The Malta Independent 17 June 2024, Monday
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That’s not nice, Mosta Mayor!

Mark A. Sammut Sassi Sunday, 4 June 2023, 08:59 Last update: about 2 years ago

Public works are a necessity, but so is respect for the public.

It is only during a national catastrophe that emergency measures can be justified, and the public subjected to extreme measures. Otherwise, if a country is civilised, it will respect the well-being of its population. This is why we insist that industry be reined in and limits imposed on how much it can pollute the environment. We depend on industry, but industry cannot pollute the population to death – this is, in essence, what the global warming/climate change debate is all about.

Using the same logic, no Mayor can impose on his locality’s population emergency-like schedules only because he aspires to meet some real or imaginary deadline. The duty to carry out public works does not mean the population has to go through inhumane, torture-like tribulations. In democracies – those fragile systems that are the opposite of dictatorships – public authorities actually show a modicum of respect toward the population.

I have in mind mostly what’s going on in Mosta. But I have been told that the population is being treated in a similar fashion in Marsascala and possibly elsewhere too.

In Mosta, the local council and some government authority are working on the passing of some necessary pipeline for water collection. It’s not necessary to discuss the utility or otherwise of this project. Let’s ignore the what and look at the how: how this blessed project is being carried out.

 

Rush

The Mayor seems to be in a rush, as if demons were chasing him. The schedule is backbreaking. Excavation begins at 7:30 in the morning and goes on, relentlessly, till almost six in the evening. Every day, from Monday to Saturday. Sometimes even in the middle of the night (twice at least).

It would seem that twice the machinery fell into the trenches being dug.

Why all this rush? What demons are chasing the Mayor?

A couple of theories are going the rounds. One school of thought maintains that the Mayor wants the works to be ready before the parish feast, held in August. The other school insists that these works will pass close to the Tourist Area where demolition and excavation works are banned between June 15 and the end of September – the Mayor wants to finish the bulk of this project before the ban starts.

Frankly, I do not really care about the reason why there is this rush. Each project has its headaches, and it’s up to the project manager to solve them. Public authority figures do have the tendency to hide behind problems they’re bound to solve but don’t. And that’s lame. Truly lame.

The Mayor should have thought of these headaches in advance and taken the necessary precautionary measures. It’s not that the feast or the ban concerning the Tourist Area came out of the blue. The feast is a yearly event; the ban exists under a Legal Notice that’s been there since 2008. The Mayor knows this.

To impose hardship on the population because one wants to observe a deadline is not only an indicator of crass incompetence but, much, much worse, an indicator of shameless lack of respect toward residents. This lack of respect seems to form an integral part of a worldview: I wrote to the Mosta Council to convey my dismay at the backbreaking schedule; they didn’t even deign sending me an acknowledgement!

 

Contradictions

Now, for a moment let’s assume that the parish feast theory is the correct interpretation.

I wonder what kind of schizophrenia has taken hold of the Labour Party. On the one hand, they are waving the abortion flag. They want to introduce abortion in this country even if they do not have an electoral mandate to do so and even if the majority of the population – Labourites included – clearly oppose it. On the other hand, oblivious to the fact that abortion is condemned by the Catholic Church, a Labour Mayor wants to finish a public project at neck-breaking speed not to upset the feelings of Catholic believers.

Let me be frank. I am keeping my fingers crossed and praying that the feast is not disturbed by these works. But that is not my point. My point is that Labour has become schizophrenic. They want to introduce abortion – a practice clearly condemned by Catholicism – but they also want to promote Catholic feasts!

Make your minds up! Either you are secular or you are religious!

In Maltese, we’ve got that beautiful saying, “It’s either a donkey or a foal” – which in formal logic would be expressed as “Either A or Not-A”.

Or else, Labour is nothing but hypocritical and – ironically and cynically for a soi-disant workers’ party – condescending. They probably view parish feasts as the folkloristic expression of the hoi polloi’s self-image, a display of the festivals of the natives that has anthropological value and good potential to attract tourists interested in the idolatrous practices of the non-reformed Christians.

That Labour has internalised many of the English prejudices of colonial times is both fascinating and disgusting. This should be the party that Mintoff’s anti-British rhetoric molded. It should be the party that celebrates Maltese-ness...

No wonder that people like Jason Micallef, the former Labour Secretary-General and brains behind the second edition of the Mintoffian rock opera Ġensna, repeatedly shares his disapproval of the current incarnation of the Labour Party. Mr Micallef might wish to have a word with the current Mayor of Mosta, to tell him that intellectual coherence demands that you do not support the pro-abortion party while supporting the parish feast. At least, have the decency to be coherent with yourself. If you don’t care about the teachings of Catholicism, then don’t pretend to root for the feast of the Virgin Mary – an unmarried mother who chose to keep her child.

 

Coherence

But I know what readers are thinking. I’m expecting too much from Labour when I expect intellectual coherence. And yes, probably they are right.

Looking at the workers engaged in this public project, I notice that they’re spending some nine hours a day – from 7:30 am to almost 6 p.m. – mercilessly and relentlessly digging trenches and cutting live rock, while driving noisy backhoes and other heavy equipment, without wearing any personal protective equipment for hearing. None. Zilch. No protection at all. And this while working on a project for a Labour-run Council!

These workers are exposed to the risk of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) – which, by the way, is irreversible – and Labour, the Workers’ Party, could not give a toss!

Yeah, the Workers’ Party! And I’m the King of Sweden!

I can’t understand how Labourites of good will keep supporting this degenerated party! It’s a disgrace!

Why doesn’t the Council ensure that the contractor respects workers’ rights and dignity? Give the workers ear muffs and plugs, and canal caps. Help them save their hearing. Why ruin the hearing of breadwinners who are trying to feed their families?

 

Psychological effects

Nine hours of excavation works a day. That’s what this nice Mayor is imposing on the population of Mosta! Nine hours a day of mean, exhausting, relentless, pitiless, endless din.

I emailed the Mayor asking him if he conducted some sort of scientific or psychological study before subjecting an unsuspecting population to this ordeal. No response. The Mayor thinks he’s not accountable. There’s a Code of Ethics that applies to Councillors (and Mayors), that imposes on Councillors the obligation to answer queries from the public. I think certain Councillors (and Mayors) make use of that Code when they run out of toilet paper.

Noise pollution is a horrendous thing. If you’re exposed to it for a long time – and nine hours a day, six days a week, for a long number of weeks, is a long time – you experience high blood pressure, heart disease, sleep disturbances, stress, loss of concentration, anxiety.

Did the Mayor care about these consequences? In my view, it didn’t even cross his mind for one millisecond. Another corporal who gives more weight to the elections than the well-being of his constituents.

What does he care about insomniacs? What does he care about people with young children, or people who work shifts? What does he care about people who need to concentrate while doing their work?

For him, the important thing is to meet the deadline – a deadline probably concocted without any consideration for the well-being of the population.

Works could have been planned out in such a way that instead of nine hours of excavation a day, excavation and digging would be limited to, say, four hours, giving a five-hour respite each day to people. Fine, the project would take a few more weeks to complete, but at least people wouldn’t put their lives on hold for the entire duration of the project. One has to strike a reasonable balance, between the needs of the project and the needs of the population.

The son of that lady whose feast is celebrated in August taught that the Law is made for Man, not Man for Law. The Mayor might wish to apply it as Projects are made for Man, not Man for Projects.

 

Prevention measures

What could the Council have imposed in the contract of works in order to minimise the hardship on the population?

The use of low-noise machinery could be one idea. Machinery does exist that uses a different blade that makes less noise: blades that have many teeth and the smallest possible gullets.

Ensure that blades are changed as soon as they start showing signs of wear.

Ensure that equipment and machinery are properly maintained and lubricated.

Cover metal tables, metal wheels and other metal pieces with rubber to reduce noise vibration and line tumbling barrels, metal chutes and hoppers with some elastic material (e.g. cork or hard rubber) to reduce mechanical shock between parts.

Add noise barriers – barriers made of sound-absorbing materials, like mineral wool.

Use foam padding or fibreglass to absorb sound, placing them on walls around the site where the works are being carried out.

 

Civilised countries

These practices are run-of-the-mill in civilised countries. In a country like Malta – “Best in Europe”! – they’re like a fairy tale.

 

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