Nationalist Party blasts Micallef’s appointment to Valletta 2018

PN says choice of former Labour secretary-general has sacrificed culture to political interests.

3 May 2013, 12:00am
Jason Micallef
Jason Micallef

The Nationalist Party has called into question the choice of former Labour Party secretary-general Jason Micallef as chairman of the Valletta 2018 foundation that will lead Malta into becoming the European Capital of Culture for 2018.

Micallef, formerly a PBS television presenter who later spent five years as Labour secretary-general under Alfred Sant, was appointed V18 chairman by culture minister José Herrera against all expectations given that internal government sources had ruled out the appointment.

"His appointment is the worst advert that Malta can have for its capital city," the PN said in a statement. "Micallef does not have the capabilities or knowledge required for such an important project for this country."

Micallef's role as secretary-general was abolished soon after Joseph Muscat's election as Labour leader in 2008, and was appointed chairman of One TV, Labour's television station, instead. He also contested the last general elections, but failed to be elected.

"The Prime Minister is caught between a rock and a hard place, by his own doing, because he gave in to Micallef's pressure and in the process, humiliated and ridiculed the country. Muscat is using his power as prime minister to address personal matters," the PN said.

The chairmanship was previously occupied by architect David Felice of the firm Architecture Project.

The PN was equally disdainful of the choice of José Herrera, formerly shadow justice minister, as minister for culture. "Choosing Micallef for V18 chairman and Herrera as minister for culture does not augur well for our culture industry."

Herrera, who announced the appointment during a press conference on the V18 programme yesterday afternoon, said Micallef's role has yet to be officialised.

The announcement was made despite government sources having denied to MaltaToday that a decision was taken to appoint Micallef as chairman of the V18 board.

It also appears that OPM officials had no knowledge about Herrera making such an announcement.

Herrera said that outgoing chairman David Felice will "supervise" Micallef's work.

In a reaction, former culture minister and PN leadership contender Mario de Marco expressed dismay at the choice of Micallef for the role, dubbing it as "entirely partisan".

"When I wrote a letter of appointment for David Felice, I took into consideration his experience within the cultural sector, his love for our capital city and his professional competence - a decision which was vindicated by Valletta's success in acquiring the title of European Capital for Culture in 2018."

De Marco added that the process to secure the title for Valletta came after full involvement with the then in opposition Labour Party.

"I would keep in regular contact with Owen Bonnici and Evarist Bartolo over this initative, and in fact we even set up a parliamentary committee to oversee this important event - which will not only impact Valletta but Malta as a whole.

"In light of this, I have to express disappointment that a role which was originally not in the least bit partisan has clearly taken on a partisan hue. This is a culture change we did not need," de Marco said.