The Malta Independent 22 October 2018, Monday

Open and closed chapters

Charles Flores Tuesday, 2 January 2018, 08:09 Last update: about 11 months ago

One thing is certain about the year that actually comes to an end today - it has left as many open chapters as it has closed. While that may be typical of most years, as targets and ambitions fluctuate according to new developments and events, 2017 will always have this special fascination about it and historians of the future will definitely have quite a job trying to analyse it and script it into their books.

It was a year of some incredible contrasts. In Malta, the year started with its magnificently executed Presidency of the European Union, delivering deadlines and pushing agendas to unknown limits even when the hosting was taking place in bigger, more influential, EU member states. The Island ended it feeling under extreme pressure, from the ultra righ-wing forces/old Establishment princes currently riding high on populist manifestos elsewhere in Europe, following the tragic murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia and the ever-louder big-nation crescendo against successful small states attracting the multi-millions they would otherwise have selfishly devoured themselves.


The year was also marked by Malta's continued economic success that has been translated into record employment levels, record lowest unemployment rate, record economic growth in the eurozone, record foreign and local investment, large-scale infrastructural projects from which previous administrations had shied away, lest they antagonised a segment of the electorate (the impressive Kappara project in particular), soaring favourable international credit agency rates and a general feeling of well-being that has shone brightly in numerous national and European statistics.

Yet, the successful governent running this wonderful show surprisingly had to call a snap general election in-between sticking to its tight EU presidency schedules. Was it a gamble, a ploy, or both? Whatever it was, it turned out to be yet another achievement when, for the very first time in modern Maltese political history, an incumbent government actually managed to increase an already historic majority of votes. No better feather in the cap was ever added.

The June General Election left the Opposition Nationalist Party where it had started - in cloud cuckoo land. Having first inexplicably intimated it had "brought the government down", it then entered into an even more inexplicable coalition with the ex-PL Bonnie and Clyde ensemble that eventually resulted in the mess that Adrian Delia & Co. have now aptly cleared off the party's meagre plate. Closed chapter? Hardly, but it at least shows there are, within the Opposition camp, those random, smoldering embers that can one day produce a real fire.

Crime certainly remains, as it almost always is, an open chapter. The public order forces on the Island have reacted with obvious determination to the snide and often unkind remarks from that "rent-a-mob" semblance of civil society following DCG's assassination. While the no less tragic murders of Karen Grech and Raymond Caruana decades ago remain unsolved, despite one ex-political leader berating his audience at the Floriana granaries that he knew who had committed the latter and even going so far as to mention names, the blogger's killing has already seen people arrested and taken to court to face justice.

For those same forces, the immigration problem also remains an open chapter. The people of Marsa and its surroundings have had to endure more than their fair share of social turmoil because of the large community of immigrants lumped together in their area almost overnight by a previous administration that had not bothered to consult the local authorities regarding the inevitable social impact of its decision. It is good to know that the public order forces have increased their patrols in the area, but we should not overlook the fact that there had been plans, just a few months ago, to close the Marsa open centre for the rest of the towns and villages of Malta to take a proportionate share of immigrants and so give Marsa a respite. Sadly, the other Christian communities came out screaming against the idea. So while the closing of the power-station and the demolition of its chimneys at Marsa are now happily a closed chapter, the immigrants' saga there goes on and into yet another new year.

There are several other chapters that have either closed or are still open. Malta is dancing wisely to the tunes of the day. The government, however, is a lone performer who badly needs a partner. Perhaps the mutually agreed appointment of the new head of Malta's Financial Services is a small beginning. The tango is never a passive, limp-wristed performance, but it is what is required from a nation that is, slowly but surely, reaching maturity.


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Lyrics or poetry?

The festive season always brings back some of the best musical memories we all have. The other day I caught my son-in-law using my record-player to listen to a Beatles song - Eleanor Rigby - which led to an impromptu exchange on the importance or not of lyrics. Can lyrics be described as poetry? One Beatles' biographer, Hunter Davies, today says that "in one sense, no". At the time, however, he had written in the London Times to say that he had been amazed by not just the tune of Eleanor Rigby, but also by the words.

And what of the poetry in the songs of other greats such as Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Jim Morrison and numerous others? The debate goes on.


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The Pope and fake news

A recent local item of fake news regarding the current Air Malta union negotiations, in another section of the English language media, came soon after Pope Francis' insistence that "journalism must prize truth and reflection over sensationalism and clamour." So sad to see an established newspaper losing more of its credibility with this classic example of a non-story.

In one of his recent speeches, the Pope rightly stressed the need for reliable information, verified data and news that "does not aim to amaze and excite". Rather, he insisted, it should create in readers "a healthy critical sense that allows them to ask appropriate questions and make justified conclusions." He even went as far as describing fake news as a 'sin'.

I can't see anyone from the Maltese media coming out, in Pet Shop Boys tone, to say "forgive me, father, for I have sinned", but we all certainly deserve the admonishment.


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