Sociologist, local councillor, activist, drummer from Malta

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Unsurprising Sliema

Michael Briguglio

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Malta Today

Should we be surprised with the hurly-burly that is taking place at the Sliema Local Council?

Definitely not. Let’s go back to the period when the last Local Council elections were held, in June 2009.

I had been elected twice as councilor, and did as much work possible to help improve the quality of life in Sliema in issues such as public consultation, construction, waste management, pollution, public transport, bathing, swimming and animal welfare. In many instances, I managed to convince both Nationalist and Labour councollors on various issues, and I worked well with councilors irrespective of their political affiliation.

Sometimes I also had an ‘informal’ casting vote, when there were ‘four’ political parties in the council, namely, Green, Labour, PN ‘Pullicino faction’ and PN ‘Arrigo faction’. It was indeed surreal to see certain PN councilors objecting that the council should praise the government for the reclaiming and embellishment of St Anne Square!

Judging by the feedback from residents and from other councilors, I thought I would be elected for the third time in 2009. But I was not.

My reaction was bitter sweet. I was obviously disappointed, but I also felt a sense of liberation as I had decided to quit politics… only to change my mind after a few weeks when I was convinced to accept the post of AD Chairperson.

During and after the council elections, I noticed or was informed by residents on various things which I am sure helped affect the result. For example the systematic provision of transport for elderly voters; character assassinations through whispering campaigns - sometimes between candidates of the same party; electoral promises to various constituents that have nothing to do with political vision; telephone campaigns of the 'big brother is watching you' type. And so forth. I also started to realize why a proposal which a fellow councilor, Julian Galea (PN), and myself had been constantly postponed…. The proposal was to have a contracts manager.

Unfortunately Sliema is now reaping what has been sowed. One of the first decisions taken by the new local council was the removal of executive secretary Josef Grech, who was always strict in observing regulations and in implementing correct administrative procedures.

In the months that followed Grech’s removal, operations carried out by the local council involved shoddy work at best, as well as a total lack of defence of residents' rights in various areas such as pollution, development and waste management. This is a far cry from the previous six years when certain councilors from different parties as well as the Council’s administrative staff did their best to ensure that Sliema's voice was heard with the respective authorities.

The existence of different alliances amongst PN councilors has been further complicated by the fact that Nikki Dimech and Sandra Camilleri shall become independent councillors. At the same time certain Labour councillors have been making strange alliances in the past months.

In the meantime many residents are lamenting on various issues. There is an effective tool in this regard: one’s vote. It is useless if voting patterns do not change. If you want change, vote for it.

Michael Briguglio is Chairperson and a former Sliema councillor for Alternattiva Demokratika - the Green Party

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