The Malta Independent 20 June 2021, Sunday

'Dr Muscat, you cannot ignore the thousands gathered here today' - Briguglio at Zonqor protest

Therese Bonnici Saturday, 20 June 2015, 09:12 Last update: about 7 years ago

Over thirty Non-Governmental Organisations, Members of Parliament and thousands of members of the public took part in the national protest against the proposed university project on virgin land in Zonqor Point, Marsascala this morning. The protest started in front of the new Parliament building, with the demonstrators marching down Republic Street towards St George's Square. 

The protest was organised by the Front Harsien ODZ – a non-political grouping of individuals and NGOs.

The event follows the huge public outcry against the proposed project, which would see 90,000 square meters of virgin land in Zonqor  - the same size as 12 football grounds - taken up for the university project.

Michael Briguglio of Front Harsien ODZ said: "We are overwhelmed, this is the largest protest ever held in Malta. We are showing that Malta is taghna lkoll - it is not of contractors. This government insisted on transparency, but there is none. We are calling on the Prime Minister Joseph Muscat to publish the heads of agreement. Dr Muscat, you cannot ignore the citizens who have gathered here today - citizens from all walks of life and of different political beliefs. We expect the decision to be revoked immediately, we will not be fooled by a call for an environment directorate." 

The government is currently trying to identify alternative sites but many believe it will push ahead with the Zonqor plans, even if these are scaled down. Opposition Leader Simon Busuttil and PL MP Marlene Farrugia were among the attendees. Government Whip Godfrey Farrugia was also expected to attend but was not spotted among the crowd. It is so far unclear if any government MPs or representatives took part. 

Dr Busuttil did not give any comments to the media saying that he was attending as a private citizen. "This protest was organised by civil society and not the PN and I do not want to steal the spotlight," he said. 

In comments to this newsroom, Dr Farrugia said her message was that Malta should always come before everything else. “The government should show that it has the power and the courage, as it has done on other occasions, to reconsider its position and listen to the cries of the public. We want Malta to be for all. We have more development than we can cope with and we should not have to use ODZ land unless absolutely necessary to attract investment to Malta. We are economically strong and we are in a position to choose the investments, pass them through the sieve and give Malta only what it needs.”

People of all ages took part in the event. They included several NGOs, such as Din l-Art Helwa, Flimkien ghal-Ambjent Ahjar, Moviment Graffitti, Ramblers and AD Zghazagh. People who are opposing the proposed shooting range near Mount St Joseph Retreat also took part. 

Desiree Attard, a Labour councillor lauded all those present, to help save ‘the lungs of Marsascala’. “ It is our responsibility to save the environment for our children, to prevent asthma and cancer,” she said.

Nationalist councillor Charlo Cassar said that Maltese citizens have shown they want to live, not just exist. “We have an obligation to protect the environment for those who come after us, we can’t let greed overtake this,” he said.

Veteran Lino Bugeja, founder of Rambler’s Association. “This day will be going down in history. Today we are in a situation worse than that than during the great siege, 400 years ago. The mutilation of the environment needs to stop immediately. I remember Ruzar Briffa – ‘Il Kotra qamet u qalet, had mhu se jidhak bija, jiena Maltija.’ Year after year, the situation is getting worse. Countryside access is now blocked. Our country does not only depend on the economy and tourism, but also on coastal zones and countryside free of concrete jungle.

"People here are saying that they feel betrayed and that all political parties neglected the environment by choosing to build on virgin land rather than use vacant spaces," our Therese Bonnici reported before the march started. 

The Malta Independent also supported the protest. 

The demonstrators chanted: 'Taghna r-raba, taghna x-xatt" (the countryside is ours, the shore is ours) and "Politikanti bla valur" (politicians without values).

People turned up in impressive numbers and there was hardly any space left in Republic Street. The demonstrators stopped in front of the Law Courts before continuing down Republic Street.

Marlene Farrugia uploaded the post below on Facebook this morning, urging people to show courage and attend the national protest. 

The Malta Independent will keep you updated with the details, as well as video and pictures of the event. 

Video: Matthew Agius, Photos: Mike Camilleri and Therese Bonnici 

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