[WATCH] V18 chairman in impassioned plea against monti relocation next to parliament

Jason Micallef baffled by monti relocation committee's refusal to engage with V18 Foundation

Jason Micallef (Photo Ray Attard)
Jason Micallef (Photo Ray Attard)
Jason Micallef against monti relocation next to parliament • Video by Ray Attard

V18 Foundation chairman Jason Micallef has made a powerful plea to the government to reconsider moving monti hawkers next to the parliament as this would "ruin" the open space that was created to be enjoyed by the public and to support the surrounding architecture.

Addressing a press conference on the upper part of Ordinance Street, Micallef expressed his frustration at the economy ministry's refusal to engage with the V18 Foundation on the matter.

Economy Minister Chris Cardona appointed a committee, chaired by PL official William Lewis, to oversee the relocation of the hawkers to Ordinance Street and the design of the new stalls.

Supported by eight other chairmen of various cultural groups, Micallef wrote a letter to Cardona on 29 July asking government to reconsider the proposal. The Foundation received a letter two weeks later by Lewis stating that the committee's decision was final.

"The reply was not harmonious and the committee also refused to meet with us," a visibly irate Micallef said.

Acknowledging that both political parties had promised hawkers a relocation to Ordinance Street, Micallef said the monti should not overflow into Republic Street next to the new parliament building.

"This part was not built to support the heavy flow of vans and stalls. It was built as a pedestrian passage for people to enjoy public spaces and the surrounding architecture.

"This is our opportunity to make things right as we prepare to host Valletta as the European capital of culture. It is an opportunity for people to enjoy more open spaces ... Let's not ruin this vision by unreasonable decisions," he said.

Micallef said a condemnation against this decision had come from various fora, including the MHRA, architects and the general public.

He said that this decision would also pose logistical problems to artists making use of the open theatre and St James Cavalier. The Pjazza de Valette, he added, would be ruined by incoming vans and parked cars.

There are some 75 licensed hawkers to operate in Valletta between Monday and Saturday. The number goes up to 140 on Sunday. The pedestrian passage next to the parliament is already numbered to take in the stalls.

Micallef said he was hopeful that the government will opt for the "common sense" decision and keep the stalls on the other side of Ordinance Street.

In reply to the V18 Foundation’s press conference, a spokesperson for Cardona said that discussions and consultations at the time took place at a ministerial level. Earlier, Micallef complained that the ministry did not engage with V18.

“As a matter of fact, a discussion and negotiations ensued with the Ministry for Culture on the possibility of allowing the use of the market stalls for cultural purposes,” the ministry said.

The spokesman said that discussions were ongoing with the culture ministry which has now been invited to appoint a representative on the Design Review Panel. The panel has been tasked with choosing the final designs of the market stalls.

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