Labour MP Godfrey Farrugia has suggested that the traditional Maltese festa (village feast) should be considered as a common heritage of mankind by Unesco.

The former health minister, speaking in Parliament, said the feasts - numbering 131 this summer - were an expression of Malta's distinct cultural, social and religious identity, and he thanked all involved.

The government, he said, had a lot to do in this sector. The religious aspect was the most important, but the social and cultural aspects, shown in the way the people celebrated the feasts, were also important. One consequence of the feasts was that many towns and villages had free schools of music. The villages had also served to safeguard and promote skills used in the production of street decorations. Artistry and skill, along with a dose of science, were also much in evidence in the fireworks.

The feasts were a feature in Malta's tourism product and contributed to the economy.  

He said the government should allocate funds from the Good Causes Fund for the feasts, particularly for issues related to health and safety.

He also called for the Health and Safety Authority to be given a role in the safety aspects of the organisation of feasts. It should ensure that feast enthusiasts wore safety materials and used proper equipment in preparing and setting up street decorations, or other aspects of the feasts.

In this context, he spoke on the manufacture of fireworks and said it needed to be ensured that the chemicals used were the safest possible. With the number of fireworks factories having been limited, many had reached saturation point, and it needed to be ensured that they were safe. Where necessary, they should be enlarged or their number increased in terms of modern safety norms, Dr Farrugia said.

He regretted that behaviour by some individuals in the feasts was unbecoming. He said these people were not behind the organisation of the feasts. They were not the people who worked all year around to improve their village feasts, and they should not be allowed to detract from the real value of the feasts.

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