Bungling burglars

▪️ Bungling burglars ▪️ The white pony ▪️ Pricey calls ▪️ Santo Niño have pity

Nowadays we keep being reminded that lifelong learning is a must because it improves a person’s performance by broadening his or her skills and knowledge.  Should we therefore be thinking of retraining burglars rather than worry about rising crime?

I ask this question because a couple of cases in the courts of law recently revealed what might become a trend in bungling burglars.  One of them concerned a 41-year-old homeless refugee from Libya whose risible mistakes led to him being arrested, charged with theft and public drunkenness, and remanded in custody.

The man was accused of having stolen a woman’s mobile phone and designer watch from a language school’s beach club in St George’s Bay but got caught because he had left his passport at the scene of the crime!  Rather than escaping as fast as he could, he then went to sleep in a parked car that did not belong to him.

Although the man claimed to work as a “scuba diver”, he did not dig enough into his resources to come with a better excuse for having somebody else’s phone and watch than to claim that the woman concerned had robbed him when he slept at her apartment.

“He has no fixed address, and this is the first time we’re hearing him claim to be a scuba diver,” exclaimed the prosecutor who was good enough to point out that, by refusing him bail, the Court would provide the accused with “food and a place to sleep”.

The second case was that of a man with a history of robbing churches who was discovered by police on top of scaffolding on the Church of the Holy Trinity in Marsa.  The 26-year-old manual labourer denied trying to break in and claimed that he had only broken the glass of the church’s window by mistake at around midnight when he went to sleep there.

The homeless labourer argued in his favour that he was sleeping on the three-floor scaffolding only because he had been working on the restoration of the church for the previous few days.  Sleeping there was apparently convenient since he would not need to travel back and forth to his “place of work”.  This excuse did not wash with the Court because the contractor responsible for the work had told the police that no work had been carried out on the church yet.

The accused made another mistake when he left his change of clothes and identification documents in a bag hidden inside a public latrine not far from the church. “If you sleep somewhere, you’d want to keep your belongings close,” pointed out the inspector who arraigned the accused.

These strings of mistakes were a godsend to the Police but point to a woeful lack of skills in the burglars concerned.  Is it too much to ask Jobs Plus to organise some burglary courses and issue a ‘Master Burglar’ certificate to the trainees?

The white pony 

Children have a natural love for ponies and horses because they see them in movies and TV shows as gentle creatures that they can pet and ride on. The challenge of riding a pony for the first time, keeping one’s balance, and even falling off and getting back up will teach a child patience, determination, and perseverance that are very important characteristics for adult life.

Children need to build their confidence and self-esteem as they grow, but it can be challenging, especially in such a competitive world that they live in. Having the ability to ride a pony and control it will help build a child’s confidence in itself. This simple activity is one of the easiest ways to allow a child to understand that it can do new things and be good at them, which is essential in boosting self-esteem.

One such pony is currently being used for the therapy of a young girl in Malta. It is well known that the physical benefits of equine therapy are significant for those with autism spectrum disorder. Horse riding helps children with autism develop balance, coordination, and core strength. Additionally, interacting with equines can provide a calming effect that helps to reduce anxiety.

The white pony made the news when it escaped from the field where it was being held and galloped along the Mrieħel bypass, risking being struck by a car and causing an accident.  Luckily, a certain Marilyn Baldacchino Gatt, an animal-lover who happened to be driving by, stopped her car and ran out to help.  A truck driver who saw the woman running after the animal, stopped and blocked the road, thus allowing her to catch the naughty pony.  It was the second time the pony had escaped.

Photo: Facebook

The story reminded me of Robert Payne’s The White Pony: An Anthology of Chinese Poetry.  Payne, who had a deep love for and knowledge of China, had brought together a rich collection of Chinese poetry spanning some three thousand years and covering every conceivable mood and subject: from the roaring of tigers to the wild anguish of war to the tender exaltation of love.  The book is a classic.

Some of the lines from The White Pony, one of the poems in the homonymous book, include the following:

Pure is the white pony

Who lies in the empty valley

With a bundle of fresh hay.

He is like a piece of jade.

O do not be like gold or jade.

Do not go far from my heart!

There’s no doubt that the Mrieħel pony is as loving as the girl he’s unwittingly helping overcome the challenges of her condition.  

Pricey calls

The Malta Communications Authority (MCA), of which I am rather critical, recently drummed up the courage to stand up to the mobile and internet providers who were imposing price hikes on users midway through their fixed contracts.  These “fixed” contracts are not fixed at all, containing clauses in the small print that nobody reads and which are not drawn to users’ attention.  The providers were also introducing price-indexation clauses and, just in case, piled on clauses that impose a penalty if the disgusted user decides to terminate the contract early.

These and other malpractices are the bane of consumers’ plight in Malta.  Various authorities, including the Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority (MCCAA), who are supposed to regulate operators and protect consumers, are excellent at having shiny offices and paying themselves good salaries and board fees but fall well short of their job. In an economy where inefficiencies reign and stifle productivity, these authorities rarely make their weight felt.  The legislation gives them extensive powers but apparently they are unwilling to use them.

So, the action by the MCA is welcome.  In stopping the unfair practices of the communications providers, it said that they were “distorting effective competition in the market”.  Indeed.  Instead of trying to improve their productivity, the providers found it easier to fleece the poor consumers, which by the way include small enterprises and NGOs.

Unfortunately, the MCA could not prevent the providers from imposing a fee when users wish to terminate their fixed contracts.  This is because of a decision by the EU’s Court of Justice, which ruled that consumers could not withdraw from a price-indexed contract.  The MCA was forced to appeal to the providers to do this on a voluntary basis and to limit fixed-price contracts to six months rather than two years.

Long-suffering consumers in all sorts of areas expect better treatment all round.

Santo Niño have pity

Each year Filipinos around the world celebrate the feast of the Santo Niño on the 3rd Sunday of January.  Christianity has a long and cherished tradition in the Philippines, and the Santo Niño has been an integral part of that tradition since the 16th century.

On 14th April 1521, Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan gave a Santo Niño (Holy Child of Jesus) statueas a gift to Rajah Humabon, ruler of Cebu Island in the Philippines̶̶.  The original statue was dressed like a Spanish ruler, with an elaborate crown and cape that surrounds the Child Jesus.

There also exist many stories and legends surrounding the Santo Niño statue that have led many to believe that it is miraculousFilipinos have maintained a long tradition of venerating the statue, and Pope Innocent XIII approved special liturgical texts for a special feast to honour the Child JesusSt John Paul IIrecalled this history when celebrating a Mass for families in 1981 in Cebu City.Pope Francis too celebrated the feast when he visited the Philippines in 2015.

The brotherhood in Christ does not extend from the Philippines to Malta, where the Apostle of the Nations Paul brought Christianity in AD 60.  The Acts of the Apostles have it that, when the natives lit a fire for the survivors from a shipwreck off the island, a venomous viper caught Paul’s hand.  The natives thought he would die from its bite, but Paul simply shook it off in the fire.

Now, I know that there are some who claim that the island concerned was not Malta at all but one somewhere in the Aegean Sea.  Be that as it may, what concerns me here is whether the viper concerned died in the fire lit to warm up the shipwreck survivors.  From my perennial observation of my fellow countrymen, I am inclined to think that the viper lives on in the tongues of many of them   ̶   possibly, a curse for the many times that they have abnegated their faith precepts.

One such abnegation occurred earlier this week, when a deluge of hateful and racist comments appeared on social media after the Filipino community in Malta held a celebration in honour of Santo Niño in Marsascala.  “They’d better pray to Santo Niño to find them a better life away from this country,” one man wrote.  “Soon the Indians will have their own celebrations in honour of Saint Smell (San Inten). The country is finished. We’ve become the last priority in our own country.” Another echoed the same sentiment and said the facts were clear – “Norman Lowell was right”.

Photo: Michael Caruana/Times of Malta

Celebrating a “foreign” Baby Jesus was too much for the dozens of people who took to social media.  Of course, many of these renegade Christians celebrate “their own” Baby Jesus and other saints in elaborate festivities throughout the year.  The festivities sometimes include “fights” between the saints themselves in villages where there are two patron saints.  It is well known that some of the men carrying the statues during the processions blaspheme liberally.  The organisers close off the streets, disrupting the traffic, and let off extremely noisy petards which scare the living daylights out of babies and animals.

Minister Byron Camilleri took to social media too, to condemn the hateful and racist comments. “These comments reflect badly on those who make them and do not represent the beliefs of Maltese and Gozitan people of good faith,” he wrote on Facebook.  Indeed.  The Minister apparently thinks they are a small minority.  We will learn next June.

Main photo: Anna Shvets

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