Businessman Robert Abela has been appointed designate chairman of the Maltasong board with immediate effect, after the Culture Ministry accepted the resignation of Grace Borg. Chosen for his managerial skills, Abela was a member of the board under the past chairmanship of Gaetano Abela and Charlò Bonnici.
As director of Traplas, Abela's musical background includes the coordination of the government-organised concerts of Tina Turner, Joe Cocker and Zucchero.
“Abela is being thrown into the deep end and his immediate challenge is to focus on the organisation of the Song for Europe Festival, scheduled to take place on 3th and 4th February”, the Times of Malta writes. “My job is to try and pick up the pieces and continue on the work of Grace Borg. The challenge is for all of the committee – I hope everyone is prepared to work together as a team. Let's hope for the best”, he said when contacted.
Last November, the Union for Maltese Composers and Authors (UKAM) had threatened to boycott the festival after new regulations allowed the participation of foreign writers and composers. The waters were calmed after Maltasong, with the Culture Minister's intervention, agreed that this year participation by foreigners would be allowed strictly on a reciprocity basis and provided that the other country had some form of selection process.
Soon after she was re-appointed in June, Borg once again broached this hot topic and started to meet UKAM over the possibility to reach a different agreement; the union, however, was against it. “The board and I did not agree with her so she handed in her letter of resignation”, the Culture Minister said. “Agreements are not there to be broken. I respect Ms Borg's work and all that she has done in the past, but Maltasong has to respect an agreement”.