The Malta Independent 19 April 2024, Friday
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Valletta deserves better

Darren Carabott Sunday, 31 March 2024, 08:02 Last update: about 19 days ago

It’s Easter Sunday, and while we wonder where the first three months of the year have gone so swiftly, I cannot but remark on the Holy Week festivities that took place in Valletta in the past week.

Judging by the procession of Our Lady of Sorrows on Friday before last, (as I am writing this early in the week), all authorities fell in line, and delivered a sterling job. No one knows if it was a result of this being an election year, with the Local Council of Valletta completely in the balance, or was it just the unbelievable disaster that was last year’s experience during the same occasion that motivated everyone to pull up their socks.

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Everyone delivered splendidly. The religious processions progressed beautifully through the main thoroughfares of Valletta unencumbered by tables or chairs, music was kept acceptably low, and a 300-year-old tradition was allowed to progress as should be.

Some even rushed to their keyboards to praise the amazing work of the authorities, also sharing in some of the glory. We were even told that this year, the matter was escalated as far up as Castille – a clear sign and message that government really didn’t want anyone to mess this one up.

But I wonder, did it need to go this far? Did we need to go through last year’s faux pas and this year’s disproportionate escalation to appreciate the obvious?

It is evident to me that the authorities lost the plot when it comes to Valletta, and have now relinquished all control. A few nights of apparent normality, a normal city does not make.

Valletta has long been attacked by the fiercest elements of capitalism and gentrification, actively driving out each last resident, until it is turned into a city with no soul.

With the capital forming part of my constituency, I make it a point to regularly meet residents, and I am shocked at the continued hardships these families endure every day. It feels as though the challenges they face are designed to make them give up hope and surrender their homes to become yet another five-star hotel.

It is true, Valletta is beautiful, and we must capitalise from its beauty in the best way possible. But it is also the home of a segment of our population who have their own traditions, hopes and dreams, which are very much under threat.

It is not acceptable that residents have to contend with mazes of ugly tents, plastic tables and chairs that litter the nicer parts of the city. It is even less acceptable that music is allowed to be played in residential areas till the early hours of the morning without a care in the world to their wellbeing.

Now we have also added the odd burlesque display in one of the most significant streets, which is so heavy with meaning to Valletta people. Insult and injury rarely travel on their own. If this isn’t a concerted, well-planned effort to drive residents out of Valletta, I honestly don’t know what is.

Someone once said they wanted to transform Valletta into a new Paceville. Well, I think that in certain aspects they succeeded. What was once an elegant city, is now a hotchpotch of anything for anyone with no rhyme nor reason.

Valletta, residents and even the commercial community deserve much better. Valletta in fact direly needs a comprehensive master plan, that takes all elements into consideration: including the city’s world heritage status, its political function, it’s cultural significance to the wider population, the contribution of the commercial community, but most significantly the residents who live in it.

The Valletta Local Council, under Labour leadership is compromised and powerless to voice itself as an affective representative of the people of Valletta. A change is crucial for the situation in the capital city to ever hope to improve.

I take this opportunity to wish all the readers of The Malta Independent on Sunday a very Happy Easter.

 

Dr Darren Carabott is the Opposition’s Shadow Minister for Home Affairs, Security and Reforms, and President of the Public Accounts Committee.

 

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