Updated | V18 rebuts 'serious and false' allegations by PN

Nationalist party claims Mario Philip Azzopardi’s management style suggests ‘deeper level of political interference and incompetence’ • Government says its initiatives in the cultural sectors are an example of ‘good governance’ • Valletta 2018 Foundation rebuts "serious and false" allegations by Opposition

Mario Philip Azzopardi
Mario Philip Azzopardi

The Nationalist party has called for an investigation into claims that Valletta 2018 artistic director Mario Philip Azzopardi threatened to use political connections to block artists’ access to public funding.

In a press statement, the PN said that as an ambassador for Valletta 2018, Azzopardi’s behaviour should reflect his role and that his recent brush with controversy was against the ethic of what a European Capital of Culture is all about.

“It is becoming increasingly evident that Mario Philip Azzopardi does not have the capacity to work in a manner that is conducive to the responsibility he shoulders.”

The PN claimed that the V18 Foundation was subject to ‘alarming levels of political interference’.

“The Foundation fired Wayne Marshall and his group of competent assistant directors for political reasons only to replace them with an unsuitable alternative based solely on political patronage and cronyism,” the PN said.

“It is not surprising that persons who work in the cultural and creative sectors are furious at the lost opportunities from no artistic legacy, no vision and no sustainability, and all this at the expense of millions spent in vain from taxpayers' money.”

Government says its initiatives in the cultural sectors are an example of ‘good governance’

The government has lambasted the PN’s criticism and defended its initiatives in the cultural sector including financial grants as clear examples of good governance.  

In a statement issued earlier today, the government urged the PN to stop attacking artists by questioning these grants.

Calling the opposition’s accusations of corruption, “unacceptable”, the government pointed out that the PN had not even appointed a new spokesperson for culture, after former MP Joe Cassar resigned his position because of the donations he had been given by the Gaffarena family when he was minister.

The statement further questioned why the PN was attacking the V18 foundation, particularly in view of the fact that the title was giving Malta a lot of good exposure. It further urged the opposition to work hand in hand with the government for the benefit of the country and its artists.

Valletta 2018 Foundation reacts: PN's accusations "serious and false"

In a statement, the Valletta 2018 Foundation described the PN's claims as "serious and false", while confirming its "open and transparent approach to its operational, financial and artistic operations which is always open for scrutiny".

The Foundation said that it is under constant surveillance and scrutiny of various organisations of a cultural, financial and political nature. These include the Board of Governors, that includes the Chairman of Arts Council Malta, the Mayor of Valletta, the President of the Local Councils Association, the Rector of the University of Malta, the President of the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Investment and the Principal of MCAST as well as, most recently, the Chairman of the KNPD. 

"The Foundation also responds to a Supervisory Council consisting of the Permanent Secretaries responsible for finance and cultural matters as well as a Parliamentary Group consisting of representatives of both the Government as well as the Opposition," the Foundation said, adding it is also under the constant monitoring of the European Union, and that it has only three weeks ago emphasised the significant progress the programming, organisation and governance the Foundation has achieved over the past months following its review in September.  

The Foundation also added that it was baffled by the PN's statement – "which comes out of the blue, no pun intended" – since PN MPs Clyde Puli and David Agius met with two members of the Evaluation & Monitoring, including ECOC veteran Ulrich Fuchs, and the European Commission, and upon receiving "a clean bill of health, including governance, organisational, financial and artistic matters, expressed their satisfaction with such a report". 

The Foundation also called upon the PN to "substantiate, if it can, its claims of corruption and incompetence, as well as cronyism, which the Foundation refutes", stressing that under the Chairmanship of Jason Micallef, the team has remained "intact" and that contrary to the PN's complaints about how the previous artistic programme directors were summarily dismissed from their posts, what in fact happened was that they stayed on as collaborators within the Foundation in a different capacity. 

"Therefore, it is worth noting that Marc Cabourdin is a key coordinator in the organisation of the Valletta Pageant of the Seas, one of the five special events under the direction of Mario Philip Azzopardi, through his professional relations with UK arts events experts Walk The Plank; Ruben Zahra leads the Modern Music Days, a flagship in the Valletta 2018 ongoing cultural programme in the contemporary music scenario linking Maltese and international dimensions; Dr Jean Pierre Magro still oversees Storyworks, a most successful script writing programme, in its fourth year, which has also led to the successful production of a film by Jameson Cucciardi and Dr Raphael Vella, festival director of the Valletta International Visual Arts festival (VIVA) which is organised in collaboration with many international and Maltese artists together with Spazju Kreattiv at St James Cavalier."

The Foundation also said that advisors who worked in Valletta 2018 Foundation under the PN administration have "become more involved" under Micallef's chairmanship. 

"These include Dr Alex Grech, currently working closely with the Foundation on the implementation of the European Graduate School and the seminars taking place this Spring at Fort St Elmo, in collaboration with Heritage Malta, with world class artists like Alfredo Jaar and Achille Mbembe; Dr Marie Briguglio who leads in-depth research into the social and economic impacts of Valletta 2018 on Maltese society; and Dr Vicki-Ann Cremona, chief editor of the cultural mapping publication to be issued by Midsea Books later this year, and who after having provided no small support to the successful nomination of Valletta as European Capital of Culture in 2012, has since played a key role in the development of the cultural mapping process and the theatres audit for Valletta 2018 in collaboration with other experts like Prof Maria Attard and Sean Buhagiar."

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