Of public cleanliness, government
and civic sense
Malta Hotels & Restaurants Association Secretary
General Dr Hugh Peralta commemorates the recent World Tourism Day with
a keynote address in which he calls for a number of Maltas tourism
maladies to be cured
Intermittently the issue of "cleanliness" publicly
crops up. The general conclusion is simple: No, the Maltese have no
pride in keeping Malta clean. And let us add: nor any pride in the varied
and valued historical sites, with which we have been so copiously blessed.
The disgraceful attitude "Keep your home clean, but keep
Malta dirty" (and the issue is one of mentality and lack
of education) is part of a wider malaise. Lack of public cleanliness
is an important element in a bigger setting. In generic terms the wider
picture is lack of pride in and love of ones country, and an inter-relationship
devoid of respect to ones person. The question is one of values
and of a standard of living: it also forms a part of the nations
In short are we what one may term a "civil" society or are
we still in a backward uncivil inter-personal relationship?
Together with the lack of public cleanliness, we must also refer to
the inherent indigenous fundamental lack of a civic sense. This term
is definable hereunder we list some of the components.
Regretfully we must concede that we have no (or little) respect for
each other. We are not considerate to the others rights or needs:
ours is mainly an egoistic mentality. Do we respect our elders? Authority
in general? The other drivers? Arent we always right? Ready to
be rude in inter-relations? Of course it is not our fault that we think
in this manner: we are not taught this ethic in schools or by
our parents. Indeed our parents themselves need to be taught this attitude
and how to bring up and educate their children.
These statements are general conclusions happily with exceptions
abounding: however I think it extremely difficult for the contrary to
But let us return to cleanliness. The Malta Hotels & Restaurants
Association (MHRA) is very much aware of this problem and has
as many others, similarly ignored in the past raised its plaintive
voice in the wilderness. In Sept 2002, on the occasion of "World
Tourism Day" the undersigned obo the MHRA stated on "cleanliness"
inter alia other environmental issues, as follows:
"But the most fundamental and important element, which gives the
tourist a good impression of Malta, is that old adage of keeping Malta
clean. It is inconceivable how central road strips have papers, cigarette
butts, bottles, plastic cups and all other paraphernalia mushrooming
on a daily basis. The same applies in general to public areas. This
is a clear indication of the mentality that allows the throwing of such
objects. And the mentality is a clear result of a lack of an educational
campaign in this regard. The recent "give way at a roundabout traffic"
campaign bore its fruit and this rules is now in general obeyed."
What the MHRA would like to see is a persistent, consistent, persuasive,
pervading campaign in schools, villages, towns, cities on radio, television
and press educating the young, the middle aged and the old that Malta
(and not only their residence) is their home, and that keeping it clean
and tidy is a must.
Placing more litter bins all over, is another must. Attempts have been
made and admittedly there are today more litter bins than in the recent
past. But these must be increased and their maintenance well kept.
Why is it that when going to picnics and barbecues the car (the ubiquitous
family car) must be parked right up to the site even if this
means driving onto beaches and fields? Why is it that rubbish left after
barbecues and picnics should be the trademark of "clean" fun?
Why is it that we cannot divert the unproductive labour element into
a productive force to keep the island clean and tidy at all times?
These issues relate to the standard of living in our country. MHRA is
also very much conscious (and hence its persistent pressure) that successful
tourism depends heavily on same:
But what does the MHRA have to do with a "civic sense"?
As a national body the MHRA is democratically entitled to voice its
concern on national issues. Why shouldnt we Maltese enjoy living
happily with each other? But more closer to home, a mature and considerate
civic sense which does not allow fleecing a tourist; or over
charging; or not giving the tourist value for money; or not making him
feel unwanted and being outright rude to him (do the words "please"
and "thank you" exist in common / official parlance
whether said by the waiter, policeman, bus driver, passport control
officer and whether accompanied by a costless smile?)
is essential for tourism. This friendly attitude for which we have been
known more in the past than the present does not cost
anything. Yet it is priceless. A "smile" a "good morning"
puts donor and recipient in excellent mood. Unfortunately I often feel
that we are at the end of the opposite spectrum: verging on or outright
being rude. Where are the good manners exemplified in the taxi/bus
drivers, or so many others, often in public service? Your reply is as
good as ours.
And whilst we are at it shouldnt honesty be taken into the equation?
Do we treat the others as we expect or would like to be
treated? Isnt it imperative that we do both for our own
sake and as a tourist promoting island?
And shall we omit noise pollution? Evident lack of education
of respect and concern for others are often the ruin of a quiet and
peaceful well-deserved rest or serenity. Why should one not be taught
from infancy not to blare out to the world what should be heard in privacy?
Why disturb others? Get deaf on your own in your soundproof room
or through your private earphones!
At this stage one may well ask: Where does this state of affairs stem
This situation may be in part attributed to the colonial past. The colonised
has no pride in his past: the coloniser has no interest in implanting
Yes, the Catholic Church as a leader in Malta is also partly responsible
and very much so especially when social mores are involved. The pointing
finger is the obvious lack of knowledge (profound or otherwise) Maltese
have of the Catholic religion with the concomitant genuine respect and
love such a religion preaches at a social and cultural level. Much is
lip service superficial and unreasoned. How can one not so conclude
when surveys indicate many are apostatising and marrying into other
Faiths; that replies state that religion is not important and when general
dissatisfaction is reflected in everyday public life? Many have expressed
negative comments: the style and content of some old fashioned long-winded
impractical Sunday homilies; lack of leadership in crucial moments.
That something has gone wrong between the Catholic Religion and the
Maltese is undoubted. Nor is it consoling to contend that this situation
is practically universal.
But definitely since 1964 (and this is the crucial start off date) the
responsibility lies fully with successive Maltese Governments. A generation
and a half has since peopled our island yet the educational process:
the pride in our land; the love of our cultural heritage; the step forward
in our quality of life is non-existent.
Yet "good" morality and values have to be imparted
and who should (and will) bear that role?
Clearly the Catholic Church has an important social role to play and
we are sure that it will rise to this challenge so that her teachings
will instil in the Maltese a sense of giving unto Caesar what is Caesars
and so that Maltese act out their personal inter-relationship in a truly
The Government is however the greater bearer of this obligation.
But do those in power care?
In certain areas and periods some care has been shown. Can we compliment
enough the joint embellishing campaign recently carried out flowering
our centre strips etc? On the other hand judging from unfortunately
past inaction and the state of affairs, few politicians seem to care.
The short lived "Xummiemu" and "Keep Malta Clean"
campaigns can bring results if carried out as above suggested. Therefore
with educational indoctrination, and infrastructural requisites (e.g.
availability of bins, barring of cars from picnic/beaches/historic sites;
persistent presence of competent wardens backed by real judicial deterrent
etc) positive results will be obtained. It is the perception of this
"value" that is missing and has to be taught. Yes we are now
in Europe but this negative nonchalant attitude will not thereby
change, unless and until we (i.e. the competent and responsible authorities
and the private sector) do something about it.
It is this attitude that we have to change if we Maltese are going to
have the leap forward. After all we are talking about substantially
bettering our standard of living which is not gauged only materially.
Furthermore giving the tourist a hospitable and value for money holiday
is fundamental to successful tourism. And in turn to all those
including MHRA members dependant on tourism. Hence MHRAs
vested and justified interest in Maltas civic sense.
Accountability ensures that those rendering a service receiving (or
not) payment are responsible for their actions. It affects all walks
of life; at all levels; from the bottom to the top and vice versa. It
is very evident abroad; it is alien to Maltese practice. Yet it is a
must. Leadership is another essential concept in the running of a country.
Vision and execution must go hand in hand. Both concepts must be delivered
by the top echelons of our political/establishment hierarchy. We quote
an apt Maltese proverb: il-huta minn rasha tinten.
The MHRA is like so many other true lovers of Malta frustrated
and desperate. The MHRA has carried out campaigns in furtherance of
the above - and will continue to do so. Accordingly this plea must end
with a friendly though serious challenge. Our plea and challenge is
to the present Minister of the Environment, The Hon Ninu Zammit, who
is faced with this problem to carry out the above suggested educational
campaign imparting values coupled with a practical nationwide
clean up. If necessary this can be done with the co-operation of other
Ministries, who after all in some manner or other depend on Tourism
(if such a consideration has to be taken into account).
We pledge our full support.
We are sure that all political parties other national (and non) associations,
the Church and the general public will welcome and support this idea
and effort: let it be our good year resolution and action
in the year Malta joins the EU.
Time will tell, and the monitoring will be there. And accountability
in all spheres not to the MHRA but to history and to the
Maltese, has now become a must. We too dream of a clean Malta, and of
a country where life is more civilised.