The President has convened a series of meetings between band club committees, the police and the Curia to deal with village rivalry during feasts.
George Abela told The Sunday Times that much had been achieved through the meetings and village feasts this year were “more civilised” than those of previous years – though more remained to be done.
The President took it upon himself to do something about the problem and in April last year warned that he would not attend village feasts marred by rivalry.
He admitted that given the passion the Maltese put into their village feast, festa rivalry was “almost impossible” to eradicate completely. He lamented that the younger generations were being given a “very bad example” with the excesses some people indulge in during the feast of their village saint.
The President was asked to comment on photos depicting such excesses in Victoria, which is bitterly divided between the La Stella band club and the Leone philharmonic society.
The photos, posted on the social network site Facebook appear to show supporters of the Leone club taunting, through the use of vulgar gestures, ‘adversaries’ outside St George’s Basilica which is associated with La Stella club.
A man who witnessed the celebrations on August 15 said this year the march took a carnivalesque tinge with a huge effigy of a Paper mache lion and several provocative banners.
Although St George’s is not strictly related to the activities connected with this feast, Leone Band club supporters consider it essential to assert their right to hold their march in rival territory.
One of the banners carried by them made this clear with the words: ‘We will enter your square for sure’.
But Leone Band club president Michael Caruana said these banners were merely a reply to banners put up by La Stella club, saying they would not allow them into the square.
“It is a constitutional right to pass through the square,” Mr Caruana said adding that he did not consider this exchange of banners to be “rivalry”. He pointed out that police were present throughout the celebrations and no action was taken against anyone.
Asked about photos showing a young man gesturing as he sat in St George’s square, Dr Caruana said he condemned such behaviour.
Dr Abela said more had to be done to control “the few” who tarnish village feasts with “ridiculous behaviour”.
In October last year, the Church had published a range of proposals on the celebration of village feasts with the aim of restoring the religious and community aspects of the celebrations. This document was launched and then opened for public consultation.
A final document will be published at the end of the festa season, which is after Wednesday’s celebrations of the feast of the Nativity of Our Lady in Naxxar.
Among other things, the Church proposed giving village festa enthusiasts three years to control outrageous behaviour during morning band marches, after which offending band clubs would be struck off the Church’s list of events.
“Between 2010 and 2012 we will allow time for all those involved to control exaggeration, including the manner of dress, songs and words that are chanted, the consumption of alcohol and the duration of the marches,” the document read.
“If, after these three years, we find that band marches cannot be controlled or reformed, the Church has to decide to no longer consider them an integral part of the feast.”
The document also proposed that morning band marches should not be longer than four hours and should not go past rival clubs. Where this was unavoidable, the march should not stop, for whatever reason.
“The mission of the Church is to deliver the beauty of God’s word. And that’s what the role of feasts should be. There is a lot of tradition in our feasts, which is beautiful. However, through the years, we have forgotten they are there to celebrate a saint,” Archbishop Paul Cremona had said.