1. Critical article by journalist Pamela Hansen
Country held to ransom by terrorists
The writing was on the wall, literally. Terrorism is alive and well here in Malta. After any act of terrorism a country is
numbed with shock. But when we get over the shock, we need to ensure we stem this wave of destruction.
How long is
this country going to allow thugs to rule? Is the annihilation of our heritage going to continue? And I do not mean more security,
although we need that too. But the perpetrators must be brought to justice.
Obviously, we cannot accuse without hard
proof, but all the circumstantial evidence is pointing to a very obvious direction. Unless this is the work of agents provocateurs.
The links are there. This was not an act of mindless vandalism, but a strategic act intended to blackmail and intimidate.
The police are carrying out investigations and are questioning suspects. But so far no arrests have been made. Let
us hope that they are not adopting a softly, softly approach.
The question is: who controls this country? There is
something very wrong in a society where might is right, where a sector can cause the destruction of our precious heritage
if they don't get their way.
The photograph in Tuesday's Times of graffiti on the ground taken at Hagar Qim in 1991
speaks volumes. Namur jew ntajru (pastime [read trapping] or we blow everything up). We have had a lot of time to prepare.
In January 1994 Mdina was targeted by vandals, who daubed pro-hunting messages on palaces, monuments and private
residences in fluorescent paint. Offensive messages directed at the prime minister and the Malta Ornithological Society (now
BirdLife) were painted on the megaliths at Borg in-Nadur.
This was the time the government had amended the hunting
and trapping regulations, banning trapping in the spring.
Later in March 1994 we saw an incredible demonstration
of intimidation tactics by the hunters. The headline of The Times front page of March 7 read "Trail of vandalism after
Trees were uprooted, traffic signs, lights at pedestrian crossings and a telephone booth
were damaged, a boundary wall in December 13 Avenue was demolished and stone slabs were used to block roads.
cavalcade of banner-waving hunters, included trucks with their registration numbers, covered by placards saying "Leave
Other placards said "Better a bunch of fives than a hundred good reasons" and underneath
"EU too much interference". Another proclaimed "Holy War God".
Amazingly no arrests were made
after this wave of destruction and intimidation.
BirdLife were obviously intimidated as they are now playing footsie with the hunters and have signed agreements with them
on breeding birds for the kill.
They were also up in arms together with the hunters because Margot Wallström did
not mince words on European Union directives on hunting and made it clear that no special arrangement will be allowed on the
Many are now being intimidated that the hunters' vote will keep Malta out of the EU. And we know that both
political parties are held to ransom by hunters' and trappers' votes.
But the time has come to establish who is running
the country. We cannot let the EU cloud this issue. This intimidation must stop.
Despite blame being shifted around from pillar to post, we are all responsible for what has happened.
parties and our members of parliament are at the top of the list; the next are the enforcement authorities -the Police, the
Army, the Planning Authority and the Museums Department. It is no good that these entities blame each other and say they were
unprepared for such an eventuality. They should have been prepared.
This is not the first time that the bad communication
links between the guardians of the state has left red faces. Every time some minister or other says he recognises the failings.
But nothing is done.
The PA should be more perceptive and responsible. However, I will be loathe to see the PA stopped
from the admirable action it is taking to curb land abuse. I do not intend that it should be intimidated by vile actions.
But it must work hand in hand with the police and in the case of our national heritage the army. After all we have
no problem with convoys of armed soldiers guarding money, so is not our precious heritage even more valuable?
one, except perhaps me and a few other voices in the wilderness, have ever objected to gun-toting soldiers in our main cities,
and armed road blocks which one sees nowhere except in countries with serious unrest.
We are eager to protect the
banks' money and intimidate law-abiding citizens in the hope of finding a few grammes of cannabis, yet sparing trained armed
guards for a world heritage site is too much. It is not as if our soldiers are overstretched. I have seen them moving chairs
into removal vans from Castille, so I am sure they can be spared.
Enough warnings had been issued to all concerned
that our heritage sites were being abused. I find it hard to believe that no one in the police or the army has their nose
close enough to the ground not to have had an inkling of what might happen.
I must also take responsibility for not
keeping up more pressure on guarding against the obvious threat. Although I did try to alert the public on the issue, I did
not do it often enough and for that I am truly sorry.
Like me, many other journalists have brought to the public's
attention the risks to our heritage, but we should have been more persistent.
risks to our heritage, but we should
have been more persistent.
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