Robert Abela stood outside parliament answering questions about the latest saga to hit the Maltese islands. In his standard demeanour of cold condescension, he delivered a series of obvious statements.
One part was the law school student reciting the basic tenets of the laws on human rights and those of public order. One other part was a clumsy attempt at being the people’s man who engages in people’s politics.
There was an admonition reserved for the Mosta Council for failing to grasp the importance of what Abela calls “il-komunikativa”. The term seems to be a concocted word implying transparency and openness in decision-making.
In Abela’s mind, the local councillors should have first been clearer about what they wanted to do with the ficus trees and how they wanted to replace them with indigenous foliage such as, ahem, the judas tree. If the people were still steadfast in their wish to preserve the status quo of the quasi-silvan set-up of Mosta Square, then the Council should do well to consider reversing its decision.
It’s not Abela’s problem, is it? A clumsy council – still bereft of the young blood that will soon be injected into future councils – has pushed all the wrong buttons in collaboration with the Environment and Resources Authority.
The people, as is wont of people these days, have declared that they have had enough and kicked up quite a fuss. “Are you going mad?” read their placards.
Then, at 4 pm, Andre Callus, an icon of the real resistance on the island, was bundled up like a heifer for sacrifice by a bunch of constables of the law and led away, presumably for causing a disturbance to public peace.
The alacrity with which the police had moved was in stark contrast to their sloth-like performance in recent history.
On the other hand, the stealth with which the council had decided the fate of the ficus trees was of legendary proportions. Sources have it that the unanimous vote was reached after less than a minute of discussion.
It’s not Abela’s problem. Or is it?
Allow me to pause the train of thought for and give you a random piece of news from earlier this week. On Monday, a day before the events unfolded in Mosta, the government of Kenya announced a “special holiday”. In a note, the government said: “The public across the country shall be expected to plant trees as a patriotic contribution to the national efforts to save our country from the devastating effects of climate change.”
That’s right. The project’s aim is to grow (and nurture) 15 billion trees in nine years.
From Africa to Malta. Not Abela’s problem, I was saying. But it is. Everything about what happened in Mosta is a reflection of the state of the nation.
The comedic response of the police – ever so efficient when it comes to picking on those who have the nation at heart. The unrepresentative decision-making by stealth without an ounce of thought of the needs of the people and of future generations.
A beautification gone tits up. The words of Michael Stivala, stating that Malta got more beautiful with time, echo in the wind.
Abela tried hard to remind journalists who would listen that the ficus trees, even if uprooted and moved, would not be replaced with concrete. He is very aware of his government’s dire reputation.
Roads, permits, cars, and smog. The overcrowded nation is still constantly raped under the not-so-watchful eyes of its doped institutions. Abela knows this well. He has a long history with the institutions charged with monitoring our progress in building, planning and development.
Mosta’s cry for help is the cry for help of our future generations. Because we are not a nation of tree planters. We are not a nation that will plant the seeds in the hope that the sons of our sons will be enjoying the shade of the grown trees.
We are not Kenya. We remain a nation that runs on greed. A nation that can be duped by a pensions scam in a budget. A nation that can be bought by handouts. And apparently, a nation that cannot stand the sight of trees.