Updated | On voting day, PN promised monti relocation

9 March 2013 email shows former minister Jason Azzopardi pledging monti relocation to Ordinance Street. PN challenges Prime Minister to publish agreements with monti hawkers made before election day.

An email published by the Labour Party this afternoon reveals that former lands minister Jason Azzopardi pledged the relocation of the monti hawkers to Ordinance Street by 1 December 2013.

The email dated 9 March 2013 – voting day – sent to then PN secretary general Paul Borg Olivier at 4:13pm confirms that the previous administration supported the monti relocation to Ordinance Street.

“I am authorized to inform you that a Nationalist government will commit itself to a relocation of the monti from Merchants’ Street to Ordinance Street by no later than 1 December 2013,” Azzopardi wrote.

In the email he clarifies that the relocation will apply to the daily flea market and the area to be occupied by the hawkers will not spill over into Republic Street.

The email published by the Labour Party censors one of the recipients of the email but it is assumed that the recipients were monti hawkers.

In a response to the e-mail publication, the PN challenged Prime Minister Joseph Muscat to publish the agreements he had made with hawker representatives before the 2013 general election. 

Earlier, Opposition leader Simon Busuttil said a Nationalist government would be willing to consult the monti hawkers on a possible relocation of their stalls from Merchants' Street.

However, he insisted that, under his leadership, the monti will not be relocated to Ordinance Street as is being proposed by the government.
He admitted that the previous Nationalist administration had agreed to consider the relocation of the monti to Ordinance Street up to the corner touching Republic Street. 

"However, the relocation wasn't in our electoral manifesto," Busuttil said. "Besides, I'm a new leader and I don't agree with the monti being anywhere on Ordinance Street."

He said that culture is not a priority for the government, highlighting its decision to transform the Valletta ditch into a car park rather than a garden, the transformation of the Gozo Arts School into an MCAST campus, and its silence over whether the Hamrun music school will be relocated to Valleta “where it deserves to be”.

“However, culture will become a priority under a PN government," Busuttil said. "Indeed, one of our policy fora is specifically dedicated to creativity and culture and we will soon announce proposals for original cultural projects,” he said.

'Muscat has sold his soul for votes'
Busuttil accused Muscat of reaching a secret understanding with the monti hawkers to relocate their stalls to Ordinance Street before the 2013 general election.

"The monti shouldn't be moved to Ordinance Street for cultural, aesthetic and security reasons," he said. "The new Parliament will be adjacent to Ordinance Street and can't have a monti, with all the security issues it brings about, in front of Parliament."

"Muscat sold his soul for votes, but I won't," Busuttil said. "Culture is not just about watching performances but is a style of life and part of our identity. If we attack our culture, we'll be attacking our own identity."

He pointed out that Muscat had been against the Valletta entrance renovation project from its inception.

“The previous administration had commissioned Renzo Piano, the best architect in the world, to redesign Valletta’s entrance as a celebration of Maltese culture,” Busuttil said. “We invested a lot of time and money in the project, but it is not under assault by a government that never cared for it. Muscat had criticised the project as a waste of money from the start but, for him, €100 million to accommodate the largest Cabinet in history isn’t a waste of money.

He also hit out at the government’s original design for the new monti stalls.

“They were an insult to our intelligence and our culture and showed how mediocre this government is,” Busuttil said. “Muscat only said that he didn’t like the design after the public outrage over it. I appeal to the government to back-track on the monti’s relocation as it had done on the stall design.” 

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