Investment brings knowledge

Investment brings knowledge. This principle reigns in every sector, not least when it comes to public interest in our country’s heritage. The government has embarked on the country’s largest bastions’ restoration project through the financing of €36 million in EU funds.

This government is addressing the public thirst for information, which is tangible. Every information activity organised is well received and overbooked, as was the Open Day in Mdina last weekend. The public could observe the works being carried out, including the installation of a multitude of 36 metre-long micropiles to reinforce the bastion.

Today, I enjoyed accompanying the Prime Minister on a visit to the works on the Interactive Centre on Fortifications at Biagio Steps in Valletta. This centre will house an exhibition with large models and 3D computer-generated images of the bastions so that one can understand better the architectural and administrative work behind the building of 60 kilometres of fortifications in our country.

The works being carried out in Mdina, Valletta, Vittoriosa and the Citadella in Gozo are evident. I was therefore surprised when opposition MP Silvio Parnis tabled a parliamentary question enquiring “whether the restoration of the bastions in Cottonera and Valletta had begun”.

How hasn’t he noticed these are well underway? – February 11.

Should we follow his example?

I enjoyed watching Bondiplus yesterday, which discussed the guest of honour during the Labour Party’s general conference, convened with much pomp last week. Former Bulgarian Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev was introduced as the leader of a socialist party of an EU member state who became Prime Minister at a young age. They failed to mention that, unlike Joseph Muscat, he was in favour of Bulgaria’s EU membership, or the list of irregularities that overshadow his Premiership.

Accusations range from corruption leading to EU funds ending up in the hands of the Bulgarian Mafia, to alleged nepotism, with Mr Stanishev’s brother behind a proposed development in a zone of European ecological importance. According to The Guardian, this development “will destroy the Black Sea coast’s last remaining virgin stretches of beach and will have a devastating effect on the rich biodiversity of an area which has environmental protection status under the EU’s Natura 2000 programme”. Mr Stanishev’s treatment of the media was also worrying, with phone tapping of journalists leading to the resignation of his Minister of the Interior.

Mr Stanishev is hardly in a position to advocate transparency, stating that “More socialist prime ministers and governments were needed in Europe so that it would become more transparent and closer to the people”.

During the general conference, he was accompanied by none other than Alex Sceberras Trigona who, when minister, introduced the Foreign Interference Act, which prohibited foreign politicians coming to Malta. Times change. The Labour Party, however, hasn’t – February 8.

Thank you, Ron

I got to know Ron Colombo, the founder of the Malta Guide Dogs Foundation, about two years ago. He was a man who, although blind, shed light on the lives of others through guide dogs. Sadly, I attended his funeral today at the Addolorata Cemetery. He passed away on Saturday after suffering a brain haemorrhage last week. Today’s service was different from the norm. Rarely are dogs seen in the cemetery, whereas, today, there were a number of guide dogs, including Balto, Ron’s trusted Labrador.

Ron was a man of culture and integrity. I used to enjoy meeting him because he always had a smile on his face and a positive spirit. He was grateful for the help provided by the ministry, which facilitated the transfer of guide dogs from overseas training schools by removing the requirement that such dogs be quarantined. Ron also appreciated that the foundation was able to use the land around the St Francis Centre in Ta’ Qali in order to train their dogs.

Guide dogs literally change the lives of the blind, offering a friend to help gain access to otherwise inaccessible places. I will never forget what a blind person once told me: “My dog gave me back my independence.” In truth, Ron played a great role in providing that independence, ensuring that such dogs be brought to Malta. He didn’t only think of himself but ensured others would also benefit. Ron is no longer with us, but his actions and initiatives will live on. Thank you, Ron – February 7.

Viable winds

The results of the first wind study have just been announced, showing that a wind farm on Sikka l-Bajda is technically viable. The results follow a year of wind monitoring after the installation of a wind mast in L-Aħrax tal-Mellieħa in November 2009. These results provide more detailed data on wind conditions around Sikka l-Bajda and the feasibility of an offshore wind farm. This study was the first step in a long process that includes an analysis of the environmental impact and economic viability.

It was calculated that a wind farm on Sikka l-Bajda would generate about 200GWh of electricity. This amounts to the energy consumed by about 40,000 families a year.

This is the only reef large enough for an 18 turbine wind farm in shallow waters, that is, up to a depth of about 30 meters. Until now there are no stable proven systems for deep offshore wind farms, meaning a depth of over 20 meters. Once developed they will offer great opportunities.

The results from these studies show the wind farm at Sikka l-Bajda will account for a third of the 10 per cent renewable target. Therefore, in order to reach the established goals, we must take advantage of all sources of alternative energy, such as wind, sun, and waste – February 6.

I acted according to law

It’s no surprise Labour MP Leo Brincat yesterday dedicated both his articles to repeat the misleading arguments made by the opposition after the judgment recently delivered by the court on the appeal procedures for the Sant’Antnin permit.

The court referred to the Development Planning Act, particularly section 15 that deals with the composition of the Planning Appeals Board, stating this does not provide an “appearance of independence”. This decision, directly or indirectly, did not find me guilty of breaching fundamental rights, as Mr Brincat portrayed. In fact, the court decision does not indicate my involvement, as minister responsible, in the process before the Appeals Board. The case was decided on the basis of “appearance of independence” and not the breaching of fundamental rights.

I acted according to law. The court found that the law should be amended, as, in fact, has already happened. But the facts are irrelevant for Mr Brincat, who, like his party, is only interested in mudslinging. Mr Brincat is surely not the most appropriate politician to be talking of human rights when he is a remnant of a socialist regime that, among other obscenities, governed for five years against the will of the people and breached numerous fundamental human rights. He had no difficulty forming part of that government and justifying its actions. Mr Brincat tries to make us forget he served for two years as parliamentary secretary responsible for government information and housing in a regime that did not have the trust of the people – February 2.

The author is Minister of Resources and Rural Affairs.


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