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LETTERS | Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Threats won’t shut me up

I thought Malta was a democratic country, where one can voice one’s opinion without fear of intimidation, let alone threats. And, to boot, these threats came from what seemed to be plain-clothes policemen.
The two males branded their police badges and threatened me with the words ‘Ghalaq halqek, tghid xejn ghax ghajnejna fuqek u waqqaf dak il-programm’ (Shut your mouth, don’t say anything because we are watching you and stop that programme) after blocking my driving path with their white car, which was made to side-stop in my way.
One of them was wearing a black (or dark) head cap, and the other was bald-ish. Both were in their thirties or forties. This happened at about nine in the morning as I was returning to my Selmun residence after having bought the Sunday papers. I do not normally fetch any papers as I read them on the internet. But since I was informed that I was on the front page of a Maltese daily and on the back page of another, I was curious to read what was being published about me.
The repeat of Realtà on Smash TV was scheduled to go on air on that day at 6pm, and we were harassed all week by Nationalist Party officials and even by Ministers and their private secretaries. They ‘ordered’ us to suspend the repetition of the programme. Moreover, the Parliamentary Secretary of Finance arrogantly addressed Brian Hansford only minutes after we finished recording the programme last Monday at about 4.30pm – that is four hours before it went on air – with words of suing the ‘gheruq u xniexel’ out of all of us. Coincidentally, David Agius, who was on the programme, is a Nationalist MP, and owns a cell-phone!
The Environment Minister’s secretary, Ray Bezzina, even had the effrontery to phone me on Friday afternoon, to ask for my address ‘as the Minister intends to file a libel suit against you’. Of course they know my address, but his phone call was intimidating and, as usual, condescending. I did answer him that if he wanted to find out where I lived, all he had to do is to drive around Malta and spot my black Smart... any thoughts?
Pippo Psaila, a prospective Nationalist candidate, called me a ‘Labourite’ during the course of a late morning coffee at the Ferries, last Saturday, just because I asked him why he had accepted to become the PN’s lap-dog. Other top brass from the party called me to try to entice me to accept their corrupt ways – what a gang of barefaced cowards! Yes it is possible in Malta to be a coward and barefaced at the same time. Just visit Fort Cambridge to see for yourselves the blatant lies of our tail-wagging watch dog called MEPA. I said that the developer is building without a permit and they say I am a liar. What are these people made of?
Does not all of this remind you of the old and nasty Labour days? We were not EU citizens then. God forbid having to be governed by these tyrants without EU protection! Who would have thought that the Nationalist Party would have transformed itself into a monster? Who would have predicted that this power-hungry and corrupt clique, speedily turning itself into a nouveaux-riche coterie, would have sprouted from our crusade for saving democracy in Malta? Shame on all of them. And let us not believe them when they say that the new candidates are joining them to purge the filth from the inside. With the same reasoning, I would join the masons in a bid to clean the lodges from their dark ways! Or to join the hierarchy of Opus Dei to dismantle their craving for power.
I am not scared of anyone mortal. I only fear, trust in, and believe in God. No mason or Opus Dei bigot is going to weaken my determination to see that these dear and resilient islands of ours return to the democratic ways which we, the citizens, have been struggling for.
Threats by cowards who think they own us all only give me and many others the determination, the will, the courage to crush the serpent of evil. Make no mistake about it Mr Prime Minister.
Mind you, they reward ‘omerta’ from public funds – of course not from their own personal pockets. The accommodating tone in their voice is the apex of the way they like silencing the citizens’ cry for fairness, even among friends who think theirs’ is a sleazy and corrupt crusade.
I shall be back to torment them and their gangs, but only when I choose to. This time round be ready to shake, rattle and roll down the slide to oblivion. Any more plans to restrain my freedom of expression? Come on Lawrence, repent if you remember how. And by repent, I mean act now and remove the rot from your circles. I advise you to heed the citizens’ ‘order’ to remove two or three bad boys from entering Castille with immediate effect and even bar them from contesting the general elections. Anything short of this will mean that yours would be the name of the worst defeated leader, ever.

Jo Said
Selmun

 


A culture of greed and corruption

We are today so ensnared in the process of selling and buying things in the marketplace, that we cannot imagine human life being otherwise.
Because, consumption and consumerism dominate social discourse and political agendas of all parties, consumerism hogs the limelight at centre stage as the prime objective.
The stability of life is an illusion. No matter how rich you are, you can always imagine being infinitely richer. The greater your imagination exceeds your station, the more corrupt you are likely to get. While it is true that we can all admire power and money, we must also ensure to remain prone to admire ideals.
In spite of the insistence of the General Retailers and Traders Union (GRTU) that a part of the expenses for imported products is being absorbed by them (importers) and the price increases are thus being eased, it cannot be denied that various abuses in price increases are continually being reported. Furthermore, the strong objection by the GRTU on the implementation of the ‘name and shame’ policy sounds a very discordant note in the honest relationship that they expect us to hold in their regard. Consumers are cutting their spending and retailers are starting to get hurt. It could be that they had tried to absorb these costs but at this point they had to pass them on. Personally, I don’t mind anyone ‘making a fair’ living. I strongly object to anyone ‘making a killing’ by exploiting everyone who isn’t them.
Another damaging crime is the ever-growing guild of shameless grifters in all walks and sectors of our society, taking advantage of government incompetence or outright diffidence. When greed masquerades as need through fraudulent pretences and means, we should not let our moral impulses betray us.
The Nationalist government is constantly boasting that the economic pie is getting bigger – how can it be true that most of us are getting smaller pieces? The answer, of course, is that a few people are getting much, much bigger slices! Although wages have stagnated, corporate profits have doubled. The living standards of workers have continued to decline contrary to classical economic theory. This is largely due to political intervention based on corrupt relations between corporate capital and the state. Are today’s corporations the modern-day version of the ‘mafia’? It seems that shame has vanished from our ‘civilization’! How can it be that nobody can be held accountable? It seems that nobody is responsible for anything anymore!
Soon we will be in the throes of an election fever. And it looks that here crime does pay – when it comes to breaking campaign finance laws. The political finance issue is huge and the mountain of money has turned into an ever-growing snowball. Will fines and penalties envisaged by law really serve as deterrents to such abuses or will they do little to hold back political operators? Any punishments, if afforded, will come long after the offending activity transpired and can be considered simply as an inconvenience. In my understanding, the word ‘criminal’ incorporates also anyone who uses ‘political means’ for the acquisition of riches or power. The aggressor has no right to claim anything that he has acquired through aggression.
Has institutional dishonesty become the norm? As producer and director Anthony Wall declared, ‘The behaviour of society as a whole and its institutions in particular, tend to reflect prevailing attitudes within its government’. In today’s life, even market forces are frequently secondary to political factors, namely multiple forms of corruption in securing economic advantage. Political corruption cannot take place without the knowledge of the state administrators. It transfers wealth from national-public use into private or corporate gain. It reduces the legitimacy and trust of the government in the eyes of its people, while it also widens and deepens internal class inequalities and undermines ‘good’ governance.
Finally, it creates a ‘culture’ of corruption that siphons public resources from social services and productive investment to personal wealth.
The war against greed trumps all wars as it lies at the root of it all. During the Xmas celebrations, the archbishop of Canterbury had warned that human greed is threatening the environmental balance of the Earth. For the purported ‘Christian’ nation that we boast to be, the passion of greed reduces religious doctrine to just many dusty rules. Did you hear any whisper of condemnation by the local church hierarchy regarding the prevailing ‘law of the jungle’? Neither did I!
Economic inequality is on the rise. The gap between the rich and the poor continued to grow. This is not only immoral but it also provides an atmosphere ripe for political corruption. Furthermore, this increasing subjugation of everyone, except those at the very top of the income ladder, is dangerous for any democracy.
I sincerely wish everyone to do well by doing good! “It is partly to avoid consciousness of greed that we prefer to associate with those who are at least as greedy as we ourselves. Those who consume much less are a reproach.” – Charles Horton

Joseph M. Cachia
Vittoriosa

 


From Genesis to Creativity

I enjoyed reading the interview with Adrian Buckle. I am a recently retired Head of School. I have worked with Adrian Buckle in my capacity as Head of School. This experience is precisely what motivated me to forward this comment.
My first impression of Adrian startled me. Immediately I could tell he was different. Here was a character bursting with creativity. He was outgoing and very sure of himself. He was assertive and very sincere.
This type of character throws people, floating in a bureaucratic world, completely off balance. My first reaction was no different. However, luckily for my students, I also happen to recognise a good thing when I see it. Adrian and I looked each other in the eye, both from our own perspectives, and a mutual respect sprouted.
Watching him work with the students was a pleasure. He sought to reach out to their souls and bring out the best in them. It was obvious this was no wishy-washy teacher out to earn a penny!
I can safely say that I am a better person for having met and worked with him. I trust that the bureaucrats will find the courage to shed their corsets and reach out to their own souls.
It would be a pity if talent such as this is stifled as has happened so many times in the past.
Thank you Adrian for being who and what you are. The students who worked with you will never forget the impact you had on their lives.

Dorothy Fenech
Birzebbugia

 


Italy’s political crisis

For heaven’s sake, let’s not consider Italian politics. They are really a joke. I have direct experience living in Italy for quite some time.
Prodi’s government has sincerely done nothing to combat tax evasion. Instead, the Minister of Finance Padoa Schioppa has added more taxes on the already tax-burdened percentage that pays regular taxes.
Consider these things for a moment. In Italy you pay taxes, and then taxes on taxes. You pay taxes on your house at rates that sometimes go up and sometimes go down, depending where you live. In my case I got the former treatment! I had to pay €275 this year in house rates. You pay taxes to get your rubbish skips cleaned. This might seem a joke but it is so true to some areas. We have recycling programs, so we separate organic from plastic, aluminium, glass and paper... and, wonder of wonders, in some parts of the country the rubbish truck takes all waste together indiscriminately. And thank God you’re not in Naples... you never know when and if your rubbish ever gets collected though you’re bound to receive in a timely manner the bill for your rubbish collection. And it’s no joke when you’re paying, like I do, €324.00 yearly.
Naturally, water, electricity and gas bills have shot up. ENEL keeps harping on using less energy and changing conventional light bulbs into energy saving lighting systems. The prices of bread range anywhere from two to five euros per kg. Let’s avoid a sore wound called fuel; and I’d rather not comment at all on the health systems. Everything is a shame. And Prodi’s government has brought Il Bel Paese to its knees...
I’m glad Prodi is out. We need stability, even if it is Berlusconi who in five years has definitely done far more good to the country than any other government since 1946. Meditate gente.
 
Josette Camilleri
San Nicolo (CT), Italy

Cassola and Italy’s crisis

What would happen if Italy goes to the polls at around the same time as Malta? Would Arnold Cassola be campaigning to be re-elected to Italy’s parliament, or would he be campaigning to be elected to Malta’s parliament with AD? Or would he try to be elected to both parliaments at the same time? What if he manages to win a seat to both parliaments – which parliament’s sessions would he be attending?

Stephen Galea,
Via email


Imprisonment of children

With reference to Pamela Hansen’s column (23 January, 2008), I appreciate her concern about 13-year-old girl sent to jail. In any case jail is not the place for a child. Keep up your efforts to highlight the ill treatment of children.

Joseph A. Gathia
New Delhi, India


 


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