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Lack of forward planning

At a time when the Prime Minister and his government are using superlatives with sheer abandon when they describe work carried out so far under this administration, criticism is generally looked upon with contempt, even when this is well justified. Opposition politicians and others drawing attention in European fora about the deterioration in the observance of the rule of law are called traitors and those who raise shortcomings and wrongdoing are labelled negative.

Sadly, such tactics, reminiscent of dictatorial regimes, are fast becoming an entrenched aspect of Maltese politics as practised by the party in government. It is also laughable how errors of judgement are being written off. Take, for example, the chaos seen after the grand festivities following the inauguration of Valletta as the European Capital of Culture. When so much had been said about the organisation of the event, with officials involved going into all the fine details of the shows in the city squares, people had naturally expected that the promoters would have also seen to the transport needs of the thousands expected to attend.

It is not as if the large crowds had not been expected. The contrary is the case. As from weeks ahead, the organisers were openly saying that a record attendance was expected. So, based on their own expectations, why had they not given enough attention to the need of ensuring an efficient service? People spoke of complete disorganisation and even chaos at pick-up points.

One angry passenger summed up the situation this way: “People were fighting each other to get on board; there was a crush, children were at risk of getting hurt. It was pathetic.” Passengers reported waiting time of at least two hours.

As many pointed out after the public’s outrage over all this, it is not unusual for similar situations to occur after huge public events, even abroad. This is understandable and it would be naïve to expect a completely trouble-free trip back home after such activities that attract the masses.

Yet, it seems much of the chaos that occurred after the V18 festivities could have been avoided had greater attention been given in advance to transport requirements. Of the reactions given, perhaps the most outrageous was that of V18 chairman Jason Micallef who said that they, or rather, Valletta was a victim of its own success. It was nothing of the sort, though he did say that, in circumstances like these, they had to find alternative solutions. Obviously, they do. Once they had expected so many thousands to attend, they could have planned well in advance and took adequate measures to tackle them on the ground. They did not.

On its part, Malta Public Transport blamed lack of crowd control for the excessive delays. At least Transport Minister Ian Borg was honest enough to say that making the argument that similar situations occurred even abroad was no excuse and that more attention had to be given to ensuring a continued improvement of the service.

It is a pity that when so much work had gone into the organisation of the spectacle, which the people obviously enjoyed, the event had to be partially marred by what ensued at the end.

Some delays would have been expected but certainly not chaos.

This is a Times of Malta print editorial

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