The week at a glance – February 24, 2019 – Times of Malta

Roman festival of the dead

The ancient Roman festival of the dead was marked at the Roman Villa in Rabat last Sunday with an engaging day for all the family. The event, entitled Mortem was inspired by the nine-day ancient Roman festival of Parentalia which used to be held in ancient Rome between February 13 and 21, in honour of the Roman people’s ancestors and their departed loved ones.

What made the headlines

Report confirms pre-election passport dealings in Malta: A UK Parliament report about disinformation and fake news flagged “dealings” it says Malta’s Labour Party had in 2013 with the group that set up the notorious data-mining company Cambridge Analytica. Leaked e-mails sent in June 2011 show that SCL, the group that set up Cambridge Analytica, offered to broker a meeting between then Opposition leader Joseph Muscat and passports seller Christian Kalin of Henley & Partners. The e-mails, seen by the Times of Malta, feature correspondence between SCL and Mr Kalin, about a potential meeting with Dr Muscat. The government denied there had ever been any contact between SCL and Dr Muscat. However, the House of Commons report said SCL held meetings in Malta and Mr Kalin was introduced by SCL to Dr Muscat in 2011.

Three shortlisted for Strasbourg court judge: The government shortlisted Madam Justices Abigail Lofaro and Lorraine Schembri Orland and deputy Attorney General Victoria Buttigieg for the post of judge at the European Court of Human Rights. The successful candidate will replace Chief Justice Emeritus Vincent De Gaetano who ends his statutory nine-year tenure on September 19. The final selection, expected to take place in April, is made by the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly.

Socialists join in ‘severe’ rule of law criticism: MEPs from Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s political grouping voted in favour of a resolution raising rule of law concerns in Malta. The rule of law resolution about Malta and Slovakia sailed through the civil liberties committee with 40 votes in favour and seven against. Voting records show Labour MEP Miriam Dalli was the only one of 15 MEPs from the Socialists and Democrats group to vote against the resolution. The resolution will be voted on in plenary next month.

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Housing concerns shoot up: Housing worries have shot up, according to the latest Eurobarometer survey, and has become the second most important concern for Maltese people after migration. When asked about the main issues facing Malta, half the respondents mentioned migration, followed by housing (29 per cent), environment, climate and energy (28 per cent), crime (19 per cent) and rising prices and inflation (19 per cent). In the last survey, 20 per cent said they were concerned about housing.

Badly decomposed corpse found in St Paul’s Bay residence: The badly-decomposed corpse of a woman was found in a residence in St Paul’s Bay by the police on Monday evening. The woman, a 69-year-old British resident, had been dead for three months. The woman’s husband, who was questioned by the police, had apparently kept the body at home because he did not want to be parted from her. An autopsy on the body ruled out foul play as the cause of death. According to one neighbour, the woman’s husband told her that his wife, who friends said went by the name Jan, was “fine” some three weeks ago when she asked for her.

Government ordered to reveal mega €274 million contract: The government was ordered to reveal the contents of a controversial €274 million contract awarded to James Caterers and a subsidiary of the Seabank db Group, following a complaint filed under the Freedom of Information Act by the Times of Malta. In his decision, Commissioner Saviour Cachia ruled that while it was true that some aspects of the contract for a 500-bed extension at St Vincent De Paul may be commercially sensitive, “the decision taken by the government to refuse, in toto, the request by the Times of Malta is not entirely justified”.

Former chief justice dies: Giuseppe Mifsud Bonnici, known as ‘Ġoġo’, a former chief justice and judge of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, died aged 88. First appointed a judge in 1988, he was considered a legal giant and lectured in philosophy of law at the University of Malta. He was chairman of the Commission for Press Ethics from 2001 to 2009, president of the Chamber of Advocates from 1978 to 1983 and president of the MFA from 1968 and 1982.

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What trended

‘Window dressing’

It sounds grand: “Gozo should be the first region to completely switch to electric cars”. But what exactly does that mean?

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat gave vent to that grand-sounding idea earlier this week, as he painted a picture of an eco-friendly nation which recycled all its waste and cherished newly forested sites.

His electric vision, thin on details, seemed to puzzle a few readers.

“So they’re going to build a tunnel but then not let petrol or diesel vehicles through it?” asked a perplexed James.

Electric vehicles should be introduced in Valletta, Sliema and St Julian’s

Patrizio worried that talking up electric cars could distract from a more holistic environmental vision.

“Imagine a scenario where all cars in Gozo becomes electric but 80 per cent of the island’s greenery is replaced by built-up areas …. has the environment been served well?” he pondered.

C. thought the Gozitan emphasis was misguided “Electric vehicles should first be introduced in the polluted areas such as Valletta, Sliema and St Julian’s”

Ainsley was distinctly unimpressed by the whole thing, calling it “window dressing from the only country in the EU to miss all of its clean air targets,” he sniffed.

Hospital payment procedures

Mater Dei has cranked up its eligibility checks for foreign patients, and its CEO was keen to emphasise that revenue from such patients had tripled in just a couple of years.

A new billing system is in the pipeline, too, and for many foreign readers, not a minute too soon.

“Why isn’t Mater Dei connected to the social security database? Why are we forced to carry our payslips every month? Is this 21st century or stone age?” asked an irritated James.

He was not alone.

“Every single time we have a hospital check-up or appointment we have to go through the same billing procedure where we have to show proof of marriage and NI and they tell us that we’re entitled for free healthcare,” wrote Shaun.

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The complaints poured in.

“If you’re a foreigner and present a Maltese ID card, they still ask for payslip at every single appointment. Gave them a copy of the payslip last week? Doesn’t matter, still need a new copy now,” another grumbled.

Bjarte had a litany of similarly frustrating experiences and accused the hospital of discriminating on the basis of nationality. 

“If you question it you’re met with a shrug,” he wrote.

What they said

“A society that does not respect its elders is a truly rotten society.”

Nationalist Party leader Adrian Delia, speaking at the PN general council, where he criticised Joseph Muscat for saying that people’s pensions depended on an influx of foreigners.

“The present, post-truth, populist culture is fuelled by a sense of decay of democratic institutions, the trivialisation of news value and the banalisation of public discourse.”

Fr Joe Borg, chairman of Beacon Media Group, writing in the Times of Malta.

“A metro system would take a quarter of a century and we could not drag our feet on upgrading the country’s infrastructure till then.”

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, speaking at the Victoria, Labour Party club, where he defended his government’s decision to upgrade the country’s road infrastructure instead of building a metro system.

“To many of us the logic of Irish reunification is irresistible. But logic stands little chance of winning. On present indications it seems highly likely that Brexit will reopen Ireland’s historic wounds.”

Times of Malta columnist Martin Scicluna writing about the Irish backstop proposal.

“Silence is a no-go. Whether you call it omertà or state of denial, it’s still a no-go. Whether it’s criminal or malicious complicity and a code of silence due to the trauma, we need to move away from it.”

Archbishop Charles Scicluna, speaking at a Vatican press conference on the sidelines of a summit on preventing clergy sex abuse, answering a question about whether there was still omertà in the Church.



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