Letters: 30th March

Will MEPA condone the removal of Qala's trees?

In the light of all the controversy surrounding the continued destruction of trees in the Maltese Islands, it is saddening to discover that Qala council has applied to MEPA to remove the 32 mature trees that adorn one of Gozo’s most popular squares.

The usual cries of root damage and bird droppings are to be heard, but these were not enough to down the trees in Victoria’s Independence Square, nor should they be in Qala Square. As with both squares, root damage although present was not significant, and bird droppings can easily be mitigated by constructing simple shelters over the seats as done in Naxxar, and occasional cleaning by the council.

The debate is raging even though the cement and sand foundation for the new paving has already been laid. It is impossible that even if given permission, they could uproot the trees without damaging the existing balustrade surrounding the church parvis, or the new paving - therefore the next call will be that they have to be chopped down.

The centre of Qala is an Urban Conservation Area (UCA). The Planning Authority is meant to give “trees within UCA’s a high priority for protection, particularly if there is a perceived threat to the trees or if the Authority considers that the removal of the trees will be detrimental to the overall visual appearance of the UCA”.

Policy RCO4 in the Structure Plan states:  “The Planning Authority will not permit the development of any structure or activity which in the view of the Authority would adversely affect scenic value because it would: ...adversely affect existing trees or shrubs”

The Planning Authority’s outlook towards existing trees is clearly aimed at their conservation, so what is happening here? The recently formed ‘Save Qala’s Trees’ Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/SaveQalasTrees) informs us that the church were against the removal of the trees from their land, meanwhile another FB posting says the council is awaiting permission from Mepa to remove the trees.

So much for eco-Gozo, which talks of ‘improvement of air quality being fundamental to the eco-Gozo vision’, and of planting trees, not destroying them.

Jane Carr, Qala, Gozo


Wrong perceptions

With reference to J. Guillaumier’s letter (‘An art auction at the Vatican’ – 16 March 2014), he has my modest reply in another paper, if it sees the light of day, because the same letter has been published elsewhere.

Recently Bishop Mario Grech said that spirituality in the media would better contribute towards the common good. Fr. P. Pace S.J. decried that intellectuals and academics are keeping a deafening silence. But there is another reason why the plight of our rich Christian heritage has sunk so low. 

It is amazing how fast and furious letters from a brace of cynics and agnostics are published in certain papers, while the others are ignored and their letters left in the drawer. Guillaumier’s persistence and systematic under-estimation of the Pope’s words and deeds, complimenting the alacrity with which two English-language papers welcome his letters, are for me the eighth wonder of the world. The archaic and arcane editing is an open secret now.

I don’t think the Vatican has a right to denude its Museum of precious works of art, especially if the place is classified as a World Heritage site. Besides, if the main attractions are taken away, less people will turn up at the turnstiles of the museum, which generates a substantial share of the mini-state’s revenue. About 4,500 employees earn their living at the Vatican and the cost of state administration must be astronomical these days.

Would not any zoo take pride in exhibiting its tigers, lions and white pandas? Would the Louvre Museum dispose of its Mona Lisa?

To attribute the Pope’s commitment towards poverty as just token gestures and lofty speeches is indeed a highly prejudiced opinion of a blindfolded man, who not only lost his eyesight temporarily but even his vision. His “animus”, a drop in the ocean really, is radically opposed to the universal acclaim this Pope is effectively inculcating.

In April last year, the bonus of all the Vatican’s employees was stopped and the money transferred to the Pope’s personal charity fund. A Harley Davidson motorcycle, belonging to Francis, fetched €241,500 in an auction sale. All the proceeds were given to charity. These gestures may be just a pittance compared to the fortunes one could obtain from the selling of art treasures, but I am sure the Pope can devise more ingenuous means how to boost the already existing immeasurable timeless financial aid in favour of charity. He was already doing so as Cardinal, in his native Argentina. Imagine him now what he can do in his new position, as head of the Catholic Church. The “Hand of God” can work wonders. 

I feel that everyone should have his due. Philanthropic, health care, educational and humanitarian work carried out by the Church’s missionary outposts is also charity at its best, conveniently overlooked by Mr. Guillaumier. Who can ever gauge the extent of this benevolence?

John Azzopardi, Zabbar


'Salvu' on the road to Damascus

It was through tears of cynical joy that I read Saviour Balzan’s column last Sunday.

I vividly remember the scorn he poured on all of us who dared to wear the T-shirt advocating the ‘no’ vote against EU membership, and informing him and his cronies that the terms offered were not good enough. We told you Salvu. And we were right!

His “letter of Salvu to the Maltesers” is worth a few quotes: 

“The whole decision-making process is in the Council and rests with the president – not even the Commissioners.”

 “The whole project is one big failure.”

 “I feel that at the end of the day, Europe has let us all down.”

Of course it has. The whole thing, although founded on high ideals, was hijacked early on by the cynical machinations of the French civil service who saw it as a vehicle for a Francophile ‘European Empire’. It was set up along the lines of the old USSR, with domination planned by a spoiled and privileged few.

We produced a comparison study between the Constitution of the USSR and that proposed by Valery Giscard d’Estaing for the EU, to show how closely the French aristocrat had followed the guidelines for dominance created by the Soviets.

Personally I still believe in a loosely united and co-operative Europe based on the Plan Monnet, but without the 19th century empire building. I probably bore people to death on Facebook by pointing out the regular idiocies of the Brussels desk jockeys and calling for reform, again and again.

However the EU will not be reformed or become effective or give proper returns on the huge cost by refusing to vote. I advocate that everyone should vote but only for the candidates who have minds of their own and are not party animals, who get in there and speak up for Malta and its people, and for the people of Europe, who are all treated with contempt by Brussels.

Michael John Turner, San Gwann