Constructing Truce

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Tourism is not Luxembourg’s main industry. The Duchy is much more renown for its tax haven status than for the busloads of over-nighters visiting its quaint capital and tourism remains low on the priority list for the nation (not that no investment is being made there either). Malta’s politicians, on the other hand, are obliged to give particular attention to the industry that is the bread and butter for so many. Any measure that improves conditions for tourism is surely welcome in Malta.

So it was to my surprise that I was reminded once again of a practice that is peculiar to the construction industry in Luxembourg in the middle of summer (well I say summer but we did wake up to 12 degrees again). The construction industry in the Duchy grinds to a halt on the 31st July and will not resume before the 22nd of August. This happens thanks to a collective leave agreement that applies to 1,452 companies (21 202 employees). Only the most essential of works (renovations in schools for example) remain open during this three week moratorium imposed on construction.

Now imagine that the same happened in Malta. It’s a dream of course. The mighty Malta Developers Association and its chief lobbyist Chetcuti are bound to throw a massive fit claiming that this was an attempt to choke a much needed “industry” on the island. Surely in an island that is desperately in need of 40 storey towers in the middle of Sliema we cannot afford to take a pause and breathe.

Yep, we might as well build ourselves to oblivion.

See L’essentiel: 1452 employees seront en congé collectif cet été

 


A Mess in Denial

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The devil used to be in the detail. That was before the Labour government imploded. It’s a bit like what they tell us about some of the stars that we see at night. In truth they are not there, they vanished in a huge explosion a long, long time ago but since it takes light a great amount of time to reach us we still see the stars that are not there.

The Labour government has exploded on all counts. There is barely a ministry or minister who has not got it wrong – and by “it” I mean the whole business of politics. The explosion was gradual, a series of petards that began to hoist Muscat’s roadshow bit by bit. The damage containment was crucially successful at first with the “tu quoque” gambit lasting as long as the dupes who swallowed it allowed. What we are seeing now are the shards and splinters of the explosion flying past our eyes as we look on in disbelief at a government run by a PM who hails from a fireworks importing family get hoist by its own petard. Or petards.

The detail that is not so much a detail now lies in the daily exhibition of denials and weak counterarguments being doctored by government spokespersons, ministers and media. Requests for information turn quickly into denials of the shallowest kind. More often than not “public safety” or “economic sensitivity” are invoked to cover up evident blunders. And the lie is running thin.

Take Michael Falzon’s charade in parliament. The question put to him was clear – has anyone ever benefited from the same ad hoc arrangement that he has. An early retirement that is not really a retirement since he can return back to work with the company whenever he wants  (or at least in 2018). Falzon chose to focus on the sum for early retirement (and thereby distract from the crucial answer).

There were nationalists who got more. Indeed. Possibly. Setting aside the violation of privacy, Falzon failed to explain whether any of these nationalists had the right to return to the bank and get their job back notwithstanding the fact that they had obtained a retirement package. Ad hoc he said, much like the faffing in the last answer he gave before going mum – claiming that he would have to pay the retirement package back “pro rate’. How does that work exactly? Pro rata to what?

Ah the BOV. Good old BOV. The same BOV that is used by the government as a doormat at every opportunity. There it goes making good for 88 million euros out of the hundred something million that the beleaguered Electrogas is supposed to pump into the utopic power station (as promised by Shame On You Wife on Government Payroll). That’s the kind of guarantee no ordinary citizen in Taghna Lkoll Land will ever get. Basically what the bank is saying is that if something goes wrong and Electrogas cannot pay then it is the taxpayers money that will be used to make good. Do you think the government has justified this intervention? You guessed it. Another denial.

Electrogas and BOV that leads us straight to the Chris Cardona farce of a rental contract. If ever anything was evidently drafted ad hoc it is not Michael Falzon’s retirement package but rather Chris Cardona’s hastily drafted rental contract. Should it matter that this contract is signed with someone closely tied to the Electrogas business and that the contract swings excessively in favour of the tenant like no rental contract drafted in recent years has ever done before? Of course it should. We would not care if the implausible rental conditions (practically a gift given the circumstances) were between two normal citizens. But the Economy Minister accepting what is virtually a handout from a person linked to Electrogas. The alarm bells should be ringing. WHat we’ll get is more denials.

Owen Bonnici can wax lyrical about the supposed good the new party financing law will bring but so long as farces as Cardona’s can be carried out in full view then it is all exposed for what it is. A farce. A farce is what went on when Sai Mizzi Liang joined the PM to launch the ever so incredible charade that is being officially referred to as an investment by Huwawei.

The emptiness of this “investment” has been investigated at length elsewhere. We only need comment here that Mizzi Liang’s performance on this and the previous conference where she declared that “Finally we have found her” is below pathetic. Even from the little we could see, the behaviour, the gestures, the little words we got, we could tell that this was someone launched into a position that was far beyond the depth that she could cater for. It might have taken Simon Busuttil a trip to China to gauge that Sai is not fit for purpose but in truth a few minutes of a press conference gave us a glimpse of her absolute incompetence.

The Supernova in the middle of all this explosion is the hapless PM who either lives in denial or who has decided to just live out the next three years as some kind of perilous joyride. While all forms of protocol and institutional balance are thrown to the wind he persists in denying any accusation that his government and its pie in the sky projects (from Sadeen Unis to Medical Schools to Power Stations) is in absolute meltdown. He runs the most expensive cabinet ever that is proving to be the hugest bunch of incompetents ever to have (dis)graced the rooms of government.

It is a mess, in denial.


Cue Daboma, See Black

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Hindsight. It can be a good thing. With hindsight, and the help of a video filmed on the personal initiative of one of the RIU officers, the police union are trying hard to show that your average constable does not include racism or racial profiling when in the course of performing his duties. In an interview I caught this week (still cannot find the link) the union officer stresses that Daboma Jack was handcuffed for “only” four and a half minutes and that the procedure leading to his handcuffing can not be classified as “excessive use of force”.

The explanation given by the officer does go a long way to explaining why it takes two officers plus one from a specialised unit to immobilise a protesting “well built” (sic – fih ragel) person of dark coloration. Apparently no matter your coloration or build it will always take two officers to do the job – and this for your own safety. I am prepared to accept this line of reasoning: that if you have to immobilise and detain someone then the safest option is two officers who do so while taking care that you do not incur any injuries.

What is more worrying is the reasoning as to why it was deemed necessary to handcuff Jack in the first place. While I set aside my worries that the RIU arresting officer constantly addressed Jack in Maltese throughout the handcuffing procedure, issuing curt orders such as “wara”, “oqghod” and the like, I am more inclined to question what led to the suspicion falling immediately on Jack.

Who called the RIU to the scene? What kind of information was given to them upon arrival? What did the policeman who had been on scene until the arrival of the RIU tell the officers? The Union spokesperson seems to have blamed two factors that could have led to the unnecessary handcuffing. First of all it seems that Daboma Jack was very agitated (rightly so, the spokesperson adds), and secondly the crowd that was present (and the reference seems to be to the patriotic locals) did not help the cause much.

Four and a half minutes in handcuffs are four and a half minutes too many, even given the scenario as presented by the police union spokesperson. That our nation is still chock full with uneducated bigots who are ready to ride the wave of intolerance at any opportunity is a given that the strong arm of the law should by now have factored in whenever it makes an intervention. It hits strong at the core of the issue of tackling the possibility of racial profiling.

It’s either that or a descent to the law of the pitch-fork carrying rabble, so help us god.


I.M. Black

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That’s karma for you isn’t it? Sometimes the reality of life in Malta has a way of bitch-slapping you in the face like no other. A diligent and upright resident of the island takes it upon himself to try to organise a mob that is assaulting a transport company kiosk in order to top up their transport cards. Said diligent and upright resident is not seen in a very good light by his fellow strugglers for a top up – particularly those who feel that they have some God-given right to be first to receive any service on the island and who frown upon “foreigners” who dare breathe in the same part of the eco-sphere.

Things get ugly and said upright resident gets hassled, harassed and ill-spoken to by a deviant of the fairer sex. He is told in a less than roundabout a way that he better pack his bags and return to his country of origin lest he will be told where he can take his weird foreign ideas of queueing up for a service. How did the dame know to politely address him towards the nearest exit border? How did she tell that he was not one of us? Why by way of the colour of his skin (and maybe because he was marketing a foreign philosophy that jarred heavily with the idea of pushing and shoving to get served).

The bagarre did not stop there. Transported by the heat and frustration of the moment, the local maiden decided to refresh the upright resident’s general being by despatching a few dollops of freshly brewed saliva in his general direction. For good measure said woman also let rip a handful of applauses straight onto the upright resident’s person.

Sticks, stones, saliva and slaps did not break the resident’s will and having spotted the strong arm of the law (Domine dirige nos) he appealed for their judicious intervention. Such intervention was sadly left lacking, especially since the aforementioned serjeants of justice had seen a colour. Black to be exact. Before you could say Fundamental Human Rights or even Simple Common Decency the blue coloured officers had used all the force that was necessary (and a bit) to immobilise and handcuff the upright resident.

Yep. In these days of Ferguson controversies that surely never reached our shores, members of the police force entrusted with out safety have gone and arrested a manifestly innocent person for the obvious reason that his skin colour was not to their liking and made him an automatic suspect for any crime – even when a madwoman of Maltese nationality had just been caught spitting and abusing the black person in question. Surprised are we? If this is the same corps that speaks of Madonna Tas-Suwed on radio despatches then not really.

There will be an Inquiry. Leave the capital I. They are so a-la-mode these days. We have a flurry of inquiries being called for by our smug PM that will hopefully uncover a web of fraud and deception that is to be found at the core and more sensible areas of the notorious corps. Are we wrong to arrogate political responsibility to the rotten state of the corps? Hardly. Two years into Labour government and the cowboys are out – more brazen, more audacious, and ever so effectively entwined with the underworld.

The black man in question is “lucky” enough to have a hungarian ID. Very lucky actually – and this is where Karma comes in big time. Only a few days ago – the 23rd June to be exact – Hungary suspended the application of the Dublin Regulation in full defiance of EU asylum rules. The Hungarian government is itself not going through a very democratic period what with illegal expropriations, rampant corruption and the rise of the ugly head of racism. Surely Mr. Jack (for that is the name of the upright resident of this island who has been wronged) might have thought that a year in Malta away from the dangers of the new Hungary would be a good thing.

Go figure. Domine dirige nos (God guides us) is the motto of the police corps. There is very little of God’s hand in what happened today. Mr. Jack, a devout christian would tell you that himself I am sure. Another infamous set of “defenders” also used to fight battles in God’s name. Gott Mit Uns they used to say…  fat lot of good it brought to them.


Cardona’s Meritocracy

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“Nahseb ghandu dritt dan il-guvnott.” There they go again. Economy Minister Chris Cardona tried to ward off questions related to the appointment of Karl Cutajar (an 18 year old) to head the board of Fort Security Services – a newly set up government company. The controversy has raged for a few days now, especially since it has featured on Malta’s version of Wikileaks quite extensively (spreading to other relatives of Cardona’s Chief of Staff) so you’d expect the Minister to be better prepared to fend off questions.

Well, he is either not prepared or he is ignorant of the goings on under his watch. Just wait for some idiot to come and tell us that so long as Cardona has no “mens rea” then its ok.  They’ll tell us that notwithstanding the fact that the answers given by Cardona when “cornered” by the press with very legitimate set of questions smack of anything but a meritocratic approach to public appointments we must assume that he is cleaner than Caesar’s Wife.

As it happens judging by Cardona’s reply we have the following facts:

1. An 18 year old was employed by MIMCOL as an executive clerk (which could be quite ok – and is where the buck stops with “ghandu dritt dan il-guvnott”);

2. The 18 year old has been placed at the head of Fort Security Services which is a company that will be taking care of security on sites where the government is winding down operations such as Malta Shipbuilding;

3. His job on the board is not remunerated;

4. The best one – there will probably not be any persons employed by Fort Security Services so it’s anyone guess whether the 18 year old Cutajar will be doing all the night watching on his own (sans remuneration);

5. It is a complete and utter coincidence that the eighteen year old put at the head of a one-man security company sans remuneration is the nephew of the chief of staff of the minister under who’s remit the very same company falls.

There you have it. We have moved far beyond the “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” days. The denial of the patently obvious (tmeri is-sewwa maghruf) is now becoming a day-to-day business at the Taghna Lkoll factory. Never, never-ever has this amount of patent disregard of meritocracy while abusing the government appointments system reached these levels.

Taghna Lkoll indeed.

“Jghodd mhux dak illi taf imma lil min taf”.


The Wisdom of Tomatoes

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I saw this meme the other day that had a couple of paraprosdokian phrases and particularly liked one of them. It said “Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit, wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.” Often life has its ways of coughing up situations that are full of tomato conundrums. Take the problem raging in the US’s southern states after the massacre of black persons in a church. The huge debate is whether the “confederate flag” – for long a symbol of slavery and suppression – should be banned and removed from public places.

The killer in the church shootings was a southern fanatic and publicly acknowledged that he did what he did because he wanted to provoke another civil war in the name of the confederate flag. So what do they do? They blame the flag. They blame the symbol. Sure, because it was a flag that shot and killed nine innocent persons in a church. Not guns. No. Definitely not guns.

The root of the problem – legal purchase and possession of weapons in the US is nowhere near being tackled because of the US’s perverted love of the right to bear arms. The Americans prefer to keep putting tomatoes in their fruit salad.

Back home we have just heard the announcement of a new possible 40 storey colossus in the middle of Sliema. What is another concrete tower? What indeed? The perverse conviction of the development community and of the politicians in their pockets that Malta can sustain a steady stream of new developments in ODZs and beyond seems to know no end. The recent non-partisan front created with regards to the Zonqor space cannot be limited to that space. The Sliema monstrosity is proof that a charter on sustainable development and a clear plan for the future of planning in Malta needs to be pushed and marketed.

Which brings me to the controversy on the church school plans for Ghaxaq. The church is now a victim of the Zonqor madness. While Zonqor was evidently an excuse and a provocation by the government to allow its trojan horse of a crazy development that has nothing to do with education to be pushed (and many swallowed the bait), it would seem that the Ghaxaq project is the result of studies and the proper use of exceptions insofar as educational development is concerned. We are now however faced with the socialist scythe of equality inducing measures: the analysis is not legal or environmental, it’s simply No Zonqor, No Church Development. We’re throwing the tomatoes with the pineapples and the melons. It’s crazy.

Using the letter of the law to smash its spirit. That is just the phrase I was looking for. We are witnessing it every day and the rapid decline and fall is preposterously horrifying for those who care to worry about the future of our nation.


Marlene: The Real Taghna Lkoll

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I’ve tuned into the parliamentary sessions a few times ever since the new parliament has been inaugurated. It is rarely a pleasant experience and I do not delude myself with expectations of high oratory and rhetoric. Still, the PQ sessions provide a very good picture of what our politicians are up to and the respect with which most of them hold the highest institution of our nation. It was during one particularly ugly PQ session involving a cat-and-mouse session with the PN trying to get answers from an absent Konrad Mizzi that I was once again pleasantly surprised with an intervention by Marlene Farrugia, Labour MP.

Following a particularly cringe-causing exchange where it was evident that the Labour MPs were all out to avoid answering any form of questions no matter how they were phrased, Farrugia stood up and started to speak. The way her intervention began led me to believe it would be more of the same partisan pot and kettle talk. “I’ve sat through previous legislatures watching the previous Ministers and MPs dodging answers to questions and failing to be accountable”, she began. Was Marlene about to justify the government MP’s attitude with a classic ‘Tu quoque’ intervention?

Not really. “I’d expected our newly elected government with its promise of transparency and accountability to be different” she continued. Now there was a politician worth her salt. Marlene was not defending the Labour MP’s economy with the truth – she was criticising them, and precisely because they were doing nothing to improve the situation inherited from the previous lot even though they had been elected to do just that.

To me that intervention embodies all that Marlene Farrugia represents. She is a living proof of the politicians of real change. Oftentimes she is wrongly placed in the same category as the Franco Debono’s and Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando’s of this world – renegade, unhappy backbenchers who are trying to get more from their party while it is in power. Party faithfuls do not miss a beat when insulting and remind “why she was elected”. Yet Farrugia does not seem to aspire to power as much as to a kind of politics that is rare – real accountability, real transparency and a real change from the past.

Part of the charm of the Taghna Lkoll message for many during last election was the promise to break away from the old way of doing politics. This meant doing away with deals brokered with friends and friends of friends, it meant an open, transparent and meritocratic system. Had JosephPL stuck to the Taghna Lkoll promises it would not be in the dire situation it is now – a situation that might not be reflected in the opinion polls yet but that is evidently paving the way for electoral disaster.

Farrugia’s constant questioning of Labour’s performance is not based on a renegade development suddenly sprung on the party leadership. Rather she is the stronger version of the conscience that should remind the leadership, the party and the government of its democratic commitments to society. Is all this done out of some Macchiavellian manoeuvering? Does Farrugia hope to unseat the current leadership? Is her aim to destabilise the Labour party’s majority? As things stand it is very doubtful whether any of these options are possible or whether they are actually a priority in the outspoken MP’s mind. What is clear is that by sticking to values and committing to the most basic of electoral charters of accountability that is the party’s own manifesto and promises Farrugia towers strongly over the rest of the Labour MPs.

Until now Muscat has been able to ‘tolerate’ Farrugia’s outspokenness, also because he can scarcely do otherwise. If, as we hope, Farrugia remains steadfastly consistent in her commitment to a code of values that seems to have been ditched by the labour mainstream upon election the situation might become more and more uncomfortable. The main reason is that there is a limit to the number of gaffes that can be committed without the accountability.

Muscat’s nine lives might still be in full swing but Marlene Farrugia remains a wonderful reminder of what Taghna Lkoll would have been and could have been had it not been hijacked by power hungry opportunists who fail to understand or respect the liberal democratic system of accountability. Hers remains a tough task of civic education – particularly when it comes to imparting the lesson that having a majority does not automatically make everything right.

also read this: ‘This is not the Labour government we strived for’ – Marlene Farrugia urges ‘change in direction’


The Environment Front

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Last Saturday’s protest rally in Valletta by Front Harsien ODZ (FHODZ) is being hailed as an historic milestone in Maltese politics. Mike Briguglio listed his own reasons as to why this could be so in his post “Making history from Zonqor to Beyond – the Front phenomenon“. It is precisely the “Front” phenomenon that interests me the most – and this in the wider context of the “beyond” rather than in the limited context of Zonqor.

What is a “front” and how does it fit into the current political spectrum? What impact will it have in the long-term scenario of Maltese politics?

It was rather revealing to read descriptions of the FHODZ on the facebook pages in the run up to the protest. You began with a “front” which is a term that perforce implies battles and wars. A “front” implies engagement – a battle, a struggle. The term immediately recognises activism with intent to obtain direct results. This is not merely a foundation or an organisation representing a set of values – it had a target that necessarily implied direct engagement in the battle. The battlezone too was clearly defined – it was the protection of Malta’s politically defined zones that are outside development areas.

In their own descriptions of the front members quickly segued to the term “movement”. The description of the Front on its facebook page is quite clear in that respect : “Front Harsien ODZ is a citizens’ movement which welcomes support from all sectors of society. The goals of this Front are purely environmental.” The term movement has been monopolised for some time by the Taghna Lkoll wave of Maltese politics – the coalition of interests (and promises) that proved to be the right ticket to ride the wave of dissatisfaction with GonziPN. It is probably with this in mind that the name of the organisation carries the term “Front” and not “Moviment”. That such a choice would be made is quite fitting with the general attitude of the Frontists to stress their a-partisan element whenever they can.

Which brings me to the next defining point of the Front. Great pains were taken (and are still being taken) to stress that the Front is non-partisan – to the extent that some use the term non-political to describe its field of activity. In doing this the Front plays to the same sanitised collective utopic ideal that we have become used to of late when hearing speeches of the Taghna Lkoll camp (typical statements include “ma hemmx kuluri”, “ilkoll ahwa maltin”, “ma jimpurtax int min int u inti x’int”). In this utopia the collective baddie is the partisan politician and the saviour is the new style apolitical politician who supposedly has some form of national interest at heart based on some home-spun mythology or ideal.

The dynamic of political persuasion and participation as opted for by the Front is both necessary and counter-productive at the same time. On the one hand, the Maltese demos has now been fed the spin of “Politicians Do Evil” (and admittedly have had ample evidence smacked in their faces) for quite some time. This is why the Front had to provide a sanitised version of political activism. The Maltese “podemos” or CinqueStelle crowd could only be stirred into political action of some kind by being told that this is anything but political.

Having chosen that delicate road of politics with sanitary gloves and masks on the Front then had to engage with politicians because last we checked this was a working liberal democracy that has also got a role for popular pressure and lobbying. In order to get people on board this had to seem like a protest against all politicians for all the harm they caused and for all the harm they will cause. Even the church got its own dose of hand-slapping for daring to give its two-cents’ worth. The risk at that point was that the Front would be diluted by Pythonesque bickering related to who they where and what they wanted.

The holier-than-politicians attitude would provoke equally absurd reactions such as the infamous “Where were you? (fejn kontu?)” retort. Absurd might the retort be (and wholly ridiculous given the context) but it was a direct corollary of the need of the Front to define their goals in apolitical terms when every breath and step they took was steeped in politics of the finest kind. The very continuity guaranteed by the ever-present environmental activists no matter who was in government was in fact a guarantee of political perseverance and not of NGO oblivion. Which is why the Front was at its best when it could show a full curriculum of political activism as witnessed in the various Mike Briguglios and James Debonos. Their constant presence was as political as it could get – and a proof that the embracing of environmental values in politics is important: far from the ascetic crowd pooh-poohing politics with a big P.

“Politicians Protect Our Environment” read one of the banners at the hugely successful protest. Where does the Front go from there? What are its short-term goals? Are they enough? Muscat has toyed with the Zonqor ODZ as though it were another pawn in a huge chessboard to be moved at his whim and fancy. His latest comments post-protest are neither here nor there: labelling the Front as “extremist”, practically ordering the cancellation of a counter-protest (was it his to cancel?), speaking of a compromise that he apparently reached with himself to go ahead with partial destruction of the Zonqor area.

Is getting Muscat to keep his hands off Zonqor enough? When it comes to the opposition and its commitments, not a day goes by that the Front does not do its best to denigrate any attempt of the party in opposition to wipe clean its slate on environment and take on a new set of values that would be much more than Muscat’s compromise. Shouldn’t the Front be grasping this opportunity of reshaping the environmental and planning policy of one of the major parties as soon it has a chance? The snide remarks and lack of trust will get its members nowhere beyond their Warhol fifteen minutes of fame because when all is said and done and when the last poster is put away it is back to the bigger battle between two parties for the management of our nation and its heritage.

The way I see it, rather than pushing away the PN for its past errors, the Front should be embracing the goodwill of the party and getting it to commit pen on paper to a series of values. All this talk about not trusting politicians because “look what Joseph did once he got into power” is neither here nor there and politically naive. A failure to understand the dynamics of political representation is also a failure towards the people joining the movement with the intention of obtaining concrete results (excuse the unhappy pun).

My idea would be a charter on environment and planning that goes beyond building in ODZ and tackles head-on the environmental challenges for the future. A charter on sustainable development, on the use of current properties, on the preservation of ODZ and natural areas. A serious overall study of the values that should underpin our nation’s future both urban and countryside development. If all this were crystallised in a Charter then the Front’s real achievement would be getting all political parties to subscribe to it. To commit to it. In writing.

Sure you might remain cynical and claim that parties would do it for the votes but then again that is the whole dynamic of representative politics isn’t it? The Front’s role is to create civic aware citizens who are prepared to immediately hold the politicians to their promises. It’s role is to obtain clarity, its battle is to get the parties that represent the people to embrace this clarity and commitment. First in words then also in action.

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Unprofessional

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Someone at the Juventus marketing division (or at a marketing firm contracted by Juventus) should be getting his knuckles rapped by now. It so happens that Juventus’ latest drive for memberships featured a picture of a woman’s face painted in the world famous black and white stripes with the wording “Pure Enjoyment”. A huge poster featuring this face was also displayed at Rome’s Stazione Termini much to the chagrin of the capitolini who probably regard the station as “home territory”. It was clear that Juventus wanted to follow up their successes last season with an aggressive membership drive, only to be spoilt by the lax laziness of some designer in an office who couldn’t be bothered with getting creative.

No. Said designer opted to plagiarise an idea from a fourth tier Spanish football team (Badajoz) who had featured the same black and white face in their own (more modest campaign). Even if the photo is sourced from some stock photo database the fact remains that the designer guy/lass copied the gist of Badajoz campaign without so much as an if you please.

It’s about standards really. Juventus FC’s image will not suffer much beyond the spoofs of rival supporters such as those of Inter FC (a team who until now has copied its logo (off Real) and plagiarised its tune (an injuction was issued by Celentano I believe to stop them playing it)).

 

It is the lack of professionalism that jars – and a lack of pride in one’s own work. Forgive me if I go back to Alfred E. Baldacchino’s intervention in the parliamentary Permanent Committee on Environment and Planning but it really was an example of how things should be done. Call it old style if you wish, or proper civil servant but it is there for all to see. (See Baldacchino’s post on the matter in his blog).

Pride in your own work is also important because each and every one of us is a cog in a greater wheel. This greater wheel and system is intended to function when every part of it works accordingly. If you look at MEPA as an institution that is currently under the lens we begin to understand the convoluted contradictions both in legal development as well as in planning practice that have grown over time. When architects and planners stay mum when faced with evident distortions of the law and deviations from proper policy, when the autonomy of an institution is put into serious jeopardy in order to satisfy a web of interests that have nothing to do with the aims of the institution itself then things go awry and they do so fast.

At the base of all this is an unprofessional approach to work, to ethics and to policy. This danger is all pervasive and does not stop at MEPA. Professionalism is strongly linked to dignity of the person. Dignity, in its turn is linked to happiness and enjoyment of life. Unprofessional, undignified behaviour may bring short term bursts of satisfaction to the weak minded and short-visioned but in the long term it promises misery for them and those around them.

I’ll be renewing my International Premium Membership with Juventus FC but I cannot say I am not concerned by the slip in the marketing department. It is this kind of sign of weakness that must be catered for immediately before you start a ride on the slippery slope to mediocrity. On and off the field.


Environmental Value

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Watching Alfred Baldacchino tear the MEPA Zonqor report to shreds was a joy to behold. After years of watching politically appointed incompetents in all spheres of government deliver their business in a manner best described as “quasi-amateur” it was reassuring to see that there are still diligent, competent persons who can contribute to this nation. “Tal-affari taghhom” we would call them in Maltese.

Speaking at the Parliament Environment Committee while interviewing a hapless Johann Buttigieg, Baldacchino gave a blow by blow breakdowm of the report that MEPA prepared under strict conditions dictated by the Office of the Prime Minister. In Baldacchino’s words this was a report made to fit certain prerequisites (or as he said in Maltese “biex il-bocca tingab qrib il-likk) and there was nothing scientific about it.

Buttigieg’s feeble defence rested upon the classic “orders from above” defence that only went to show how the independence of our authorities and directorates is in tatters. Asked why the Environmental section (and experts) were not used in this report Buttigieg could only mumble something about confidentiality being imposed from above. In short he seems to mean that since this was a strictly confidential report that would not be made public they dispensed with the uncomfortable obstacles that might arise in the environmental sphere.

Through a reasoned and well argued approach Baldacchino unearthed one of the main pillars of dishonesty that underlies Joseph Muscat’s dealings with regards Zonqor Point. This was no tree-hugging conspiracy theorist on his spare time but a real scientist asking pertinent questions and exposing the gaping holes in the report. It was a report written to make the Fake University at Zonqor happen come what may.

Marlene Farrugia courageously reminded Johann Buttigieg that his duty was towards the taxpayers dishing out his and Sai Mizzi’s pay (I added Sai but it’s the same coffers) and not to suck up to his political superiors. That it might be a case of talking to a brick wall was immediately evident when Buttigieg was also told that on these issues it was he who would be made to answer not his superiors. The civil servant replied with a “no problem” that implied that taking the bullet was part of his curriculum.

In other related news it is also interesting how the other institution currently being grilled by the Front Harsien ODZ for its environmental credentials is the Church. The problem here lies in a couple of requests by the Church to build schools in ODZ area. Having become another outspoken campaigner in favour of saving Zonqor, the Curia is also being required to do some homework about its past applications in ODZ areas.

The timing could not be better. Back at the big Church HQ in Rome, copies of the upcoming papal encyclical “Laudato si’, sulla cura della casa comune” were leaked to L’Espresso. It appears that the conservative movements in the church want to undermine the progressive stance of Pope Francis in this respect but leaks apart we will have another possible set of value guidelines from an institution that does its homework well on a deontological level – one that cannot be ignored, especially by Malta’s Curia.

Alfred Baldacchino spoke not only as a well-researched scientist who knows his job but also as a man with clear values and vision. The renewed discovery of environmental sensitiveness in this country might be a welcome trigger to explore the understanding of our values in this and other fields.

In which case… laudato si’….


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