Whitewashing Precedes Chief Minister’s Visits to Estates for Media Spin Purposes
The fact that the Chief Minister should visit housing estates to discuss any problems and concerns residents may have is welcome. GSD MPs have been doing their own engagement with tenants’ associations around housing districts for some time.
The common theme of GSD visits to those areas is lack of cleanliness, lack of maintenance, noise or anti-social behaviour. These visits should be an opportunity to discuss issues with residents and address their concerns once these visits have taken place rather than an opportunity for spin of a state of affairs that is remote from reality.
The Chief Minister’s recent visits have been in the company of a Government press team that has filmed and photographed his visits. Again, that is unobjectionable as long as there isn’t an attempt at spinning and distorting reality.
The GSD are receiving reports that the Chief Minister’s programme of visits is being preceded by a specific cleaning of each estate or housing area. It has happened in Varyl Begg (and the Chief Minister’s visit is today) and it has happened today at Mid Harbours Estate (and the Chief Minister’s visit is tomorrow). We are releasing footage of that cleaning. These are not coincidences and residents of those areas are clear they are not programmed regular cleaning either. We are told that when residents have asked the workers they have been told that the cleaning is taking place because of the Chief Minister’s imminent visit.
Leader of the Opposition, Keith Azopardi said: “While unprogrammed cleaning will be welcome news for the residents of the estates it should not be happening just in readiness for the Chief Minister’s visit and so it improves the subsequent media footage. These are not royal visits and nor will people be so easily fooled. The engagement of the public should be real and not subjected to a clean-up beforehand to massage public opinion or subsequent footage. People are getting tired of the media spin of the GSLP/Liberals and this is just another example of their way of operating. What the Government should do is concentrate on tackling the long-standing complaints housing tenants have about cleaning and maintenance in a comprehensive and consistent way and not just on the day before an official visit. The good news for people in the South District and Moorish Castle is that Mr Picardo is scheduled to visit there in a couple of weeks so their areas will be cleaned specially soon.”
Shadow Housing Minister Damon Bossino said: “That elected politicians should engage and interact regularly with the public is something which should be encouraged. For the visits to be useful, however, they need to reflect the reality on the ground to properly inform you of what the problems are and what needs to be done to fix issues. This is certainly what I have been seeing in my visits to estates since I assumed the housing portfolio – my visits have most definitely not been preceded by a white-washing exercise. As a result, we have been able to witness the reality of peoples’ lives – the glamour and media entourage can be left to others – others whose responsibility it has been to maintain the living conditions of these individuals for the past 11 years and have failed in doing so. One positive effects of our recent visits is that at least some of the estates are getting a much needed spring-clean and that can only be to the benefit of residents and is welcome!”