The Malta Independent 1 February 2023, Wednesday
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New year, new routines

Mary Muscat Sunday, 15 January 2023, 09:45 Last update: about 17 days ago

The beginning of January saw the change in the household litter collection system and a new police uniform. It takes some significant adjustment to alter such the public’s staple images and routines.  

Litter collection

The change in the litter collection regulations brought about an unexpected turn this week, in more ways than one. It is not easy to change an established routine that affects all households in the country.

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Mind you, the previous arrangements in the third schedule of SL549.40 were so diverse that it was a nightmare to remember all the variances in days and times from an enforcement point of view. This has now been amended and simplified. There’s one nagging question: Valletta has a separate arrangement under SL 206.02 which emanates from the Litter Act, not from the Local Government Act. So why doesn’t the amendment say that it does not apply to all localities? Just another example of weird legal drafting.

Local councils had their teething trouble as anticipated, but what came as a total surprise was the Local Government Directorate’s circular ordering councils not to use their funds for auxiliary cleaning. That means that whenever councils want to clean up somewhere of the garbage bags taken out on the wrong day, it would land itself in trouble.

There are legal consequences, said the Directorate. Not that these were described in the circular, so it remains a mystery to the reader. Councils are prohibited from using the services of contractors to do this extra clean up. The circular reminded councils that waste management is the prerogative of the Regional Councils according to article 37B of the Local Government Act as of last year. Fine, but it is ignoring sub-article (a), which says “without prejudice to the functions of local councils in terms of art. 33(1)(b).” This last article speaks of the maintenance of cleanliness by councils.

So, if a council takes up the initiative to clear up an occasional mess, how can it breach article 37B if it is maintaining the level of cleanliness? It goes against the spirit of the law.

It would have made more sense if the Directorate provided a solution for this issue, such as indicating what can be done instead. Who’s taking the initiative then? What should be done? Instead, it chose to behave like the Local Inquisition.

Police uniforms

It’s probably just me, but I have lost my ability to spot a police officer. I was walking into Valletta on my way to the Law Courts and I only managed to recognise an officer at arm’s length, and only because I saw ‘pulizija’ right in front of my eyes. My recall needs some serious re-wiring.

I’m all for comfort, functionality and practicality. The old tailored uniform, as smart as it was, felt like a straight-jacket. It was so restricting that it behoves me how it wasn’t changed earlier. I would still have gone for a more formal design but then again, just look at the police forces around Europe and most of the rest of the world, and the need for a change becomes obvious by itself.

I remember arguments based on loss of employment of the people who sewed the police shirts, pants and skirts. There was one shirt pattern for both male and female officers, and come to think of it, sizes were based on the male scale. That’s how belittling it was for a female officer. Overall, its cheap materials that irritated you whatever season it happened to be, plus the fear of shirts or jerseys spoiling in the washing machine and not getting a replacement from the Quartermaster, were real daily occurrences.

I cannot wrap my brain around the new colours though, especially black. I would have gone for navy blue instead since the public specifically associates two shades of blue with policing: dark blue and the lighter summer blue. Sure, the winter trousers and jacket were black, but only for winter. Most probably that’s where my brain needs to be rewired mostly. I am relieved that the court attire remained the same for Inspectors: the stark contrast of black with white tallies with the court environment. I’m wondering whether that will serve all year around or not – is there a court summer uniform?

What baffles me is that colour schemes of the police cars do not to reflect the uniform, or vice-versa, whichever you prefer to come first. The standard car get-up is grey and navy blue, with white and red stripes. See the difference? The two items have been planned separately.

Not that the colour of the cat matters as long as it catches mice, as the Jewish proverb goes. But if one wants the public to accept the change faster, then this should have been considered at the planning stage.

 

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