Formula One driver Romain Grosjean appeared to escape with minor burns after his car crashed and burst into flames moments after the start of the Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday.
The 34-year-old French driver slid off the track on the first lap and his Haas car burst into flames after being sliced in two by a barrier. Grosjean clambered out with the fire roaring behind him and his race helmet singed.
Governing body FIA said Grosjean is stable and was taken by helicopter to a military hospital.
“Romain is doing okay, I don’t want to make a medical comment but he had light burns on his hands and ankles," Haas team principal Guenther Steiner said. "Obviously he’s shaken... I want to thank the rescue crews who are very quick. The marshals and FIA people they did a great job, it was scary.”
Grosjean was stuck inside the flaming wreck for nearly 10 seconds before somehow finding a way out. Race footage showed safety officials reaching the car immediately but with Grosjean still trapped inside. He managed to find a way out and jumped through the flames and gripped the extremely hot metal barrier as he jumped over back onto the track, shaking his hands in agony before being helped by the stewards.
Moments later, Grosjean was shown on television chatting with the race doctor in the medical car.
Grosjean was then helped out of the car and into an ambulance. He appeared to be shaken but did not immediately seem injured other than a slight limp.
Drivers and team members stood and applauded as they saw the images of Grosjean climbing over the barrier to safety and being sprayed with a fire extinguisher.
Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton expressed his relief on Twitter while waiting for the race to restart.
“I’m so grateful Romain is safe. Wow... the risk we take is no joke, for those of you out there that forget that we put our life on the line for this sport and for what we love to do,” Hamilton wrote. “Thankful to the FIA for the massive strides we’ve taken for Romain to walk away from that safely.”
It appeared an extraordinary escape after Grosjean's car was sliced in half upon impact with the barrier.
“I’ve never seen that much fire in 12 years. It took a little while to process what was going on but then Romain started to get out of the car himself, which was amazing,” said Alan van der Merwe, the driver of the F1 medical car. "Everything worked hand in hand today: the halo, the barriers, the seat belt. Without one of things it could’ve been a different outcome.”
The halo is a safety device that forms a protective ring around the drivers’ head. It was introduced following the death of French driver Jules Bianchi after he sustained massive head trauma on a rain-soaked track at the Japan GP six years ago and went headfirst into a trackside crane. Two years ago Charles Leclerc — Bianchi’s close friend — was likely saved serious injury or death by the halo when another car landed on top of his at the Belgian GP.
The accident happened when Grosjean lost grip and slid to the right, where his back wheel clipped the front of Daniil Kvyat's Alpha-Tauri causing him to fly off into the barrier.
Grosjean's teammate Kevin Magnussen looked distressed when he saw the footage as drivers waited in the paddock for the race to restart, while officials returned to the site of the crash to pick up debris littered around the destroyed car.
Officials worked quickly to build a makeshift crash barrier where the old one was destroyed.
Argentine police searched the home and office of Diego Maradona's personal doctor on Sunday as part of investigations into the death of the 60-year-old soccer star, which caused a wave of grief across the country.
Reporters saw several police officers stationed at the door of the offices of neurologistDr. Leopoldo Luque in Buenos Aires' Belgrano neighborhood.
Court investigators have been taking declarations from Maradona's relatives, according to a statement from the San Isidro prosecutor's office, which is overseeing a probe into the medical attention Maradona received prior to his death on Wednesday.
It said investigators were trying to secure Maradona's medical records.
Maradona was buried Thursday in a private ceremony attended by only two dozen people following a vigil at the presidential palace where tens of thousands of weeping fans lined up to filed past his coffin.
Maradona died of a heart attack in a house outside Buenos Aires where he had been recovering from a brain operation Nov. 3. He had suffered from a long series of medical issues, some related to overindulgence in drugs and alcohol.
The Chamber of SMEs has been informed that some people are organising private parties for the festive season, Deputy President of the Malta Chamber of SMEs Philip Fenech told The Malta Independent.
Fenech is strongly encouraging the public to be socially responsible by abiding by all the health protocals when organising any sort of celebrations during the festive season.This collective effort and balance would avoid putting everyone at risk, not only at an economic evel, but more importantly with regards to people's health, he said.
With the festive season just around the corner, many families usually organise gatherings during the holidays as an opportunity to reconnect with relatives and friends. However, with the current pandemic, the Chamber of SMEs is appealing to the public to consider how holiday celebrations can be modified in order to reduce the spread of Covid-19. This, in order to keep the whole community safe.
As a Covid-19 precaution, the goverment has announced that bars and entertainment venues are to remain closed until January 2021. This means that these businesses will miss the opportunity to try and get back on their feet during the festive season, he said.
Although the Chamber of SMEs respects such a decision as health is a priority, the organisation has been informed that many people are choosing to book a farmhouse or apartment for the holiday season as an alternative, to celebrate during the holidays since events are not allowed.
Fenech made it clear that he is not trying to put a negative light on the renting of apartments or farmhouses in any way, but this becomes an issue when people who are not living in the same household or who are not within the same bubble are still gathering under the same roof.
"What is very worrying is that the Chamber has been informed that parties are being organised, with DJs being booked or other forms of entertainment, for these private gatherings that go against all protocals both in Malta and Gozo," Fenech said.
Although it is strongly recommended that people organising such events are for those who live in the same household or those who are within the same bubble, it is legally acceptable for people who do not fall under these two categories to do so, as long as they abide by all protocals. He added that such gatherings, however, defeat the whole scope of the national effort that has been seen over the past months. "This not only goes against the efforts of bars and clubs being closed, but it also goes against the national effort elsewhere, starting with the wearing of masks to the way people congregate at their place of work."
He added that one must not forget that when it really boils down to it, the festive period lasts only for a few days, but the damage caused will last much longer. Fenech wasn't only referring to the economic damage that would be further caused but mostly on people's health.
Fenech clarified that "at the end of the day this is something that can only be controlled by our own self-management."
Being responsible is of extreme importance during such a period, and people should look at this situation in a holistic way rather than in a selfish. A care-free attitude will put everyone at risk.
Fenech added that although he is aware this period creates an immense hype amongst many people to celebrate with friends and family, one must understand that this festive period is not like previous years "so we all must adapt as this will benefit everyone in the future."
"There are ways on how to modify Covid-19 celebrations during the holiday season, thus everyone must make an effort and sacrifice to do this for the greater good."
Fenech said that "we should look towards the year 2021 and for Covid-19 numbers to decrease, rather than starting off the new year with more figures due to gatherings not following the health protocols."
Malta Roads Traffic Update has said that they have reports of two cars that were left parked that have now been dragged into the sea by the strong waves that are hitting the south quay side in Cirkewwa.
"Avoid parking your vehicles at South Quay in Cirkewwa or any exposed areas. Strong winds and rough seas were being forecasted for this weekend almost all week! Be careful were you leave your cars," it wrote.
In the mean time, a video is making the round on Facebook showing a car being washed out to sea.
Opposition leader Bernard Grech said that a regional council for Gozo with executive powers that would be elected by Gozitans should be created.
He called for more autonomy for Gozo and said that this would be beneficial as it would strengthen the regional status of the island, giving residents the power to take certain decisions rather than the power being centred in government.
During a Nationalist Party political gathering, held at the Grand Hotel in Mgarr, Gozo, Grech was addressing PN supporters about Gozo and what can be done to improve the island.
He added that Gozitans should be able to take decisions that mostly affect them and be in a position to execute them.
"Today, the Labour government fears the PN's growth in Gozo, so they decided to appoint three Gozitan ministers, however, do not give up as the public will choose wisely," Grech said.
He explained that the PN Gozo regional committee is to colloborate with Gozitan MPs but also include the participation of experts and anyone who wants to see Gozo move forward.
Grech insisted that "in a few months time, we must complete a socio-economic plan for Gozo in order to propose a way forward and show Gozitans where the Nationalist party wants to take them."
Speaking about the Gozo tunnel, Grech insisted that a decision on whether this is the best solution needs to be taken after all studies are concluded. He also suggested that once these studies are done, a referendum should take place among Gozitans regarding the decision on the tunnel.
"Such a development will be costly to build and run and it will leave a social, economic and environmental impact. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance to take this decision wisely," he said.
Grech greeted and thanked a few Goziton people who he admires for the work they have done including Former Gozo Ministers Giovanna Debono and Anton Tabone. He also congratuled former Gozo Bishop Mario Grech who was elevated to the rank of Cardinal on Saturday.
He added that "the situation in Gozo has worsened with regards to employment availability." Grech explained that despite the many promises made by the Labour government, first made back in 2013 - including the promise of increasing employment in Gozo for Gozitans - "today we face a situation where around 3,500 Gozitans need to travel to Malta for work."
Back in 2013 this number was around 1,500, thus the situation has worsened and instead of taking a step forward, we've taken a step back as the number almost tripled, Grech said.
With regards to tourism, Grech highlighted that this sector is of extreme importance for the country, but "we cannot continue to solely, or almost exclusively, rely on tourism."
"Gozo's economy is 50% dependent on tourism, while Malta is 20% dependent. This imbalance was clearly seen and felt by Gozo and its residents during this pandemic because 50% dependence puts too much pressure on this sector, and Gozo has taken a much bigger blow. Therefore, we need a more diversified economy in Gozo," he said.
Grech added that this needs to be tackled by developing a solid and mature plan which looks beyond partisan policies. "This plan should not only be developed for the next five years, but we need to take it a step further and plan a future for the next 20, 30 or even 40 years."
143 new Covid-19 cases were registered on Sunday, as 139 patients recovered, the health authorities said in their daily update.
This means that the number of active cases has risen to 2,062. The total number of cases since the pandemic first hit the island stands at 9,752. There have been a total of 7,557 recoveries and 133 deaths.
Between Saturday and Sunday, 3,033 Covid tests were administered.
Sunday's announced cases are still being investigated, but the authorities gave details of the cases announced on Saturday. 22 cases were family members of previously known cases, four were contacts of positive work colleagues and two were from direct contact with other positive cases.
Prime Minister Robert Abela has said that he wants Malta to be back to business as usual by May.
Speaking during a political activity on Sunday, Abela said that Malta will welcome January with vaccine in hand, indicating that Malta will have the Covid-19 vaccine at around that time, but added this will not mean that all the Covid-19 restrictions will be lifted in January.
The Prime Minister said that Malta will be able to start at the front of the field due to the success of the country's handling of the pandemic.
"By March I want to see that our economy would be recovering well and by May I want to see us as in a position of business as usual and speaking about Covid-19 as something of the past."
The Prime Minister pledged that Malta will be the first country to recuperate from the pandemic.
"We will start January with a vaccine in hand and vouchers for people to spend."
He expressed his wish to see next summer filled with tourism, to see people travelling again and foreign direct investment to continue in Malta. "I want to see restaurants and bars packed with people again in Summer and I want our elderly to again meet their children and grandchildren without worries. I want Malta and Gozo as we always knew them."
Abela said that Europe is going through a very hard period, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, mentioning the thousands of deaths across the continent. "You can say Europe is in lockdown everywhere," he said, adding that there are many countries that have imposed curfews. "Spain has declared an emergency until May. In Greece you need to SMS the authorities to leave your home." He said that thousands of people in Germany need intensive care. "Yet here in Malta, I can come here and say that we managed to reduce unemployment to under 3,000. The lowest unemployment rate since last March. In Malta, the hospitals kept up with the demand, and this is because we looked ahead. The rate of infections remained stable, unlike what happened elsewhere all over Europe."
He said that the government achieved this by being cautious and through a sense of leadership, "the courage to take decisions."
He said that Malta worked differently to elsewhere, finding the balance and letting people live their lives as much as possible.
He said that despite everything, the Opposition was not pulling the same rope during this pandemic.
He criticised the PN for creating a Covid action team so many months after it the pandemic actually hit, "yet we are still waiting to know what action they will take. Have you heard anything from them? Nothing."
Abela said that he feels for all those families who experienced a death in the family. He said that he is pleased that the government did all it can to keep people's health at the forefront.
During his speech, he also congratulated Cardinal Mario Grech on his new appointment and wished him well.
Turning to the eventual Covid-19 vaccine, he said that the government is ensuring that there will be enough vaccine doses for the whole population. "It will be people's decision to take it or not. My appeal is to think of the country collectively and not just about ourselves."
He criticised a PN MP Maria Deguara for saying that the vaccine is not the solution.
"If she was health minister, what would she do?"
He said that the solution for the PN in the past was a lockdown, "to lock people up. Their solution was to keep shops closed. Today I will say that they do not have a solution. They have not understood the reality, and the importance of keeping the balance between saving lives and livelihoods."
He said that those who own bars and clubs are carrying a heavier burden than others, given that they are currently closed. He said the government will keep helping them. I just gave direction for those bars and clubs closed at the beginning of November to take the wage supplement and this will be backdated to the beginning of November.
Carol Cassar Torreggiani was born on 25 July 1968 at the Blue Sisters Hospital, delivered by her grandfather Dr Edward Navarro. From a tender age she was exposed to the world of tennis and racket sports, as her father, Vincent Curmi, was also Malta’s Tennis and Badminton champion. “I still remember receiving my first tennis racket at the young age of four. I used to tag along to all of my father’s sporting events with my brother and sister, be it either tennis at the Marsa Sports Club or badminton competitions around the island. We used to be dropped off in the early hours of the morning at the club, where we would spend most of the day playing tennis, games and other sports with all the other kids at the club.
Naturally, I grew to fall in love with the sport during my youth and remember having to balance school with tennis was quite a big challenge! As I grew older and began to play more competitive tennis, my holidays were spent travelling to different tournaments, most often to the UK. As my commitment to training and competition increased as a teenager, I never really spent time with friends at the beach or elsewhere enjoying the sun in Malta. It was tough being away from family and friends, however, competition kept me motivated to carry on.”
Carol aimed high but like every other human owes a lot to her formation years. “I spent my junior and senior school years at The Convent of the Sacred Heart, followed by my sixth form years at St Aloysius College. Given my exposure to sport from a young age, I aspired to further my studies in the field of Physiotherapy, to help athletes like myself with their aches and pains. However, at that time the course for Physiotherapy at University was only offered every three years and I was not ready to wait another three years to start my studies. Therefore, I had no choice but to leave the island and search for education elsewhere. I remember clearly going to the American Embassy to obtain details of universities that had a great tennis team and offered sports scholarships. Thanks to my world junior ranking, which was top 100 at that time, I was offered and accepted a full-ride scholarship at San Diego (United States International University).
"USIU had a phenomenal international tennis team, facilities and set up, and was ranked top 20 in the First Division. I had to change my preference to study physiotherapy, as in the States this course was offered as a pre-med course, followed by another couple of years to obtain a degree, plus an unfavourable schedule which clashed with tennis training. Therefore, I opted to switch to Business degree and graduated four years later. After four fantastic years of tennis and education in the States, I decided to return home and started to work in my father’s firm in the field of finance and audit. My life then was very hectic, as I had to balance working full-time, training and coached tennis, as well as furthering my studies to obtain my ACCA qualification and topping it all off with having twin boys at the same time! I have been a partner at the firm VCA Certified Public Accountants for a number of years; we are a boutique professional firm with very successful clientele both locally and overseas.”
In life every human sets targets. And to succeed one has to aim high. “The tennis world is so competitive and today it’s become even more competitive. There are so many kids who play competitive tennis, but in reality few make it to the top. It is difficult to compare the level of competition and rate of success with popular team sports like football, where there are many more teams, positions, funding and therefore more opportunities around the world. Moreover, it is only the top 150-200 ranked players who are able to make a living out of the sport, which is a tiny fraction of the total pool of competitive tennis players. To make it to the top you need money for travels to play competitions and improve your ranking, the utter desire to make it, a brilliant mind, a healthy body, the right people around you at the right time, some luck and most of all the gift from God (the talent).”
Honours started rolling in – winning the Junior Championships and also crowned Malta Champion between 1985 and 1995 bar one year. Was this the peak of Carol’s career? “I was junior champion under 12, 14, 16 and 18 and also Malta Ladies Champion for many years. As a junior, besides winning the local tournaments, I played many overseas tournaments, initially in the UK winning several club open tournaments in various parts of the country, however my most successful years as a junior were between 1985 and 1986, where I was a finalist in world ranking open ITF junior tournaments in Palermo, Portugal, Florence and Austria. At the age of 18, I moved to the US to play college tennis and in 1989 I won the first division intercollegiate tournament of the state of Ohio; I don’t believe any Maltese person has ever won such a prestigious event. Being ranked top 60 in first Division US College Tennis I also qualified for the NCAA tournament (considered to be the best amateur tournament in the world) however I opted to represent Malta in the GSSE. After four years in the US I returned to Malta and continued to represent Malta in Federation Cup, GSSE and won the Malta championship, even after my boys were born.”
But how did her experiences away from our island help her in furthering her career? “From the age of nine I started travelling abroad to play various tournaments. Primarily in the UK when I was coached by an English coach based in Malta, Gordon Mudge. I won several club tournaments there and started to participate and succeed in more international tournaments, which pushed up my ranking and thus qualified for Junior Wimbledon. I had the pleasure of playing Gabriella Sabatini in a semi final tournament in Vienna and also Barbara Schett in a Fed Cup match in Austria. My four years in the States were the years that I enjoyed playing tennis the most. I started at the number 6 position in the tennis team and worked my way up to the top in the last year to represent the college at the number 1 spot. We played many of the top Ivy League teams such as Stanford, UCLA, Sta Barbara, and so on. We were top 20 in the nation and I even made it to the Nationals (top 64 college players in the US), however I had to refuse the invitation as I chose to play for my country in the GSSE Games.”
Carol formed a formidable couple with Helen Asciak in the Doubles Event. In fact she won Gold in the GSSE in 1987, 1989, 1991 and 1993 making them practicabily unbeatable. “Yes we had great results over the years. Four gold medals for Malta was a great achievement and we felt so proud to represent the country and succeed in the GSSE games. We were two fighters and we made a great team – Helen for never making any mistakes from the back of the court and I had developed more of an attacking game, so we complemented each other well. Playing in the States really helped develop my game in doubles, we even beat Greece together!
She also had her fair share of success in the Singles, winning three bronze medals and silver during these Games. “I am very proud of the singles medal too, it’s still the only silver medal ever won in the ladies singles. I was too nervous for that Final, it was played in Malta in 1993, there were so many people watching – it was incredible, they even had to send people away. Unfortunately, I lost a stiff match against the top player from Monaco at that time.”
1987 was a particular year as Carol was finally chosen as Sportswoman of the Year. “Yes indeed. I was nominated as finalist for the Sports Woman of the Year quite a few times but managed to win the title in 1987, this was a great honour, however, unfortunately I was back at College and was not able to collect my trophy. But for me this was a great achievement and an appreciation for the results that I was getting.”
But another milestone for Cassar Torreggiani was reached six years later when she was vested with the national award, Il-Qadi tar-Repubblika. “This was epic, to be awarded a medal by the state for the achievements made for your country is something else. To be given such a recognition by the President of Malta, at that time, Dr Censu Tabone was extremely precious. Another achievement is my admission together with Helen to the MOC Hall of Fame.”
Among the various moments in her illustrious career there must surely be a particular moment that stands out. “Yes there were many special proud moments, however one that stands out is when I was the flag bearer for Malta during the opening ceremony of the GSSE Games in 1993; the National Stadium was absolutely full. Also of particular mention is winning the First Gold medal for Malta in 1987 and in 1993 in front of the home crowd.”
Is Carol still involved in the tennis world? “Both my sons play tennis, they were both junior champions, Bernard left Malta at the age of 15 to further his tennis and his studies. He played for the University of Nottingham and Imperial College London tennis teams and is now an active member of Campden Hill Lawn Tennis Club in London. Matthew also played for the University of Nottingham and is back in Malta still competing and representing Malta’s national team. I still follow the local tennis scene, enjoy a game with my boys when possible and follow my niece Francesca Curmi, who has left Malta to take up the sport as a profession. She is a great athlete and wish her all the luck in the world but it is one hell of a tough journey. I was also voted in as secretary to the Malta Tennis Federation for two years but this was very challenging due to the lack of resources, other commitments and opposing views on the committee during my tenure.”
Carol also shares her opinion of what lies ahead for the game on our island. “Malta has a solid ground base to develop tennis to a certain age and level, however to succeed it is difficult to carry on training on the island, with a limited number of players to train with and only a handful of coaches that can take a player to a certain level.”
What does family life mean? “I love my family; they are the most important people in my life. Sometimes I regret working long hours and not being there all the time, but I feel as a mother and a wife I have done and will continue to be there in the best possible way.”
Carol advocates a plant-based diet and loves a slice of a Cassata Siciliana or cannoli. And what about travelling? “My favourite destination is London, more precisely Wimbledon, as it reminds me of playing my first and only junior Grand Slam. The thrill of going there and watching the tournament brings back all the excitement. It is also an opportunity to visit my son.”
Carol also finds time to practise Padel tennis, which is being considered as the fastest growing sport in Europe, and also reading. But apart from these hobbies, what does she like to do in her free time? “I love cycling when possible, but unfortunately the roads are not too safe and there are too many cars on the road! I love a good movie or a good series especially those that relate to history or based on true stories.”
Before bringing to an end this interview with an ex-top local tennis player, a final mention and advice to the young generation from Carol suits all. “I would just like to give a special mention to my father for introducing me to the game and financing my training and travels, my family for their patience and constant support and my lifelong tennis coach Anthony Schranz for his time and dedication. My advice is that Sports will give you so much more than just results. It’s not only the physical aspect of sports that’s good but the psychological development that goes with sport will help achieve your goals in life and always strive for greatness!”
The Health Authorities said that as of today, Sunday 29 November, the Influenza Vaccine will be available for adults aged 55 years and over, children aged between 3 and 5 years, persons of any age suffering from certified chronic disease.
The flu vaccine is available from the Paola Health Centre, the Kirkop Health Centre, Gzira Health Centre, the Cospicua Health Centre, the Qormi Health Centre and the Floriana Health Centre, the Victoria Health Centre and the Kercem Community clinic in Gozo. Check the Sahha Facebook page to see which clinic is offering the flu vaccine to whom, as some are, for example, only offering to children, while others to those aged over 55.
Originally the second batch of the flu vaccine was meant to be made availabnle to all the population, however this seems to have changed
📍 As of today, Sunday 29th November, the Influenza Vaccine will be available for 🔹 Adults 55 years and over 🔹 Children...
When politicians are accused of accepting gifts but refuse to state, black on white, that they paid for those same gifts – in this week’s case a stay at the Hilton Evian-les-bains – they only reinforce the belief that they accepted freebies.
This week it was the turn of Joseph Muscat and Edward Zammit Lewis. They admitted to having stayed at a French resort owned by the Tumas Group – of which Yorgen Fenech was director until last year – but insist on playing with words when it comes to who paid for their stay.
The former prime minister and the acting Justice Minister were quick to denounce reports about their stay, focusing mainly on a mistake about the year in which they holidayed at the Hilton (it was 2014, not 2017), and about the lease of a private jet they used to travel to an EU Summit in Brussels.
Yet they were not so forthcoming when it comes to who actually paid the hotel bill.
The pair said they had paid for the commercial flights to and from France, and that the use of a private jet for government business was normal practice. But they are still refusing to declare that they paid for their hotel rooms.
Joseph Muscat actually scoffed at the suggestion that he provides receipts to show that the paid for the hotel room, and Zammit Lewis had the temerity to tell one of our editors to “do your job” and ask PN MPs about their own links with the Tumas Group.
We say to the Justice Minister: “We are doing our job. We did our job when, a few weeks ago it emerged that PN MP Jason Azzopardi had also accepted a free stay at the Hilton Tel Aviv a few years back. We wrote not one, but two editorials about the subject. We chased up the Nationalist Party on how it would handle its MP and we reported about Azzopardi’s self-suspension and the investigation by the party’s ethics commission. We are also doing our job now that you have been embroiled in a similar scenario. We said that what Azzopardi did was wrong, but we have to act in the same manner with you and the former PM.”
When this newsroom received the information about the ‘2017’ stay some weeks back, we set out to verify these claims. This included sending questions to the French Financial Crimes Prosecutor, which is looking into all of Yorgen Fenech’s in-country assets, and we also sought comment from the Tumas Group.
The only ones with shortcomings here are Muscat and Zammit Lewis who, when pressed repeatedly by this newsroom and others to state whether they had paid the hotel bills, beat around the bush and gave unsatisfactory answers. They tried to play the victims, instead of owning up and giving clear answers. In his customary fashion, Muscat ignored questions sent by this newsroom, and Zammit Lewis lashed out at the editor who was asking him to be honest.
Speaking on TVM a couple of weeks back, before the Azzopardi story broke, Zammit Lewis categorically denied having ever received freebies from the Tumas Group. Now that this new story is out, he is refusing to give a black on white answer.
If he paid for the holiday out of pocket, he should just declare it. “Yes, I paid with my own money.” It’s super simple. His continued refusal to utter those words cannot but give the impression that he has something to hide, something he is ashamed to admit. This is understandable, as an admission that he received gifts could, in the current climate, lead to an unceremonious sacking by the Prime Minister.
Tumas Group Chairman Ray Fenech told this newsroom that the company was trying to establish how the accommodation was paid for – whether the bill was settled by one of the companies in the group, whether the duo had paid out of pocket or whether a third party did.
He warned, however, that the process could take some time, as the resort is currently shut down by orders of the French government due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The truth will eventually come out and, if Muscat and Zammit Lewis did not pay for their own stay at the Hilton, they should own up now.
The aptly named Man Up project is starting off as a weekend-long camping event packed with various activities that strengthen both the mind and the body, directed by mentors who are looking to share their expertise and experiences while empowering other men to do the same.
What was the inspiration behind Man Up?
Jon: “I chose to be a part of Man Up for a number of reasons, one of them being the work I have done in prison and care homes. Here I could see how, the more society changes, the more difficult men find it to orient themselves in it. This then results in a lot of frustration and emotions that they may find difficult to control or direct in the right manner. Some may think that being courageous means not caring, and while there is some truth in this, it also takes a lot of courage to be vulnerable. Emotions are part and parcel with our own subjective experience of being human. This is what we would like to offer through this camp, for men to feel good about exposing themselves to other men.”
Matthew: “When Jon approached me with this idea, we realised that we share the same philosophy and can work well together. We are both on a journey individually, and we want others to join us and go through their own journey alongside us. I believe a lot in mentors, be it an accountant to help you financially or a therapist to tend to your mental health. I believe in surrounding yourself with people who you can relate or look up to and who will help you get to your destination. There were things that I went through when I was young that always nudged me to look at love differently but always thanks to these mentors. So, the idea behind this camp is that we start to learn from each other’s experiences.”
What does this project mean to you personally?
Jon: “I had quite a colourful trajectory in getting to where I am today, and I was always looking for ways to control the chaos that lives inside me. I love that chaos, but the more it grows the less manageable it becomes which can cause problems. So, this camp for me is something which I wish was available back then for myself and others I have met along the way. I hope that this is something that I will carry with me and keep working on in the future.”
Matthew: “Finding a friend in someone with a similar world view like Jon is already helping me personally, but this project has also exposed me to other men who are successful in their specified fields and feel the need to share their experiences for the sake of this project; even though it has not even started officially yet!”
Who is this camp for?
Matthew: “It will be specifically for men and we have made it this way so that we create a man-only space where men do not feel some sort of pressure to impress or act differently because women are present, but rather focus on getting more in touch with their masculinity.
When we were planning this project, we had different types of men in mind, such as those who are doing well in certain areas of their life but wish to better themselves in a specific field and expand their social network in that regard. This could range from improving physical health or mental health to financial stability or even relationships. From the response we have received we seem to have managed to do this.
The idea of Man Up is that you are stronger when you are vulnerable as it allows you to open up to others who are on the same wavelength and who can help you grow in those areas you seek to improve in.
This is an experiment. We know of woman-only spaces which are working as I have been told by women themselves that they feel more comfortable speaking about certain issues in that environment. So, now we will see what it would be like for men.”
What does the camp consist of?
Jon: “This is a two-day long camp where we meet early in the morning, sleep there and have two full days of varying activities. This includes physical training with former member of the US navy John Spartan and survival skills training with a Maltese army veteran who are both well-equipped in these fields. There will also be mindfulness whiskey sessions, morning meditation and cooking sessions, as well as other activities which participants will discover when they come to the camp.
Having said that, there are two things that I would like to underline. Firstly, if you are coming to the camp, be ready to put in the work; we will have fun too, but I do not think that work and fun should ever be considered as separate.
Secondly, we will provide a questionnaire prior to the camp through which participants explain their intentions and also physical capabilities. So, despite John Spartan being a beast in physical exercise, the point is not about pushing participants to the limit but to help them feel strong and accomplished which is a feeling that cannot be matched.”
How long are you planning to keep the project up for?
Matthew: “When we first thought of the idea, we were surprised with the response that we received from other men who wish to share their resources with others. For example, there are men who own businesses and are offering to pay for other men who might not be able to attend the camp for financial reasons, just because they know that they can learn from these individuals.
So, to answer your question, there are so many resources that we are aiming to create a both a physical and digital space where men can share them. We are already looking into a spot where men can meet on a weekly basis and I also see this evolving into an online forum.”
What message would you like to pass on to anyone who might want to participate in the camp but is holding back?
Matthew: “I feel like there is a pattern; there are those who go explore things immediately, others who need to see it being tested out a few times and then there are people who wait until something is well established before taking part in it. Our advice is for those who find themselves in the middle. I think that even the simple act of thinking about trying it out will already help you a lot as you are making it a point to change your pattern.”
Jon: “I agree with Matthew. One thing I would add is that courage is being vulnerable, and this might involve taking a step forward even if it is full of uncertainty.”
Anyone interested in participating can go on manupmalta.com to book a spot for upcoming camps and find more details about the program and its mentors.
The first Robert Abela Cabinet of Ministers must be among the shortest in our political history. It took just 10 months for the Prime Minister to shuffle his cards and present a new line-up.
It was not just a cosmetic change, say appointing a minister instead of another who was given other duties, as it has happened so many times, such as when Edward Zammit Lewis took over Helena Dalli’s ministry after she had been named as Malta’s European Commissioner.
What happened last Saturday was a full-blown reshuffle, one that saw the appointment of four new ministers, the shifting of portfolios of three others, and the elimination of a minister and a parliamentary secretary.
What was, in January, the biggest Cabinet ever has now become even bigger. Too big, it may be added, for a country like Malta. One wonders if that large table at Castille which is often pictured when Cabinet meetings are taking place will now be able to accommodate all around it.
To have 27 ministers and parliamentary secretaries from a total of 35 MPs (Konrad Mizzi is an independent now, and Edward Scicluna will be resigning) is way too much. Italy and the UK, for example, have 21 ministers, Germany just 16.
The Labour Party, when in opposition, had made a big mountain out of the fact that the costs of the Cabinet had been increased through the infamous €500 that had been added to the ministers’ salaries. Today, the expenditure in running the Cabinet has dramatically soared to unprecedented proportions, given also that each minister and parliamentary secretary has his or her own team of secretaries, advisers and whatnot.
To change a Cabinet after only 10 months is an admission by Abela that the first choices he made in January were not good and that some of the appointees did not live up to his expectations.
But Abela did not have the courage to whittle down the group. Instead, he chose to extend it further, literally inventing ministries which can only lead to more overlapping, confusion and bureaucracy as ministers try to defend their turf.
To give a few examples, research and innovation (Owen Bonnici) clashes with education (Justyne Caruana); Covid-19 strategy (Bonnici) is in conflict with health (Chris Fearne), economy (Silvio Schembri) and finance (Clyde Caruana); the elderly (Michael Farrugia) will collide with health (Fearne); equality (Edward Zammit Lewis) will spar with inclusion (Julia Farrugia Portelli); enterprise (Miriam Dalli) with industry (Schembri); and sustainable development (Dalli) with the environment (Aaron Farrugia).
By going down this road, apart from admitting to committing so many mistakes in his selection last January, Abela showed lack of leadership and indecision.
The exercise was evidently an attempt to keep everyone happy. Whether this is actually so is another matter.
Abela showed that he is afraid of making choices that could hurt, other than Silvio Parnis, who in Abela’s eyes was the only “expendable” Cabinet member.
This weakness could come back to haunt him.
When Miriam Dalli and Clyde Caruana were co-opted to Parliament after the resignation of Joseph Muscat and Etienne Fenech, it was clear that the next step for them would be a ministerial appointment. It was then that the rumour mill about a possible reshuffle started and, in spite of his denials and frustration as journalists kept on asking about his plans, Abela was formulating the changes. Yesterday week, he finally made his announcements.
Miriam Dalli would not have left her lucrative job in Brussels to sit next to Manuel Mallia, Joe Mizzi and Silvio Grixti on the backbench. She had made a name for herself in her Brussels job and the next step for her was to be given an assignment related to her interests and capabilities.
Energy is an area in which Dalli has proved her worth in the European Parliament, and it was almost a foregone conclusion that she would be given that responsibility. It is a sector that has been notoriously under the limelight in the past years, mostly because of the power station project and all the implications that came with it. It needs a new, assertive direction, and Dalli should be ready to have to deal with related issues that crop up.
Caruana will take over the country’s finances from Edward Scicluna, and it will be not an easy matter because of the Covid-19 pandemic and its effects, particularly on employment, which has been included in his responsibilities (it was previously part of the education ministry).
The country has done well in the past years, moving from deficits to surpluses until Covid-19 arrived. It now needs to steady its course again but this might take years. The much-awaited Moneyval report is an added preoccupation that Caruana will have to contend with.
Caruana has also been given responsibility for Air Malta, with the airline in deep trouble because of accumulated problems which were exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Justyne Caruana lost her job as Gozo Minister a few days after Abela had chosen to re-appoint her in the position she had held under Joseph Muscat. The resignation was not as a result of something she had done or a scandal her ministry had been involved in. She quit after it had been reported that her husband Silvio Valletta, a former assistant police commissioner, had travelled abroad to watch football games with Yorgen Fenech, the man who was later accused of masterminding the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia.
It was no fault of hers that her career was halted abruptly. Now, 10 months later, she has been given another chance in a different role, that of Education Minister. It may not be the appointment she really wanted, as it will deprive her of time to be in her constituency. But she should be happy to have been entrusted with the responsibility of shaping the country’s future through education. Together with health, education is one of the most important portfolios in any Cabinet.
Nationalist exponents are wondering what has changed since January for Caruana to be re-instated minister. The argument is that what her husband did was wrong then, and it is still wrong now. But Caruana has already paid the price, and it would be totally unfair if she could never be considered for a ministerial role because of her husband’s doings.
Her re-appointment was made easier for Abela by the PN itself, in the way Opposition Leader Bernard Grech chose to retain Jason Azzopardi in spite of the latter admitting to have had a stay at the Hilton Hotel in Tel Aviv “taken care of” by the Tumas Group, at a time when Fenech was a director. If the PN sees nothing wrong in one of its MPs taking a free holiday, how can it then cry foul that a minister’s husband (not the minister) did something similar?
Caruana had been removed from her post and her political career took a blow. What Azzopardi got was a simple reprimand. So the PN cannot really point fingers at Labour on this one.
Only one parliamentary secretary was deemed to deserve a promotion by Abela. He is Clayton Bartolo, who has moved up from the post of PS in the finance ministry to Minister of Tourism, with consumer protection added for good measure.
Tourism, as we all know, has taken a hard blow because of the pandemic, and it will take years until it can fully recover. It moved from record performances to despair as hoteliers have to make do with empty rooms, with so many people now afraid to travel.
Bartolo has a tough job ahead of him. He should listen to what the experts in the field are saying, the ones who live the industry on a daily basis.
The changes in portfolio
There must be a distinction made with regard to the three ministers who had a change in their portfolio.
Michael Farrugia’s political career is in decline. From Family Minister in the past legislature to Home Minister in this one, but then a shift to energy and water management in January has been quickly followed by another move to elderly care. It is the first time that the elderly sector has been given its own ministry; a move that indicates Abela was reluctant to push Farrugia out completely.
The same goes for Farrugia Portelli, who took the worst blow in this reshuffle. To be fair, she was unlucky that a few weeks after taking over as Tourism Minister, the sector which was booming was hit by the pandemic tsunami that brought it to its knees. She has taken the fall after mass events aimed to rekindle the tourist market contributed to pushing Covid-19 cases from near-zero to a quick multiplication, with the numbers now edging towards 10,000 cases, of which more than 2,000 are still active. Then, her presence on the BBC with her “mechanisms” is still hurtful to watch as it brought ridicule to the whole country, not to mention the confusion related to how the series of measures introduced to combat the virus were interpreted. Her new responsibility, inclusion and quality of life, is the biggest stretch Abela created to give her another chance.
Owen Bonnici was also a victim of Covid-19, but it’s wrong to put him in the same basket. After all, the apocalypse that many were predicting before schools reopened in October did not materialise, and this is mostly due to the measures that were put in place. Bonnici may have paid the price for a one-week delay in the re-opening, but at the end of the day it’s the result that counts and, in this respect, there has been no flood of Covid-19 cases in schools.
The ones left out
Edward Scicluna and Silvio Parnis were the only two Cabinet members who were discarded by Abela.
For Scicluna, it is a dignified exit as he will be taking over the role of Central Bank of Malta governor. He will be remembered as the minister who led Malta from budgetary deficits to surpluses, but also for some shady deals that were signed under his watch.
Parnis’ roly-poly gaffe must have influenced Abela in leaving him out of the Cabinet. He has now said that his political career is over too.
The Nationalist Party and independent MP Marlene Farrugia were involved in a discussion which could have led to her resignation from Parliament and the co-option of Ivan J. Bartolo, but the matter was later dropped as the PN risked irking the unelected candidates on the 10th district.
The negotiations took place after the election of Bernard Grech as PN leader in early October and his subsequent co-option to Parliament, made possible after the resignation of Bartolo, but fell through soon afterwards, sources told The Malta Independent on Sunday.
They coincided with the Labour Party’s process of co-opting two MPs, Miriam Dalli and Clyde Caruana, instead of Joseph Muscat and Etienne Grech, who had resigned. Labour completed the task; the PN ultimately shelved the idea.
It is not clear who came up with the idea to have Farrugia replaced by Bartolo, with sources saying it was Farrugia who approached the PN, and others saying it was the other way round as the PN sought to re-instate Bartolo as an MP after he gave up his seat to Grech.
Both PN general secretary Francis Zammit Dimech and Farrugia declined to comment when contacted.
Farrugia had successfully contested the 2017 election as part of the PN coalition with the Partit Demokratiku, the party she founded soon after resigning from the Labour Party in November 2015. For a time, she was also its leader.
She was elected to Parliament on the 10th district, a strong PN base, but soon after the election the coalition was dissolved after differences between the PD and the new PN leadership, under Adrian Delia. Farrugia, together with her partner Godfrey Farrugia, who had also been elected in 2017 as part of the PN-PD coalition, later resigned from the PD and the two have stayed on as independent MPs.
Bartolo was an MP in this legislature for a few months, in between being elected in a casual election last March to replace Marthese Portelli, who had resigned her seat on the ninth district, and his own resignation to make way for the co-option of Bernard Grech, who had become PN leader instead of Delia. Bartolo did not contest the 10th district, the one from which Marlene Farrugia was elected.
If Farrugia had resigned, the Electoral Commission would have been constitutionally obliged to open a call for applications for a casual election. This would have given all unelected MPs on the 10th district the possibility to take her place.
On this district, the PD had fielded another candidate as part of the PN-PD coalition, Anthony Buttigieg.
The other unelected PN candidates on the district, 16 in all, were Alan Abela Wadge, Graziella Attard Previ, Roselyn Borg Knight, Ray Bugeja, Albert Buttigieg, Justin Fenech, Wayne Hewitt, Noel Muscat, Anne Marie Muscat Fenech Adami, George Pullicino, Nick Refalo, Christopher Sansone, Charles Selvaggi, Evelyn Vella Brincat, Francis Zammit Dimech and Jason Zammit.
For a co-option to take place, all of these candidates would have had to be persuaded to stay away from the casual election. In the end, after the PN mulled the idea for a few days, the matter was dropped.
Farrugia had in the past offered her seat to any politician from outside Parliament who took over from Delia when the latter was facing dissent from within his own ranks.
In a post on Facebook on 26 July, when opposition against Delia had increased and a group of rebel MPs were working to kick him out of the leadership, Farrugia had written: “If the PN elects a leader who is not a Member of Parliament, I will offer my seat provided PN agrees within itself to give that seat to the newly-elected leader”.
It is understood that in October, when Bernard Grech beat Adrian Delia in the leadership election, the PN did not want its new leader to make his way into Parliament instead of Farrugia, largely because having him replace an independent MP would have not appeared appropriate. The PN had therefore accepted Bartolo’s offer to resign for Grech to be co-opted. After Grech’s co-option, the PN and Farrugia discussed the possibility of her resignation in favour of the re-instatement of Bartolo, but the idea was dropped.
Until the end of last year, Farrugia was topping the list of MPs who were fined for not attending parliamentary sessions. She had been fined a total of €950 for unjustified absences, followed by PN MPs Chris Said, Beppe Fenech Adami and Jason Azzopardi, and then Labour deputy leader Chris Cardona, on €500.
Since 2016, legislators who fail to attend a sitting without giving a valid reason are fined €50. MPs need only be in the House for a few minutes to be recorded as present.
The new minister responsible for Air Malta, Clyde Caruana, has signalled that changes could be afoot at the national airline during a meeting with the pilots’ association earlier this week, The Malta Independent on Sunday has learnt.
Caruana was sworn in as Finance Minister on Monday. Air Malta was transferred from Silvio Schembri’s economy ministry to the finance portfolio in last week’s government reshuffle. The economy minister seems to have retained Malta Med Air under his wing for now, but sources said that “nothing is cast in stone” and things could change.
The Air Malta move has been welcomed by the Airline Pilots Association (ALPA), which had an uneasy relationship with Schembri. The Economy Minister had put his foot down earlier this year when the airline dismissed 69 pilots as air operations were halted by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. And ALPA had heavily clashed with Air Malta’s former CEO, Clifford Chetcuti, saying his behaviour was “unethical and immoral.”
Sources said Minister Caruana met with the pilots association on Wednesday. During a meeting described as “cordial,” Caruana reportedly gave strong indications that a number of changes will be made at the airline.
While not many details about the meeting are available, it is understood that the government is mulling changes at the airline’s management level, which are deemed crucial for the airline to survive.
The Malta Independent on Sunday is also informed that Caruana met with the Air Malta management on Thursday.
The government would not comment when asked about the meeting. ALPA president Dominic Azzopardi also declined to confirm that a meeting had taken place but said the change in minister was a positive step.
ALPA’s relationship with Air Malta has never been a rosy one, but that relationship sank to new lows earlier this year when 69 pilots were dismissed. The pilots were sacked following a breakdown in talks between the two sides. Air Malta had said the union had insisted on a €73 million early retirement pay-out. Meanwhile, ALPA had accused the airline of using the pandemic as a pretext to do away with the current conditions of employment.
The government recently applied for state aid for the airline. The airline has failed to publish its accounts for 2019, missing the usual April publication date. Malta Today reported last week that the airline has racked up some €30 million in operational losses.
Captain Clifford Chetcuti resigned in August, amid the dispute with ALPA, although he said he was stepping down for personal reasons. The airline issued a call for a new CEO the following month. Some 200 individuals had applied by the end of October, but the airline has not appointed anyone to the role so far. Former Labour minister Charles Mangion is Chairman of the airline.
Sources from within the pilot community said it is imperative that the airline not only reinstates the 69 sacked pilots but also provides refresher training to its current pilot complement. “When things start picking up again – and this will hopefully happen soon, with the arrival of the Covid-19 vaccine – the airline needs to be in a position to hit the ground running,” one source said.
fbologna98 posted a photo:
This Mercedes Benz Sprinter of Malta Public Transport is seen at Valletta Bus Terminus after having terminated its service on Valletta Circular Route 133. At 5.30, it will start again but on Route 130, a circular route which connects Valletta, Floriana, Valletta Port, Valletta Waterfront and Kurcifiss Hill.
Unlike the other Sprinters at MPT, which are used for the TD Plus service, this is only on regular route services and still has a special livery to promote Valletta since the latter city was European Capital of Culture in 2018
Published: 2020-09-01 - 15:28:22
fbologna98 posted a photo:
This Mercedes Benz Sprinter of Malta Public Transport is seen waiting to depart from Valletta Bus Station on Route 133 which goes all around Valletta every 30 minutes. The route leaves Valletta Terminus and passes through Castille Square, St Paul Street, Marsamxett, Saint Elmo, MCC, Lower Barrakka Gardens, Ta' Liesse, the Valletta Waterfront and goes up to the terminus via Kurcifiss Hill and Floriana's Centre. It currently is the shortest bus route by Malta Public Transport.
The bus has a Valletta 2018 livery as it came in service in occasion of Valletta European Capital of Culture in 2018 as to promote a cleaner mode of transport within Valletta.
Published: 2019-12-12 - 12:49:15