B’risposta għal żewġ ittri li kienu deheru fis-Sunday Times jilmentaw dwar it-tlibbis tal-Manneken Pis bħala Kavallier ta’ Malta, illum deheret ittra fl-istess gazzetta bħala risposta mill-Ministeru tal-Affarijiet Barranin. Melvyn Mangion, Ko-ordinatur tal-Komunikazzjoni tal-Ministeru, kiteb hekk:
I refer to two letters entitled ‘Manneken Pis stunt in bad taste’ carried in last Sunday’s edition.
To serve beer from the fountain when the Manneken Pis is dressed up in a new costume is a long-standing Belgian tradition – so much so that the statue is equipped with a beer pressure pump.
The beer served is usually one of Belgium’s vast range but Malta used Cisk because it is an excellent Maltese quality product. It now stands out as one of the very few foreign beers that were dispensed by this fountain. Incidentally, the fountain did release milk on June 1 during another activity.
In the past, this Brussels landmark carried the haute couture of big names like Prada, dressed up as Lord Baden Powell, Nelson Mandela, and Francesco de Goya among others, commemorated important world events such as the end of the Second World War, World Environment Day and celebrated freedom of speech.
Earlier this month, US Ambassador Howard Gutman dressed it up as Uncle Sam to celebrate US Independence Day and on April 24, the Manneken bore the uniform of the Red Cross, a respected organisation which carries out very similar work to the Order of St John.
I could quote other examples, the most significant of which was only four days after Malta’s event, when the Manneken Pis was dressed up as a European citizen.
The ‘investiture’ was considered worthy enough to be carried out by none other than the President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy, who, in his press conference, said that the Manneken Pis will carry the costume on May 9 – Europe Day – every year.
One will surely be pleased to learn that during the ceremony of the presentation of the costume at the magnificent Salle Maximilianne in the Hôtel de Ville in the Grand Place, Bertin Mampaka, Alderman of the City of Brussels, expressed great satisfaction at the donation of the costume – not only because it completed the collection of the 27 EU member states, but also because the costume was that of the Knights of Malta, an order which he described “of great humanity and of invaluable work all over the world, particularly in Africa”.
Malta’s Ambassador to Belgium Tarcisio Zammit [sic — L-ambaxxatur ta’ Malta għall-Belġju huwa Pierre-Clive Agius] described the order as the precursor of modern Europe and referred to the Knights of Malta as a manifestation of unity in diversity.
He also said that, just like the Manneken Pis can be described as a shrine of cultures in the very heart of Brussels, Malta is at the crossroads of civilisations in the centre of the Mediterranean – a bridge between Europe and the Arab world.
It was in this spirit, on the eve of the Belgian presidency of the EU, that this initiative has to be perceived.
The costume can now be viewed at the Museum of the City of Brussels alongside the costumes of other EU member states, in an exhibition aptly entitled ‘The Manneken Pis, the Son of Europe’.
This exhibition has been put up to celebrate the current term of the Belgian presidency. If it were not for this initiative, Malta would not be represented in this exhibition.
On the day of the event, Malta was the exclusive ‘guest’ of the city of Brussels for the first time ever. It was also an important event for our neo-expatriate community in the city.
Finally, it gave Malta important visibility on the Belgian media. It was a success and there’s no other way to describe it.