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MALTATODAY 15 August 2021

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maltatoday | SUNDAY • 15 AUGUST 2021 COMMENT What are we skinning? National Book Council Chairman Mark Camilleri no longer occupying said post as announced earlier this week, after his contract failed to be renewed by the Education Ministry. Why are we skinning it? Because Mark Camilleri was the rarest of public servants: the head of an institution whose subject matter he actually cares about, and rarer still: a publicly vocal dissident within the ranks of the Labour Party, of whom he was a paid-up member but whose recent indiscretions he could no longer stomach. So wouldn't it be a tad obvious for him to get the boot, then? In fact, plenty were those who expected him to make a gracious – or not so gracious – exit a lot sooner. So why the surprise, he's had a good run, surely? It's not surprise... so much as depressed resignation (no pun intended). How so? Well, for all his abrasiveness and apparent lack of diplomacy, Camilleri's work speaks for itself, and he arguably represented a hopeful strand of young Maltese politicians and activists that could break through some of the old fidelities and omertàs. In what way? By actually busting through the taboo which states that public silence is the only option for those within the Labour ranks who don't quite like where certain elements of the party are headed at any given time. But isn't being a team player a key part of what makes any organisation – let alone a political party! – work? Well, I'd say we're stuffed to the brim with 'team players' all round, so I'll leave it up to you to decide whether or not that's all for the best. Okay but another thing... At the end of the day, wasn't Camilleri essentially appointed to piss of the Nationalists? To be fair, any and all Labour appointments should technically be made to piss off – or otherwise disorient – the Opposition, but do go on... I'm of course referring to the fact that Camilleri was made Chairman of the National Book Council in the wake of a censorship controversy largely attributed to the Nationalist government's failure to alter embarrassingly antiquated laws which nearly landed him in jail. Yes, Camilleri's decision to publish Alex Vella Gera's short story 'Li Tkisser Sewwi' while he was editor of student newspaper Ir-Realtà led to both of them being put at risk of jail time. What's your point? My point is that Camilleri being acquitted and the censorship laws being overturned by a freshly- elected Labour government makes his appointment at the head of a government institution during that historical moment all the more 'convenient', doesn't it? Whether or not Camilleri's appointment was initially intended as an 'up yours' to the PN pales into insignificance in the wake of how his stewardship of the National Book Council actually went down. How did it 'go down', then? Camilleri helped overhaul something of a dormant institution into one that militates for the rights of authors and publishers in an active and engaged way, enhancing the industry both locally and abroad, and turning its flagship event – the Malta Book Fair (latterly Malta Book Festival) – from a glorified book bazaar into a high-powered affair attracting high- calibre international guests. He did say rude words in public sometimes, though, and his beard was clearly too unkempt for politics. Give me that over chatty WhatsApp exchanges with money launderers and future murder suspects any day. Do say: "Casting aspersions on what really happened behind closed doors is a loser's game, but there's no doubt that Camilleri's departure from the scene will leave something of a gap. Agree or disagree with his stances and methods, vocal critical thinkers are crucial for democracy, even more so when they are associated with established party structures." Don't say: "I'm disturbed by all the liberal innovation Camilleri brought to the Book Council and Malta's book culture in general. We need a narrowing of the mind back to when things were simpler. I hope his successor populates schools with fresh editions of Denfil and burns all the rest." Climate repair: what we must do to stabilise the planet PAGE 12 The Skinny Malta, shrunk down JOSANNE CASSAR No need to go to Dubai, because Dubai is here PAGE 6 MICHAEL FALZON The Corradino 'Hilton' PAGE 5 No 100 – Chairman of Dissent Takes a Bow RAPHAEL VASSALLO So in the end, the 'glorious PN' destroys itself… over an online poll PAGE 5 EDITORIAL Overdevelopment: the elephant in the room PAGE 2 "Mangroves capture four times more carbon than a same area of rainforest"

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