The V-18 situation – a concoction of dismissals and hasty decisions

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As the end of the year draws closer and we come to the dawn of Valletta 2018, the Cultural Capital of Europe, the situation appears even direr as movements in the human resources sector continue to affect the running of this entity.

Post-election we had the rather unbecoming removal of the foundation’s Executive Director Karsten Xuereb who supposedly left for pastures new within the Culture Department. He was accompanied by other staff on the foundation’s books including Programme Co-ordinator Margherita Pule’ and Visual Arts Curator Marin Richter. Although the replacement announced appears to be a highly qualified person, this situation is certainly not ideal, and so close to the actual occasion itself.

Additionally, next to nothing seems to have been done with regards to the actual regeneration of the capital city apart from a few token projects. Large swathes of the city remain rather depressed with certain areas that can only be described as slums. One questions whether this situation will continue in the immediate future as confusion at the top does seem to be affecting the general direction of the foundation.

Interestingly enough, V18 Chairman Jason Micallef had stated that it would be madness if there would be any changes in direction or staff just before the start of V18. He seems to have had a change of heart according to a story in the Times where it was stated that both Karsten Xuereb and Margherita Pule’ had lost his personal confidence and staff were no longer to take any orders from the pair. So far it has not been revealed what triggered this strange turn of events.

Recently a group of 70 artists also wrote an open letter to Culture Minister Owen Bonnici decrying the situation at the V-18 foundation and commenting that such hasty and uncalled for changes to personnel in top positions would only make a bad situation worse. They also commented on the lack of meritocracy in such decisions adding that this huge opportunity to showcase our capital city would be going inadvertently to waste.

The Culture Ministry headed by Owen Bonnici has defended this strange turn of events stating that the personnel were moved to other roles within the department although so far we have not heard from the persons in question whether these roles are to their liking. Certainly, after spending six years on a project such as V-18 and creating it almost from the beginning, one would expect that Xuereb would be aggrieved at having to part from his ‘baby’. At first glance, there does not seem to be any political motivation in this decision but the implications for it may be far worse in the long run.

What is definitely clear is that meritocracy is certainly not a buzzword in V-18 as it is becoming alarmingly clear in several public entities.