Owen Bonnici – (Minister for the National Heritage, the Arts, and the Local Government.)
The year 2022 is coming to an end, and we have so much to look forward to with positivity and energy for the new year 2023.
The year 2022 will surely be remembered as the year in which the people gave Prime Minister Robert Abela his first mandate following a clear and strong electoral result. Indeed, the 2022 general election was one which the Labour Party came out victorious over a poorly organised and hapless Nationalist Party.
With the message of “Malta Together”, Prime Minister Abela won the hearts and minds of a robust majority over the main Opposition party with the greatest majority over the Opposition party registered until now since Malta became Independent. We have welcomed this strong mandate with humility and full responsibility, with our feet firmly planted on the ground and with a will to be always close to families and people at large.
Personally, I am grateful, honoured and humbled that in the last general election, I registered one of the best electoral results in my political career so far when I was strongly elected from two electoral districts, namely from the third district and the fifth district. Once again, I thank the electorate from the bottom of my heart. I am doing my best to return tthe trust that has been placed in me with a lot of hard work and commitment.
With the appointment of the new Government, I was entrusted with a Ministry that has a crucial twin task in the quest of strengthening the quality of life of the Maltese and Gozitan people and at the same time safeguarding the soul of this country as a whole - that of the Natural Heritage, the Art, and Local Government. I am working together with the Parliamentary Secretary Alison Zerafa Civelli, who, in her new assignment in charge of Local Government, has brought with her new energy, enthusiasm and competence.
With the removal once and for all of the restrictions of COVID-19 immediately after the general election, we were able to do great things in the cultural and artistic sector. And we made an effective and strong recovery.
We started right away with Mużika Mużika festival, swiftly we organised Carnival (with the Special Olympics celebrations in between), and immediately entered into the “festa” season, during which we made sure that all band clubs and festa groups obtained special financial assistance to make up for the lack of collection of funds due to the pandemic. In total, we distributed half a million Euros between all band clubs and related groups.
At the same time, we continued to finance the Maltese festas with special schemes, designed to bolster the various aspects of this beautiful Maltese cultural expression.
It was also a year where we took forward a number of exciting projects that will strengthen the fabric of the artistic and cultural sector.
Funding was given to various artistic that vary from opera to classical music, contemporary music to choirs, classical dance to projects in the community, from theatre to musicals and many, many other art forms.
I would also like to mention the strengthening of the yearly events such as Notte Bianca, which was a very well organised event this year, which the public really enjoyed , and I have no doubt that the end of the year concert in Pjazza San Ġorġ will be enjoyed also by many people.
We want to continue to strengthen the cultural infrastructure. And this is the aim of the MICAS: International Contemporary Art Space. Through art and culture, we will be giving back, in different phases, to the Maltese and Gozitan families not less than 12 acres of land in Floriana, which until today are inaccessible. Next year we will complete the art galleries and sculpture garden in a beautiful heritage setting .
This will be another wonderful project for our country.
This is not all. I cannot but salute the impeccable restoration work that is being done on a wide range of restoration and rehabilitation projects on historical, ecclesiastical and civil buildings throughout Malta. In fact, in 2022 we concluded twenty restoration projects while we are currently carrying out various works on twenty-five other projects.
We will continue making restoration of the bastions, with an emphasis on the current and planned interventions of the Cottonera and Santa Margherita Lines inside Cottonera. Restoration will also be carried out on the Marina area inside the City, while the restoration of the Victoria Gate will enter its final phase as will the restoration of the Jesuit Church in Valletta.
During 2023 no less than twelve restoration projects will be carried out in as many localities and villages because the heritage which we find amongst the communities is also close to our hearts.
In the same way, the project on the Grand Master's Palace is an extremely beautiful one. This year we gave it a big boost, as the thousands of visitors which flocked the Palace at the open day we had on Republic Day could see with their own eyes. Others had been talking about the need for the Palace to stop being used as one big office space for generations upon end - we will be acting on our promises and will be giving this Palace back to the families and the people who visit us.
After the death of Queen Elizabeth II, international interest in Villa Guardamangia peaked. The surveys and other necessary studies were completed, while the necessary permit was issued by the Planning Authority, and this in preparation for the necessary investment to develop the potential of the building and preserve the historical value that intrinsically binds our country with the Royal family of the United Kingdom.
It is also worth mentioning how we acquired part of the land in Borg in-Nadur in Birzebbuga: approximately 13 acres, where under it is the remnants of a village that goes back to the Bronze Age can be found. In terms of size, this was the largest archaeological acquisition of value made by the State.
Finally, I feel it is my duty to pass on a word of courage to the Ukrainian families who are among us as they are heartbroken following what is going on in their country as a result of the senseless decisions of Russia that chose to go to war.
The year 2023 is round the corner. It will be a beautiful year, despite the challenges. I know for sure that we will accomplish many beautiful things together.
From the bottom of my heart, on behalf of my family and on behalf of all the workers of the Ministry for National Heritage, Arts and Local Government, I wish the Editor, staff and readers of the Malta Independent a new year full of peace, health and happiness.