Clergy refusing to remove feast column blocking ramp, CRPD claims in police report

The annual festa is the best time of the year for people all around Malta, but some decoration during the festive months cause inconveniences to many, blocking the way up ramps 

The column was set up on a ramp in front of the ATM.
The column was set up on a ramp in front of the ATM.

Decorative columns and statues have been set up all around towns and villages for feasts this summer, but one column in Birkirkara has led to a dispute between the clergy at St Helen's Basilica and the Council for the Rights of Persons with Disability, which has even filed a police report.

A decorative column, with an angel atop it, was installed in the middle of a ramp leading up to a pavement in front of an ATM in Sanctuary Street, completely blocking access.

The column makes it impossible for persons in wheelchairs, or with prams, as well as others, to access the pavement and thus make use of the ATM.

One person posted photos on Facebook, adding that this happens every year and that people shrug her complaints off, telling her that "it's only there for 15 days a year".

The Facebook posts showing the column set up on the ramp for consecutive years.
The Facebook posts showing the column set up on the ramp for consecutive years.
The Facebook posts showing the column set up on the ramp for consecutive years.
The Facebook posts showing the column set up on the ramp for consecutive years.

Previous Facebook posts by the same person show that the column was also set up in the same place in 2016, 2017. 

In a statement, the Council for the Rights for Persons with Disability (CRPD) said it was very disappointed with the lack of cooperation by the St Helen parish in ensuring wheelchair-bound persons are not denied access by any of the street decorations set up.

The Council said that when contacted by its Compliance Unit, priests responsible for the feast had resisted any changes which would have led to a solution that respected the right of disabled persons.

According to the CRPD, the organising clergy would only make one concession: to ensure that the offending column, on which sits an angel, will be the first to be removed the day after the feast of St Helen, which will be celebrated this Sunday.

"The CRPD could not accept this, since the right to access as laid down by law cannot be suspended for a week because a papier-mâché angel," the statement read.

The CRPD said that, following the clergy's reaction, it had filed a police report at the Birkirkara police station, arguing that that column was denying people in a wheelchair their right to free access. The CRPD asked the police to take immediate action.

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