The Malta Independent 20 May 2024, Monday
View E-Paper

TMID Editorial: The theft of our heritage

Saturday, 18 March 2023, 09:14 Last update: about 2 years ago

Talk about theft from the public has been something of a recurring theme over the past few weeks, particularly with regards to the hospitals concession which was recently cancelled by a court – but today’s editorial focuses on a different theft: the theft of a piece of our heritage.

The Malta Independent has reported extensively on the issues surrounding Fort Bingemma.


Fort Bingemma is a 19th-century site which is part of a series of fortifications built by the British that can be found along the Victoria Lines, stretching from Baħar iċ-Ċagħaq on the east coast to Fomm ir-Riħ on the west coast.

It is an important historical site, however it is currently illegally occupied by the Buttigieg family, who was leased the fort in 1981 by the government to use it as a pig farm.

That lease expired in 1997 but continued to be renewed annually until 2009, when an order was given to stop collecting rent and evict the family.

However, that never materialised: an attempt in 2011 to evict them saw government officials not allowed entry into the fort, and the family continues to live there illegally up to this.  Furthermore, a swimming pool has been excavated and built illegally inside the fort along with a host of other illegal developments.

Just this week, this newspaper revealed that the squatters owe €24,620 in fines to the Planning Authority because of these illegal developments and have yet to pay a single cent.

And yet, the government continues to drag its feet and handle the matter with kid’s gloves.

The Minister responsible for the Lands Authority Silvio Schembri for months has said that the squatters will “eventually” be evicted, and recently gave an update that efforts are currently ongoing to find “alternative accommodation” for the elderly woman and her son who still live illegally inside the fort.

This is likely part of efforts to reach an “amicable” settlement for the Buttigieg family to vacate the fort.  It’s not the first time an effort for such a settlement had been made – the Nationalist administration had tried to do so when the lease stopped being renewed, but nothing ever came of it.

It seems quite clear, at least to those on the outside, that the Buttigieg family do not wish to reach any sort of settlement and are perfectly content to continue living illegally in what is not only a public property, but also a property of historical importance.

The government meanwhile seems happy to drag its feet on the matter.

It is another example of an attitude of impunity which still exists in this country.

As has been written by this newspaper in the past, what belongs to the public should be accessible to the public.  Fort Bingemma is no exception.

Necessary action for the fort to come back into the hands of the public should be taken today before tomorrow, and the fort should then be restored to become an attraction which can be enjoyed by any member of the public – ideally as part of a national trail which charts the history of the Victoria Lines.

This theft of our heritage cannot be allowed to continue.


  • don't miss