The accusations levelled by the PN at the Valletta 2018 Foundation on 18 February 2016 are unfortunate as the claim of incompetence and corruption are unfounded. Since its establishment in 2011, under the PN administration, the Foundation has been guided and monitored by multiple national and international organisations of a cultural, financial and political nature. These include the Board of Governors, that includes the Chairman of Arts Council Malta, the Mayor of Valletta, the President of the Local Councils Association, the Rector of the University of Malta, the President of the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Investment and the Principal of MCAST as well as, most recently, the Chairman of the KNPD. The Foundation also responds to a Supervisory Council consisting of the Permanent Secretaries responsible for finance and cultural matters as well as a Parliamentary Group consisting of representatives of both the Government as well as the Opposition. On an international level, the Foundation is under the constant monitoring of the European Commission which, as is well known, has only three weeks ago emphasised the significant progress the programming, organisation and governance the Foundation has achieved over the past months following its review in September (http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20160127/local/valletta-2018-good-progress.600275).
The Foundation would like to add that it is baffled by the statement by the PN which comes out of the blue – no pun intended – since only three weeks ago, on Monday 25 January, PN members of the Parliamentary Group Hon. David Agius and Hon. Clyde Puli met with two members of the Evaluation & Monitoring, including ECOC veteran Ulrich Fuchs, and the European Commission, and upon receiving a clean bill of health, including governance, organisational, financial and artistic matters, expressed their satisfaction with such a report.
The Foundation calls upon the PN to substantiate, if it can, its claims of corruption and incompetence, as well as cronyism, which the Foundation refutes. Under the Chairmanship of Jason Micallef the Executive Team of the Foundation has remained intact and grown including creatives and administrators from all walks of life making no distinction between gender, nationality or political creed.
With reference to the team of artistic directors who had served under Maestro Wayne Marshall whom the PN claim to have been unfairly dismissed, the Foundation would like to draw the attention of the PN to the following state of affairs which shows that, to the contrary of what is being claimed in terms of closed doors and blocked opportunities, the Foundation has not only kept working relations with these directors, but actually stepped up, in concrete ways, its collaboration. Therefore, it is worth noting that Marc Cabourdin is a key coordinator in the organisation of the Valletta Pageant of the Seas, one of the five special events under the direction of Mario Philip Azzopardi, through his professional relations with UK arts events experts Walk The Plank; Ruben Zahra leads the Modern Music Days, a flagship in the Valletta 2018 ongoing cultural programme in the contemporary music scenario linking Maltese and international dimensions; Dr Jean Pierre Magro still oversees Storyworks, a most successful script writing programme, in its fourth year, which has also led to the successful production of a film by Jameson Cucciardi (https://www.facebook.com/Valletta2018/posts/941133205972271); and Dr Raphael Vella, festival director of the Valletta International Visual Arts festival (VIVA) which is organised in collaboration with many international and Maltese artists together with Spazju Kreattiv at St James Cavalier.
It is further worth mentioning advisors to the Foundation during the bidding phase, under a PN administration, who have also become more involved with the Foundation under the Chairmanship of Jason Micallef. These include Dr Alex Grech, currently working closely with the Foundation on the implementation of the European Graduate School and the seminars taking place this Spring at Fort St Elmo, in collaboration with Heritage Malta, with world class artists like Alfredo Jaar and Achille Mbembe; Dr Marie Briguglio who leads in-depth research into the social and economic impacts of Valletta 2018 on Maltese society; and Dr Vicki-Ann Cremona, chief editor of the cultural mapping publication to be issued by Midsea Books later this year, and who after having provided no small support to the successful nomination of Valletta as European Capital of Culture in 2012, has since played a key role in the development of the cultural mapping process and the theatres audit for Valletta 2018 in collaboration with other experts like Prof Maria Attard and Sean Buhagiar.
In conclusion the Valletta 2018 Foundation confirms its commitment to the cultural, economic and social regeneration of Valletta on a scale unprecedented in Malta’s history as an independent nation. The infrastructural work related to the new museum of art MUZA, the Valletta Design Cluster at Il-Biccerija, the indoor market at Is-Suq in Merchants Street and the regeneration of Strait Street goes hand in hand with community engagement and empowerment and is there for the general public to witness and participate in. This development is supported in many ways by the growing investment coming from the private sector, particularly in relation to tourism, in the build up towards 2018. The Foundation also stresses the growing levels of public participation in events like the New Year’s Eve celebrations, Notte Bianca and most recently Carnival which augur well. The key role of the Foundation in enabling greater cultural participation by local councils enjoying political majorities from both sides is also bearing fruit as witnessed by projects like Darba Wahda(https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10153558081859285&set=a.10150255214869285.335563.674944284&type=3&theater).
These and other preparations support and make best use of the growing cultural sector that the Valletta 2018 nurtures in collaboration with national entities like Arts Council Malta and MCAST as well as international ones like Leeuwarden 2018: European Capital of Culture, the Roberto Cimetta Fund, the Asia-Europe Foundation and the EU Japan Fest.
The Valletta 2018 Foundation reiterates its consternation at the serious and false accusations made by the PN, while confirming its open and transparent approach to its operational, financial and artistic operations which is always open for scrutiny.