There is absolutely no doubt that Malta would top any index that measures indiscipline and lack of law enforcement. What happens summer after summer at Mistra Bay and, indeed, at other places where caravan owners take up space that ought to be free of any physical obstruction for the enjoyment of all, is symptomatic of an ingrained selfish attitude and crass indiscipline that appear to grow even further rather than diminish. 

Caravan owners make the headlines for their indifferent attitude to others as many of them choose to park their campers precisely in sought-after places. It is only when contraventions are reported in newspapers that the authorities seem to act, and even then it does not usually take time for some caravan owners to defy the law and return to precisely the same spots from where they had been removed. 

Caravan owners are taking up space not just at Mistra but also at St Thomas Bay, Żonqor and even along coast roads. According to the rules and regulations, caravans are only allowed to be parked on roads and only if they have an inbuilt engine. Non-motorised campers and trailers are only allowed to be parked on the road if they are secured to or towed by a vehicle. 

The fact that, despite all the warnings given by Transport Malta and the Planning Authority, this is happening every summer shows that there is no regular enforcement of the regulations. Clearly, any fines that are being imposed for contraventions are proving ineffective as caravan owners keep occupying public places. 

This charade can only be stopped through a strong and unwavering commitment by the authorities, including the police, to step in and do their enforcement of the law regularly, not occasionally or whenever there is public outrage over particular complaints in one or two localities. Caravans ought to be allowed only in officially designated places. 

The issue raises other complications. Caravan owners may well argue they are no different to boathouse owners or to those who have set up bungalows on public land in choice localities. Although this is surely no justification for them to break the rules themselves, their view is well understood as, despite all the talk and plans by successive administrations to deal with the illegalities in land encroachment, the bungalows are still there, a shining trophy, as it were, that reflects party political self-interest.

This, and more, are part of a much wider picture of rampant indiscipline and disregard to regulations. It has become almost the norm for many drivers to use their mobile phone or even texting while driving. These are easily noticeable as they usually slow down or swerve to the right or left, posing a danger to traffic. 

There is no end to the number of open contraventions seen regularly everywhere – in urban places where building contractors excel in breaking the law, at seaside places where coffee shops and restaurants take up more open space than they are permitted, and markets and other establishments where retailers fail to give VAT receipts. 

It all boils down to a marked lack of law enforcement. The saddest part of the story is that, in the wake of the progress the country is making in generating greater economic growth, there is greater disorder and indiscipline all round.

This is a Times of Malta print editorial

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