Over a decade after UNESCO – the world cultural heritage authority – asked the government to appoint a site manager for Valletta, Culture Minister Owen Bonnici has appointed the former editor of the Labour Party newspaper It-Torca, Aleks Farrugia, to the position.
Farrugia was a journalist at It-Torca for seven years, leaving his role shortly after the Labour Party returned to power in 2013. He then became head of communications at Malta Enterprise before being given a director position at the Ministry of Education, where he remains today.
Farrugia was appointed into his new position earlier this year without a call and on Bonnici’s direct orders.
He will liaise directly with UNESCO regarding technical matters related to Valletta’s status as a world heritage site alongside UNESCO ambassador Monsignor Joe Vella Gauci, who also services as the full-time director of a government agency in Gozo.
Asked in parliament by Nationalist Party MP Julie Zahra to detail the selection process and what qualifications and experience Farrugia has for the post, Bonnici confirmed that he was handpicked but insisted he is very competent for the job.
“He has a master’s degree in history from the University of Malta and specialised in the history of the Order of St John”, Bonnici said about Farrugia.
He also confirmed that Farrugia was the editor of It-Torca and “an opinionist for The Times of Malta”.
Bonnici said that the former PL official would not be paid for this new role, as this has been incorporated into his official post at the education ministry.
The Shift has already reported how Bonnici has recently admitted the government had only recently started drafting an updated management plan for Valletta, even though UNESCO had been asking for it since 2011.
The government repeatedly failed to meet UNESCO’s deadlines, risking Valletta’s status.
In a recent meeting, UNESCO gave the government an ultimatum until the end of 2024 to present its updated report on Valletta’s conservation state, better known as a management plan.
According to Bonnici, much work has already been done since Farrugia was appointed site manager. He also insisted that Valletta’s status is not at risk.