The Malta Independent 7 December 2019, Saturday

Rename the country to Malta and Gozo

Timothy Alden Sunday, 10 November 2019, 09:22 Last update: about 27 days ago

Gozo is fast being transformed into an economic resource which is being abused and colonised by corrupt businessmen. Although some of these crooks are themselves Gozitan, they succeed in exploiting their countrymen only by taking advantage of weak and compromised institutions based in Malta, such as the Planning Authority.

The pillaging of Gozo is only possible thanks to collusion with the Maltese authorities. One of the latest examples of this grand circus concerned Qala, where the rotten 2014 Rural Policy was taken advantage of. This Policy allows villas to be built on ODZ land on the basis that it had previously been inhabited. Malta’s weak environmental regulations provide plenty of leeway for developers, but sometimes these loopholes are still not enough to make the developers happy. The already pathetic rules are often bent even further, as was seen in the Qala case, where the Rural Policy was simply violated instead.

Therefore, even if our regulations are strong, which they are not, then we would still have a problem due to the people who are currently assigned to public office making these unaccountable rulings. People such as Elizabeth Ellul can get away with murder, because they have total power in their positions and can decide that if the sky is green, then everybody else has to like it or lump it.

In such a situation, the people of Gozo – who do not want to see their island turned into another Malta – have little ability to resist.

The Gozitan Members of Parliament, whether they like it or not, have no choice but to represent the interests of Maltese political parties, and have to dance and sing and clap if told to do so by their party leaders. The party leaders, after all, have cults of personality revolving around them, enforced by a media landscape that they mostly control entirely, thanks to NET and ONE.

What influence do the Gozitans really have in the face of compromised institutions, and a Gozitan Ministry which – regardless of who is in control of it – cannot help but act like a Governor for Malta?

There is no ambiguity about the fact that Gozitans are proud of their separate identity and the distinct character of their island compared to Malta. Gozitans do not want to inherit our mistakes – which include traffic, overdevelopment, pollution and a sense of alienation from our communities and our landscape. It is mostly economic necessity that pushes Gozo and Malta closer together – and yet I firmly believe that, regardless of this fact, it is possible for Gozo to defend itself against any Maltese opportunism.

The government has said that it does not want Gozo to become another Malta, and that the character of Gozo is to be respected. If that is really the case, then it will be very simple to protect Gozo, even if a tunnel is built. Simply put, do not let a compromised Maltese Planning Authority have total power to decide over planning issues in Gozo. Let Gozitan Local Councils, and the people of Gozo themselves, have a veto over outrageous and disgusting attempts to permanently destroy their way of life, as was attempted in Qala, where a Gozitan businessman was able to turn against his own people, thanks to the complicity of Maltese authorities who have been entirely bought out by developers.

Why is it also the case that Gozitans are made to feel inferior to Maltese people? The Gozitans need more self-confidence, and to recognise that they deserve to be treated as equals to the Maltese, not as a colonised people who present an economic opportunity for the King in Castille, ruled over by his Governor. This state of affairs is not to be blamed on the current Minister of Gozo, who is surely doing her best, but upon the Maltese Constitution and the Maltese mentality, which always places Gozitans as a separate, stereotyped people who are often the butt of Maltese jokes.

Personally, I have never met friendlier, more accepting and warm people than those in Gozo, and I live in fear of seeing Gozo plundered and squeezed dry. Gozo is the last gemstone of a nation that is fast disappearing, the last citadel of a country I love and it retains its character, as so few places in Malta still do.

In Malta, many Maltese now flee from their old homes, exiled from the places they once loved due to an ongoing onslaught. Many places in our country could have rivalled the most beautiful Italian cities today, had they been protected and promoted. Instead these places are now characterised by leering cranes, the smell of overripe garbage and the neon flash of massage parlours. We mourn the places we once knew, for they are lost.

I will not stand idly by as Gozo goes down that same mistaken road – while the Gozitans are forced to watch with a sense of hopelessness and futility. The tears on the face of the Mayor of Qala are iconic, as Elizabeth Ellul sentenced Qala to death. The reform of our Constitution is underway; I say give Gozo the autonomy that it has never had before, with the ability to veto invasive and perverse decisions that would affect it negatively. This would include planning decisions, including the Gozo Tunnel itself. Let the Gozitan people decide in a referendum on that matter – as the fourth ferry is working so well – and let them have what they really want.

With the level of autonomy I propose, even with or without a tunnel, Gozo can protect its identity and its character from exploitation. Gozo is not Malta – it is Gozo – and the Constitution should reflect that reality. Rename our country to the Republic of Malta and Gozo so that Gozitans will no longer have to feel second-best. This is one of the proposals I sent to the Constitutional Steering Committee. Let Gozo stand as our equal, not as our colony.

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