The Malta Independent 23 September 2021, Thursday

Lamenting the loss of Gozo’s identity soul

Sunday, 4 July 2021, 08:12 Last update: about 4 months ago

Social media, especially Facebook, is peppered with groups commenting on the destruction of Gozo by rampant and irresponsible development. This is reminiscent of wailing mourners making their cries heard but hiding their face as they are scared of repercussions. These persons are mourning the irrevocable demise of a virgin island, which has gradually succumbed to the serious injuries inflicted from repeated rape attacks. This happened in broad daylight in front of all of us who chose to be only spectators rather than be active and resort to action to restrain this ongoing onslaught.

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These are passive groups unfortunately barking at the wrong tree. Protests on a small scale are at times held in Victoria to no avail as these go unnoticed, hardly heeded by those concerned, who are in the orbit where decisions are taken. Gozo is following Malta step by step in the takeover by greedy developers of all kinds and sizes. Their lobbying is more powerful and effective than the hunters’ as these developers are keeping the masses employed and satisfied with money in their pockets.

Those who are pointing fingers at the present administration should look further back, at the times of the PN Government under the leadership of Gonzi PN, when in its last gasps for breath to survive a five-year term was riddled with all conflicts, internal and external.

This was when the PN leader Dr Lawrence Gonzi promised voters that if elected he will take direct responsibility of Mepa, the successor of the Lands department. This was the time when developers started to smell blood and Malta started gaining momentum towards further development but unconsciously down the road to destruction.

Developers started being greedy and the PN in government tried to limit the damage with the vanishing hope of being re-elected. The delays and bureaucracy at Mepa, created internally by employees in key positions who were PL sympathizers, were having the desired result. The people, in general, were frustrated with the delays by Mepa in issuing permits. It was the right time and opportunity for the Opposition leader Joseph Muscat to deal the final blow.

So much so that the 2013 election result need not be repeated here as it is now history. Anyone, who could develop a piece of land, irrespective if this was within the development zone or otherwise, tried to exploit the situation with their vote and ultimately succeeded to obtain what they bargained for.

This initial ripple is now a wave; very soon a tsunami and most Gozitans are realizing the devastating extent of this threat. Fr Cini in this paper nudged the Gozitans to wake up and in his latest article tickled the local authorities to stand up and do their part. Foreign residents in Gozo, after so many years, are now voicing their concerns. The panoramic, country views they assumed they will relish during their lifetime in tranquil Gozo, are now becoming blurred with the stark reality of concrete blocks, threatening also to relegate them in the shade all day long.

Otherwise all is quiet as if everything is normal and life continues. Members of Parliament are scared stiff to mention, even more, condemn this destruction as otherwise they will be pointing an accusing finger towards the developers. That means loss of votes and they cannot afford this. They are wallowing in the power the voters bestowed on them and they are doing their best to exploit this power to their personal interest.

The Opposition MPs are like sitting ducks; backstabbing each other and running around like headless chickens. Their only collective activity was when they managed to oust Dr Delia from the Party leadership hoping that the Party polls will improve. Alas! They are faring worse! Instead of promoting to refund the overcharge on the utility bills, how about promising to give back to Maltese and Gozitans the countryside and swats of land from the ODZ that are being grabbed by developers to be replaced with impenetrable concrete blocks.

My efforts to quote any statements by Gozitan MPs denouncing this destruction and above all suggesting any solution how this hemorrhage may be addressed and stemmed were fruitless.  Out of so many committees in Gozo, such as Gozo Regional Committee and the Permanent Committee on Gozo Affairs, whose main objective is to safeguard and improve Gozitans’ interest, no resolution has been forthcoming in condemning these monstrosities and above all no recommendation to launch a moratorium on these high buildings, which are ruining Gozo’s unique skyline. The buck stops at the Prime Minister as he is ultimately responsible for Mepa’s decisions and we all know the outcome – developers are always having their way, though at times with cosmetic alterations, still the damage is done and will continue to aggravate.

The last nail in Gozo’s identity coffin will be the implementation of the Gozo tunnel. The present government is adamant to have the Opposition on their wobbly band wagon and that they may have more wind in their sail in claiming that there is a consensus. No! I beg to differ!

Lately, for a change, the Opposition leader is claiming that after the tunnel reports are available and examined by experts, then the Opposition may recommend the implementation of the tunnel only if Gozitans approve it in a referendum. What is government’s point of view?  I can only assume that they will keep on rolling over any opposition they find in their way ignoring whatever views the Gozitans may have on this project. How’s that for democracy?

Unfortunately, the dies are cast and it seems there is no turning back – let’s name and shame all those decision-makers who were, are and will be responsible for this disfigurement of our one time Gozo and list them in the history books as a legacy of Gozo’s demise for next generations, who will realize that the irreversible damage inflicted on Gozo was not through natural catastrophes, nor by wars, but unfortunately, by their fellow Maltese and Gozitan ancestors.

 

Emmanuel J. Galea

Victoria, Gozo

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