Birgu home for the elderly would be ‘destructive blow’

I trust that the Vittoriosa Local Council, which is due to discuss and consider the ODZ infringement application, will give priority to environmental protection and the absolute need of the people of Vittoriosa for open space

There is no social or philanthropic motive behind the project
There is no social or philanthropic motive behind the project

In MaltaToday (4 December) you report that Vittoriosa Mayor John Boxall, when asked for his opinion on an old people’s home, described it as a double-edged sword because of its malignant effect on the Vittoriosa habitat on one hand, and the need for such a home on the other.

I beg to differ. I see this as a destructive blow to Vittoriosa. There is no social or philanthropic motive behind the project. This is a purely commercial enterprise that will be charging commercial rates to cover running costs and leave a margin of profit to the investors. It will be intended for well-to-do retired persons. Old people from Vittoriosa will not afford to pay such fees and will not be admitted unless, of course, there is already some formal or informal arrangement for the government to buy accommodation from the pro-government developers.

In past years the area of Tal-Hawli, where the project is proposed to be built, suffered various intrusions and encroachments. But that was a time of unregulated development. The area is now designated as ODZ and that is how it should be treated. What remains of this valley should be preserved as a breathing space for the citizens of Vittoriosa.

The idea of a home for the elderly should not, however, be discarded. On the opposite site of the proposed area, there is a massive structure with a wide footprint that lies derelict and unutilized: this is the former Fort San Salvatore, originally built by Grand Master Emanuel De Vilhena within the Cottonera Fortifications. In the 1970s it served as a pre-cast concrete factory but it has been abandoned for many years and is now vandalized. The plant is not functioning and it looks certain that the present leaseholders are no longer interested in the premises.

If St Paul Residential Homes Limited would like to pursue their plans further, they are encouraged to strike a deal or a joint venture with the present incumbents and re-design the home within Fort San Salvatore. During the British period the fort was well looked after and contained army barracks and at one stage also served as an emergency hospital. Admittedly, there will be need for huge reconstruction and restoration works. But it will be money well spent.

If it goes through, it will indeed be a double-pronged benefit for Vittoriosa: while the beautiful greenery in Tal-Hawli will be preserved, this historic crumbling building will be re-edified (on the lines of the Order of St John’s naval warehouses around Dock No. 1 at Cospicua for the New University), while at the same time the promoters’ dream will be realized.

There will be another advantage which the present architects seem to be missing: the proposed site is enclosed in the depth of a valley with no proper air circulation and no views; on the other hand Fort San Salvatore stands on a hill facing the north westerly wind and offers good vistas of the surrounding panorama.

I trust that the Vittoriosa Local Council, which is due to discuss and consider the ODZ infringement application, will give priority to environmental protection and the absolute need of the people of Vittoriosa for open space. A reasonable compromise is feasible.

Lorenzo A. Zahra, Vittoriosa

Dearth of ammunition

All English language newspapers have admitted at one time or another that J. Guillaumier is given red carpet treatment. At the moment he is dead set to transmit a sombre message to readers that man’s ultimate destiny is vanishing into oblivion.

It’s hard to believe that J. Guillaumier is short of ideas but I hope he does not run out of ammunition, because his letter “Celestial promissory notes” (20 November, 2016) is a replica of the one appearing in the Malta Independent (8 November, 2015). 

The people Guillaumier quotes are analogical in personality and credibility to Jesus Christ as paper bomb to the explosion of 20,000 one-megaton hydrogen bombs, a molehill and a mountain, as a drop in the ocean or a part of 20 million million.

It was the latter who said “Heaven and Earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” (Luke 21:33). Food for thought!

John Azzopardi, Zabbar

No peace with swords

At Christmas time, we hear a lot of talk about peace on earth, and about “baby” Jesus, the “Prince of Peace”.

Christians ascribe to him verses in the Hebrew scriptures which supposedly “prophesy” his birth:  “For a child will be born to us... His name will be called Wonderful Counsellor... Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). 

In the Christian scriptures, we are told: “He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near” (Ephesians 2:13-18). 

But Jesus’ own words give the lie to these notions of peace, least of all in the family:

“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. A man’s enemies will be members of his own household. Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” (Matt. 10: 34-37)

John Guillaumier, St Julian's

Pure horror on Radio Malta

For some 15 years, Radio Malta’s flagship, Familja Wahda, took all incoming calls from listeners, including those that don’t display their number.

A few months before this summer, a well-known Labour-leaning listener who hogs the programme on an almost daily basis, rang in complaining with the presenter that he doesn’t agree that callers-it ‘hide’ their numbers.

The presenter, knowing who the caller was, put up a weak defence, diffidently saying that she never had any problems with crank-callers.

Seeing that he had met resistance, the caller ended the call saying: “Then I’ll have to speak to whomever I have to speak, and I’ll leave you at that”.

Two days later, in her introduction to the programme, just before the presenter gave a run-down of the segments of the morning’s programme, she announced that PBS management had issued a directive whereby she could accept only phone-calls displaying their number.

That was some six months ago.

Last week, 9th December, that same caller rang in while the programme’s guest was a professor of sustainable development. Introducing himself as the one whose efforts made it possible to have callers’ numbers displayed, the man went on a nauseating spiel and ended with a comment that is pure, Statis-like horror.

He said that now, if someone phones in and says something that was not to his taste, he can now obtain the caller’s number and set him straight.

He made no mention that he would ask the other caller’s permission first, implying that he has a free rein at PBS and a clear deck as to pick and choose from the phone numbers saved in the memory of the telephone system of PBS, so as to straighten out any caller that steps out of line.

One can never imagine that this man’s comment was the result of bluster. He couldn’t have made up a statement like that unless he has the backing of the top management at PBS, or a corrupt employee who passes this information on to him.

Despite the fact that more than a week has gone by, the management at PBS has not seen it fit to issue a statement to allay the fears of its listeners.

This is a clear violation of the Data Protection Act, for which I passed on the case to the Commissioner of Data Protection. I am also sending the editor a link to the programme in question.

Joseph Genovese, Birkirkara