• Team Owen Bonnici

Humane



This week Cabinet took a decision to approve Christopher Bartolo's request to leave prison on bail subject to a number of conditions until his case is decided by the Courts of law - the main condition being that, except for particular circumstances, Christopher should not leave home.

Cabinet took this decision after obtaining an independent and authoratitive medical advice on the matter.

Christopher Bartolo's case attracted the interest of a lot of people in our country because of the particular medical circumstances relating to his case. Mr Bartolo has a Constitutional and a Criminal case pending in Court and this fact precludes me from expressing myself. It precluded me from commenting about this case before the Cabinet decision and, naturally, it precludes me even now.

I take the opportunity of thanking his girlfriend, Rachel, for being always polite, courteous and respectful in her comments about the case. I admire her sense of dedication and selfless love towards Christopher.

It was an exercise of humanity. This is a humane Government.

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Again, another journalist has been murdered in Europe. This time, a journalist and his fiancée were killed in Slovakia.

When I heard the news, I was shocked. After a short while, I saw on twitter feed images of the top echelons of the Slovak Government offering a €1 million reward to whoever comes forward with valuable information for the investigation.

I hope that the killers are brought to justice as soon as possible and urge the Slovak Government to leave no stone unturned.

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Last Wednesday in Parliament I kicked off the debate in Parliament on a bill which seeks to adress a situation of possible hardship. This is a Bill which was spearheaded by two Ministries – mine and Minister Chris Cardona's, whom I thank for providing assistance without which this Bill would have not seen the light of day.

It deals with a particular article in the Civil Code (a 1613) which deals with the termination of commercial sub-lessees obtaining under the pre-1995 rent laws by 31st May, 2018.

It is indeed a highly technical subject and offers an interesting debate for lawyers and academicians. To be honest, however, I am less concerned about academic papers and more about the social price we would have to pay as a country if we had to do nothing.

Here we are speaking of families and people who earn a living from commercial places which were sub-rented to them years ago. Here we are speaking about the possibility of seeing families and people be kicked out from the commercial places which were sub-rented to them under the pre-1995 regime.

We acted and moved forward a legislative amendment aimed at addressing this situation of possible hardship. From the initial feedback I received, it seems that the Opposition will support the amendment.

Effectively the Bill will give the right to those sub-lessees to keep running the businesses after the 31st May, 2018. The conditions will be determined by the Rent Regulation Board (who is chaired by an independent Magistrate) but in any case the duration cannot extend to more than 10 years.

In order for the sub-lessee to make use of this amendment, once the bill becomes law, he or she has to file an application in front of the Rent Regulation Board before the 31st May 2018. The Board must be satisfied that the sub-lessee will suffer grave hardship should he or she have the commercial sub-lease terminated.

Both the owner and the lessee have the right to oppose the request to the Rent Regulation Board. In order to strike a balance between the rights of the respective parties, the Board will be given the right to fix the amount of rent payable as per 2017 market prices. In case of hardship, the Board would have the right to cushion the rent increase. On the other hand, the increase in rent could also be imposed immediately (throughout the duration of the court case.)

We believe that this piece of legislation would strike a proper balance between the rights of the respective parties and is socially sensitive. This is the right thing to do. Of course, there will be people who will be in favour while others will be against. However I am sure that this is necessary for a stronger social fabric and a more just society.

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Culture is a game changer in Malta and Valletta 2018 has been a game changer for culture.

I am so happy with the way things have developed in this field. If one had to see where we were 5 years ago and where we are now, one can immediately see the difference.

The creative economy has prospered, careers have been created and funding has been stronger than ever. Hundreds – if not thousands – of artists have been assisted in one way or another. Things have changed with the creation of new entities such as ZfinMalta, TeatruMalta and FestivalsMalta while the laws have been drastically liberalised. Even the private sector has been incentivised to donate to culture through a cutting-edge 150% tax refund donation scheme.

All this does not happen in a vacuum. This happens because there is a Government who takes decisions and good people who bring results.

Malta is a magnificent destination for culture and the creative industries.

We will be pushing forward, more and more.

#OwenBonnici

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