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Vella Gera snubs National Book Prize to be held at Prime Minister’s office

Best-selling author tears up invitation for National Book Prize, says authors should stand up to power not be an accomplice

matthew_agius
Matthew Agius
1 December 2016, 1:18pm
Alex Vella Gera Photo: Ray Attard
Alex Vella Gera Photo: Ray Attard
Author Alex Vella Gera has lashed out at Malta's political establishment and the political duopoly in a Facebook post in which he said that he will not be attending National Book Prize to be held at Prime Minister’s office on Friday evening.

Posting a picture of his torn-up invitation to the ceremony at Castille, Vella Gera – who in 2013 turned down a Republic Day honour - said he would not be attending as a point of principle.

Describing Malta as a country where “anything goes” and where pragmatism reeks of opportunism, Vella Gera pointed out that the ceremony will take place at the Auberge de Castille, under the patronage of the Prime Minister.

Alex Vella Gera posted a picture of the torn invite on Facebook together with a note on why he is not attending
Alex Vella Gera posted a picture of the torn invite on Facebook together with a note on why he is not attending
Pointing out that members of the Book Council had stressed the importance that this ceremony take place at Castille “so as to keep the income from government funds coming in” the author of Is-Sriep Regghu Saru Velenuzi and Trojan said holding the award ceremony at the seat of government weakened Maltese literature by making it complicit with power.

“Personally, I cannot form part of this dynamic.”

In 2009, Vella Gera and editor of student newspaper Mark Camilleri – who now heads the National Book Council - were prosecuted for offending public morals by publishing content of a sexually explicit nature. In February 2012, both Camilleri and Vella Gera were acquitted of any wrongdoing following public outrage and the creation of an anti-censorship movement. 

The Brussels-based Vella Gera stressed that he had nothing against the prize itself or the Book Council, but against “the present government and the long list of atrocities that clung to its shoes like dog droppings.”

“Wiping one's heels is not enough to remove the filth. The smell remains and can be smelled all over Malta...Nothing less than the whole shoe must be changed.”

Vella Gera said he felt that as an author, his role should be to act as a form of conscience that addresses power without fear or compromise. “Participating in this ceremony as a guest would be hypocrisy.”

“Before the Nationalists jump on the bandwagon of this symbolic protest of mine, I encourage them to remember that their party had tried to paint me as a paedophile, an act for which they had never apologised.

If Muscat and his clique are the filthy left shoe, the right isn't very clean either. Both shoes must change.”

matthew_agius
Court reporter Matthew Agius is a Legal Procurator and Commissioner for Oaths. Prior to re...
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