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