Il-Jet li għandu jqabbdek il-biża’

 

Il-Jet li wassal lil Jacqueline Gili (Direttur fil-Ministeru tal-Finanzi) għal-laqgħa tal-Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar biex din tkun tista’ tattendi ħalli tivvota favur il-porkerija tad-dB f’Pembroke għandu jqabbadna l-biża’.

Mhux għax xi darba kelli dubju li uħud huma fil-but tal-ispekulaturi. Imma għax issa l-affarijiet qed isiru b’mod mill-iktar sfaċċjat.

B’dawk il-miljuni kollha li qed jissemmew, l-ispejjez għall-Jet huma karawett.

Hemm xi ħadd li għad baqagħlu dubju li dan hu Gvern tal-ispekulaturi ?

 

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Regulating the building industry

 

Last Wednesday, a White Paper to consolidate and streamline existing legislation relative to the building and construction industry was published for public consultation.

It is being proposed to set up a new authority, a Building and Construction Regulator, to consolidate under its authority the statutory responsibilities currently entrusted to the various scattered entities responsible for the regulation of the building and construction industry at post-permit stage. This, it is suggested, would facilitate the revisiting and consolidation of current building laws and regulations, thus bringing them into line with current technical and legal exigencies.

In particular, the White Paper points towards the need to consolidate four specific entities: the BICC (Building Industry Consultative Council), the BRO (Building Regulation Office), the BRB (Building Regulation Board) and the Masons Board.

The proposal is certainly long overdue and should, if properly implemented through timely enforcement, lead to an improvement in both quality and safety standards throughout the building and construction industry.

The proliferation of boards and other entities throughout the years, even though well intentioned, rendered them almost ineffective. Their consolidation and coordination will hopefully restore them into effective tools through which to ensure that their objectives are implemented and, where necessary, brought in line with present day technological realities.

Updating property legislation, if carried out under the direction of a consolidated authority can also be more focused and fruitful.

The new authority should ensure that the building industry has an informed voice, capable of interacting with the existing regulatory structures such as the Planning Authority. In so doing the newly proposed structure would be in a position to complement the input of other entities such as the Civil Protection Department, the Commission for the Rights of Persons with Disability (CRPD), the Department of Environmental Health (DEH) and the Occupational Health and Safety Authority (OHSA).

As inevitably happens whenever such initiatives are taken, there will initially be some overlaps with the responsibilities of other entities. Time and adequate coordination will be required in order that these initial difficulties are overcome, as they will most probably be.

The new authority will be welcomed by the large-scale operators in the building industry, most of whom are more than adequately equipped to deal with an industry that is driven by technology, improved quality and safety standards. It will however initially be considered as intrusive and bureaucratic by the smaller operators. This is, in fact, the area in which the building regulatory framework is currently largely ineffective and, consequently, where the impacts of the resulting consolidation is most needed.

Improvements will not result overnight. They will however, slowly build up once the resources are made available to the newly established authority, enabling it to provide adequate monitoring of building sites that currently cannot be ensured due to the fact that the existing boards are starved of sufficient resources.

I do not think this consultation is in anyway controversial, which may explain why it is  below the media’s radar. But let us not underestimate its importance.

 

published in the Malta Independent on Sunday : 23 September 2018

The drummer’s call

The drummer was floored. A photo on the social media depicted a drum departing from the hand of a uniformed policeman and flying in the direction of the floored drummer.

Last Thursday’s protest by Moviment Graffiti and Kamp Emergenza Ambjent was not about the pending decision on the proposed fuel service station at Bulebel in Żejtun. It was rather about the lethargy of the authorities in considering the overhaul of the Fuel Service Stations policy.

The mishandling of the protestors by the police apparently marks a new season: it has been ages since the police force was so employed in Malta. Apparently, the authorities are getting very itchy.

Appreciation of the environment is limited to clean-up days subject to the media’s glare, with the remaining days of the year being a free-for-all. There is nothing new in such an attitude. We have been facing it year-in, year-out for a considerable time. By now we are accustomed to greenwashing and some of us have developed an acute allergy to the authorities’ greenwashing.

Playing on the drum, the drummer was announcing to one and all that we are all fed up by the authorities’ procrastination and that it was about time that they realised that this is another case of abuse of authority and maladministration. The Republic belongs to everyone and not just to the privileged few.

The number of pending applications for fuel service stations is considerable, notwithstanding the fact that we do not need even one of them. The long-term policy direction is to reduce our dependency on private cars. In addition, as indicated by the Prime Minister around twelve months ago, we are awaiting the announcement of the cut-off date when the remaining cars on our roads are primarily electrically driven.

It has been repeatedly emphasised that the 3,000 square metres permissible footprint that the Fuel Service Station policy allows for the development of fuel service stations outside the development zone is excessive and the proposal by the Environment and Resources Authority to reduce this footprint to 2,000 square metres is not much of an improvement. If a fuel service station is required its footprint could be substantially less. Obviously, this would necessitate doing away with all the ancillary commercial activity at ODZ fuel service stations that the current fuel service station policy introduced in reaction to those seeking pastures new for their “investments”. The current policy gives more weight to ensuring a return on investment than to the need to protect our countryside from further rape.

Last Thursday, the Planning Authority Board turned down the application for a fuel service station at Bulebel in Żejtun. There are other applications pending, most of which will be eventually approved. This will be done notwithstanding the fact that there is no need for more fuel service stations. We have more than enough of them and it is certainly about time that we start closing some of the existing ones.

In my article last week, I emphasised that we need to implement the vision put forward by the National Transport Master Plan 2025 which advocates the need to reduce our dependency on cars. The need to overhaul the Fuel Service Station Policy has to be considered in this context. If we need to reduce (drastically) the number of cars on our roads, it follows that we do not need any more fuel service stations.

In the coming weeks the drummer’s call through more rhythmic movements of the drum sticks will be required to alert us to more sessions of the Planning Authority Board which will be convened to approve the further rape of our countryside.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 16th September 2018

Il-politika dwar it-trasport: ħtieġa li nħarsu fit-tul

Biex nindirizzaw sewwa l-ħtiġijiet tal-pajjiż jeħtieġ li nħarsu fit-tul. Biex dan iseħħ hu meħtieġ ippjanar serju: li wara li jikkonsidra l-possibilitajiet kollha u janalizza l-impatti li jistgħu jirriżultaw iwassal għal deċiżjoni dwar l-aħjar soluzzjoni u mbagħad sussegwentement li din tkun imwettqa.

L-implimentazzjoni tal-politika dwar it-trasport, f’Malta, ma tħarisx fit-tul. Dan minkejja li għandna pjani ppreparati riċentement: il-Master Plan dwar it-Trasport li jwassal sal-2025 u l-Istrateġija Nazzjonali dwar it-Trasport li twassal sal-2050.

Imma sfortunatament hemm diskrepanza mhux żgħira bejn il-politika dwar it-trasport u l-implimentazzjoni tagħha. L-interventi fl-infrastruttura mwettqa jew li qed jitħejjew minn Trasport Malta u/jew Infrastruttura Malta ftit li xejn jaqblu mal-għanijiet dikjarati tal-Master Plan u l-Istrateġija dwar it-Trasport.

Ħa nkun ċar: mhux qed ngħid li m’għandu jsir xejn. Id-diżastru li qed niffaċċjaw fil-qasam tat-trasport jista’ jsir agħar milli hu illum jekk ma jsir xejn. Jeħtieġ bla dubju intervent mill-Gvern, imma dan jeħtieġ li jkun ippjanat u iffukat fuq il-problemi reali kif identifikati fil-pjani mfassla għall-Gvern Malti fl-2015 mill-konsulenti tiegħu tal-konsortju Italo-Spanjol Ineco-Systematica, imħallsa mill-fondi Ewropej dwar l-iżvilupp reġjonali.

L-għanijiet li jeħtieġ li jintlaħqu huma mfissra fid-daħla għall-Master Plan dwar it-Trasport li hi ffirmata mill-Ministru tat-Transport ta’ dak iż-żmien Joe Mizzi: “Malta, bħal bosta pajjiżi oħra qed tiffaċċja l-isfidi riżultat ta’ bdil fl-istil ta’ ħajja li ngħixu u li qed iwasslu f’domanda ikbar għall-mobilitá personali u dipendenza ikbar fuq karozzi privati. Iktar minn qatt qabel illum jeħtieġilna li nfittxu bilanċ bejn, fuq naħa waħda l-ħarsien tal-ambjent, il-protezzjoni ta’ saħħitna u li nilqgħu għall-impatti negattivi tat-tibdil fil-klima u fuq in-naħa l-oħra t-titjib fl-ekonomija tal-pajjiż. Dan iwassal għal insistenza għal transport pubbliku li jkun aħjar u ta’ min joqgħod fuqu, u għall-użu ta’ mezzi oħra (ta’ transport) kif ukoll integrazzjoni aħjar ta’ dawn il-mezzi.”

Dan hu messaġġ ċar li jemfasizza l-ħtieġa urġenti li nagħmlu użu ta’ mezzi alternattivi ta’ transport kif ukoll li nassiguraw illi nintegraw sewwa l-facilitajiet ta’ transport li għandna. Huwa propju dan li jagħmel il-Master Plan tat-Trasport.

Huwa tajjeb li ninnotaw illi l-Master Plan jemfasizza li nofs il-vjaġġi li jsiru b’karozzi privati fil-gzejjer Maltin jdumu inqas minn 15-il minuta. Dan jindika li din il-mobilitá hi waħda primarjament ta’ natura lokali fuq distanzi qosra. Dan, fil-fehma tal-Master Plan, jagħtina l-opportunitá li ninkoraġixxu iktar mixi u użu tar-rota. Imma, iżid jgħid il-Master Plan, hemm il-ħtieġa ta’ titjib fil-kwalitá tal-faċilitajiet fiċ-ċentri tal-ibliet u l-irħula tagħna, kemm għal min jimxi kif ukoll għal min jagħmel użu mir-rota.

Dan jurina b’mod ċar li jeżistu soluzzjonijiet li jindirizzaw il-mobilitá tagħna kemm fil-lokalitajiet infushom kif ukoll bejn l-lokalitá u oħra. Dawn is-soluzzjonijiet, li jħarsu fit-tul, għandhom il-possibilitá li jindirizzaw nofs il-vjaġġi li jsiru bil-karozzi privati, l-parti l-kbira minnhom fil-ħinijiet li jkun hemm ħafna traffiku fit-toroq tagħna. Dan mingħajr ma biss nikkunsidraw xi bypass jew proġett ta’ toroq massiċċ. Safejn naf jiena, s’issa, fit-tliet snin li suppost illi ilu fis-seħħ il-Master Plan tat-Trasport, ma ittieħdet l-ebda inizjattiva ta’ din ix-xorta. Dan hu qasam ta’ ħidma li fih is-sehem tal-kunsilli lokali huwa essenzjali għax ifisser li hemm il-ħtieġa li niddiżinjaw mill-ġdid it-toroq u l-ispazji pubbliċi kollha tagħna b’mod li nittrasformawhom biex ikunu għas-servizz tar-residenti u mhux iktar biex jiffaċilitaw l-użu tal-karozzi kif wara kollox huma illum.

Il-karozzi ħadulna t-toroq. Hemm bżonn li neħduhom lura.

Li ntejbu l-infrastruttura tat-toroq tagħna u dik li nsejħulha l-għamara tat-triq twassal biex jibda jkun implimentat il-Master Plan tat-Trasport għax jinkoraġixxi t-tnaqqis fl-użu tal-karozzi privati għad-distanzi qosra: u dan ftakru li jinvolvi nofs il-vjaġġi li jsiru bil-karozzi! Iktar emfasi fuq il-ħtieġa ta’ użu tat-transport pubbliku fuq livell ta’ lokalitá għandu jwassal ukoll għal żieda fl-użu bejn lokalitajiet fil-qrib. Jekk dan isir sewwa, bla dubju, tonqos id-dipendenza fuq il-karozza privata u iktar nies tifhem kemm ma hemmx ħtieġa tal-proġetti kbar ta’ toroq li hawn għaddejjin bħalissa li huma sempliċiment ħela ta’ flus li nistgħu nużaw ħafna aħjar.

Din hi stampa żgħira tal-ħarsa fit-tul li l-konsulenti Italo-Spanjoli tal-gvern fasslu fil- Master Plan tat-Trasport. Hi għodda tajba li tista’ tgħinna nnaqqsu d-dipendenza żejda tagħna fuq il-karozza privati, li wasslet għall-qagħda diżastruża fit-toroq tagħna illum. Għandna nimplimentaw dawn il-proposti malajr kemm jista’ jkun: illum qabel għada.

 

Ippubblikat fuq Illum : il-Ħadd 9 ta’ Settembru 2018

 

 

 

 

Transport policy: missing the long term view

To  adequately tackle a country’s needs, a long-term view is essential. This necessitates serious planning: that is to say considering all the possible options, analysing the resulting possible impacts, taking a decision on the optimum solution and then implementing that decision.

The implementation of transport policy in Malta is such that the long-term view is almost completely discarded. I say “almost” because it exists on paper in the form of a Transport Master Plan running untill 2025 and a National Transport Strategy running untill 2050.

Unfortunately, there is a mismatch between transport policy and action. The infrastructural interventions being planned or being carried out through Transport Malta and/or Infrastructure Malta do not match the declared objectives in the Transport Master Plan and Strategy.

Let me be clear: doing nothing is not an option. The current transport mess cannot be left unattended as it can only get worse. It requires government intervention, which must be planned and focused on addressing the real issues identified in the transport plans drawn for the Maltese government in 2015 by the Ineco-Systematica Consortium, the Italo-Spanish consultants paid for from EU regional development funds.

The objectives to be achieved are encapsulated in the forward to the Transport Master Plan signed by former Transport Minister Joe Mizzi: “Malta, like many other countries, faces the challenges of lifestyle changes that have resulted in increased demand for personal mobility and more dependence on private cars. Today, more than ever, we need to strike a fine balance between protecting our environment, preserving our health and mitigating the negative impacts of climate change, on the one hand, and improving economic performance on the other. This will call for better quality and more reliable public transport, a shift to alternative modes and better integration between these modes.”

It is a clear and unambiguous statement emphasising the urgent need for a modal shift to alternative transport means and ensuring appropriate integration between the transport facilities available. The Transport Master Plan does precisely this: it plans the way to achieve this modal shift in a 10-year timeframe.

It is pertinent to point out that the Transport Master Plan 2025 underlines the fact that 50 per cent of journeys by private vehicles in the Maltese islands are of under 15-minutes duration, indicating that substantial mobility produced at local levels on very short paths. This, opines the Master Plan, creates the opportunity to increase the modal share for walking and cycling, as the distances travelled are short. However, it adds: “there is the need to promote and strengthen the quality of the pedestrian and cycling facilities” within and around town centres.

This clearly indicates that long term solutions can be found in addressing the mobility preferences within localities themselves, as well as between neighbouring localities. This has the potential of tackling 50 per cent of vehicles movements, a substantial portion of them during peak-traffic time, without even considering any bypass or major road project. I am not aware of any such initiative so far, three years after the approval of the Transport Master Plan. It is an area of action in which the involvement of local councils is essential, as it will involve redesigning practically all of our roads and public spaces in each and every locality in order that they are transformed to be resident-friendly rather than vehicle-friendly, as they have been to date.

Cars have taken up our roads and we need to take them back.

Improving our locality infrastructure and street furniture so that our roads are resident-friendly should be the first step in implementing The Transport Master Plan and, remember, this involves 50 per cent of trips made by private vehicles. Adding emphasis to the need to make more use of public transport, even at a local level, should also increase its use between neighbouring localities. If done properly, this could further reduce the dependency on private vehicles and consequently put a substantial break on the perceived need of massive road infrastructural projects which are just monies down the drain which we could definitely put to better use.

This is just a snapshot of the long-term view that the government’s Italo-Spanish advisors provided in the Transport Master Plan 2025. It is a tool which can help wean us away from excessive dependency on private cars that has resulted in a transport policy failure over the years. It is about time that the provisions of this Master Plan are implemented, and the sooner, the better.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 9th September 2018

Sandro Checuti u t-tagħlim minn Sqallija

Li tipprova titgħallem dejjem tajjeb. Opportunitá tajba għat-tagħlim, għaldaqstant m’għandna  nitilfuha qatt.

Ġie imħabbar f’dawn il-ġranet li l-assoċjazzjoni tal-iżviluppaturi Maltin (MDA) iffirmat ftehim ta’ kooperazzjoni mal-ANCE ta’ Ragusa. L-ittri ANCE jfissru Associazione Nazionale Costruttori Edili – l-Assoċjazzjoni Nazzjonali ta’ dawk li jibnu l-bini residenzjali.

Dan il-ftehim ta’ kooperazzjoni, qalulna, kien meħtieġ għax hemm ħafna x’nitgħallmu mingħand xulxin: bejn żviluppaturi Maltin u Sqallin, jiġifieri. Bla dubju hemm ħafna nies tas-sengħa fi Sqallija, inkluż fis-snajja tal-bini. Il-presenza tiżdied tagħhom f’Malta tista’ tgħin lill-Maltin (fl-istess snajja) biex itejbu x-xogħol tagħhom. Imma tajjeb li nifhmu ukoll li anke f’Malta għandna ħafna mustaċċuni fis-snajja konnessi mal-bini.

Ikun interessanti liema huma dawk is-snajja u kapaċitajiet li ser issir emfasi dwarhom.

Bla dubju wieħed mill-oqsma li jista’ jkun hemm min jitħajjar jitgħallem ftit ieħor huwa dwar l-appalti pubbliċi (dwar it-tenders pubbliċi jiġifieri). Nifhem li jistgħu jitħajru jiġu xi professuri minn Sqallija, minn dawk li għandhom esperjenza kbira. Ma nafx jekk jiġux minn Ragusa inkella minn xi parti oħra ta’ Sqallija. Dan hu qasam li minkejja l-“iżviluppi” kbar f’Malta, għadna apprentisti ħdejn l-iSqallin! Imma, ovvjament, il-possibilta tat-tagħlim m’għandhiex tkun skartata.

Ikun interessanti x’sehem ser ikollhom l-uffiċjali pubbliċi u l-politiċi li ħadu sehem fil-laqgħat bejn l-iżviluppaturi Maltin u dawk Sqallin. Probabbilment li l-għatx tagħhom għat-tagħlim hu kbir wisq.

Kafè Al Fresco ……… is-sogru huwa tiegħek

Ħwienet tal-kafè jew restoranti al fresco f’numru ta’ lokalitajiet ħadulna l-bankina. F’xi każi anke l-ispazju għall-parkeġġ tal-karozzi ħadu, għax dawn jimpurthom biss minn ħaġa waħda: li jdawru lira. Ovvjament dawn jippretendu li aħna nimxu f’nofs it-triq għax fuq il-bankina ftit iħallulna spazju minn fejn ngħaddu. Iħalluhom, qiesu ma ġara xejn. Lanqas tista’ titkellem, għax il-bankina għamluha tagħhom.

L-awtoritajiet jiġu jaqgħu u jqumu għax dawn jinteresshom biss li jkunu jidhru “business friendly”: ċjoe viċin in-nies tal-flus, ħa jdawru lira. Il-bqija, min jafhom?

Is-sindki tal-Gżira u Tas-Sliema, Conrad Borg Manchè u Dominic Chircop, matul dawn l-aħħar ġimgħat għamlu sewwa li emfasizzaw li l-mod kif tal-kafè u r-restoranti al fresco qed joperaw fil-lokalitajiet tagħhom mhux aċċettabbli, għax ma jagħtux kas tan-nies.

L-inċidenti, kif tafu, jiġru. Biżżejjed incident wieħed ta’ karozza misjuqa ħażin li tista’ tispiċċa toqtol jew tweġġa’ serjament numru ta’ persuni f’xi wieħed minn dawn il-ħwienet tal-kafè jew ir-restoranti. Imbagħad forsi jkun hemm min jagħti kas.

Ftit ġimgħat ilu, f’Lulju, żgħażugħ Olandiz ta’ 25 sena li kien qiegħed jippassiġa San Giljan max-xatt intlaqat minn Subaru Impreza li kienet misjuqa b’veloċitá esaġerata minn żgħażugħ ta’ 20 sena li kien rappurtat li qabeż kull limitu raġjonevoli ta’ alkoħol. L-Olandiż miet l-isptar. Oħrajn weġġgħu. U dan apparti bosta ħsara oħra.

Kien pass tajjeb tal-Awtoritá tal-Artijiet li rrifjutat applikazzjoni tas-sidien tal-Lukanda Waterfront max-Xatt tal-Gżira biex dawn ikunu jistgħu jieħdu numru ta’ spazji għal parkeġġ biex ikollhom ħanut tal-kafè jew restorant fuq il-bankina quddiem il-lukanda. Meta sidien il-lukanda ikkontestaw id-deċiżjoni tal-Awtoritá tal-Artijiet, fl-aħħar sabu lil min jagħti kas. Il-Maġistrat Charmaine Galea li ppresjediet l-appell emfasizzat li r-regoli dwar l-imwejjed u s-siġġijiet fl-apert jipprojibixxu li dawn jitqegħdu biswit toroq arterjali, viċin traffiku li jkun għaddej b’veloċitá. Il-Maġistrat Galea emfasizzat li n-nies għandha dritt li tkun imħarsa mit-traffiku, mill-istorbju kif ukoll mid-dħaħen iġġenerati mill-karozzi.

Il-Maġistrat Charmaine Galea għandha raġun. Hemm ħtieġa urgenti li l-loġika tagħha tinfetta l-proċess deċiżjonali tal-Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar għax hu ċar li prattikament il-ħwienet tal-kafè u r-restoranti kollha fuq il-bankina fix-Xatt tal-Gżira u tas-Sliema mhumiex skont ir-regoli. Dan jgħodd ukoll għal inħawi oħra.

Id-deċiżjoni tal-Maġistrat Galea tagħti piz lill-argumenti tas-sindki tal-Gżira u tas-Sliema li ilhom żmien jinsistu li l-ħwienet tal-kafè u r-restoranti al fresco biswit ir-rotot ewlenin tat-traffiku jeħtieġu iktar ħsieb qabel ma jingħataw il-permess biex joperaw. Jeħtieġ titjib fl-infrastruttura biex it-traffiku jkollu jnaqqas il-veloċitá kif ukoll biex in-nies ikunu protetti minn inċidenti kkawżati minn karozzi misjuqa bl-addoċċ, mill-istorbju kif ukoll mid-dħaħen tal-petrol u d-dijsil. L-Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar ma wriet l-ebda sens ta’ responsabbilta meta injorat lin-nies u qieset biss il-qies li dawk li jridu jdawru lira, irrispettivament mill-konsegwenzi.

Fuq il-bankini ftit qed jitħalla spazju biex jgħaddu n-nies u ma hemm l-ebda protezzjoni la mit-traffiku perikoluż u l-anqas mid-dħaħen. Għall-Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar, sfortunatament, dan kollu ma jfisser xejn.

It-tħassib tal-Kunsilli Lokali dwar il-ħwienet tal-kafè u r-restoranti al fresco hu għal kollox injorat mill-Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar għax ma jidhriliex li huma affarijiet li għandha tikkunsidra qabel ma tieħu d-deċiżjonijiet tagħha.

Qabel ma tippjana passiġġata max-xatt ftakar li hemmhekk hu riżervat għal min irid idawwar lira! Mill-bqija, is-sogru hu kollu tiegħek.

Ippubblikat fuq Illum : Il-Ħadd 1 ta’ Settembru 2018

 

 

Al fresco dining ……… at your risk

Al fresco dining has taken over pavements in a number of localities and parking spaces too have not been spared either, as the catering business does not care about anything except its bottom line. Apparently, we are expected to walk in the middle of the road.

The authorities do not give a fig, as their brief is apparently to be business-friendly. People friendly? Their dictionary has no reference to the term: never heard of that!

In the last few weeks, the mayors of Gżira and Sliema – Conrad Borg Manchè and Dominic Chircop – have rightfully emphasised that the manner in which al-fresco coffee shops and restaurants in their localities are operating is largely unacceptable. It just takes one car accident to kill a number of diners: then maybe the authorities will take note.

Accidents do happen: a few weeks ago, in July, a 25-year old Dutchman, who was walking along the St Julian’s promenade was hit by an over-speeding Subaru Impreza, driven by a 20-year-old who was reported as being well over the drink-drive limit. The Dutchman died in hospital. Others were injured; street furniture was damaged.

The Lands Authority has taken the right step in refusing an application submitted by the owners of the Waterfront Hotel on The Strand Gżira, to encroach on a number of parking spaces in order to provide an al-fresco extension to the Hotel on the pavement. When the hotel’s owners contested the Lands Authority’s decision,  they were, at last, faced with some common-sense.

Magistrate Charmaine Galea, chairing the Appeals Tribunal, emphasised that the outdoor catering policy prohibited any platforms adjacent to arterial roads or in close proximity to fast-moving traffic. She rightly emphasised the fact that restaurant patrons had to be safeguarded from traffic, noise and air pollution.

She is obviously right and we desperately need her logic to “infect” the Planning Authority decision-making structures because it is clear that practically none of the al-fresco dining areas on the pavement along The Strand in Gżira and Sliema (and many other areas) are in accordance with the policy.

Magistrate Galea’s decision gives considerable weight to the points raised by the mayors of Gżira and Sliema who have been insisting all along that al-fresco dining alongside main traffic routes needs to be given considerably more thought before being given the go-ahead. The infrastructure needs upgrading in order that traffic calming measures are introduced and restaurant patrons are adequately protected – not only from traffic accidents but from noise and exhaust fumes as well. The Planning Authority has not acted responsibly when it has issued a considerable number of permits which ignore patrons but then takes great care of the bottom-line of the catering establishments.

The permits issued as a result of the so-called “one stop shop” planning policy may be business friendly, but it is certainly not people-friendly. Serious concerns related to pedestrian access through the labyrinthine footpaths left on the pavements, adequate protection from over-speeding traffic and the impact on health impacts from eating metres away from exhaust fumes are continuously ignored by the Planning Authority.

The inputs from local councils on the subject of al-fresco dining is repeatedly ignored, as the Planning Authority is not bothered. It obviously considers the above issues as being trivial in nature.

Walking along The Strand?

Forget it: the promenade is reserved for business!

 

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 1 September 2018

U ajma, ħallini !

Ix-xhieda dettaljata u li tkexkex li ta fil-Qorti l-kuntistabbli Simon Schembri mit-taqsima tat-traffiku tal-korp tal-Pulizija, iktar kmieni din il-ġimgħa, turi min xiex jgħaddu wħud mill-pulizija fil-qadi ta’ dmirijiethom biex jipproteġuna. Fortunatament in-numru ta’ dawn l-inċidenti hu wieħed żgħir.

F’kull livell tal-korp tal-pulizija hemm irġiel u nisa ta’ dedikazzjoni kbira li fis-siegħa tal-prova taw servizz impekkabbli. Tul is-snin kellna numru ta’ pulizija li nqatlu fuq xogħolhom, u Simon Schembri jgħodda b’waħda li għal ftit ma ngħaqadx magħhom.

Iż-żamma tal-ordni pubbliku qatt mhi faċli minħabba li dejjem ser ikun hawn min iħares lejn il-pulizja bħala xkiel fil-fissazzjoni li jkollhom biex jagħmlu li jridu, meta jridu u kif iridu. “U ajma, ħallini” qal iż-żgħażugħ li wara pproċeda biex kaxkar lil Simon Schembri madwar 400 metru taħt il-Mercedes li kien qiegħed isuq. In-nuqqas ta’ rispett ta’ uħud, anke fis-sens wiesa’ tal-kelma, jwassal għal dawn iċ-ċirkustanzi, li fortunatament huma ftit. Dawn it-tip ta’ nies mhux jikkontestaw lill-awtoritá, imma jiddisprezzawha.

Il-poplu Malti għandu rispett lejn il-korp tal-pulizija għax b’mod ġenerali japprezza l-impenn u d-dedikazzjoni tal-membri tiegħu lejn il-komunitá. Il-Korp tal-Pulizija hu l-ewwel ħajt ta’ kenn li n-nies tfittex, u ħafna drabi, fid-diffikultajiet tal-ħajja ta’ kuljum dan il-kenn issibu.

Il-Union tal-Pulizija kif ukoll l-Assoċjazzjoni tal-Pulizija ġustament tkellmu dwar il-ħtieġa ta’ assigurazzjoni biex tipproteġi lill-Pulizija u lill-familji tagħhom meta dawn iweġġgħu jew jitilfu ħajjithom waqt il-qadi ta’ dmirijiethom. Dan hu tajjeb li jsir, u għandu jsir malajr kemm jista’ jkun. Imma iktar minn hekk hemm il-ħtieġa li possibilment ikunu evitati inċidenti ta’ din ix-xorta. Biex dan isir hemm bżonn iktar pulizija fuq ir-ronda kif ukoll li kull pulizija jkun akkumpanjat minn tal-inqas pulizija ieħor. Dan iservi biex kull pulizija jkun imwieżen direttament u mill-ewwel u allura bla dubju jonqsu l-inċidenti fejn tintuża’ l-vjolenza fuq il-pulizija waqt il-qadi ta’ dmirijiethom.

Il-Pulizija m’għandhomx jitħallew dipendenti fuq il-karitá, billi jkunu kostretti li jiġbru l-fondi b’sejħiet pubbliċi wara li jinqala’ incident. L-għajnuna għandha tkun ippjanat u għandha tieħu diversi forom. Għandha tkun għajnuna li primarjament tfittex li tevita l-inċidenti u dan permezz ta’ rinforzi, taħriġ kontinwu kif ukoll billi jkunu pprovduti r-riżorsi kollha meħtieġa. Hekk biss il-pulizija tista’ taqdi dmirha aħjar u fl-istess ħin tingħata protezzjoni adegwata.

Fix-xhieda mogħtija l-Qorti matul din il-ġimgħa mill-kuntistabbli Simon Schembri ntqal li personalment kien xtara elmu u uniformi superjuri fil-kwalitá għal dak li kien jipprovdilu l-korp. Ħadd s’issa għadu ma spjega għaliex il-korp ma jipprovdix lill-Pulizija bl-aqwa u l-aħjar mill-ewwel u minn fondi pubbliċi. Joħroġ ċar u bla dubju li l-kundizzjoni tal-kuntistabbli Schembri setgħet kienet ħafna agħar, kieku ma daħħalx idu fil-but.

Dawn huma uħud mill-affarijiet li jeħtieġ li jkunu rrimedjati. Lill-pulizija l-pajjiż għandu jagħtihom l-aħjar għodda biex jaqdu dmirhom biex fl-istess ħin ikun possibli li iħarsu persunthom bl-aħjar mod possibli.

Il-Pulizija ilhom jitolbu iktar biex ikunu jistgħu jaħdmu sewwa, fosthom il-body cams. Kien tajjeb li sa fl-aħħar, riċentment, fil-bidu tal-Lulju, intqal li l-Pulizija ser jibdew ikunu pprovduti b’dawn il-body cams. Suppost li ser jinbeda proġett pilota, eżattament fit-taqsima tat-traffiku li eventwalment għandu jwassal biex jinfirex fis-sezzjonijiet kollha tal-korp.

Il-parti l-kbira tal-membri tal-Korp tal-Pulizija huma dedikati għal xogħolhom. Hi ħasra li kultant ikun hemm minnhom, ġeneralment fizzjali, li ma jagħmlux xogħolhom sewwa u bħala riżultat jagħtu isem ħażin lill-korp kollu.

Tul is-snin il-Pulizija mhux dejjem kienu stmati tajjeb. Niftakru meta kien tneħħielhom id-dritt għall-pensjoni wara 25 sena servizz, biex eventwalment dan id-dritt reġa’ ngħatalhom lura wara numru ta’ snin. Anke d-dritt li jkunu msieħba fi Trade Union kien pass importanti ‘l-quddiem biex ikun assigurat li l-kundizzjonijiet li fihom jaħdmu l-Pulizija ikunu kontinwament taħt il-lenti, biex jitjiebu.

Hu tajjeb li nuru s-solidarjetá mal-Pulizija u l-familji tagħhom li jbatu konsegwenzi gravi riżultat tad-dedikazzjoni tagħhom għal dmirijiethom. Imma jkun ħafna aħjar jekk naħdmu iktar biex dawn il-konsegwenzi jkunu evitati.

Ippubblikat fuq Illum : Il-Ħadd 26 t’Awwissu 2018

 

Protecting our boys (and girls) in blue

When Police Constable Simon Schembri from the Police Traffic Section took to the witness stand earlier this week, his thoroughly descriptive testimony was shocking. It described in considerable detail what some of our boys (and girls) in blue are up against when carrying out their duties to protect us. Fortunately, such incidents are not that common.

The Police Corps, at all levels, is replete with dedicated men and women who – in the hour of need – stood up to be counted in defence of our society. Over the years, a number of members of the police corps were murdered while on duty: Simon Schembri was lucky in that, notwithstanding his extensive injuries, he did not join that list.

Maintaining public order has never been an easy task, as there are always those who consider the police force as an obstacle preventing them from acting according to their whims. “Leave me alone” (u ajma ħallini) were the words attributed to the apprehended under-age driver who then proceeded to drag Simon Schembri some 400 metres underneath his Mercedes. This is the result of much more than a lack of respect. People like him, unfortunately, do not simply contest authority, they hold it in contempt.

The Maltese people generally respect members of the police force because they appreciate their dedication to the community they serve and because they are always there to serve when needed.

For some time, the Police Union, as well as the Police Association, have been talking about the need for insurance cover as a protective cushion for police officers who are injured on duty and also for the families of those officers who actually lose their lives in the course of their work. There is no doubt that this should be implemented as a mater of urgency.

However, while it is important to mitigate the impact of injury or death on duty it would obviously be preferable if action was taken to prevent such incidents happening in the first place.  One way would be to assign more officers on the beat, preferably with no policeman or woman being left on his or her own. This would reinforce policing and would inevitably lead to a reduction in the number of incidents in which police officers are faced with a violent reaction when carrying out their duties.

Police officers should not be dependent on charity through public requests for donations after a specific incident to help those who have been injured or the families of those who have been murdered. Such assistance should be pre-planned and it should primarily be prevention-oriented through reinforcement of the police beats, better training and a greater allocation of resources. This would ensure that police officers can carry out their duties in a manner which better ensures their own protection.

During the testimony of Police Constable Simon Schembri earlier this week it was revealed that, out of his own pocket, Schembri had purchased a helmet to use on duty which was of superior quality to that provided by the Police Corps, as well as a uniform made of more resistant material than the one provided. No one has so far explained why the Police Corps does not provide items of the best quality for our boys and girls in blue. This is what public funds are for. It is clear that the condition of Constable Schembri would have been much worse, had he not had the foresight to invest in his own safety.

These are some of the matters which need to be addressed. Our police officers deserve the best uniforms and equipment available. This will ensure that while they are striving to produce while on the frontline in our fight against crime, they themselves are also protected.

The Police Force has been requesting more resources for some considerable time. Body cams have been on this list for ages and it is therefore positive to note that, last month, it was announced that a pilot project for the introduction of body cams for use by police officers on duty was to be shortly implemented. The pilot project is to commence in the traffic section and it is hoped it will eventually spread throughout the police force.

Most of the members of the Police Force are dedicated to their duties. It is a pity that, occasionally, a handful of them put the Force in a bad light as a result of the way they act or react.

Police officers have not always been treated properly by the authorities. We remember when their right to a service pension after 25 years’ service was removed, only for it to be reintroduced a few years later. The right of policeman or woman to join a Trade Union is a recent positive development, serving as it does the purpose of ensuring that their conditions of work are kept under the spotlight and subject to continuous improvement.

It is fine to express our solidarity with members of our Police Force when, as a result of carrying out their duties, they suffer injuries or – even worse – sacrifice their lives. But it would be much better if we all worked tirelessly to ensure that these consequences are avoided as much as possible.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 26 August 2018