Letters: 9 August 2015

Reply to Mark Camilleri on the Maltese language, the Financial ombudsman, and bicycle pedelec rules

Setting the record straight on public consultation

With reference to the article by Mark Camilleri (MaltaToday, 2 August), which unfortunately is full of inaccuracies, please note that the National Council for the Maltese Language has organised a large number of public seminars and talks to inform and consult both with the public and with specific groups (publishers, writers, teachers, translators, etc.) about matters relating to the Maltese language. 

Indeed, in collaboration with the Akkademja tal-Malti, on 24 March, 2015, the council held a presentation specifically aimed at authors and publishers about the issue of how to write English loanwords. The meeting was very well attended, and appreciated by those present, who had the opportunity to express their opinions, which, as is to be expected, showed a great deal of interesting and varying opinions.

Another very cordial meeting was held on 22 April, 2015, this time specifically with local publishers, to discuss the same matter, this time focusing on the publishers’ perspective. All local publishers were invited and representatives for Merlin, BDL and DOM were present for the meeting. Among other matters, the council agreed to make sure that the period of transition for the new spelling guidelines would be long enough not to create any difficulties for publishers.

The council has organised several public consultation and information events during the 10 years of its existence. The events I mention above are just two very recent examples of consultation and information meetings. This goes to show that, contrary to what Camilleri seems to want to claim, the National Council for the Maltese Language is not some kind of exclusive club of self-righteous bigots and intellectuals.

Ray Fabri

President, Kunsill Nazzjonali tal-Ilsien Malti

Loophole in financial ombudsman bill

Reference is made to the article headed ‘Financial arbiter could bypass BoV in compensating La Valette Investors’ ( MaltaToday, 2 August).

The article mentioned the Bill setting up the Arbiter for Financial Services. The measure in establishing such an office is a big step in the right direction. There is however one particular measure which I believe should be reviewed in the proposed law. Clause 26 of the Bill states that the Arbiter “shall proceed to adjudication within ninety days from receipt of the complaint”, which is fine.

However this then is qualified by a proviso which states that if the complaint is “complex in nature” (whatever that means!) then the Arbiter shall deliver his findings “at the earliest opportunity” informing the parties involved of the “expected adjudication date”.

A shortcoming which has constantly undermined the effectiveness of such redress processes is precisely the lack of clear timeframes by when complaints should be decided one way or the other. I can understand that some cases may be more complex than others, but I firmly believe that ultimately there should be a definitive timeframe – say a maximum of a year – by when a decision must be given, with the Arbiter in question stating why and how much time he needs to conclude matters.

If such a measure is not concluded then I fear that this provision may be used as a loophole to prolong proceedings to the detriment of aggrieved individuals, who may have long-standing legitimate grievances.

Paul Edgar Micallef, Valletta

Outdated regulations on bicycles

The recent statement about power assisted bicycles and pedelecs issued by Transport Malta and quoted in the local press should be clarified to avoid misinterpretation. We advise all people on bicycles as well as bicycle retailers to read the full regulations, and the new legislation LN 176 of 2015, very carefully.

Clearly all cyclists, in fact all road users, even pedestrians, should be conversant with the highway code.

The regulations actually speak of a theory test for pedelecs and motorised bicycles, although the group is doubtful how this can be achieved in the case of tourists for instance.

The group has been extremely critical of the regulations, which originally date back to 2004. Far from restricting home built motorised conversions of bicycles, these created a loophole for them. We don’t know who let them in but it wasn’t us. Legal pedelec kits and new technologies like the ‘Copenhagen wheel’ would become illegal overnight.

What we are seeing is a situation where law abiding citizens on pedelecs producing less power than the cyclists themselves are being used to bring illegal engine powered home built bicycle conversions to heel.

This is having a negative effect on the bicycle industry in Malta, with several businesses reporting that sa;es pf pedelecs are down, even though bicycle use is increasing.

In Europe, where pedelecs are treated as normal bicycles, sales are at record levels. The group noted that this downward local trend concurred with the National Bike Count that saw an 85% drop in powered bicycle use, including pedelecs, between 2012 and 2014. Neither did the group feel that a pedelec based public bike share like those proposed for Qormi or Gozo was possible under the current restrictions.

Basically when we need to be doing everything to encourage bicycle use and other alternatives the transport regulator appears to have painted itself into a corner.

Jim Wightman, Bicycle Advocacy Group