Saving bandsman Borg... but what about landlords’ rights?

Band clubs do serve a social purpose and bandsman Borg needs a place where to practise his musical prowess… but not by government riding roughshod over the property rights of the landlords

Less than a year before the freeze was to be lifted, Government has now moved the goal posts
Less than a year before the freeze was to be lifted, Government has now moved the goal posts

When the rent laws were reformed in 2009, the idea was to deliver a new set of rules about rents. In the case of commercial rates, they were given a predetermined date on which these rents were to be freed from the yoke of controls that were squeezing so many unlucky property owners who were not being compensated adequately for the use of their premises under established pre-1995 rents.

Less than a year before the freeze was to be lifted, Government has now moved the goal posts. Such property owners suddenly lost the certainty of getting a just return for their property as they now need to resort to Court action for a decision on whether they have a right to get their property back.

The fact that property owners had waited for the appointed day to come – and had planned the use of their assets accordingly – was literally binned. All the consultations that led to the compromise of the 2009 reform have now proved meaningless because the current administration has unilaterally decided to ignore the tacit agreement between all concerned – all for the benefit of those whose ‘success’ in business depends on the undeclared ‘subsidy’ given by landlords who have been denied the rightful monetary return for their property.

In an effort to surpass his own facetiousness, the Minister of Justice and Culture is also proposing a bill that gives the right to Band Clubs to keep occupying their premises even when they are evicted by a decision of the Court. In normal circumstances, an owner would have spent some twenty years in Court to get such an eviction decision and the instances where this is possible are few and far between.

This is a very damaging precedent and makes mockery of the rule of law that the Justice Minister, Owen Bonnici, so vehemently says he believes in.

Band clubs do serve a social purpose and bandsman Borg needs a place where to practise his musical prowess… while club members need a place where to socialise.

But this need should not be ‘satisfied’ by government riding roughshod over the property rights of the landlords, who would have passed through so many years of legal travail before they hoped to win back their own property.

This law is most probably anti-constitutional in that it breaches the fundamental rights of enjoying one’s property. However, many more years must pass before a case is heard through all stages in the Maltese Constituional Court; probably followed by appeals at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg if the Maltese Courts save the Justice Minister’s face!

By that time, someone else would be the responsible Minister and Owen Bonnici does not lose any votes!

Meanwhile the PN in Opposition hardly raises a dissenting voice – except for one MP: Therese Commodini Cachia.

This political game is wrong because it only looks at the number of votes. There are more bandsmen, bandswomen and band club members and supporters than there are landlords who own band club premises.

Justice be damned!


Aggressive attitudes

It is not often for me to find myself in complete agreement with Michael Briguglio. But so I did when I read his opinion piece ‘Mind your language’ published on ‘The Times’ last Monday.

Briguglio hit out at those who ‘indulge in aggressive remarks’ in our daily never-ending political exchanges. People on both sides do it, and I refrain from entering into the merits of which side started it and which is the more aggressive.

Even more worrying is the fact that most of these comments are signed by anonymous contributors to the social media, mostly facebook. This hypocritical anonymity gives away a lot: the underlying niggling doubts that the comments are somewhat not right; that well-known people hide behind anonymity because they know that their comments would reflect badly on them; people posing as friends who are in fact enemies; and the sheer cowardice of those who pose as respectable citizens when they are not.

That is why people who are identified as PN supporters or members should refrain from joining the fray. These exchanges lead to nowhere. Not even when they are ‘exported’. I would have thought that fifty-four years after independence, we Maltese have realised that it is only we who can solve our problems and that touting exaggerations to the international press or to some EU body will have no effect whatsoever on the state of play in Malta.

I speak from experience. I fought tooth and nail against the impositions of the Mintoff regime between the seventies and the mid-eighties. Saying that we were at war with the government and even boycotting Parliament led to nowhere. Even so, we did not say that those who disagreed with us were selfish morons. The only method that was really effective and that eventually led to the desired results was speaking with the ‘enemy’. First speaking, then agreeing to disagree, then discussing and seeking a compromise acceptable to all. And we did it as proud Maltese negotiating with their proud Maltese counterparts.

Michael Briguglio is proving to be a very good PN ‘acquisition’. His ideas about what the PN should do in the current circumstances are on the right track. To quote him, the PN should ‘articulate inclusive, non-patronising discourse that focuses on the myriad of everyday issues which people experience and which are in synch with Nationalist core beliefs such as solidarity, dignity and subsidiarity.’

These are wise words written in the current circumstance when we are seeing a small – but over-exposed – group of people who are using their utmost to keep Malta on tenterhooks. Many of these people are well-meaning. Others, not so. Some even seek to manipulate the horrible murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia to push their personal political ambitions.

The PN needs to shake off these people and make it clear that this sort of short-sighted tactics are not on its agenda.

The PN should make sure that its message goes through – a message that can only lead to increasing its vote tally if the PN makes it clear that it looks at the future with a positive attitude, because the future holds hope for a better Malta – and not because it has so many bones to pick with the current administration.

Otherwise those so-called ‘switchers’ will never switch back.

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