Letters: 18 January 2015

The good news rejected

With reference to Mr Guillaumier’s letter (‘The Christmas myth’, 22 December, 2014), I have two suggestions for him. 

Seemingly leading a disgruntled and chequered life completely at odds with our cultural and religious heritage, he should go and live in a Muslim or fundamentalist country, pen similar letters and vent his spleen against their religious beliefs. 

Secondly, on the year’s shortest, darkest day, he should have tried to find some guiding light readily available in Jesus Christ – the Star, the Sun, the Son.

If his letter is another subtle, futile attempt to rekindle the fallacies that Christ’s existence is a myth and magnified legend, may I remind him that Christ really lived and founded a church in his lifetime, the benevolence and presence of which is more than abundantly evident and He is still with Her.

It is interesting to note that ridiculing Christianity is considered acceptable by the press. Let’s hope that this trend is not extended and that what was once the national faith is not openly held in contempt while other faiths and opinions get protected space columns in the newspapers.

I nearly forgot a third bit of advice. He’d better focus his ridicule and parody at least on earthly things rather than the supreme Being who alone does wondrous deeds. At this time of the year, his glorious name is blessed forever and the whole earth is filled with glory. Christmas was His masterpiece entwined in humility. 

Sometimes I feel I am wasting my time in replying to Mr G’s letters but I hope and pray that he does not waste any more of his, because he may live to regret it.

John Azzopardi, Zabbar

Pensioners and the law on rent

In an excellent article in Illum of 23 November, 2014, just before the budget, the veteran pensioner and the most informed person on pensions in our country (may God continue to give him the enjoyment of his further longevity), Albert J Tabone, highlighted once again to the authorities the precarious situation of a great number of pensioners in Malta who must rely for their daily living on the miserly pension of €10,000 per year.

Again in Illum but on 14 December, 2014, the lawyer Joe Ellis, heralded the song of victory following the court decision in favour of the landowner by the European Court on Human Rights.

My personal view is that landowners have every right to enjoy the benefits of their property but there are two points which Dr Ellis conveniently did not deal with. Indeed, he tried to throw bad light on Strickland and his Compact Government with the Labour Party and on Mintoff of the late seventies. And instead, he glorified how Nationalist politicians of the past, in true colours, sided with the landowner against the proposal for social housing for the poor.

In my view, the European Court decision has a “right” and a “wrong”. The correct part is that it condemned the tenant who abused social housing benefits unscrupulously, and the authorities (and the local courts) allowed this to persist. The ugly part is that the compensation was shifted on to the taxpayer and not to the perpetrator.

Dr Ellis did not make any clear exposition of these two points. It is not social housing which is wrong. Both Strickland and Mintoff worked for this to happen and had to face insurmountable opposition. It is the abuse of it that is wrong. Under Nationalist administrations of not so long ago, there had been rich individuals, known by whoever had the duty to know them, of having taken an apartment on rent from the housing department, retained it, were later given a plot where to build a house like a villa and then even allowed to shift the use of the apartment to benefit their son.

I can assure you that these persons had not been poor as to need any assistance from social housing. In another case, an even richer landowner, who was well-off enough to build villas for his children, succeeded to obtain for his son the benefit of a plot of land which was later converted into apartments and sold by them for hefty profits commercially.

In light of all this, I return to the appeal made by our friend Mr Tabone to insist with the authorities that a pension of €10,000 per year is simply inadequate for a decent living in old age.

I further extend the same argument to that of the law on rent. A pensioner who depends on a pension of €10,000 simply cannot afford to pay for the current rate of rent of approximately €4,500 per annum for the most basic of accommodation. And our banks have simply been allowed to be most anti-social when allowed to reduce lending interest rates to practically nothing.

The pensioner has been denied any possibility of a reliable and regular income from interest on investments, so much needed to enable the pensioner to top up to the limitations of the pension. For pensioners, investing in the stock exchange is simply a no go.

In the end, both Strickland and Mintoff were right in their times in dealing with the rent law and Dr Ellis finds it hard to acknowledge this, oblivious of the reality that no landowner would risk investing in anything if the return on his capital is not profitable enough to him.

Joseph Camilleri, Mosta

Gozo and Albania

There might be more than a few things common to Gozo and Albania. Double insularity might be one of them.

Those who need to spend time in Gozo and also cross over to Malta or the other way round, despite the improved ferry service over the decades, still find that it takes them hours to go from one island to the other.

This has its drawbacks, which due to our country’s membership of the European Union also gets us several millions to be spent on projects for the common good.

Alas, Albania is not a member of the EU, for years it was under dictatorial rule which kept it underdeveloped and previous to that it was a Mussolini colony during WWII and prior to that of the Turkish Ottoman empire, which likewise stunted its development.

Since getting their basic freedoms Albanians have been trying to improve their country, which is perhaps the poorest in Europe. Millions of Albanians have emigrated to the rest of Europe, the United States and other countries in search of work. Many more Albanians have remained in their country and in our small way the Maltese and Gozitans are helping them as much as possible.

One such champion is Fr Cutajar, who hails from San Lawrenz, who has been slogging along for years in four very poor villages in the north. One can imagine the poverty if one takes into account that one of these villages is an ex-concentration camp for political prisoners.

Prisoners who, once freed, returned to their homes and the poor north Albania herdspeople, took over this ex-concentration camp to at least have a roof over their heads. In other areas of Albania some progress has been registered. For example in the capital city, Tirana, there is the campus of an Italian university which offers less expensive and more plentiful degree courses than available on the peninsula across the Adriatic.

In another area of Albania those enterprising enough are using shallow river beds for fish farming. Marginal soil which cannot support normal farming is also used to plant and harvest spices which yearly bring in $20 million from exports mainly to the USA.

However, in many areas of Albania poverty stares you starkly in the face. Which is one more reason for one to chip in and help the likes of Fr Cutajar through the fund raising marathon being held by the Socio Religious Foundation on 23, 24 and 25 January on the local television stations.

G. Bonett, Marsalforn