The Malta Independent 5 August 2021, Thursday

Artists call for equal rights, end to discrimination in Valletta demonstration

Albert Galea Saturday, 3 July 2021, 12:33 Last update: about 2 months ago

Artists and members of the entertainment industry gathered in Valletta this morning to protest against the 'discriminatory' regulations on mass events.

The artistic community was enraged earlier this week after illegal mass celebrations took place in Hamrun, following the premier league win by Hamrun FC. They say that, while they have been forced to abide by very strict conditions that greatly limit their audience numbers, others are being allowed to take part in unchecked illegal gatherings.

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Addressing the event, the President of the Malta Entertainment Industry and Arts Association (MEIA), Howard Keith Debono, said this was sending out a very bad message.

He said that artists have a right to work like everybody else in the country.

“Our industry has been placed at the very bottom of the chain. We were willing to wait and, in fact, we were closed for 15 months. Cases kept increasing, so it was not our fault. If others have a right to work, so do we.”

Debono hoped that there would be new announcements in the coming days. “Without support we will not make it,” he said. “Many of our members have already given up and found other jobs, and this is not right.”

“While we have done everything according to the law, because we respect the law, there are illegal events taking place,” he continued.

“I understand that people are frustrated and annoyed, but when you see celebrations with over 1,500 present …. no one believes that there was no form of agreement. You cannot have such a big event without informing people. Our point is, what’s good for one person should be good for everyone. If not, there will be injustice.”

MEIA Vice President Toni Attard said artists had been calling for forward planning and gradual restrictions for over a year. “Unfortunately, we haven’t seen much of that. We hope the situation will change because we still have operators who are not working and this is illogical and unfair. We want it to be logical and sustainable. The changes announced today prove that we were right all along. We hope that our proposals and our request for financial support will not fall on deaf ears.”

Attard said the wage supplement was very important “but we’re now in a situation where people just want to work. They just can’t understand why I can go to church in the morning without a vaccine or a PCR test, but there would be many restrictions if I had to go to a concert at the same church in the evening. The situation is absurd.”

DJ Joven Grech, known professionally as Tenishia, said he expected that certain decisions should not be taken from behind desks without consultation with operators in the sector. “This is leading to illegal events which are unsafe. At the same time, they are refusing to let us work in a safe and controlled environment. What logic is this?”

He also blamed the wrong mentality that parties are about drugs and lewdness. “The truth is that many people love this scene, it’s their way of relaxing after a week of work.”

He also spoke about an “imbalance” of allowing events such as weddings, where people mingle, kiss and hug, but refusing to allow music events which can be controlled. “The authorities did a lot of good things, but on this they are wrong.”

Actor and comedian Malcolm Galea said artists are in favour of measures, but not everyone is being treated equally. “Because the restaurant and bar lobby is stronger, they are allowed to operate with few restrictions whereas we have all these requirements. The authorities need to treaty everybody fairly.”

He said there had been two attempts to set up a civilised demonstration, but these were denied, yet there was a “clearly organised” celebration at Hamrun, with police present.

He said cultural events are important not only for the operators but also for the quality of life and state of mind of the general public.”

“We want the pandemic to go away and we understand that the scenario might change, but we also want to be treated equally.”

 

Photos: Giuseppe Attard

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