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What happened this week

Headlines, comments and soundbites from the week that was

Photo: Chris Sant FournierPhoto: Chris Sant Fournier

What made the headlines

Air Malta has not published its accounts for the last two financial years.Air Malta has not published its accounts for the last two financial years.

Air Malta breaks even in second quarter: Air Malta managed to break even between April and June 2017 for the first time in around 10 years, according to leaked details from the accounts obtained by the Times of Malta. The airline has not yet published its audited accounts for the year ended March 2016, let alone for the year ended March 2017 – with sources saying that this was due to the fact that they could have influenced negotiations for the sale of the airline.

Minister joins protesting residents: Environment Minister José Herrera insisted it was high time the government made the environment a priority and promised his support for Pembroke residents opposing the building of a school on unbuilt land. Dr Herrera joined about 300 residents who descended on the area proposed to house the new Chiswick House School to express their disapproval.

Arrest warrant for John Dalli followed Attorney General’s advice: An arrest warrant against former European Commissioner John Dalli was issued after Attorney General Peter Grech had given his consent in writing to the police on January 11, 2013, to charge him with trading in influence and bribery, the Times of Malta revealed. The police were unable to execute the warrant at the time, because Mr Dalli was abroad. Dr Grech refused to tell the Times of Malta whether he had given the green light for Mr Dalli to be prosecuted, saying his opinion was “covered by professional secrecy”.

Migrant rescue vessel refused entry: A search and rescue boat carrying three Libyan migrants was not allowed to bring them to Malta, as the government felt this would “set a precedent”, sources told the Times of Malta. The vessel, Golfo Azurro, run by the Spanish aid group Proactiva Open Arms, had tried to land the migrants in Lampedusa but was refused permission by the Italian authorities. After three days stranded in international waters, the vessel was allowed into Sicily.

New regulations for strip clubs: Rules for adult entertainment clubs will determine whether entertainers can perform naked, semi-naked or clothed, the Times of Malta reported. The rules, still under consideration, target gentlemen’s clubs, which will be classified as adult entertainment outlets under a new law piloted by the Tourism Ministry. Adult clubs would be subjected to zoning requirements to avoid having them open all over the place, and operators would be obliged to adopt a code of conduct for performers and clients, a Tourism Ministry spokesman said.

€16.8 million recovered from Panama Papers, Swiss Leaks: Just over €16.8 million has been recovered by the tax authorities since previously unknown foreign holdings by Maltese were laid bare in the Panama Papers and Swiss Leaks. Information supplied by the Tax Compliance Unit (TCU) shows that €6.3 million was recovered from its investigations into the Panama Papers data, which was leaked from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca. This was made up of €3.4 million in undeclared income and €2.9 million in fines. A further €10.5 million was recovered from the Swiss Leaks data, which came from just a single HSBC branch based in Geneva.

Sliema gang of thieves ‘vanish’ from police radar:  A months-long major police operation that netted a group of foreigners suspected of a string of thefts in Sliema two years ago could well prove to have been futile, because the accused failed to appear in court recently and could not be found, according to the Times of Malta. The police mounted a manhunt to find the wanted men, thought to form part of an international crime ring. Police sources said the Attorney General’s Office should never have granted the accused bail. On the other hand, sources close to the Attorney General blamed the police for not keeping an eye on the five foreigners and ensuring they observed bail conditions.

Police likely to appeal priest abuse sentence: The police and the Attorney General’s Office are likely to appeal the three-month jail term, suspended for a year, handed down to Fr Charles Fenech, a Dominican friar who was found guilty of the violent indecent assault of a vulnerable woman. Sources told the Times of Malta that the police were not happy with the punishment meted out to the former director of the Kerygma Movement, and neither was the victim.

What trended

Overdevelopment in the news, again

The Times of Malta carried some stun­ning examples of astro­­photog­­­raphy last week, taken from what physicists agree is the country’s best astronomical observation site.

The photos of the night sky and stars served as a reminder of what would be lost if the Planning Au­tho­rity approved a restaura­teur’s application to add a canopy, tables and, crucially, lights to the site.

Though a decision, either way, has yet to be taken, many readers automatically assumed the worst.

If you’re on tranquilisers, yes it’s nice to retire here

“Can someone explain why ODZ is named ODZ in this country?” asked an exasperated reader. “Must be short for ‘Over-Development Zone’,” another suggested.

And while many rubbed their eyes in disbelief, some called for civil disobedience: “If these lights go up... I personally will tear them down, again and again. Mark my words and name!!” Duly noted, Christopher Richard.

The construction lobby has been given a programme on national TV. The news read like something straight out of The Onion, with the punchline being that the show will be an “educational” one.

“Sounds completely inappro­priate to me,” wrote one confused soul, who must still be getting used to Malta’s general indifference to politically inappropriate moves.

“Instead of having a programme in favour of the environment, we have one about development,” wrote another reader, echoing the feelings of many others.

“Will they be educating us on the real costs of construction to the economy? The strain on infra­structure, the damage to roads, emissions from heavy vehicles, the taking up of pristine land?” another reader raged upon rea-ding the news.

It was a one-liner that said it best, however: “We have now well and truly entered the twilight zone,” they wrote. Indeed.

Despite all its faults, Malta remains popular among retirees, and an index last week ranked it among the world’s best places to kick up your feet in old age.

The news wasn’t exactly greeted with whoops of joy among locals.

“If you’re on tranquilisers, yes it’s nice to retire here,” wrote one reader, who went on to list the “dirt, egoism, anarchy and lack of discipline” which leaves him less than enamoured with his homeland.

What they said

“Let us pray for those who would rather have the Church bound by chains of silence because they despise what the Church is saying.”

Archbishop Charles Scicluna giving his homily during Mass at the Birżebbuġa parish church on the occasion of the 1,950th anniversary of the martyrdom of St Peter.

“If we can get our own bodies to defend themselves against cancerous cells, it is much better from a therapeutic perspective than using drugs that destroy everything.”

Maltese scientist David Saliba of the University of Oxford, who is at the forefront of research that could eventually lead to better targeting and destroying of cancer cells by the body’s immune system.

“Malta could have done the right thing. Instead it chose to abandon the migrants and crew to their fates out at sea, potentially for days.”

Human rights NGOs Aditus Foundation, Integra Foundation and JRS Malta criticising the government for not allowing three migrants and crew stranded on a rescue vessel, the Golfo Azzurro, into Malta.

“The important thing here isn’t the fact that one MP voted against but the great leap forward the Nationalist Party made in favour of equality in our country.”

Nationalist Party leader Simon Busuttil commenting on the fact that the PN executive committee decided not to take any disciplinary action against MP Edwin Vassallo for voting against the Marriage Equality Bill.

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