The Malta Independent 6 December 2023, Wednesday
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TMID Editorial: The second Mosta u-turn

Friday, 17 November 2023, 10:31 Last update: about 19 days ago

The situation which developed in Mosta across the last few days need not have happened, and it ultimately culminated in a u-turn by the Mosta mayor Chris Grech in order for the trees – which had already been butchered by then – to be maintained in the town’s square.

This only happened due to the direct action and pressure put by environmental activists in order to stop workers from continuing with the works that they had started on Monday.


It took protesters hosting an overnight sit-in in front of the mechanical diggers and one even being arrested for having the temerity to move a fence for it to become clear that the decision should be reversed.

But the mayor’s statement on Wednesday – which did not even acknowledge the protests or the arrest in question – that the trees would remain was not the only u-turn in this whole debacle.

It should be remembered that it took a mere 60 seconds for the local council to decide to approve of the removal of these trees, and that this decision was taken unanimously – meaning that both the Labour Party councillors, who are in majority, and the Nationalist Party councillors voted in favour.

It’s this fact that made the Nationalist Party’s statement after the mayor’s u-turn was announced all the more unbelievable.

In its statement, the party’s local councillors and local council candidates attempted to play things off that the decision had somehow come about because of pressure exerted by the Nationalist Party together with Mosta residents and “other organisations.”

The statement reads that it was a fact that the visit by PN leader Bernard Grech to the site and the PN councillors’ request for an urgent meeting had left “the desired results.”

“The Nationalist Party assures everyone that it will continue to work in favour of the best interests of the locality and its residents, and will continue to listen to their complaints, suggestions and aspirations to truly carry out a politics of service,” the statement read.

At no point does the party ever provide any explanation, justification, or even apology for its own local councillors having voted in favour of the trees being uprooted in the first place.

Not only does the statement not name the organisations which led the protests which ultimately stopped the trees from being removed, but worse still it attempts to take credit for their work. 

Are we to be led to believe that Bernard Grech popping down to the car park where activists had pitched their tents on Tuesday night with his party cameras in tow was the deciding factor which led to the salvation of the trees?  Most Disney films have more believable plot lines than that.

It should be known: the very first official communication by the party hierarchy on this matter was on Tuesday at 4:41pm by Bernard Grech to condemn the arrest of activist Andre Callus.  The party’s council members only sought an urgent meeting, presumably to reverse the council’s previous decision, on Tuesday at 8pm or so.

That is 36 hours after works in the square started.  While the PN was preparing its statements and trying to figure out how to do some damage control on something its own members had voted in favour of, it was activists who acted to stop the trees being removed. 

Let us make no mistake: the Labour Party members are still answerable – they are in majority, and this was something they too could have, and should have stopped. 

Instead we had a mayor who remained totally silent on the matter until the Prime Minister had to indirectly tell him what to do, and other MPs such as Alex Muscat trying to discredit the protests as being politically motivated.

Even more so, we also have a government authority – the Environment & Resources Authority – which is meant to protect the environment completely failing to do its job and allowing trees which are, by law, protected because of their placement in an urban area to be uprooted irrespective of the status they hold.  Exactly why the ERA decided to simply ignore the law should be questioned.

But let’s not kid ourselves – or allow ourselves to be kidded – into thinking that this was a story of one-sided guilt.

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