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The week at a glance - August 12, 2018

Pick of our pictures

Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

Ferris sticks to his testimony

The police on Wednesday questioned Jonathan Ferris on his Egrant inquiry testimony for three hours, with his lawyer Kris Busietta (left) telling journalists the former FIAU manager had stuck to what he already told the magistrate. Asked if any charges would be brought against his client, Dr Busietta said such questions should be directed to the police.

What made the headlines

Schools, parents in the dark over free school transport: Independent and Church schools have been left in the dark by the Education Ministry over the new free school transport system expected to be introduced this September, the Times of Malta reported. The ministry did not answer questions about whether such schools should expect the scheme to be introduced at the start of the scholastic year, as promised. According to a Labour Party electoral pledge, about €10 million a year will be budgeted for such a service.

Pretty Bay has most microplastics: Birżebbuġa’s Pretty Bay has the highest concentration of microplastics of five popular sandy beaches analysed, according to ERA chairman Victor Axiaq. The quantity was up to 15 times higher than the lowest levels recorded at Għajn Tuffieħa. The other beaches monitored were Mellieħa’s Għadira Bay and Golden Bay and St George’s Bay in St Julian’s. Land-based human activities were believed to be the most likely major contributors to the levels of microplastics on beaches.

Edward SciclunaEdward Scicluna

Finance Minister unaware of record €274m direct order: Finance Minister Edward Scicluna said he had not approved a record direct order of €274 million and admitted he had only become aware of it through a story in The Sunday Times of Malta. The newspaper reported that a joint venture between James Caterers and Malta Healthcare, a subsidiary of the Seabank db Group, was given an order by the government to manage a 500-bed extension at St Vincent de Paul. A spokesman for Prof. Scicluna said he requested a report on the matter from the Director of Contracts. It later emerged that a €58 million contract for catering services and a new kitchen at St Vincent de Paul was signed a week after the government approved the €274 million direct order to the successful bidder, the Times of Malta revealed. According to The Malta Government Gazette, the €274 million direct order was approved by the government on November 9, 2017.

Paceville set to get clinic for revellers: A medical clinic could soon be set up in Paceville to handle drunk revellers who crowd the hospital’s emergency unit on weekends, Health Minister Chris Fearne said. He was contacted by the Times of Malta after a number of accident and emergency department staff complained of being inundated by people in need of treatment either due to either alcohol or drug abuse.

Court orders tender review amid ‘serious doubts’: A multimillion-euro contract for building a mini-hospital in Paola will be reviewed after the Court of Appeal expressed “serious doubts on the evaluation process”. Chief Justice Joseph Azzopardi rejected appeals filed by SP BB International JV after the Public Contracts Review Board decided that a fresh evaluation process should be conducted by a new team of evaluators. The company was awarded the €26 million-contract by the Health Ministry despite its offer being almost €4 million higher than the cheapest bid.

Family want to know if Daphne’s death was preventable: The family of slain journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia demanded a public inquiry into whether her assassination was preventable. In a 34-page legal opinion lawyers representing the family said an inquiry should seek to establish what steps the authorities took or ought to have been taken to protect Ms Caruana Galizia and her next of kin from known risks to her life. The lawyers said nine months from her death, Malta had failed to institute any form of inquiry into the wider circumstances surrounding her murder.

Third of babies born out of wedlock: One in three babies is born outside marriage, the highest rate in Malta in over a decade, according to EU statistics. Eurostat reported that 31.8 per cent of babies in 2016 were born to unmarried couples, up from 26.9 per cent in the previous year.

Delia asks court to intervene on Egrant inquiry report: Nationalist Party leader Adrian Delia asked the Constitutional Court to declare the Attorney General breached the European Human Rights Convention by not publishing the entire Egrant inquiry report. Accusing Attorney General Peter Grech of discrimination, Dr Delia demanded he should be given a copy of the report in his constitutional capacity as Leader of the Opposition.

What trended

Horses don’t have a vote

Animals don’t vote, and judging by legislators’ lead-footed responses to animal welfare concerns, that seems to be all that matters.

Take horse-drawn carriages. It took years – literally – for authorities to scrape together the wood and manpower to install rudimentary sun shelters for karozzin horses. And despite talk of abused, overworked animals echoing across the country every summer, concern seems to melt away as soon as autumn kicks in.

Will this year be different? Parliamentary Secretary Clint Camilleri pledged to revise karozzin laws this week, prompting carriage owners to warn that if the practice is outlawed, they would face an equine “massacre”.

That line of argument did not exactly warm the cockles of Times of Malta readers’ hearts.

“This goes to show how much they love their dear horses,” wrote one appalled woman, as another argued that “using the same brilliant reasoning, if the cabbies end up without a job they will be a burden on our economy and they should be put down too”.

Many readers clamoured for carriages to be banned completely, with some suggesting that tourists should do their bit by boycotting karozzini. “Get out of the cabs and walk,” one reader urged visitors.

There might be some middle ground, though, as one reader pointed out.

“Maybe instead of an outright ban, they should only [be allowed to operate] at certain times of the day and evening,” they suggested.

Drunkards should pay for medical care

Health Minister Chris Fearne has floated the idea of Paceville getting its own medical clinic to treat the scores of drunken revellers who are clogging up Mater Dei’s emergency room and taking up valuable space in ambulances.

The thought of sozzled youths crowding public health services had readers livid, with many suggesting the same solution – make them pay.

“Maltese, EU or non-EU, it doesn’t matter where you’re from,” reasoned one. “If you can afford to get drunk then you can afford to pay for the ambulance and A&E service”.

Others were in favour of having a Paceville clinic, with many suggesting bar owners should be made to foot the bill for it.  

While many called for drunkards to be hit in their pocketbooks, one reader looked at the problem laterally and suggested another way of resolving it.

“No need to make them pay for hospital,” he argued.

“You just have to enforce the existing law, which states that it’s a criminal offence to be drunk in public.”

What they said

“They can call me a salesman if they want but that will not affect me. That is my job.”

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat speaking on One Radio, where he defended his recent visit to Japan, which promoted the export of tuna as well as the possibility of exporting other goods, including pork and potatoes.

“The numbers show that changes need to happen. We now need to shed the old way of doing politics more than ever.”

Nationalist Party leader Adrian Delia reacting on Net FM to surveys showing the Labour Party could win an election with a majority of 94,000 votes over the PN.

“HSBC is proud of the progress we have made to achieve the highest level of financial crime compliance standards. It is essential that the financial system as a whole is able to demonstrate full and effective compliance with European Union standards.”

Andrew Beane, HSBC Malta CEO, speaking during the presentation of the bank’s financial results for the first six months of 2018.

“I will not be intimidated by these fascist tactics.”

Former FIAU manager Jonathan Ferris speaking to the Times of Malta after he was requested to turn up for questioning at police headquarters about his testimony in the Egrant inquiry.

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