Letters: 23rd March 2014

Benjamin Disraeli
Benjamin Disraeli

On Disraeli’s pragmatism

I refer to Leo Brincat’s opinion (‘The Legacy of Disraeli’, 16 March), in which he states “the ultimate example of Disraeli’s pragmatism was that he changed his religion when he felt that he did not stand a chance of making it in the political world as a Jew.” 

There seems to be a fairly wide consensus that Benjamin Disraeli was indeed a pragmatist if ever there was one. James Harris, 3rd Earl of Malmesbury and a prominent Conservative during Disraeli’s time, declared “to get office (Disraeli) would do anything and act with anyone.” 

Many a politician would undoubtedly identify with that mindset but just for the record, Benjamin Disraeli was baptised into the Anglican Church at the age of 12, together with his sister and two brothers, by his father Isaac, after the latter’s falling out with London’s Bevis Marks Synagogue. Although there are reports that the young Benjamin was precocious, there are no indications that becoming an Anglican at that early stage of his life was a conscious career decision on his part to open up the way for his future in politics.

Disraeli was undoubtedly a complex individual and I agree with Brincat that he was a man ahead of his times but I am personally more attracted to another characteristic of Benjamin Disraeli, which would seem to go against the ‘pragmatism’ that Brincat finds so attractive. Another contemporary, Lord John Russel, referring to Disraeli’s speeches on the disabilities still imposed upon Jews, considered Disraeli ‘admirably brave’ to express opinions diametrically opposed to those held by most of the members sitting behind him in the House. 

It is this trait we need to see more of in our politicians, bravery to take the decisions that may not be politically popular but which are necessary for the common good, especially the welfare of those who do not yet have the vote, namely future generations.

Carmel Vassallo, Sliema

The UK’s permissive hunting derogations

The feature published 15 March (‘Malta’s spring raises fear of Britain’s wildlife loss’) makes reference to the article by the Times of London wildlife columnist Simon Barnes. This article, in which he states, “the overwhelming majority of the Maltese people find spring hunting an act of barbarism unjustifiable in the 21st century” is indeed laughable. 

What he fails to mention in his tirade against Malta’s derogation for spring hunting is that the UK permits far more in spring than a derogation for the hunting of 15,000 birds as in the case of Malta and yet he fails to even mention it let alone criticize it in all his past writings in the UK Times.

According to the last EU published report in 2011 listing derogations applied in 2008 (http://tinyurl.com/pmfq3xy), derogations exercised under general license, which is applicable to all the UK’s 800,000 hunters without the need to quantify their catch, permits the eradication of 15 bird species 365 days a year in the UK, including spring. 

Such general license permits the eradication of these 15 species with any means possible, the taking of eggs and destruction of nests. Also under derogation the UK permitted the taking of 104,924 eggs of the Black headed Gull from the wild for human consumption and the traditional annual taking of Gannet hatchlings (a protected species) by the islanders of the Isle of Lewis for the preparation of Guga, a dried bird meat, the result of which was that “1,995 individuals were killed to permit, under strictly supervised conditions and on a selective basis for human consumption.” 

Not counting the millions of birds shot, poisoned or destroyed under general license since no figures are ever published, the UK permitted 104,924 Black Headed gulls and 1,995 Gannets to be legally taken in spring.

If Simon Barnes, incidentally an owner of a property in Malta and a vociferous Birdlife Malta supporter, in his numerous articles directed at vilifying Malta’s hunters deems fit to criticize the Maltese and their customs, he had better see what his own country permits during the spring season before depicting us as some exception. All the UK bird-related derogations are as legal as Malta’s. Incidentally, the UK total for 2008 was 1747 derogations, most of which included the taking of birds in spring in comparison to one in Malta.

Mark Mifsud Bonnici
President, St Hubert Hunters

EU citizens can vote in Malta

Whereas 7,391 non-Maltese EU citizens are registered to vote in Malta on 24 May in the European Parliament elections, many others are, reportedly, not likewise enrolled.

Those non-Maltese EU citizens, who already have either an e-Residence Card or a Maltese identity card, and who wish to vote in Malta, may enrol on the European Parliament electoral register by post - no postage stamp is required.

The voter enrolment deadline for the May elections is Saturday, 29th March. Applicants can download and fill out the non-Maltese EU voter registration form (which can be found at: http://tinyurl.com/ofumods) and address it to 

The Chief Electoral Commissioner 
The Electoral Commission, Evans Building
St. Elmo Place,
Valletta VLT 2000

The Electoral Commission shall forward a receipt to each applicant in respect of each such application received by it.

Oisin Jones-Dillon, St Paul’s Bay