Open letter to our prime minister

Dear prime minister, I sit here in class looking around me and all I can see are faces that do not change, only eyes all around me and muffled, lower voices.

This has been our norm for the second scholastic year in a row and I am only six years old. I do not know any different and believe it is normal to hide behind my mask when I am feeling shy or uncomfortable, even when I don’t need to wear it. Sometimes, I also feel anxious because I cannot breathe properly.

I forgot what it feels like to see my friends smiling in class, or to realise one of them is sad, so that I could comfort them. How I wish to be able to understand my teacher better sometimes since I cannot read her lips when I don’t hear her clearly. I would also love to know what her smile and face look like and to tell if I pleased or disappointed her.

I miss my best friend terribly in break time since we are confined to cage-like class sections on the playground. We are not allowed to go beyond the lines and must remain in our small, assigned section all-year round, even though we all wear masks.

I also get very hot moving around while playing with my mask on, since this must stay on, even though we remain in our own bubbles. 

We were told that things would get better if we got vaccinated and we thought we would be exempt from wearing the mask, among other things. However I am now left wondering why we even took it in the first place because nothing has changed.

At the start of the pandemic, we gladly wore the mask, knowing it would protect the vulnerable until the vaccine was produced. Now, everything seems to be changing and improving around me, however, I still must wear my mask all day long at school.

Meanwhile, many European countries as well as the UK and Australia have dropped their mask mandates in schools and some never had them, to begin with. Shouldn’t we have been one of the first countries to get to that point, considering we are so proud to have such a high percentage of the population that is vaccinated? Why have the Maltese children been forgotten?

So, I ask you, prime minister, can we at least be allowed to remove our mask when we are within our bubbles sitting at our own desk, in a ventilated classroom with social distancing measures in place? Can we use the whole playground if wearing masks or remove them if we are still going to be confined to one space? Can we, at the very least, be given the choice?

Thank you for taking your time to read this and I appreciate that you have very important matters to deal with at this time.

ILONA BUSBY – Swieqi – on behalf of children waiting to free their smiles and have their identity back

This letter was written before Health Minister Chris Fearne’s announcement about masks in schools being removed after the Easter holidays.

The freeport has ruined Birżebbuġa

The freeport is by far the most destructive environmental and ecological project ever embarked upon in Malta. Photo: Shutterstock.comThe freeport is by far the most destructive environmental and ecological project ever embarked upon in Malta. Photo: Shutterstock.com

Birżebbuġa, being the southernmost village of the Maltese archipelago, may not be that familiar to people living up north and in Gozo unless they have business to attend to there.

I was born in Birżebbuġa, have a lifelong affinity with the place and own property just 50 metres off the now redundant March 31 fuel storage depot boundary wall. The destiny of the soon-to-be vacated site is yet unknown. It is a matter of concern for the neighbourhood residents.

On February 8, the new fuel facility at Ħas Saptan was inaugurated by the prime minister. That evening I watched the executive chairman of Enemed, Kevin Chircop, being interviewed on TVM.

The interview was quite infuriating, as Chircop, enjoying his four minutes of fame, posed as the saviour of Birżebbuġa by claiming that, following the closure of the March 31 facility, Birżebbuġa will cease to be an industrial site and will revert to being il-post tal-villeġġjatura (a summer residence place).

As far as I am aware, Chircop is not a politician but he conveniently forgets that there is a mammoth freeport out there. The village will remain an industrial site in no harmony with the freeport.

While the former fuel installation site is reversible, the freeport area is not. His statement cannot be more remote from reality

The freeport is by far the most destructive environmental and ecological project ever embarked upon in Malta. The impact on Birżebbuġa and its environs has been devastating and unprecedented. The residents bear the brunt. Heavily.

Large swathes of agricultural land were expropriated in Kalafrana. The remaining rocky foreshore at Bengħajsa was buried in concrete for land reclamation reducing the bay area significantly. Constant dredging annihilates any marine life that nature would attempt to re-emerge.

The massive cranes stand out ominously as one drives downhill by Għar Dalam hill. They can be clearly seen from as far as the airport.

On an operational basis, the freeport attracts the latest mega container ships plying the oceans, up to 400 metres in length. As they manoeuvre in and out of Terminal 1, they sail as close as 200 metres from residences, assisted by three or four tugboats burning fuel oil.

 The southernmost quay extends to the recreational area of Wied il-Buni. Ships berth just 200 metres off the house façades. Incredulous, but Google Maps do come in handy to ward off any potential denials.

The terminals operate on a 24/7 basis, offering no respite to the residents from the air, noise and light pollution. The ship-to-shore power project will partly alleviate emissions but the other inconveniences will remain.

The people of Birżebbuġa earnestly hope that the former fuel facility, in service for almost 100 years, will not be turned into any project which will protract the damage to the village’s once idyllic charm.

VICTOR PISANI – Santa Luċija

Perception versus reality

I was recently shown a quote by Labour electoral candidate Audrey Demicoli (formerly Testaferrata de Noto) published in l-Orizzont about the €100 and €200 cheques soon to be distributed to workers and the elderly to make up for the increase in the cost of living that we are facing every day. She claimed the Nationalist Party referred to this as “squandering of money”.

However, she completely missed the point made by the PN, which said that the people, obviously, are to take anything given them but, at the same time, they mustn’t fool themselves into thinking that the Labour government has the people’s welfare at heart.

Take, for instance, the electricity bills and income tax. People are being robbed in broad daylight, with the government agreeing there exists an anomaly but still refusing to reimburse the extra amount charged.

It is the Labour government, first led by the disgraced Joseph Muscat and now by Robert Abela, that has been using taxpayers’ money to sustain extremely high salaries for hundreds of persons of trust employed, to splash out millions of euros on Steward Health Care and to give direct orders to friends of friends of the Labour Party and many others.

However, I shall not lose any sleep over what Demicoli said, since she is the one who, years ago, when employed by Transport Malta, said the problem of traffic on our roads was only the people’s perception. One wonders if she travels from one point to another by private jet.

EMILY BARBARO-SANT – Mosta

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