The recent conflict between the residents of Valletta and the owners of entertainment establishments is yet another case where the interests of common people are being trampled upon to promote those of a few irresponsible operators whose primary objective is to use any means available to further their business with complete disregard to the impact of their activities on the rest of society.
This culture of impunity is prevalent in Malta because such establishments have the backing of the authorities, the police and politicians.
The result is that, on a matter where it should be obvious to one and all that a person should be able to live in peace in his home and to enjoy a good night’s rest, our institutions think otherwise.
Such situations are fomenting citizen anger and action, as has recently happened in Comino. It took the courage and determination of Graffitti to draw attention to the barbaric manner in which an idyllic spot in Malta was being exploited.
Again, the public good was being sidelined to benefit a handful of privileged, well-connected individuals who had a free hand in ruining the Blue Lagoon area for personal profit. The result is that the area has degenerated into an uncivilised mess.
Valletta seems destined to share the same fate.
What is worse is that the noise issue in Valletta was discussed and agreed at cabinet level. Which means that not only are the legitimate expectations of residents being ignored but also that there is absolutely no understanding of how damaging such policies are to our tourism industry.
During the recent business breakfast on tourism organised by Times of Malta, I listened to various stakeholders lamenting, justifiably, about the need to upgrade our product, to venture into higher value added tourism, to invest in our human resources in order to have a sustainable industry.
Yet, our policymakers seem to be oblivious to fundamental principles that support quality sustainable tourism and one of them is that the interests of the industry cannot work against those of the community.
For example, has it crossed their minds that most capital cities have strictly enforced regulations that prohibit augmented music in public areas at any time of the day? Mediterranean cities such as Athens and Barcelona have had such policies in place for decades.
We need to wake up to the fact that we have a noise pollution issue in Malta which, together with other environmental issues, is undeniably having an adverse effect on general well-being. If ignored, our tourism industry will eventually crash and burn.
Most capital cities have strictly enforced regulations that prohibit augmented music in public areas at any time of the day- Joe Farrugia
The revitalisation of Valletta is a positive thing and a city that used to be deserted in the evenings is now teeming with Maltese and tourists alike who are appreciating the beauty of our capital city. However, we now have situations where one cannot have a decent conversation during a dinner when there is a wannabe Elvis on the right raising the volume to compete with the Celine Dion reject on the left.
It is uncomfortable having to endure such an environment for a couple of hours, so one can perfectly sympathise with the residents who have to put up with such torture every night. Recently, I have heard dance music playing in St John’s Square at 8.30am on a Sunday to attract tourists for breakfast. Do we want our capital city to degenerate to this level?
Clubbing is a legitimate form of entertainment, which is accepted internationally. The difference between what happens in Malta and civilised countries is that elsewhere you have a thriving clubbing culture which coexists with the rest of the community as the music is only played indoors in a soundproofed environment.
In Malta, half of the Maltese population becomes an unwilling participant in clubbing activities as they have to stay awake until such time as the party organiser decides to stop, which could be at sunrise. This is true in Valletta, in central Malta and also in the harbour area, where boat parties regularly disrupt people’s rest during the early hours of the day.
Although this is in breach of trade licensing laws, the police, local councils and the Malta Tourism Authority are content with shifting the responsibility on each other as things are turning for the worse for many residents.
We even have a legal notice that perversely limits noise in touristic areas during the summer months, meaning that it is ok to shift such activities to residential areas. This situation is clearly damaging to residents and also to the tourism industry in general.
It is tragic that, in spite of what so many stakeholders say and think, it seems that decisions are far removed from any strategic element and the main guiding criterion behind such policies is simply that of appeasing the immediate demands of individuals who, for various reasons, can manipulate the politicians and the judiciary to dance to their tune.
The price of this neglect may well be paid by all society in the years to come.
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