Owen Bonnici – (Minister for the National Heritage, the Arts, and the Local Government.)
The change that Parliamentary Secretary Alison Zerafa Civelli and I, with the help of the main stakeholders in the world of Local Government, managed to bring about and achieve in the field of municipal waste collection throughout our first year of the current legislature is nothing short of remarkable.
Immediately once we took office in March 2022 we worked around the clock to make sure that by the 1st of January 2023 six new contractors – chosen following an open and transparent call – are assigned the collection of all municipal waste in Malta and Gozo on a regional basis for the first time ever in the history of our country.
Up until then, each locality had its own waste collector and it was up to the respective Local Council to decide which waste is collected on which date.
This brings me to the second major change we introduced. As from the 1st of January, 2023 we implemented a new programme, drawn up by the country’s environmental experts, which not only regularised the collection on the basis of a single and common nation-wide schedule, but incentivised more separation at source and less dependency on the black bag.
In all probability this was one of the most important green reforms ever undertaken in our country. The change was not only well-received by the people at large, but everything happened in a seamless manner and without major hiccups.
People by and large adapted, the information was free-flowing and the Cleansing and Maintenance Directorate, led by the hardworking Ramon Deguara, made sure to step in whenever needed to help and support until the new improved system became ingrained in our collective psyche.
Four months down the line, our colleagues from Waste Serve Malta Ltd went publicly on record to state that as from last January, the percentage of organic waste collected from households increased by a considerable 20%.
What has been done, my friends, is very important. We need to keep explaining why it is a very bad idea not to separate waste at source, why we need to do our part for a better environment and how we can help our country achieve faster its targets, ultimately for our own sake.
Let’s keep, as a country, building on this hard-earned collective success.
Chapel of the Sacred Heart
It was indeed my absolute pleasure to visit the restoration work which is being undertaken on the Chapel of the Sacred Heart in Mosta.
This Chapel is quite unique and is also adorned with statues which were originally made by Vincent Apap and Ganni Bonnici. The work is going on in full speed and is expected to be finalised shortly.
The restoration works were the result of a scheme, which we had launched last year, whereby Local Councils were invited to identify sites for restoration. The Mosta Local Council, ably led by Mayor Perit Chris Grech, individualised this beautiful piece of patrimony and in fact the Restoration Directorate took the responsibility of breathing new life in this building.
I thank the workers within the Restoration Directorate for the brilliant work.
I am told that a lot of good work takes place in this Chapel as part of the pastoral work of the Catholic Church in Mosta. I am glad that through this initiative we are giving a concrete helping hand.
The feast of St. Gregory holds a special place in Malta's cultural calendar, occurring annually on the first Wednesday following Easter. It is a time of relaxation for a lot of Maltese people, who take this opportunity to enjoy traditional food and drinks, socialize with friends and family, and engage in various activities: including taking the first swim of the year.
The village of Żejtun is particularly famous for its annual pilgrimage, which attracts interest and a religious following. This pilgrimage is an essential aspect of the events which take place on the occasion of St. Gregory’s day. Later in the day, the focus shifts to the seaside village of Marsaxlokk, where hundreds of people gathered to enjoy the first swim of the season. This was a particularly special occasion for many, as it marks the start of the “summer season” and a chance to enjoy the warm sun.
With the resounding promise to revive the cultural sector with full vigour after the pandemic, it is evident that the commitment has been upheld. The sheer number of attendees, many of whom came with organised transport from the various Local Councils, speaks volumes about the event's considerable success. Last Wednesday many people took the opportunity to enjoy traditional Maltese crafts and music, such as the Għana. The atmosphere was festive and lively, with many tourists also joining in on the celebrations and adding to the vibrant energy of the event.
Overall, the feast of St. Gregory is an important cultural celebration in Malta, and it is a time when people come together to celebrate their traditions, heritage, and community.
The Culture Directorate was responsible for the cultural aspect of the festivities and I believe that the team has done a great job. The programme focused on the traditional dimension of the feast, which is believed to have been celebrated for the first time in 1543.
The government recognizes the importance of preserving traditional feasts like St. Gregory's and ensuring they are passed down from generation to generation.
In all this work, the Culture Directorate liaised closely with the Local Councils of Żejtun and Marsaxlokk to formulate a special programme of activities related to this traditional festival, to attract more locals and tourists with the aim of highlighting the intangible cultural heritage aspect of our country. This includes traditional Maltese crafts and Għana, which have been recognized on UNESCO's list of intangible heritage.
The cultural aspect of St. Gregory's feast is just one example of how the Culture Directorate is working to preserve Malta's rich cultural heritage and promote it.
In addition to the new cultural programme, the Culture Directorate has undergone a rebranding process and launched a new logo inspired by the traditional Maltese tile. The Director, Dr Aleks Farrugia, stated that the restructuring process will help to strengthen its identity and operations. The colours used in the branding scheme are taken from the colours of the sunrise over the Grand Harbour, symbolizing a new day and a hopeful future, as well as the harbour that opens up to the sea, a symbol of connectivity with the rest of the world.