PR 34/19 | Democratic expression and public space

Verżjoni bil-Malti

The Barcelona Declaration on Public Spaces for Habitat III (2016 – United Nations), of which Malta is a signatory, stresses people’s right to “stake a claim on the city” which implies the need to “respect and protect a number of rights and freedoms, such as the right to freedom of expression and assembly, the right to information, consultation and participation in decision-making processes.

Politics and public space have an intimate relationship – both deal with public life, the relationships we have with others, how we live and interact with each other. Public spaces are the stage of public life; they are the places where we congregate to celebrate, to protest, to meet, to trade, to seek inspiration and tranquillity. We must ensure that our public spaces sustain our quality of life and our culture, and that they express what our society considers to be important.

Although the Kamra tal-Periti appreciates the need to ensure the security and safety of all citizens, it is disturbed by the grossly impeded use of public space and the wholly disproportionate occupation of Freedom Square.

Renzo Piano’s Parliament Building and the surrounding urban space were designed to promote transparency of the democratic processes. The multiple layers of barriers that are being erected around this building emphasise the gap between the elected and the electorate: a gap which the architectural and urban design sought to eradicate.

The protests taking place in Freedom Square are an expression of public sentiment and should not be unduly restricted.

“When public space is eroded, our civic culture suffers, even our democracy” – Richard Rogers



PR 33/19 | National interest must prevail

Verżjoni bil-Malti

Malta is in the midst of a deep political crisis.

Several of those allegedly implicated, even if just by association, in precipitating the current situation have sworn an oath of allegiance to the Republic of Malta and its Constitution, and to perform their duties to the best of their knowledge and ability.

The Kamra reiterates its statement of November 2017 warning about the “dire future our society faces if it fails to uphold the rule of law and ethical standards”, and reminded all professionals of their:

  • duty to uphold ethical behaviour;
  • right to exercise their profession without fear of reprisal;
  • duty to hold institutions to account;
  • obligation to speak out when institutions fail;
  • duty to ensure equality and equity in their respective industries; and
  • responsibility to seek the common good.

We therefore call on all professional chambers and associations to uphold their duty to investigate professional misconduct and hold their members to account without fear or favour. We also call on them to insist upon the development of institutions and processes that guarantee equality among citizens, and that seek the common good rather than the vested interests of the few.

The Kamra tal-Periti has consistently spoken out on the need for reform. Its main focus has, of course, been the building and construction industry. The failures of our planning system, the complete lack of adequate building regulation, and the wanton disregard for our cultural and natural heritage are indicative of a country overcome by speculation and corruption for the past decades, to the grave detriment of the public good.

Similar failures are also present in other industries. It is clear that our society is in the throes of a deep-set and chronic malady that has pervaded its very foundations. It is the obligation of each of us to combat this scourge and eradicate it from our industries, our society and our country.

In our 2017 statement we had quoted the words of Jane Jacobs, American journalist, author and activist on urban design and planning: “There is a quality even meaner than outright ugliness or disorder, and this meaner quality is the dishonest mask of pretended order, achieved by ignoring or suppressing the real order that is struggling to exist and to be served.

The time for dishonest masks pretending that all is in order is now over. It is now time for those in authority to recognise the precipitous situation that has led to the current social unrest, and to urgently take all necessary decisions to safeguard the national interest.