The Malta Independent 23 July 2019, Tuesday

E-NGOs raise concerns about Franco Mercieca’s nomination to Environment Committee

Kevin Schembri Orland Sunday, 7 February 2016, 11:00 Last update: about 4 years ago

Environmental NGOs have raised concerns about Franco Mercieca’s nomination to chair the Parliamentary Environment and Development Planning Committee, replacing Independent MP Marlene Farrugia.

Government MP Franco Mercieca, who is government’s nominee, is a 10 per cent shareholder in a property development firm. The development company in question, Menfi Ltd, was the company responsible for the Ħal Sagħtrija development project in Zebbug, Gozo.  

Attempts were made to contact the PL MP, and a message was sent asking him to call back considering he was not picking up his phone, however he said he was abroad in South Africa. This newsroom wanted to ask Dr Mercieca whether or not he believed a conflict of interest existed.

Asked about his possible appointment and his shareholding, eNGOs Din l-Art Helwa, Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar, Friends of the Earth and Ramblers Association said that while they have every respect for Dr Franco Mercieca, they feel that his involvement in property development gives rise to a clear conflict of interest to the post of chairman of the Parliamentary Environment Committee.

There are currently two motions before Parliament regarding the appointment to this post. The first, which was filed by the PN, is for Marlene Farrugia to retain her position. The second, filed by deputy Prime Minister Louis Grech, is for Dr Mercieca to head the committee. The decision to appoint Dr Mercieca was postponed last Monday and is currently to be debated in Parliament, according to both PN Whip David Agius and PL Whip Godfrey Farrugia.

It is interesting to note, however, that Dr Mercieca is already listed on the Parliamentary Committee website as chairman.

Another shareholder in Menfi Ltd. is Joseph Portelli, the man responsible for the whole San Blas saga in 2014. Back then, suspicions were raised as to whether Mr Portelli was intending to build in a field overlooking the picturesque bay. Mr Portelli said: “We have been camping here for more than 25 years”.

Marlene Farrugia, on learning that Franco Mercieca had been nominated, congratulated him in a tweet, and said: “Just be loyal to Malta and Gozo, and to past, present and future inhabitants of these beautiful islands”.

A number of eNGOs, including FAA, Ramblers Association and FOE previously aired their support of Dr Farrugia.

Din l-Art Helwa said: “Dr Farrugia’s positive contribution to this committee over the last two years has strategically prioritised environmental issues for the long-term good of the Maltese Islands. As chairman, she has raised awareness of the need for more transparency over environmental decision-making, and has given a voice to NGOs representing civil society whose views are being side-lined by the authorities”.

Prime Minister Muscat had said it was not possible to give the position to Marlene Farrugia because of the existing Standing Orders, but PN Leader Simon Busuttil had said she could be appointed to the committee by agreement, or through a change in the Standing Orders. He also floated the idea of increasing membership of the Committee to seven, which would mean that the government would still have a majority and Dr Farrugia could still take the chair.

 

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