right to keep a low profile, but also to be deliberately rude every time the press approaches him with a question.
His appointment last week as Heritage Malta chairman on the other hand, brings about a fresh commitment in “ensuring that the public is well informed,” or at least, so the minister handpicking him for the post says. Alas, this promise was broken Friday, as early as his first day on the job.
“Do you mind? I’m in the middle of a meeting... We have a life besides that of answering your questions,” he snapped before any question could be asked.
Has Said declared his interests in land and property before accepting the post at Heritage Malta? A simple yes or no could have done.
“I don't need a yes or no question when in the middle of a meeting,” he rejoined, signalling how he intends to bring with him a heritage of unfriendly press relations.
Later, in a second phone call, he said: “I don’t have to answer any of your questions. I don’t know who you are, and I don’t have to answer you. I don’t even know if you are who you say you are.”
An email with contact details was therefore sent, along with the same question asked on the phone reproduced. By the time we went to print, the email was left ignored.
Meanwhile, Minister for Education and Culture Dolores Cristina said: “Heritage Malta will follow Government’s policy on public communications and commitment to maximise public information, ensuring that the public will be well informed on all that is being undertaken at and by Heritage Malta.”
Perhaps meaning that if Said should intimidate the press, she will have to answer the questions in his stead. And so she did.
“Chairpersons of Government organisations so far have never been asked to make formal declarations of their business interests,” she said. “Although he was not requested to do so, Mr Said chose to submit a declaration of his business interests in land and property. This declaration contradicts your description of the new Chairman as a ‘property speculator’.”
Although a spokesperson for Cristina was contacted for clarifications, he could not tell what interests Said declared and how. The spokesperson was also asked how, once he made declarations of involvement in land and property business, that does not make him a speculator, but he could not answer this question either.
But there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to Joseph Said – who is one of the directors of Standard Publications, publishers of The Malta Independent – as Cristina poured words of praise on him to justify her choice for the new chairman.
“Joseph Said brings to the Heritage Malta chair a high calibre of competence in management and business organisation combined with an inherent love for heritage,” she said.
Said also follows in the footsteps of his business associate Albert Mizzi in declining to pocket more money. “The Heritage Malta Chairman’s package includes an honorarium of 18,400 Euros, a fully expensed car and driver, a personal assistant and telephony expenses. On accepting the post earlier this week Mr Said made it very clear that he did not wish to receive any payment for his services, nor use the car and driver facilities. He had decided to put all monies payable to him in a fund, which fund will be used to allow Heritage Malta to make small acquisitions and other initiatives towards the advancement of Malta’s and Gozo’s cultural heritage.”

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