The Malta Independent 18 June 2018, Monday

The cowboys on our streets

Charles Flores Tuesday, 22 May 2018, 14:05 Last update: about 27 days ago

To say we have a traffic problem is an understatement. To say nothing was ever done or is being done is a lie. To think it can ever be 100 per cent solved, or to fantasise it may even be solved by itself at one magical Amsterdam moment when the masses switch to bikes, is pie in the sky. To ignore it is absolutely irresponsible. To stop worrying or being irritated by it is impossible. We are all part of the jungle.

ADVERTISEMENT

The sad story last Tuesday of the traffic police officer who was seriously injured when he was heinously run over by a Mercedes driven by a young man who then drove on until he was arrested a short while later, has left society gasping. How and why this could happen was the imponderable question being asked of ourselves since.

It was later revealed that not only was the poor police officer knocked down and dragged along the side of the car (with false registration number plates) for several metres, but also the accused young driver involved does not possess a driving licence because, well, he is under age. But presumably not too young to be a cowboy, the likes of which we have roaming our streets day and night, which is part of the misery that driving on these islands has become.

It is only fair to state, however, that the vast majority of drivers are decent citizens like you and me. They are highly aware of the problem with congestions, bottlenecks and a pervading lack of adherence to the rules, but having to cope at the same time with the irresponsible attitude of the cowboys on our streets makes matters a lot worse. You might have the patience to drive for an hour on a trip that would only take 15 minutes but you cannot do anything about the recklessness of these cowboys who live dangerously at the cost of other people’s lives. They often cause death and serious injury to the detriment of whole families who then have to bury loved ones while lawyers gleefully rush to assist the doom mongers.

Law enforcement has not exactly been a prime tool in this sector, for many reasons. There has been, over the years, an improved police presence on the road, but certainly not enough to cope with this colossal dilemma. As with everything in such a small society as ours, the police force is numerically insufficient and any concerted effort to bring the driving community to its senses is bound to be only partially effective.

Educational campaigns, for drivers and law enforcers alike, have helped in no small way to enhance awareness, only for every little step forward achieved there have been dozens in reverse. The political tainting, by a very small but vociferous group of frustrated losers, of our police force has not. It is why the cowboys find it so easy to do what they do with impunity and, when caught and taken to face the wrath of justice, to only get a metaphorical slap on the wrist before being let loose on the streets once again. The cases are many, the John Wayne characters well known.

It was good to have the President, the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in harmony as they expressed solidarity with the police officer and his family over last Tuesday’s incident. The same goes for Home Affairs Minister Michael Farrugia’s intervention on this disturbing case when he explained how delicate police work is. But in the end, what people really want to know is what is going to be done about it.

Of course there will also be the apologists, the do-gooders, those who have different words for criminals and who blame everything and everyone, from childhood experiences and familial circumstances to social vicissitudes complicated by alcohol consumption and drug taking, in addressing this cowboy common denominator staring us in the eyes. The vast majority of law-abiding citizens no longer have time for this. Prison has to mean prison and not a temporary safe haven. The Courts have to be for the people, those manifold families whose only demand of society is to be able to live happily, to earn a living, to deserve fun and entertainment, to prosper, to feel safe and protected.

Tuesday’s horrendous incident involving a young man and a police officer rightly exercising his authority was not, and will not be, an isolated case. Most people know the cowboys in their village and town communities. So do the authorities. Just make sure they do not inflict more pain and anger.

 

***

 

French frog conditions?

One funny court case being fought in France recently had me quickly comparing it to the situation concerning our urban environment. We all hate the tower cranes and the disruption they inflict on already desperate traffic and residential conditions, but I still have to hear of the owner and/or heir to a building refusing to sell it out of respect to society.

Buildings of an obvious national, historical and architectural value apart, as with the case of Dom Mintoff’s home in Tarxien and George Borg Olivier’s place in Sliema, no one is likely to turn down a developer’s tempting offer based on not wanting to cause further disruption. Greed, scream all of us who have no buildings to sell.

But back to France, a long-running court battle between Michel and Annie Pecheras and their neighbours in the village of Grignols where the French couple have been ordered to drain the pond in their garden because its frogs are making too much noise. Well, that is quite understandable, but then, the kind of frog found in the pond is a protected species so the couple risks a prison sentence and a €150,000 fine if they comply!

The long-suffering neighbours have complained that the pond’s scores of frogs make such a racket during the mating season that it reduces their quality of life. Incidentally, the pond has been in existence for over 100 years. Therefore, the poor couple are doomed if they destroy it, and doomed if they do not. Same goes here for people with places to sell, no?

 

  • don't miss