The Malta Independent 29 February 2020, Saturday

Prime Minister - lift the Third Great Siege!

Timothy Alden Sunday, 12 January 2020, 09:20 Last update: about 3 months ago

Malta and Gozo are currently undergoing their third Great Siege. The Ottomans and the fascists of the Second World War were defeated, but now the attack is not coming from outside the country – it is coming from within.

Emboldened by backroom deals, empowered by weak legislation and policies with so many loopholes in them that they could be cheese, Malta and Gozo’s ruling elite are plundering and pounding our environment and heritage. Our ruling elite have remained in charge of the country regardless of which political party is in government, and regardless of which Prime Minister is behind the wheel.

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These masters are not politicians – they are corrupt businessmen. Whether it is through the taking-over of public land and open spaces or through the demolition of priceless old buildings, many of the country’s developers continue to enrich themselves at the expense of the general public. The new Prime Minister of Malta and Gozo should make saving the country’s heritage and environment one of his main priorities.

We can never get back anything we destroy. One of the hard facts about virgin land is that once it is lost, it can never be recovered. If one were to destroy an old building to get back the open space, then the soil and natural ecosystem is still lost. Soil takes hundreds of years to form, and we are closer to global climate catastrophe today than we are to the Second World War. Forget about waiting for the soil to recover – that is not even within the lifetimes of our grandchildren.

We live in one of the smallest countries in the world and yet we are throwing away what makes us special. The remaining gardens in our towns and villages are being lost, even though they act as lungs in our urban spaces – providing clean air and sheltering animals. Fgura is in the process of losing its last green open space to development. A new wave of destructive development is sweeping across the already congested and desperate Sliema. Our Planning Authority and institutional watchdogs are stacked with appointees who favour the developers at every single turn, while they are themselves torn by conflicts of interest and questionable allegiances.

No Gozitan, in turn, wants Gozo to become like Malta. When one asks a Gozitan such a question, they associate Malta with traffic, congestion and over-development. Gozitans love their paradise: their island of Calypso. Those who want the tunnel do not want Gozo to be destroyed. Gozo urgently needs fundamental safeguards for its environment and heritage in order to prevent the kind of abuse we saw recently in Qala, where the Mayor wept bitterly at the abuse being levelled towards his village due to the 2014 Rural Policy.

Gozo requires additional policies and legislation designed to defend its uniqueness and beauty, because otherwise we will lose the last corners of the country that offer us some semblance of peace and well-being. Once that is lost, there is no going back, and Gozitans are standing on the edge of a very high cliff.

Over the past couple of years, Sandro Chetcuti has changed his tune. When once he told developers to ‘Make hay while the sun shines’ he now tries to avoid blame for the complete and total destruction of the country. His conscience has been awoken, it would seem, and yet there is little sign that this wave of destruction is slowing down: he is failing to put the genie back in the bottle.

It would seem that the government has unleashed a dragon it can no longer control, upsetting and offending Labourites, Nationalists and everything in-between in equal measure. In Pembroke, Dean Hili, illthe Labour mayor, rallied residents against the monstrous db Group project. In Gzira, Labour mayor Conrad Borg Manche is equally upset by over-development.

Even Alfred Sant has been critical of the hijacking of the Labour Party by arrogant developers. Where is the will to correct this situation? Where is the courage to stand up to dirty money? The country’s siege and ongoing conquest by these businessmen has put the country in the international spotlight, because somebody was willing to commit murder to try and cover his tracks. Are we going to keep letting businessmen call the shots? Prime Minister, are you going to have the courage to give Malta and Gozo back to the people? Or are you going to let it continue sinking under the weight of the concrete being poured over every single inch of it?

 

Timothy Alden is a founding member of the Partit Demokratiku

 

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