An unequal society
In the introductory passage to his opinion piece entitled Is MIDI paying its annual ground rent to Government, (TMID 26 September), Simon Mercieca made a number of assertions about the ongoing rape of Sliema which are indeed highly debateable.
He rightly says that the destruction of the nice colonialperiod houses that lined the Sliema seafront started when Lorry Sant was responsible for PAPB (Public Works Department) but that the change in government did not bring any fresh approach to this policy – with the destruction of these houses continuing in earnest. This was indeed the case with the Nationalist Government administration which came into power in 1987 and was almost certainly a contributory factor to the loss of the 2013 election.
The present administration’s pursuit of money and its subservience to property developers is now clearly worse: it has ensured the continuing destruction of what was once Sliema.
Mr Mercica’s opinion that “it is useless to protect the remaining few surviving buildings” and that the Sliema residents are “too old now to protest” is a very unfair comment because it simply ignores the sheer power of Big Money behind the construction industry, aided and abetted by the government, which has rendered protest powerless. It also fails to take into account the continuing systematic degradation of the residents’ quality of life and health.
Mr Mercieca is partly right in saying that, despite its controversial nature, the Sliema project to build towers has failed to attract a strong public outcry. There was a public protest, but such protests are now up against such massive odds that they make little impression. There is ‘lack of public protest’ simply because people have become weary and increasingly aware of the futility of objecting. All that prevails now is a feeling of helplessness and a fatalistic attitude that nothing can be done.
The sphere of influence of construction magnates now seems even to have pervaded other newspapers, with the construction industry appearing to get preferential treatment in some newspapers while objections submitted for publication are being obstructed.
As Mr Mercieca says, the recent action against MIDI suggests that the voice of the common citizen is starting to prevail. This would indeed be encouraging if it were really the case. The citizen’s voice might prevail in exceptional circumstances where a situation can be exploited politically, as in the present MIDI example but, overall, it remains the case that people feel powerless and can only watch helplessly as their once-beautiful environment continues to be systematically exploited. There must be many who think that their only hope is that Malta’s current frenetic pace of speculative construction will result in an implosion of the property bubble, but that may come too late – the damage has been done.