watersbroken

Keep your seat belts on.

Posted in 1 by Editor on February 17, 2009
This article appeared yesterday, February 16, on The Times of Malta. You may access the original at http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20090216/opinion/keep-your-seat-belts-on
On January 19, observing that “the alliances that this government is built on are beginning to come apart”, I suggested that we were “approaching a zone of severe turbulence”. A number of online commentators rejected my statements as “fiction and sophistry” (Joe Micallef), “only wishful thinking and dreams” (Antoine Vella), “an interpretation… devoid of real substance” (J. Cilia), “vivid imagination” (Alfred Camilleri).
On February 12, Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi announced that, in agreement with Archbishop Paul Cremona, the government and Church representatives on the St John’s Co-Cathedral Foundation were directed to abandon plans for the museum extension project. Consequently, later that evening, Opposition Leader Joseph Muscat withdrew the motion calling on the government to withdraw its support for the project.
The Department of Information’s 60-word statement, no. 0212, announcing Dr Gonzi’s decision, generated more doubts than it set out to quell. To start with, it contradicted the Prime Minister’s previous assertion that the foundation was independent and the government could not, therefore, instruct it to drop the project. Also, the statement referred only to the Archbishop’s concern over the project, fuelling speculation that the Prime Minister himself had no such concern.
The author of statement 0212 could not resist the temptation to direct attention to the Prime Minister’s real concern, his inability to command a majority of seats in Parliament always and unconditionally. Rather than avoiding the notion of division altogether, the statement stupidly carried the title Il-Prim Ministru u l-Arċisqof jaqblu li l-proġett tal-Kon-Kattidral m’għandux jifred lill-poplu (The Prime Minister and the Archbishop agree that the co-cathedral project ought not to divide the people).
This was practically an invitation to the Leader of the Opposition to remark – as he in fact did – that on this issue the people were not at all divided. On the contrary, they were united against the project. If there is any division, Joseph Muscat added, it is within the PN’s parliamentary group.
Are we out of the turbulence zone? Allow me to suggest that we are not and that you ought to keep your seat belts on for the duration of the whole flight. The PN’s parliamentary group is as divided as ever. More importantly, however, is the effect of statement 0212. Dissidents sitting on backbenches and elsewhere on the government’s side in the House now know for a fact that, as dissidents, they count for something, otherwise they don’t.
No doubt, the Prime Minister will redouble efforts to contain dissent in the PN parliamentary group. No doubt, he will consider the use of a mixture of carrot and stick measures. The range of options at his disposal, however, is limited. The real problem, he knows, is not in Parliament. The real problem is outside. Dr Gonzi knows that all those that have traditionally voted PN but are now radically dissatisfied with his performance will be encouraged by his defeat last week.
The lesson that PN dissenters have learned last week is that this government can, when necessary, be prevented from doing further harm to the country’s economy, to its natural and historical heritage, to its national health, to its reputation in Europe and in the world.
They have learned that when Pietà is deaf and when their MPs are either indifferent or powerless to make a difference, there are alternative routes to restoring sanity. Should Dr Gonzi succeed in temporarily bullying or massaging dissidents in the House, he will do so at great cost in terms of grassroots support outside Parliament.
This will, in turn, make it difficult for him to maintain his authority as Kap (leader), inside and outside Parliament. Unwittingly, Dr Gonzi is putting Nationalist MPs in a position where they will have to choose between loyalty to him – and to his grey eminences in the wings – and the need to be seen not to be indifferent to the increasingly articulated and loud voices of traditionally- PN voters who are no longer prepared to bear in silence.
The Labour Party’s ongoing radical transformation into a party that is responsive to the transformations that the whole of Maltese society is itself undergoing will not make things easier for Dr Gonzi and those around him that have chosen to pretend that nothing is happening. Dr Muscat’s efforts to open the PL to all those who realise that we need to overcome old prejudices to face the challenges confronting this country are beginning to bear fruit.

Mario Vella

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Thus spake Dr. Pangloss. Learn why this is the best of all possible worlds. Join our book club. It’s free.

Posted in 1 by Editor on February 17, 2009

candide-02

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Candide and Cacambo see two monkeys apparently attacking two women. Candide shoots the monkeys but then wonders if they might have been lovers. Engraving from Voltaire’s Candide.  Drawing by Jean-Michel Moreau le Jeune.  Etching by Emmanuel de Ghendt. 1803. Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris. 

 
“What would Dr. Pangloss have said of Gonzi’s decision to abandon the Co-Cathedral Museum Extension Project?  That it happened for us common mortals to appreciate Dr. Gonzi’s limitless respect for national unity. That this is proof that this is the best of all worlds and whatever happens at any moment in any situation is the best that could have happened in that moment in that situation. Also, that it is one unavoidable event in an unavoidable concatenation of events that will lead to the appointment of the best possible person as Maltese Commissioner of the European Union. And that, therefore, what happened was good as all that happens is good and what is not good does not happen. Thus would Dr. Pangloss have said. And if you say otherwise you are a Labourite and your mother is a peroxide blonde with red skirt, white T-shirt and plastic accessories. And if you deny that this is the best of all possible worlds you are an ahmar or a hadra.”
Liberally adapted from a comment submitted on February 15th at 16:07 by visitor Jeffrey Cutajar. Read the original and other comments at  https://watersbroken.wordpress.com/watersbroken-book-club/
Have you visited our book club? Read with us one or two chapters a week of Voltaire’s evergreen Candide and post your comments as we go along! https://watersbroken.wordpress.com/watersbroken-book-club/

Flog! The horse is not dead.

Posted in 1 by Editor on February 16, 2009

Matteo Perez d'Aleccio, The Siege of Malta (detail), oil on canvas 1372 x 2007 mm, National Maritime Museum, London

Matteo Perez d'Aleccio, The Siege of Malta: Valletta (detail), oil on canvas 1372 x 2007 mm, National Maritime Museum, London

 

 

The St John’s Foundation underground museum project has been withdrawn but the issues involved are NOT over and done with. Gonzi’s government – or any other future Maltese government – must learn from the lessons of this shameful episode.

 

We – meaning all of us Maltese and Gozitans with a brain bigger than a shrivelled pizellu – should also learn the lesson. We can, we must, we will resist any attempt by any arrogant, self-righteous and pompous ass to muck around with our natural and historical heritage for reasons best known to her/himself. And any government – present and future, blue, red, green or whatever – daring to ignore the lessons of last week, will pay heavy political costs.

 

As Joseph Muscat pointed out about this story, “only half the story is known” http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20090215/local/only-half-the-story-known-on-st-johns-museum-muscat/.

 

We are not publishing another post on the issue for the fun of flogging a dead horse…because the horse is NOT dead. Repeat: the horse is NOT dead. For your information, we are publishing below Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar (FAA)’s press release of February 14 as well as various government experts’ views (dating back to 2006). 

 

FAA Press Release

Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar (FAA) welcomes the withdrawal of the St John’s Foundation underground museum, a decision which was indicated years ago by the MEPA heritage experts when they stated “The concept of excavations in the vicinity of the cathedral would not be favourably considered due to the risk these might pose to the structure of one of Malta’s foremost monuments and the art treasures within.”

 

FAA also welcomes the confirmation reported by correspondent Ivan Camilleri in Brussels that the EU funds earmarked for this project will not be lost, but go to another Maltese tourism-related project, as FAA has always maintained.

 

Along with architects and engineers who FAA consulted on this project, geologist Peter Gatt further reports some alarming facts about Valletta’s soft rock (globigerina limestone) :

 

“Tension cracks in rocks (joints) would be expected to be common at the top of Sceberras Hill where St John’s is located. If excavation exposes a sizeable joint oriented in a particular direction, an entire wedge of rock may fail, causing catastrophic damage to the Cathedral [similar to the] excavation of the Sliema car park, and Bugibba, when women died buried under rubble etc

Globigerina Limestone is a soft rock which may deform in a brittle as well as ductile manner. Even if we are spared mass failure, creating a void will alter stresses in the rock and cause slow deformation which will increase damage to the Cathedral structure in the form of tension cracks (kunsenturi) in the Cathedral. This may ruin Mattia Preti’s vault paintings.

The excavation will alter the local hydrology ie. pathways taken by rain water in rock and may result in a localised temporary build up of water along the walls of the completed (damp sealed) underground structure. This increase in humidity will be disastrous for the Cathedral, causing increased salt crystallisation.”
(SEE BELOW FOR FULL REPORT)

 

 In fact, recent excavations carried out beneath the Monte di Pietà resulted in serious and widespread tension cracks (kunsenturi) along the walls. This was also the reason why excavations of the car park next to the Mosta Rotunda were immediately ruled out and not allowed to go to EIA stage. One wonders what pressure was put on MEPA to allow an EIA for an excavation outside St John’s when this was refused for the Rotunda, a more recent and less vulnerable structure which is not listed as a scheduled heritage monument.

Contrary to what was incorrectly reported in the Times, FAA never urged any MPs to vote in favour of the PL’s motion. The parliamentary motion was not mentioned anywhere on FAA’s petition, however this case inevitably poses a number of questions which require answers from the Authorities.

Since MEPA had immediately indicated this application as unacceptable, why was it being processed if Mepa’s scheduling of St. John’s Cathedral as a Grade 1 monument specifically prohibits the proposed structural changes?

Past acceptance of EU project proposals have required ownership of the site, however the ground under St John’s Square and Street does not belong to the Foundation. The Foundation’s application as an NGO is not valid as the Foundation is not a registered NGO. As such, how did the project qualify for funding from the Planning and Priorities Criteria Division within the OPM to the tune of nearly €14,000,000 from Malta’s Structural Funds?

Therefore notwithstanding Mr. Richard Cachia Caruana’s and the Foundation members’ statements on 12.02.2009, FAA reiterates that the Foundation board and Curator should immediately resign for the following reasons:

  • The Foundation members all acted beyond their remit to ‘administer the Church and Museum in order to ensure its effective conservation and management as a historic and architectural monument as well as a sacred place of worship.’ This does not authorise the Foundation to launch expansion projects without prior clearance from Church and State. This cost the taxpayer €15,000 in press advertising for the project in addition to hundreds of thousands of euros more spent on public presentations, architects’ fees and trips to Monza.
  • Systematically concealing this project from the public for over two years, (including only applying for a permit on the eve of the national elections when everyone would be distracted), could be considered a serious breach of ethics in a project concerning a scheduled public monument. Furthermore the Foundation allowed this application to be processed and obtained EU funding for the project in full knowledge that Government was carrying out re-paving costing hundreds of thousands of euros of public funds, which works would have been destroyed by the St John’s project.
  • Systematically misinforming the public about different aspects of the project, including the myth that there would be no excavation under St. John’s and that if the project were cancelled, Malta would lose the EU funding.
  • Gross irresponsibility in pressing on with the project in spite of being aware of many expert reports highlighting the grave risks of the project, including the MEPA Directorate declaration that “The project is a non-starter due to the fact that no mitigation measures can guarantee that the Cathedral’s foundations will not be affected”

Does this reflect the Foundation’s insistence that it “was only acting in the interest of St. John’s”?

FAA expects to the Government to request the resignation of the members of the Foundation as this is a matter of mismanagement of Malta’s prime heritage asset and also of public funds. The public has the right to expect good governance from its public representatives, elected or not.

14 February 2009

 

EXPERTS’ REPORTS:

***

Heritage Advisory Committee Board Minutes for Case Number : PA00168/08

Doc 02

 

Estratt mill-Minuti tal-Laqgha nru.120 tal-KKWK tas-17 ta’ Ottubru 2006

 

1. Hwejjeg Ohra

2.1 Valletta Kon-Kattidral ta’ San Gwann

 

Is-Sur Joe Magro Conti ghamel prezentazzjoni lill-kumitat ta’ progett imhejji mill-Fondazzjoni tal-Konkattidral ta’ San Gwann ghall-holqien ta’ spazju gdid ghall-Muzew ta’ l-istess Kattidral.

 

Il-kumitat ra ukoll u studja dokument intitolat Specifications for a Design Brief for New Museum Complex. Is-Sur Magro Conti wera t-thassib tieghu, u l-kumitat unanimanent qabel mieghu, dwar l-impatti negattivi ta’ dan il-progett, li principalment huma:

(1) ir-riskju car ghal1-istruttura tal-Kattidral ikkawzat mit-tahfir konsiderevoli hafna li huwa propost Ii jsir filqrib;

(2) li dan johloq precedent ghall-domandi simili fl-inhawi immedjati, u (3) ir-riskju Ii jigu disturbati xi reperti storici u arkeologici li jistghujinsabu fl-area li se tigi skavata.

 

Michael Ellul

A/Vici-Chairman

 

TRANSLATION Doc 02:

Extract from the Minutes of Meeting no. 120 of KKWK of 17th October 2006

1. Other Matters

2.1. Valletta, St John’s Co-Cathedral

Mr. Joe Magro Conti presented the Heritage Advisory Committee (HAC) with the St John’s Co-Cathedral Foundation projects to create new space for the museum of the same Cathedral. The Committee also saw and studied a document entitled Specifications for a Design Brief for New Museum Complex. Mr. Magro Conti expressed his concern, and the Committee unanimously agreed with him, about the negative impacts of this project, which are principally:

(1) the clear risk to the structure of the Cathedral posed by the considerable excavation that is proposed to take place nearby;

(2) the precedent being created for similar demands in the immediate vicinity, and

(3) the risk of disturbing some historic or archaeological remains which may be found in the area to be excavated.

 

Michael Ellul

A/Vici -Chairman

***

 

Doc 03

Comments by HAC re document ‘Specifications for the Design Brief for the New Museum Complex’

30.10.06

 

1] HAC understands the need to modernize the current Cathedral Museum and to have enough exhibition space to exhibit all the artifacts in the possession of the cathedral including those in storage.

2] HAC is however very much concerned that this very large underground Museum will create nlogistical problems for Valletta both because of the excavation itself [finds, underground tunnels, services, base of buildings etc] but also because of what will happen during the course of the work i.e. the damage to the image of such a central part of the city.

3] HAC is very concerned with the effect that the excavations may have on the cathedral structure in general and on its paintings and other fabric in particular.

4] Not enough evidence has been given to explain the need for such a large space, nor has any explanation been given as to what use the current museum space will be devoted to.

5] There is a very major concern as to the placing of air conditioning and other services in the area which would be hard to camouflage.

6] Such a proposal should include clear and specific ‘traffic’ flow around the museum. Such a proposal should include a visitors’ management plan for the cathedral.

 

Dr Albert Ganado, Chairman, HAC

 

***

Doc 04

MEMORANDUM

From: Cultural Heritage Advisory Committee

To: Director General, MEPA

Extract from the Minutes of Meeting no.235 of the Cultural Heritage Advisory Committee held on 28 August 2007.

 

The CHAC studied the 6th Draft of the Development Brief for a Visitor’s Centre and new exhibition spaces in St John’s Co Cathedral and discussed the project on the basis of the information contained in this document. The committee noted that the project for the creation of new expedition space for the museum entails two major interventions:

 

1. the excavations in St John Square up to façade of St John’s Co Cathedral

and:

2. The roofing over of the cemetery courtyard on Merchant Street and the elimination of its current use.

 

With regard to Point 1 the Committee, together with IHM, are of the opinion that any excavation in the immediate surroundings of the Cathedral is extremely dangerous to the structural stability of the Cathedral itself, and the proposal is therefore not acceptable, also in view of the fact that it seems that there has been no thorough and scientific study of the condition of the foundations, the existing underground structures and spaces and the nature of the geology of the area.

 

Regarding Point 2, the Committee feels that the sacred nature of the cemetery should be safeguarded and respected and that the proposed uses are not compatible with the important historical and religious nature of the site.

The Committee would also like to point out that the Development Brier does not indicate the location of spaces required for the air-conditioning plant, electrical sub-station and services which are necessarily considerable in a project of this scale.

 

Michael Ellul

A/Vici-Chairman

 

***

PA168/08 – CHAC mtg 349 bid-data 29/07/08

Illum saret prezentazzjoni taz-zewg progetti godda alternattivi rigward l-applikazzjoniet (PA167/08 & PA168/08) dwar il-Kon Katidral ta’ San Gwann fejn kienu prezenti Ms Cynthia Degiorgio, Mr Paul Attard u il-perit Bencini ghall-applikant u Mr Mark Anthony Mifsud ghall-SCH. Il-kumitat jirrakkomanda li il-case officer ghandu jikkonsulta l-EIA Team dwar jekk dan il-progett jikkwalifikax ghal-EIA jew xi studju iehor fejn ghandhom jigu ikkonsidrati b’mod partikolari, l-oggezzjonijiet tas-CHAC fiz-zewg minuti immarkati Doc 2/3/4 fil- PA167/08 & PA168/08. F’kas ta’ dan, il-Kumitat qed jitlob lill-Mepa jistabbilixxi it-Terms of Reference biex isiru l-istudji. L-SCH ghandhom jibghatu il-kummenti taghhom bil-miktub.

 

Translation:

PA 168/08 – Cultural Heritage Advisory Committee (CHAC) meeting dated 29.07.08

Today the two new alternative projects re. the applications (PA167/08 & PA 168/08) for the St John’s Co-Cathedral were presented. Ms. Cynthia Degiorgio, Mr. Paul Attard and Architect Bencini were present for the applicant, and Mr. Mark Anthony Mifsud for for the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage. The Committee recommends that the Case Officer should consult the EIA Team as to whether this project qualifies for an EIA or other studies where the CHAC objections marked Doc 2/3/4 in PA167/08 & PA168/08 are to be specifically considered. In this case, the Committee asks MEPA to establish Terms of Reference in order to carry out these studies. The Superintendence asks to be sent the comments in writing.

***

 

LEGAL LEVEL OF PROTECTION given to St John’s Co-Cathedral

Grade 1: Buildings of outstanding architectural or historical interest that shall be preserved in their entirety. Demolition or alterations which impair the setting or change the external or internal appearance, including anything contained within the curtilage of the building, will not be allowed. Any interventions allowed must be directed to their scientific restoration and rehabilitation. Internal structural alterations will only be allowed in exceptional circumstances where this is paramount for reasons of keeping the building in active use.

 

***

GEOLOGICAL OVERVIEW OF THE ST JOHN’S CO-CATHEDRAL PROJECT

 

The problem is related to permissible risk in view of the importance of St John’s. The following are the geological problems of excavation:

1. Tension cracks in rocks (technically called joints) would be expected to be common at the top of Sceberras Hill where St John’s is located.

2. Joints (tensional features) in rock may be expected to decrease with depth, because of greater confining pressure. However, the structural geology of Valletta is also affected by numerous faults of Late Miocene age which are poorly studied. These are clearly visible wherever there are rock outcrops in Valletta. These faults have created stresses in the rocks which release jointing. An example of deep jointing is found in the tunnel linking the Floriana car park to the waterfront. The roof of the tunnel shows classic cases of wedge failure ofrock which occurred during or after tunnelling, indicating the presence of joints even at deep levels.

3. Increasing depth of excavation increases risk of failure sometimes at an exponential trend. Deep excavation increases the likelihood of encountering joints. In addition, deep excavation can ‘daylight’ large blocks that become loose, and may remove ‘keystones’ with catastrophic consequences to nearby buildings.

4. If during excavation, a sizeable joint oriented in a particular direction (there are elaborate techniques to determine this) is exposed, an entire wedge of rock may fail, causing catastrophic damage to the Cathedral. There have been several instances when this happened in Malta, e.g. during excavation of Sliema car park, in St Paul’s Bay, when two women died buried under rubble etc…

5. Globigerina Limestone is a soft rock and may deform in a brittle as well as ductile manner. Even if we are spared mass failure, creating a void will alter stresses in the rock and cause slow deformation which will increase damage to the Cathedral structure in the form of tension cracks (kunsenturi) in the church. This may ruin Mattia Preti’s painting on the vault.

6. The excavation will alter the local hydrology ie. pathways taken by rain water in rock and may result in a localised temporary build up of water along the walls of the completed (damp sealed) underground structure. This increase in humidity will be disastrous for the Cathedral, causing increased salt crystallisation.

7. Core sampling, the system commonly used by MEPA is totally inadequate for a case like this as a fissure or joint can easily be missed. Similarly, more high-tech radar techniques cannot penetrate beyond a certain depth. The only reliable method of geological survey in cases such as these is an investigation trench that goes down the FULL DEPTH of the final excavation, however a four-storey trench is very unsafe and no geologist will risk his life to go down such a trench. Such trenches are usually about 5m deep, at most. These issues are very delicate and cannot be concluded overnight e.g., it took years of study before a ground intervention on the leaning Tower of Pisa was concluded and surely St John’s Cathedral is as precious to us as the Tower of Pisa. A superficial approach such as core sampling would be ludicrous and would ignore the complex and intense population of faults in the area. We cannot have that at St John’s, especially since this is a masonry building unlike modern buildings with reinforced structures. In conclusion I believe the level of risk being taken is too high and a risk assessment seems to be lacking. I am not at all convinced about the effectiveness of MEPA’s EIA methodology for site investigation prior to excavation.

 

Peter Gatt,

Geologist

 

See http://www.ambjentahjar.org/pressRelease/stJohns140209.htm

 

 

Gonzi, uncertain of a majority in parliament, abandons RCC’s project.

Posted in 1 by Editor on February 11, 2009

What a week last week has been! Even the blind are now beginning to see and even the deaf are now beginning to hear. The GonziPN strategy – originally invented before the last elections to save the Nationalist Party from the anarchy of its ungovernable government ministers – is now officially defunct and the cadaver is beginning to stink.

Gonzi’s inability to command a majority of Nationalist seats in parliament to save the Co-Cathedral museum extension project forced him to accept a humiliating moral defeat. He was not helped by the political incompetence of whoever wrote the Department of Information’s Press Release N0. 0212 (about this, read my column in tomorrow’s The Times). Involving Archbishop Cremona was especially regrettable and, let it be said in no uncertain terms, unfair to the latter.

The bottomline, however, is that Richard Cachia Caruana’s project – as many out there insist on calling it – has now been scrapped. Gonzi will certainly justify it to himself as the lesser of two evils. Had he not dropped the project he would have almost certainly been defeated in Parliament. By abandoning the project he avoided having to take the risk. But at what price?

Some very well informed – and sympathetic – sources suggest that the price may have been too high. They point out that his intention to promote Richard Cachia Caruana’s appointment as an EU Commissioner was leaked before the project was finally and officially aborted. A consolation prize for RCC? They go further. Could it be that RCC never really expected the project to survive the combined opposition of environmental NGOs, Joseph Muscat’s PL and his enemies inside the PN and – more importantly – inside cabinet and the Nationalist parliamentary group? Could it well be that, knowing this all along, he stuck to his guns to the end on the issue of the project – thus helping to build up its political significance – precisely to inflate his own price?

Could it be that this was part of a two-pronged strategy to overcome the strong internal opposition – especially, I repeat, inside cabinet – to his appointment as EU Commissioner? On the one hand, his friends unleash a fierce personal attack against the integrity of anyone in cabinet known to oppose his appointment. On the other, as explained above, stick to his guns to the end on the Co-Cathedral museum extension project in order to amplify the issue and increase his price to let go.

* * *

Meanwhile, Roamer, in today’s Sunday Times of Malta, complained that “what has happened is not good for the soul of anybody who believes and acts as though routine, institutional frameworks exist to be ignored” and that those who objected to the project have “little or no idea of what is involved”.  http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20090215/opinion/roamers-column/ . Astrid Vella, coordinator of Flimkien ghall-Ambjent Ahjar (FAA), replied immediately. We are taking the liberty of reproducing the whole text of her letter:

It is extremely worrying when ‘Roamer’ and others put their political affiliations before the common good on matters as crucial as St John’s CoCathedral.

‘Roamer’ (The Sunday Times, February 8) stated that the St John’s museum project objectors have “little or no idea of what is involved”, without mentioning that the main objectors, in fact, included Mepa’s heritage boards, the Church Commission for Cultural Heritage, the Cathedral Chapter, the Valletta and Floriana Rehabilitation Committee, and Valletta Council, while Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar had studied the case files in depth, consulting extensively with professionals in the field.

In complaining that many had not seen the project presentation, ‘Roamer’ did not say that the St John’s Co-Cathedral Foundation opted no to inform the public about the project since its conception in 2006 and that its Din l-Art Ħelwa presentation was held exclusively for a few NGOs and not for the general public or  journalists.      

‘Roamer’ does his best to discredit the project’s critics, without mentioning that leading heritage authorities like Joe Magro Conti, the head of Mepa’s Integrated Heritage Management (IHM), had said: “The project poses a clear risk to the structure of the cathedral, caused by the considerable excavation proposed”, while architect Michael Ellul and Albert Ganado added: “The Heritage Advisory Committee is very concerned at the effect that the excavations may have on the cathedral structure in general and on its paintings”.     

Finally, instead of celebrating the fact that this issue has captured the attention of a public often accused of indifference, ‘Roamer’ labels such opinions as “meaningless contributions”. He accuses others of arrogance, but decides that the public should not comment until the EIA is complete.     

Ever since Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar started informing the public about such projects, certain columnists have been trying to belittle the public voice into silence – a great disservice to a democratic society.                 

Now that the public has been proved right, it will be interesting to see if these writers who habitually try to stifle public intervention will accept the very valid layman’s contribution.  

http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20090215/letters/criticism-of-st-johns-project/

 

* * *

Daphne has – predictably – started a jihad (holy war) against Astrid Vella and the Fondazzjoni Ambjent Ahjar (FAA).   Have a look at the posts “The difference between Din L-Art Helwa and the politically-motivated FAA”  and “The context in which you should assess Astrid Vella, and the reason why I am fighting her anti-democratic organisation” in her blog of February 14 and 15 respectively at http://daphnecaruanagalizia.com/?p=1613 and  http://daphnecaruanagalizia.com/?p=1610

 

 

 

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. Getting Angry, Baby?

Posted in 1 by Editor on February 5, 2009

MARTHA:

“Poor Georgie-Porgie, put-upon pie…Awwwwwwwwwww! Hey! Hey! Hey!

(She sings, to the tune of Mulberry Bush)

Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf, Virginia Woolf, Virginia Woolf, Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf…Ha, ha, ha, HA!

(No reaction)

What’s the matter? Didn’t you think that was funny? I thought it was a scream…You laughed your head off when you heard it at the party.”

 

From Ernest Lehman’s screenplay version (1966) of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1962).

Earthquake in the Nationalist Party? If you say yes, you’re a liar.

Posted in 1 by Editor on February 4, 2009

Thirty six minutes after The Times of Malta (on-line edition, yesterday Tuesday February 3, 2009) reported that Sebastian Dalli was accused in court of association to traffic cannabis on December 27 last year – the fifth arraignment to be made after a police operation at Miġra l-Ferħa on December 27 when what was thought to be a consignment of cannabis was intercepted as it was being brought ashore on a dinghy – Daphne Caruana Galizia exclaimed that “this one is going to grow and grow, unless the prime minister acts immediately to nip it in the bud”. http://daphnecaruanagalizia.com/?p=1536

According to another e-mail from one Bertoldo Cacasenno aka Gahan Lawrjat (same one who wrote to us last week, see Seismogramme in this blog) this is what is what is happening: the lady’s views reflect the interests of someone else, someone powerful, who feels threatened by minister John Dalli, who happens to be Sebastian’s brother. The Miġra l-Ferħa story could not have happened at a better time for whoever is afraid of John Dalli. Who is afraid of John Dalli?

Whatever, the ruling Nationalist Party is united four-square behind its Kap and anyone who suggests otherwise is a traitorous insider or a Labourite provocateur or worse. A case in point is the guy who wrote the following hogwash in The Times of Malta on January 19:

“Governments are made possible by alliances: social and political alliances, by alliances of convenience and, sometimes, of conviction, by strategic and tactical alliances, by long-term and short-term alliances. Many of the alliances that this government is built on are beginning to come apart. This is sending tremors throughout the whole edifice of Lawrence Gonzi’s government. No wonder he looks worried.”  (See No Quantum of Solace in this blog).

History is on nobody’s side

Posted in 1 by Editor on February 3, 2009

This article appeared yesterday, February 2, on The Times of Malta. You may access the original at http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20090202/opinion/history-is-on-nobodys-side

 

In my last, and first, contribution to this column, I considered the possibility of Lawrence Gonzi’s replacement with someone else, possibly a younger person, as kap (leader) of the Nationalist Party. I asked if his hypothetical exit, and therefore the end of GonziPN, can save the Nationalist Party at the next general election.

I then went on to say that this will depend mainly on the PL’s ability, or otherwise, to understand and implement Joseph Muscat’s new approach. I argued that the recently approved modifications to the party’s statute “were a necessary step forward but by no means a sufficient one” and that “Joseph Muscat’s ‘new political season’ presumes a radical change of culture within and throughout the Party”. I emphasized the difficulty of pushing through such a transformation.

Finally, I said I would be back here to argue that “it can – and must – be done”. And here I am. Let’s take this step by step. Let’s begin by taking a step backwards. To start with, it cannot be sufficiently stressed that history is on nobody’s side. There is no guarantee that the Partit Nazzjonalista, with or without Dr Gonzi at its head at the next general elections, will lose.

Although it comes to the same thing, it is nevertheless useful to state this again in a different way: there is no guarantee that Dr Muscat’s PL will win. The latter statement is true absolutely. There is no inevitability in the world of politics. It is a world of uncertainty and only fools claim otherwise, and of those that pronounce themselves otherwise only utter fools believe their own words when circumstances compel them to do so.

That, in 2013, the PN will have been almost uninterruptedly holding on to power for practically a quarter of a century, may well indicate to a reasonable person of good will that it is high time for change. But in the real world things do not happen simply because they are reasonable in the view of men and women of good will.

Now, if it is by no means certain that the PL will replace the present ruling party at the next elections, the chances that it will are greatly enhanced if good old Labour truly and effectively becomes Dr Muscat’s PL in good time before the said elections. Conversely, the level of uncertainty regarding a PL victory increases if this critical transformation fails or if it takes too long to materialise.

The only way, therefore, of containing the inevitable uncertainty of any statement about political outcomes, is for us to do our best to ensure that Labour adopts Joseph’s new approach as swiftly and as thoroughly as possible. Swiftly, because there is no time to waste. Thoroughly, because it must be adopted by all players at all levels without exception.

This is not to say that Joseph’s PL should be a monolithic body that is intolerant of different points of views. On the contrary, he rose to leadership because he stood for a vision of a party capable of mobilising a broad movement of people with different views and interests united by the conviction that this country deserves much better than what it has had to endure so far.

In my view, transforming Labour into Joseph Muscat’s PL need not mean throwing out anybody whose vision of a better society is different from that of the new leader. On the contrary, I believe that the strength of his approach lies – as he has begun to successfully demonstrate – in proposing a party and a movement that are open to diverse ideas, where the fundamental rule of the game is tolerance and mutual respect.

There would, for example, be no place in Dr Muscat’s PL for the “cynical, derisory and depreciative” attitude (to borrow Evarist Bartolo’s words) shown recently by Deputy Prime Minister Tonio Borg in his reply to the Leader of the Opposition who had mentioned gay or cohabitating couples during the debate on the rent reform legislation.

For this is exactly what the transformation I am referring to means. There is no place in this PL for anything said or done that stands in the way of a movement open to the variety of progressive ideas that are bubbling out there. It’s an impressive cauldron of views and visions communicating with and confronting each other. They are impervious to any official line imposed by any leader, party, government, church or censor. If electoral victory is not certain, ignoring their existence spells certain defeat.

There’s more to be said about the transformation. Meet me here in two weeks.

 

Mario Vella