A €250,000 equestrian statue set to be installed in the middle of nowhere in one of Gozo’s last remaining untouched areas was signed off by a Gozo Ministry panel headed by a teacher with no professional knowledge of arts or culture.
The five-metre-high bronze statue by Gozitan artist Austin Camilleri is set to be installed metres away from the centuries-old Xwejni saltpans.
Joseph Cutajar, a former physics teacher made director of the Gozo Ministry’s Eco Gozo Directorate a few years ago, led the selection process. The other members are ministry employees and Albert Marshall, the 75-year-old Labour veteran who used to run ONE TV until 2013 and currently cashing in on at least five different government positions.
Last year, Cutajar was one of three senior ministry officials arraigned in court and charged with the involuntary homicide of a government employee following a work-related accident in Dwejra.
Instead of implementing public service rules, which dictate that employees are suspended on half pay once they face criminal charges, an exception was made for Cutajar and his colleagues.
The sculpture’s installation, funded by taxpayers, is expected to start imminently despite strong opposition from NGOs, the Environment and Resources Authority, and the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage for its unsuitability for the Xwejni area.
Dubbed as incompatible and out of place with its proposed position on Gozo’s rugged coastline, experts in the arts and culture scene suggested that as the government had already forked out hundreds of thousands of euros on the project, it should be moved to another, more urban location.
But, the Gozo Ministry and the artist refused to budge, with the Planning Authority giving the green light. All that is needed before works can officially begin is for the Building and Construction Authority to approve its ‘works commencement notice’.
Installing the figurative eight-legged statue will involve digging untouched rock and inserting concrete piles deep into the ground, risking damage to the previously untouched and undisturbed location.