Labour in labour

Re-inventing the Malta Labour Party (and Maltese politics): an unauthorised tazebao.

A broad movement to save Malta and Gozo from drowning in a sea of speculation.

Posted by fcb on July 12, 2008

A drowning at Lévis, Ex-voto painting from the Québec region, 1754, Artist unknown, Oil on wood, (1994X269),  Musée de Sainte Anne, Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, Canada

As we debate the future of the Labour Party, this planet continues to revolve around itself and around the Sun. More particularly, the rape of this country’s natural heritage continues unabated.  Gozo is a case in point. As Gozo Minister Giovanna Debono launches the so-called consultation process for the government’s hifaluting eco-island project, MEPA continues to take decisions that are far from reassuring.

We suppose that the Hon. Debono will now include us amongst those she has branded as “sceptical people” and “who must not be living in Malta” because they do not salivate with pleasure when she lectures us about this country’s environmental track record. Well, Mrs. Debono, your government – pardon, MEPA – leaves us with little choice but to be sceptical. Take, for example, Ramla l-Hamra…

…doesn’t it stink ! MEPA Appeals Board chairman Ian Spiteri Bailey’s decision in Gozo last Friday July 11, not to throw out Emidio Azzopardi’s appeal shocked all those who give a damn about this country’s natural heritage, or what’s left of it. Normally an applicant who fails to pay the right fee for the appeal to be heard is simply told that the application is cancelled and the development blocked.

But Mr. Azzopardi, it appears, is not a normal applicant. “Had it been a normal applicant,” observed Miriam Cremona, “not a developer, the decision would have not been the same”. This means that a decision about the scandalous Ramla l-Hamra development is now postponed to the end of November. MEPA Appeals Board met to hear the Ramla developers’ appeal against MEPA’s rescinding of their permit to build 23 villas with pools on the Ramla hillside, partly on ODZ land. 

The permit had been originally granted in spite of robust opposition by environment NGOs. It was later rescinded because it turned out that the developer had provided MEPA with false information. In fact the application failed to state that part of the footprint included a public road. It took a demonstration by 1,500 protestors in Valletta to press government to nudge MEPA to reverse the permit. Rather than simply blocking the project, however, MEPA simply postponed a final decision till after the elections. 

Last Friday’s decision seems to be another attempt to delay a decision rather than declare the case closed. We wonder why…

…meanwhile, as Gozo drowns in a sea of speculation, we can either have faith in Giovanna Debono and take her word that “Gozo has already made great strides on the environmental front” or we can pray for deliverance or we can contribute to piecing together a broad movement of men and women of good will who will not be treated like fools.


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9 Responses to “A broad movement to save Malta and Gozo from drowning in a sea of speculation.”

  1. Romina Farrugia said

    With Joseph Muscat as leader, the way is open for Labour to become an important part of a national movement to defend the Maltese natural heritage from the greed of speculators. Labour has to present itself as a part of this movement and it must convince other organisations, groups and politically unaffiliated individual environmentalists that it has no intention of press-ganging them onto the Labour Party. If it takes this approach, Joseph’s Labour Party will be rewarded with the votes of a surprisingly large number of green votes as soon as the opportunity to get rid of this goverment comes up.

    Romina Farrugia

  2. Southern Discomfort said

    Flimkien ghal-Ambjent Ahjar are doing a wonderful job but why don’t they give more attention to the south of the country? I might be wrong and if so I stand to be corrected, but could this be due to the social outlook of the majority of individuals involved in environmentalist NGOs?

    The south of the country [I am thinking mainly of the three cities and the Cottonera hinterland including Paola, Fgura, Zabbar, Zejtun, Marsaskala, Birzebbuga (old Kalafrana), Marsaxlokk and the Delimara promontory, Hal Far and contiguous localities, the airport and contiguous localities, as well as urban sprawl that starts from the Marsa end of the Grand Harbour towards Hamrun, Santa Venera, Imriehel,Qormi, Tal-Handaq…] is, after all, where – in spite of several waves of migration to the rest of the Island – the majority of the working class, of the lower-income self employed and of the unemployed are still concentrated.

    Could it be that the social background of the average environmentalist activist – upper middle class – militates against greater attention to the environmental degradation of the areas I have listed above? This need not be intentional, in fact it almost certainly is genuinely unintended. If we are to have a broad movement to sensitise ever greater numbers of Maltese and Gozitans to the seriousness of the cluster of environmental problems this country is facing, it will need to be much more socially inclusive than it appears to be now.

    Southern Discomfort
    Bir id-Deheb

  3. Claude Micallef said

    Joseph Muscat’s insistence that talks on the strenghtening of democracy should not be limited to Government and Opposition, but should also include other representatives of civil society including (he emphasised this) Alternattiva, is a concrete sign of his committment to promote a broad movement of progressives and moderates.

    Claude Micallef

  4. Leli said

    I am very much in favour of what was stated by Southern Discomfort. As a Senglea-born who now lives at Attard, I can note this great divide. Our primary school was practically next to the dockyard. For most of the time, we had to keep the windows closed because of the fumes, smells, noise and the like. Imagine the quality of air we used to breath! The figures of asthma sufferers in the Cottonera/Fgura area speak for themselves.

    People of the South, rise-up!!!


  5. Has anyone dared to question the development permit issued for Wied is Sirena at Bahrija? Is it true that a high PN Official is involved?

    Renald Dalli

  6. It will surprise Southern Comfort and Leli above to know that one of the first local campaigns
    that Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar launched after being set up was in fact in the South – the campaign to save the Ghalqa tal-Papa in B’bugia:
    This is still ongoing and in fact our only paid official, seconded by Government, works on that project and on nothing related to the North.

    In addition we have also lobbied about the Dar tal-Kastellan in Zejtun, the scrapyards in B’bugia, Dock One, the Safi Supermarket and our intense ongoing campaign in Marsascala where we are fighting for the residents’ rights’ to the public open area at Triq il-Bahhara which has been taken over by a neighbouring hotel.

    Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar (FAA) also held a awareness campaign about traffic pollution, banging on constantly about the fact that Fgura has the highest rate of respiratory hospitalisation IN THE WORLD.

    Although it is not surprising that people mistakenly believe that we concentrate on the north because most of our activists are from the centre or north,the issues we have tackled in the south are equal to the North and Gozo put together.We also have a very strong number of registered supporters from the South. However it has to be understood that like any NGO we are very limited for resources and can only take up cases where the residents have involved us. It would help us to be even more active if we had more active members, who are ready to dedicate their time and energy, from the South.

    Astrid Vella

  7. Abraham Agius said

    I am a southerner, who has lived in the south for the past 40 years. Born and bred in the Cottonera areas and continuing to live in another locality in the South, I think that it is about time that the whole country now shares the heavy industrialisation suffered by the so-called southern region of this island. It is high time that now this region is alleviated from this suffering and opportunities are granted to allow a more sustainable and merited growth to the region.

    But to be sincere on the issue one should not be biased. Chronologically everything started with the dry docks and the effects it had on the cottonera region. In the period up to the mid-80s in the cottonera region there used to live the best craftsman of Malta. Due to the heavy population influx all towns nearby grew without limitations and generated new industrialised areas with the Marsa Power Station, which for quite some time was powered with coal and the disastrous effect this had on Marsa. The change in work habits with the new industrial estates of the 70s and 80s increased the population influx and industrialisation. Then we had the start of the scar of Birzebbuga and Marsaxlokk area. In the 70s there were only some tanks for fuel and gas but in the period more people started frequenting Birzebbuga and the population increased up to the limit that the buildings reached these depots. Then one of the worst scars on the island, the building of the Malta Freeport occurred. At the time there were no environmentalists and the opposition of the time did not give a heck of what might happen to a Labour majority town. At the time the Freeport was half or less of what it is today and even the cranes were less than half high. But the Birzebbuga area and residents suffered the building of such a massive project with all it could have entailed. At the time due to the size of the project the threat was not that large.

    And then a change in government occurred and look what happened. One of the first “environmentally friendly” decisions was taken. To ruin the Delimara area with the building of a power station on very soft land. This was only decided to ruin the house in front of it….Mintoff’s house. Nothing more. Willing to spend more than what was required to just be vindictive to a single person. And the project happened despite everything and despite the fact that the power station cannot be used at its full potential due to the soft lands that it is built on. IN the meantime the government started another project….that of expanding the Malta Freeport. The pier built by the Labour government was expanded further and re-enforced to support higher cranes, larger ships and increase capacity. Then a new arm was built together with an extension of breakwater to all for more ships and containers again. Obviously this meant that for a ship to enter the Freeport it had to turn more and more nearer to the shore and the more ships came in the more the sea increased in pollution. All this besides the fact that a new sandy beach was created form the material on the seabed which is by time being dragged back into the sea and besides the fact that most of the marine life in the Birzebbuga area has disappeared.

    And now, just before the election we residents of Birzebbuga get to know that the government and opposition have both agreed in parliament to allow for the extension of the Freeport further. According to the minister, this would have increased by 500 the number of workers.

    I think this clearly shows, that it is the intention of both parties to continue and make of this area more industrialised after the last decision taken. In my opinion, I was very let down with the decision of the Labour Party to agree to such a proposal. I had expected that at least the Labour party would have proposed that the operators of the Malta Freeport would have contribute in some way or another to the social development of Birzebbuga to at least compensate to the amount of pollution produced. For example, with the sponsorship for the building of a football pitch or for the support for the building of a water polo pitch. All of this was not even mentioned by either the local council or the Labour opposition.

    For the past 30 years the people of Birzebbuga have remained quiet and suffer in silence the visual pollution produced by the number of scrap yards that crop up in the countryside around Birzeebuga, water pollution produced by the fuel and gas depot and Malta Freeport ships; the light pollution produced by the Malta Freeport and the aircraft passing over Birzebbuga; and the sound pollution produced by the same Malta Freeport. I hope that someone in the higher echelons in the Labour party hears these cries as this very beautiful and rual village in the south of Malta is being degraded bit by bit until the government gives its final blow should it decide to plant here also the landfill once the one at Maghtab is closed down.

    We people of Birzebbuga cannot continue to fight against whoever is in government and are forgotten even by the party to whom the majority of residents give their vote whenever is required.

    Abraham Agius

  8. Joe X'riha said

    Hats off to those girls and boys of all ages in the environmentalist movement that have been consistently and fearlessly campaigning to save what can still be saved of our natural and urban environment! I am not sure, however, that they are all equally consistent and principled. Some are obviously concerned with ‘damage control’ on behalf of a party in government that is unable to distance itself from the greed of speculators. One cannot truthfully run both with hares and the hounds.

    Joe X’riha

  9. Clive Fenech said

    May I remind you all of a comment I made way back on March 25 of this year (yeah, seems like years ago):

    “Moviment li jmur lil hemm mill-Partit Laburista u li jinkludi kull minn ghandu idejat innovattivi u progressivi, kull minn ghandu l-hila u l-inizzjattiva li jwettaq progetti li joholqu il-gid, u kull min tabilhaqq xeba’ bil-qerda ta’ l-ambjent.” [From Joseph Muscat’s Media Release 24/3/0 8]

    Well, this is what I call an winning vision: “A movement that goes beyond the Labour Party itself and that includes all those with innovative and progressive ideas, all those who have the capacity and the initiative to carry out wealth-creating projects, and all those who are really fed up with the destruction of the environment!” Wow!

    From “A lively and healthy debate within and around the Party” 2008/03/25 at 2:27 PM


    That was more than two months before we elected Joseph Muscat as leader of the Labour Party, and it is slowly but surely beginning to happen. Proset Joseph! Keep up the good work. It won’t be easy but we’ll make it.

    Clive Fenech

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