Claudine Cassar | Sunday, 09 August 2009
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Excuse me, where’s the loo?

This week has seen a number of protests by migrants who reside at the Ħal Far open centre. The residents were complaining about the lack of sanitary facilities – the centre houses over 400 people, but is equipped with only 11 toilets and showers.
This roughly equates to one toilet and one shower for each 37 residents.
Now I am aware that these people have come to Malta uninvited. I am also cognisant of the fact that their upkeep costs us money. However we have to be reasonable here – these are human beings with normal biological functions. How would you feel if you needed to pee and found a queue of 36 people in front of you? What would you do, go squat behind a bush?
In addition it appears that the mobile toilets are only emptied once a week. Portable toilets are not connected to the sewage system – they have small holding tanks, similar in concept to cesspits. If 36 people use the toilet, it will not take very long for the holding tank to fill up. So what happens then?
I assume that after a few days the holding tanks overflow – which must be disgusting, particularly in this hot weather. The result is not only an unpleasant living environment, but also an unhealthy one.
It never ceases to amaze me how some people perceive these things. We are lucky – we won the conception lottery, and were born in a stable country where we have rights. We were not born in Somalia or the Congo, where life has practically no value. Many of the residents of the Open Centre, however, were not as lucky as us. Is it possible that we are so petty as to begrudge them a few more toilets?
Judging by comments posted in various blogs, people are under the impression that providing additional toilets will break the bank. I ran a search online to find out exactly how much such facilities cost – prices range from €500 up. Surely we are not in such dire straits that investing €5000 for another 10 toilets or so will lead us to bankruptcy!

The big booms
Summer is festa season– which brings with it colourful fireworks that light up the sky at night. Unfortunately, however, the pyrotechnic displays are also accompanied by their noisy cousins, the petards!
Every summer people all over the island are subjected to a barrage of booms. For years Pamela Hansen and other people who hated the noise have petitioned the authorities to do something about the situation, however so far there has been no action.
In keeping with the times, the undertaking has now gone virtual, with a group of noise-haters joining forces to form a Facebook group called “Ban Noise Making Murtali from Malta”. The founder, James Catania, started it off just 10 days ago, and at the last count, the group had almost 2000 members, all engaged in a lively debate about what they hate most about petards. At the end of it, it boils down to the same thing – the noise!
Members of the group have invested in a decibel meter and have taken readings of the noise levels generated by petards. The readings were taken from the roofs of residential homes, and the findings are quite an eye (or ear!) opener. For example, readings taken during the Paola feast showed that the petard noise levels started off at 136.7db rising to 152.6db. To get this in perspective one must consider that pain in the ear starts at 125db, and that exposure to 140db for even short periods of time can cause permanent hearing damage.
For the great majority of us the big booms are just a nuisance, however for children and animals, it is a different story. Babies and toddlers are terrified by the noise, which keeps them awake till around midnight. Pets also do not understand what is happening, as is described by a member of the Facebook group – “My pet dog ends up wetting the floor and it’s not the first time he also lets solids on the floor – being terrorized by the noise of petards”.
In an article published in MaltaToday two years ago, Pamela Hansen quoted a letter from W. Agius-Gilibert from Sliema. The letter was sent to The Times in September 1959: “This mortali business is really getting out of hand. Practically every weekend public peace is severely disturbed by the continuous blasts occasioned by the firing of these firecrackers. The ear-splitting and nerve-shattering bangs are flouting every citizens’ right to peace in his own home”.
50 years later, people are still complaining and nothing has been done. It is about time that we see some action. Otherwise, let’s face it, our children and grandchildren will be sending letters to the editor about exactly the same topic in 2059!

No silver linings
The story of Anthony Taliana and Cliff Micallef is a sad one from start to end.
Everyone is a victim in this story, and there are no silver linings.
One thing that I can say for sure is that from what we have heard of Clifford Micallef, it is clear that he would not want his legacy to be tainted with vitriol and hatred.
Two families are suffering here – the Micallef family, and also the Taliana family. As a wife and mother, my heart goes out to both of them. I feel for the woman who lost her husband, and must now raise her sons by herself. However I also feel for the mother who is living through a nightmare – watching her son’s future going up in smoke, and knowing that from this point onwards, his life will never be the same.
Our energies should be directed at trying to extract something positive from this affair. This applies both to those who are angry at Anthony Taliana, and those who have taken up the keyboard in his “defence”. Clifford Micallef has passed on, and we owe it to his memory not to turn his death into a circus.
There can be no winners, only losers, in this story.


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Excuse me, where’s the loo?

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