The Malta Independent 17 July 2019, Wednesday

Ongoing investment in culture

Owen Bonnici Friday, 12 April 2019, 09:26 Last update: about 4 months ago

Our strategy is now, I believe, clear. We keep reinforcing our local cultural product to further place ourselves as a cultural destination.

This week was another week during which I was more than pleased with the progress we are making in restoring our cultural patrimony. Visiting the Old University Building in Valletta, the stretch of Victoria Lines in Gharghur and the premises housing the Valletta Local Council, I again mused about the variety and richness our country has to offer in this field.

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The Old University Building has a rich history that goes back just a year shy of 425 years. Whilst restoration works on the building started as early as 1634 due to damage by an explosion of a gunpowder factory and again in 1693 due to damage from an earthquake in Sicily, the building was in recent times showing signs of decay.

The Ministry has already embarked on this restoration project and in fact, the works on the façade of the Jesuits Church was finalised last year.

Once the current project is complete, the restorations will cover a total of 8190 meters squared, with an investment of more than €1,500,000, not including the investment on internal works, which will start next year.

As I said during my visit, through this investment, we are not only preserving one of the main buildings found within our historic capital city, but we are also ensuring the strengthening of our national cultural identity through the preservation of a monumental location.

As a Government, we are committed to provide more accessibility to members of our community. And thanks to another project, this time at the premises housing the Valletta Local Council, we are doing just that.

Works are being carried out by the Restoration Directorate at these premises which house the Valletta Local Council. These restoration and refurbishing works will leading to community facilities and a local medical clinic within the premises. There will also be a local library, and a lift installed for improved access to the National Library.

Works include the restoration and reconstruction where necessary of the original façade doorways onto Old Theatre Street and the cleaning of the entire basement, providing more space to the local council for the benefit of the community.

Works on the facilities and medical clinic are envisaged to be completed by the end of summer with an investment of €200,000.

Another historical jewel undergoing restoration works are the Maltese Victoria Lines built by the British and finished in the year of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897. The Restoration Directorate have already finished restoring a stretch of the Victoria Lines corresponding to the length of Ġnien l-Għarusa tal-Mosta, and now undertaking restoration on the continuation of these fortified walls at Għargħur.

This ongoing project will see to the restoration of these fortifications which are truly one of a kind in our country. In their purpose, ensemble of different elements, method of construction, and setting they represent a unique monument of local military architecture.

Over the past months, the Restoration Directorate also carried out emergency repair or restoration works on two smaller stretches of the Victoria Lines at Binġemma, which either were at risk of collapsing or had just collapsed.

With all these projects going on, we are endorsing our strategy as a Government, to keep on strengthening our local heritage for everyone to appreciate and have access to.

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This week I also continued to defend my country in international fora. I was in Strasbourg exchanging views and intervening about Malta’s state of play regarding its legal system and recent and upcoming reforms to further strengthen the rule of law.

My intervention was during a hearing of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights within the Council of Europe on the subject of ‘Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination and the rule of law in Malta and beyond: ensuring that the whole truth emerges’.

I immediately started by stating that since the election of the present Government in 2013, this Government has implemented a series of robust reforms because this Government is a Reformist Government. In the past six years, numerous positive legal reforms have been brought into force with the sole aim of aligning the Maltese legal system with contemporary legal standards in a manner which respects and adheres to the notion of the rule of law and separation of powers. Moreover, I listed all the reforms implemented.

All these reforms within the justice sector were done to strengthen the rule of law whilst also to better safeguard our citizens’ needs and rights. This Government has done a lot in this respect and remains committed to further improve our legal system through the implementation of positive reforms.

I also reiterated that our response to Daphne Caruana Galizia’s horrendous murder was immediate as we left no stone unturned and all necessary resources were provided to our investigators. Foreign leading investigation agencies such as FBI, Interpol, Europol, Dutch and Finnish investigative authorities joined the investigation. Also, a Magisterial Inquiry was instituted.

In less than 50 days from the murder, three Maltese citizens were arraigned to court accused with the brutal killing of Daphne Caruana Galizia. The Magisterial Inquiry is still ongoing with the ultimate objective of identifying any other persons involved in the murder. This goes to show the broad scope of the Inquiry. The committal proceedings with regards to the three persons charged are now nearing their conclusion.

I reiterate that this Government will not shy away from implementing necessary and important legal reforms. Notwithstanding the various reforms that has already been implemented, many of which were unprecedented or long overdue after having been shelved by previous administrations, this Government remains committed to further deliver change – changes and reforms which strengthen the enforcement of the rule of law and the separation of powers and ultimately empowers the Maltese citizen’s fundamental rights and freedoms.

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