Malta Diary Glory, Glory Hallelujah – they have agreed on something at long, long, last…
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Malta and Gozo have a Government and an Opposition – elected democratically. Malta and Gozo have a Parliament through which legislation and national development proceed. The number of times that the Government and the Opposition have actually unanimously agreed on anything is so few and far between that some of the interim periods are beyond living memory!
Debates are usually acrimonious and bitter, with no punches spared and insults traded regularly, making the Speaker’s task one that is constantly invariably uphill.
HOWEVER, lo and behold, within the space of a month, the Government and Opposition have actually AGREED on two Parliamentary Motions unanimously – yes, unanimously!
Glory, Glory Hallelujah!
The first was on the appointment of a new President for the Republic of Malta and Gozo as the term of the outgoing President, Marie Louise Coleiro Preca, had expired. In her stead, Malta’s former Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dr George Vella, is now the new President, a man of international repute and impeccable reputation throughout the European Union and the Commonwealth, the latter particularly after Malta hosted the conference of Commonwealth countries a few years ago for which Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales was present.
Last week too, the two sides approved a project that has been in the making for the last 40 or so years – in different forms.
The islands of Malta and Gozo are divided by the Gozo Channel and a few kilometres of blue Mediterranean Sea. Between them sits the smaller island of Comino. Public travel between the islands has been restricted to boats for centuries and for a short while a helicopter service.
As a young man I remember suggestions that a bridge be built between the islands and over the years this proposal has juggled between an underground tunnel for vehicles, a metro, or a bridge. Much talk – nothing done.
Why the need at all for a link when the Gozo Channel Company and previously various entrepreneurs always kept an active vessel service going between Malta and Gozo?
For those on a leisure visit, both locals and tourists, these, find the voyage over the blue sea charming and romantic, with breath-taking island views, a 30-minutes or so service. In years gone by the ferries used to be accompanied by dolphins and shoals of flying fish and the occasional sighting of a turtle – sadly no longer. Winter crossings tend to be less pleasurable!
However, and it’s a very big however, what if you happen to be Gozitan but work in Malta and have to commute daily, in addition to students perforce having to commute, or if you have to cross over regularly for medical treatment or other pressing needs? This is not a matter of a handful but a matter of many hundreds, if not thousands.
The burden is onerous. Wakey, wakey, every working morning, come rain or shine; down to the Mgarr Terminal in Gozo; a ship crossing to the Cirkewwa Terminal in Malta in the northern tip of Malta, and then commuting by road to your eventual destination – and then back again at the end of the day!
It takes time and commitment and I would simply hate to have to do it on every blessed day of the working week, for many years. Obviously, many Gozitans opted for an easier total relocation to Malta and weekend home visits – adding to Gozo’ depopulation.
Now, over the last few years, active consideration has been given to a much-awaited Gozo Tunnel Project. Multiple studies have been carried out as to structural and financial feasibility and now, Hallelujah; both sides of the House have unanimously agreed the project go ahead – at last.
Much has to be taken into consideration, mainly the financial feasibility and fees to be charged, but also the environmental impact, the length of the tunnel from end to end and from which locations and a further major problem – what to do with the rocks and stones excavated and dug out?
These hurdles have yet to be faced. However, the project is finally on the road and there seems to be commitment it should be done as speedily as possible – as well as the provision of a fast ferry service from Mgarr, Gozo, to various localities in Malta.
As for me, I am a sea-faring man and will stick to ship crossings, the blue Mediterranean Sea and the panoramic views. But then, my crossings have always been leisurely and holiday-oriented – so who am I to talk!
Indeed, to each his own. I am sure my Gozitan relatives think otherwise!
“An outburst of joy without fulfilment”
Hearing good news but then finding out it was incorrect, such as holding the winning numbers of a national lottery ticket but when checking realising you missed out for just one number! Otherwise, scoring the winning goal in the 94th minute of injury time during a football match and then having it ruled offside by the referee.