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2012 - A year of everything

Double murders at the beginning of the year, double murders almost at its end; the collapse of the government, the passing away of Censu Tabone and Dom Mintoff, a judge held for police interrogation, another judge suing a former Chief Justice... Year 2012 was not short of bad news.

Indeed, there were more. Four died in a massive fireworks blast in Gozo, a man died when he was hit by lightning, and floods caused thousands of euros in damage. John Dalli was forced to resign from the European Commission...even the turtle eggs did not hatch!

But there was some good news. Three year-old Gozitan girl Leah appeared to be winning her battle against a rare, devastating form of cancer as the country watched and prayed. Economically, Malta appeared to perform much better than its neighbours.

Mgr Charles Scicluna was ordained Auxiliary Bishop of Malta, while the Nationalist Party celebrated the election of Simon Busuttil as deputy leader.

The year started horribly, with the fatal stabbing of two men, father-of-twins Duncan Zammit and and Nicholas Gera, in the former’s apartment in Sliema. 12 murders were recorded during the year including another two double murders.

Two men were shot dead in a gunfight in an underground complex of garages in Marsascala in March and another two men – Josef Grech and Joseph Cutajar – were killed within the span of a few hours on December 12. Cutajar was allegedly involved in the March murders in Marsascala.

The year was dominated by politics, as one would expect in the last year of a legislature, but rifts within the Nationalist Party and uncertainty over the government’s majority in parliament meant that the legislative programme was severely curtailed.

On January 26 Franco Debono abstained in a confidence vote and the government survived thanks to the Speaker’s casting vote. Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi later called a PN leadership contest and was overwhelmingly confirmed in the post, which was uncontested. But uncertainty continued and the government's predicament was laid bare when the permanent representative to the EU, Richard Cachia Caruana and Home Affairs Minister Carm Mifsud Bonnici were forced to resign after losing votes of confidence with Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando and then Dr Debono voting with the Opposition.

The government itself collapsed when the Budget was defeated. But not before the House approved legislation in assisted procreation, perhaps the single most important piece of legislation this year.

The past year saw Air Malta saved from the brink of failure after a massive restructuring programme, brought about after negotiations with the EU.

The government wrapped up a number of infrastructural projects including several new roads, the breakwater bridge, and the new Barrakka lift, while work on City Gate and the new Parliament House made rapid progress. It faced protests, however, after the Cospicua Seafront rehabilitation project was repeatedly held up. The Italian contractors were dismissed and replaced.

Local council elections were held in half of Malta’s localities in March, with Labour winning the majority of the contests. It also assumed control of the councils of St Paul’s Bay, Qala and Safi, previously held by Nationalist Mayors. The PN won back Mosta.

The year also saw a demonstration against ACTA – the proposed Internet regulation law – in February.

During that month Malta also celebrated the appointment of Mgr Prospero Grech as a Cardinal, Malta’s second cardinal in almost 200 years.

Two fireworks enthusiasts were lucky to escape unhurt when a section of St Joseph fireworks factory between Kirkop and Zurrieq blew up on February 13.

On February 22 two Libyan Mirage jets which had been in Malta for more than a year after their pilots defected from Col Gaddafi’s airforce were flown back by the same pilots who had brought them to Malta.

In the autumn, Malta had a short break from local politics when it hosted the 5 + 5 Summit, grouping the heads of government of West Mediterranean European and North African countries. The visitors included President Hollande of France and Prime Minister Monti of Italy.

The Arriva bus service was never far from the headlines this year, and users complained about the servivce, but the situation was made worse when one of the buses crashed into Portes des Bombes in September, injuring several passengers. Another bus crashed into a centre strip in the same incidedent.

Enemalta wrestled with the building of the power station extension throughout the year. It was fined by Mepa for harmful emissions when Marsa power station was kept in operation longer than expected, and the new extension at Delimara was delayed when a turbine developed faults and had to be sent to the UK for repairs. It was re-assembled in Malta and fresh tests were being carried out in mid-December for the final hand-over of the plant.

One of the mostly closely-followed court cases last year involved Josette Bickle, who was convicted of drug trafficking in prison. She died late in the year after suddenly falling ill.

Also closely followed where the appeals made by a woman, Sarah Borg, for people to come forward to donate a kidney for her former partner. 21 people came forward. A raging argument development over organ donations, appeals for such donations, and whether payment should be made. The hospital’s ethics committee declared itself against such appeals for donations to specific persons.

Malta was shocked when former President Censu Tabone passed away on March 14, two weeks short of his 99th birthday. A state funeral was held.

Another farewell was also said to former University Rector Peter Serracino Inglott, who died aged 75.

Dom Mintoff passed away on August 20. He too was given a state funeral, a day after the public said its farewell when the cortege was taken to Cottonera and Labour headquarters.

Yet another notable loss took place on November 4 when popular priest Fr Rene Cilia died in a traffic accident at Tal-Barrani Road.

A Latvian worker was killed when a nightclub which was under construction collapsed at the Seabank hotel in an incident where other workers were fortunate not to have been hurt.

On March 30 a migrant from Mali was shot and injured by the police near Ghar Hasan after he allegedly charged at three officers with a knife.

In April, lawyer Margaret Mifsud was found dead in her car at Bahar ic-Caghaq and her former partner was subsequently accused of her murder .

A section of the Azure window in Gozo collapsed, although that did not reduce the beauty of the rock formation.

During the Spring, legal arguments erupted after Bird conservation society Cabs used a model aircraft equipped with a camera to seek out illegal hunting and trapping. The plane was shot down. There was also anger over how a CABS documentary shown on a major TV channel, portrayed Malta.

In May, an inquiry cleared the police of responsibility in the fatal shooting of a man, Bastjan Borg, who caused a disturbance in Qormi 2007.

On June 6 two men were injured when they were stabbed in a courtroom of the law courts in Gozo. Joseph Portelli, 54 from Zebbug, Gozo, was stabbed some 20 times and severely injured. A lawyer was less seriously hurt.

One of the highs and lows of the year started on June 22 when a turtle laid eggs at Gnejna Bay, something which had not been seen for a generation. Experts moved the eggs to a safer location and mounted guard over them, but, to everybody’s disappointment, the eggs did not hatch.

The European Championship dominated most of June, and there were some brawls after the Italy-England match on June 25.

On June 27 the European Union approved Air Malta’s restructuring pPlan, enabling the airline to turn the corner and head back to profitability.

There was shock at the end of June when a migrant from Mali died in a Detention Service van after having allegedly been beaten. Two soldiers were subsequently accused of murder.

On July 24, the badly decomposed body of a young Russian woman who had been missing for over a week was found dead in Paceville. It is believed that she fell from a wall she may have been sitting on in a secluded area.

In August, a protest in Marsaxlokk against campers who took over a beach turned into a brawl, with photos and videos of the incident going viral. But there was disappointment when those responsible were only fined €60.

There was joy in September when a lone amateur fisherman, missing with his boat for several days, was located by an AFM aircraft and rescued.

There was controversy in October when a woman was jailed for not granting her estranged husband access to their son. She was freed after a presidential pardon after she argued that she could not control her son, aged almost 18.

Mgr Charles Scicluna was ordained a bishop and became Malta’s Auxiliary Bishop in November.

The last month of the year started with the European Cinema Awards in Malta, with Dame Helen Mirren among the stars in Malta. Former formula one champion Lewis Hamilton gave a display during Paqpaqli ghal l-istrina, the last time he got into a McLaren car before moving to Mercedes.

But the month was dominated by politics and controversy. Simon Busuttil was elected deputy leader of the Nationalist Party and the government collapsed after Nationalist MP Franco Debono voted with the government against the Budget.

The Labour Party sprang a surprise when it sent Dr Debono for a deputy leader’s debate on Xarabank. The programme was postponed, much to Dr Debono’s anger. It was held as planned the next day, with Anglu Farrugia representing the Labour Party.

In a surprise move, Dr Farrugia was forced to resign from deputy leader of the PL and his post was taken by MEP Louis Grech.

The justice sector was rocked when Mr Justice Ray Pace was arraigned and accused of bribery and trading in influence. The prime minister presented impeachment motions against him and against Mr Justice Farrugia Sacco, who was named by the ethics committee of the International Olympic Committee in an investigation into ticket sales for the winter Olympics. Judge Pace resigned.

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