The monument this morning (Photo: Facebook)
The restoration of the Great Siege Monument in Valletta and embellishment works in the surrounding area should be completed in time for Christmas, Culture Minister Owen Bonnici has confirmed.
“I don’t like tying myself down to deadlines but works should be done by Christmas,” Bonnici told Lovin Malta. “It’s going to look lovely when it’s done and I hope people will take care of it.”
The monument has been used as a protest memorial for Daphne Caruana Galizia
The monument was for several months used as a makeshift protest memorial demanding justice for assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, but it was boarded off 60 days go, ostensibly for restoration works. Bonnici explained that restoration needed to be carried out because the monument had been damaged by candles, posters and other items that had been left there by activists and mourners. Besides the restoration, the Minister said he had also taken the opportunity to request embellishment works in the surrounding area, including upgrades to the lights and pavement next to the monument.
However, activists argued the government was stifling their right to protest and trying to get the public to forget about Caruana Galizia’s murder.
After an iron fence covered in yellow fabric was erected around the square this morning, activist group Occupy Justice said nothing will stop them from demanding justice for Caruana Galizia.
“Does Owen Bonnici and his bunch of garden gnomes otherwise known as government lackeys really think he’s going to stop us?” they asked. “He can build the Great Siege Wall of Valletta all he likes! We shall never stop demanding truth and justice.”
Former Opposition leader Simon Busuttil warned “democracy is being barricaded in Malta”, while PN MEP Francis Zammit Dimech accused the government of depriving people from the right to protest.
However, Bonnici told Lovin Malta that this was merely the start of the embellishment stage of the project and that it should only take a couple of weeks to complete.
He warned activists they will not be allowed to use the monument as a protest memorial after the works are over and urged them to apply for a permit for a permanent memorial to Caruana Galizia somewhere else instead.
“People have a right to protest and to express themselves as they please but they must take care of their surroundings too and not cause damage to a national monument,” he said. “We removed the Caruana Galizia banners just as we had removed banners of [PN MEP] David Casa that had been erected without a permit. I know critics will find this hard to believe, but I genuinely believe banners should be regulated.”