The Malta Independent 21 April 2019, Sunday

A better Malta

Owen Bonnici Friday, 8 February 2019, 08:33 Last update: about 3 months ago

Freedom House’s latest report, from the Washington-based democracy monitor titled “Freedom in the World 2019” evaluates the state of freedom in 195 countries and 14 territories during the calendar year 2018. These are assigned between 0 and 4 points on a series of 25 indicators, for an aggregate score of a 100. These are used to determine numerical ratings for political rights and civil liberties. A rating of one represents the freest conditions and 7 the least free.

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Malta was assigned a rating of one, placing our country with those obtaining the best rating, and considered as being “free”. Our country also remained in the category of those in the highest bracket, with a score of 91 from 100, again placing Malta with those countries enjoying a strong reputation in civil liberties.

The report is general, and country-specific reports will be published in due course.

Delving in the report, one notes that, as usual, countries have to obtain high criteria to hold their position at the top. Malta’s very positive score is even more significant when one reads the bold title of this report “Democracy in Retreat”.

Malta’s score, Malta’s position in this report is no mean feat, considering all the political attacks in the international fora from the Nationalist Opposition’s ranks. This is a stark comparison to what the Maltese Government is doing not only to safeguard and better our daily life as Maltese citizens, but also to further strengthen democracy and rule of law. A stark comparison to the Government’s intensive work in the international scene to continue to enhance Malta on the world map.

One must not forget the EIU report published at the beginning of this year, with Malta defined by the Economic Intelligence Unit as “Full Democracy” with only three countries improving their scores in 2018: Finland, Germany and Malta.

This latest report is yet another certificate for the Maltese Government’s sterling work in safeguarding, I repeat, Malta’s democracy, civil liberties and rule of law.

What the Nationalist legislatures failed to do in 25 years of government, notwithstanding their self-proclaimed claim of being the guardians of democracy, the Labour Government has implemented in a mere 5 years. A substantial number of reforms were undertaken to strengthen the rule of law. These include a law deleting time-barring by prescription on claims of corruption by holders of political offices;a whistle-blower protection act; a party financing legislation; a new Parliamentary oversight mechanism on appointment of Chairpersons of main regulatory authorities and non-career Ambassadors; Constitutional reforms for the creation of a Judicial Appointments Committee; and reforms in the field of artistic and journalistic freedom of expression.

Most of those reforms were implemented for the first time in our history as a nation.

The Government is open to bona-fide dialogue with all international institutions to implement further reforms for a better justice system and a stronger rule of law.

Take the Venice Commission report and recommendations. It was the Government’s call for the Venice Commission to analyse the situation in our country and issue its report. The Venice Commission’s recommendations for Malta mainly focus on laws and systems which are longstanding and were ‘inherited’ by this government. This is confirmation that the recent reforms which this Government has embarked upon were deemed positive and a step in the right direction.

These positive reports further ignite our resolve to continue to enhance our work in this important sector of our country: strengthening democracy no matter what.

 

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It was a pleasure visiting the prehistoric site of Għar Dalam (literal translation “Cave of Darkness”) this week where I followed archaeological investigations that are currently underway in the area by Heritage Malta. These studies were instigated by the discovery of dumped material in a dilapidated room located close to Għar Dalam cave which contained numerous fragments of prehistoric animal bones.

A pleasure and a very interesting visit to this unique site, indeed!

This accidental find took place last May during the removal of vegetation from above and around the dilapidated room, when alien trees were being eliminated from the area as part of Heritage Malta’s efforts to replace alien and invasive species with indigenous plants and trees in collaboration with ERA. The works carried out in May also uncovered the original (then blocked) doorway of the room.

Għar Dalam is one of the Islands’ prime paleontological, archaeological and natural sites and much has been done to study the information held within the layers deposited in it. In understanding the importance of this site, Heritage Malta has started a concerted effort to place Għar Dalam within the context of its landscape and the nearby sites.

Preliminary studies of the section of material that was exposed after the re-opening of the door revealed numerous fragments of prehistoric animal bones that were typically found within Għar Dalam cave. This made it clear that this dilapidated room was filled in by soils of different types that must have been excavated from the cave. Further archaeological investigations, which are still under way, have brought to light more finds of prehistoric animal bones and pottery fragments.

There are a number of other studies which are also being planned, forming part of a larger project intended to create physical and intellectual accessibility between Għar Dalam, Ta’ Kaċċatura, Borġ in-Nadur, and nearby sites.

These comprise a full digital survey of Għar Dalam, including cave and overlying areas, a structural survey of the cave, a full digital survey of Ta’ Kaċċatura Roman villa and nearby sites, archaeological cleaning of Ta’ Kaċċatura, and archaeological investigations in selected areas within and around the site. New visitor facilities and new interpretation strategies for both Għar Dalam and nearby sites are also being envisaged.

The current excavations are being carried out by Heritage Malta in collaboration with the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage, and with the help of volunteers from the Classics and Archaeology Students Association (CASA).

 

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Another bonus for our cultural sector was this week’s launch of another edition of the Art in Public Spaces programme.

Launched with my colleague Ian Borg, this programme is yet another one which is enriching our country with works of art by our talented artists placed in public localities all over the island for all to enjoy.

Financed by the Ministry for Transport, Infrastructure and Capital Projects with the support of the Ministry for Culture’s Spazju Kreattiv, this programme is resulting in no less than 11 works of art being placed in 6 different localities.

The programme benefits communities but is also an opportunity for our country to benefit from important works by a number of artists, a programme aimed to create a creative legacy in communities, leading them to achieve a sense of community with improved access to art.

There is a necessity of such projects, and through them we keep on increasing professionalisation within the sector. Thanks to this programme, we keep on providing more outlets for our artists to nurture and develop their talent and forming a creative legacy between the members of the community, whilst creating more awareness on contemporary art. This programme is providing our artists with another way to express themselves through art, to be appreciated by numerous members of the public.

Through the first phase of the ‘Art in Public Spaces’ programme, which had begun in 2016, today we have the Mario Sammut sculpture named ‘Ras il-Ħuta’ located on the Marsascala promenade, Mary Portelli’s public staircase called ‘Reflections and Connections’ in Għajnsielem, and Charles Sammut’s 6 metal figures placed in 6 different sites in Dingli with the aim of displaying traditional Maltese games called ‘Games from my Childhood’. Work is currently underway on two other projects – ‘Dgħajsa tar-Riħ’ by Matthew Pandolfino which will be set up in Cospicua and ‘Ħaġarna’ by Victor Agius which will be placed near Ġgantija in Xagħra, Gozo. Later this year, Adrian Abela’s ‘Misraħ il-Kliem Mistur’ is expected to enrich Għar Lapsi, limits of Siġġiewi.

Spazju Kreattiv's involvement in this initiative stems from our remit to cultivate cultural exchange by being a catalyst for all forms of contemporary expression. In fact, by providing artists with the means to develop and present their work in communities we are also cultivating platforms for encounters and exchanges through the arts for people from all walks of life.

With regard to this programme, a maximum of six projects by six different artists or six different groups of artists will be selected out of the applicants. Each project is eligible for a maximum allocation of €30,000 inclusive of VAT and which covers a great variety of costs artists might face with regard to the project.

Those interested can attend an informative meeting on Tuesday 19th February at 10:30 am at the Ministry for Gozo in Victoria, Gozo or on Wednesday 20th February at 6:00 pm at Project House, Beltissebħ in Floriana. The deadline for submissions is Friday 12th April 2019 at 4:00pm.

 

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