The Malta Independent, 18 April 2009, by Annalize Borg –
Ian Castaldi Paris, mayor of Lija, who is chairperson of the board of Il-Majjistral Park, a nature and conservation area, was on Thursday night the victim of an arson attack when a person torched the façade of his residence and two cars parked nearby after spilling flammable material.

The incident happened at around 11.30pm in Triq is-Salvatur, Lija, police sources said.

Dr Castaldi Paris told The Malta Independent that CCTV footage from cameras installed outside the house showed the man throwing flammable material while moving towards Dr Castaldi Paris’s house and the garage which was a few inches up the road.

The house and particularly the garage seemed to be the main target, he said.

As the hooded man reached the garage, lighting the fire, his own clothes were set ablaze too and the man turned tail and ran in panic in the opposite direction while trying to dispose of the objects he was holding in his hand. Subsequently fluid ran under parked cars and within minutes two neighbouring houses and cars were also damaged.

From the CCTV footage, the man is believed to have suffered third degree burns with extensive damage to the skin.

Extensive damage was reported to the cars and house facades.

The mayor himself witnessed the incident as he heard sounds outside his house and went to see what was happening.

Members of the Civil Protection Department were called and controlled the fire. Enemalta workers also saw to electricity cables and Magistrate Anthony Vella was informed of the case and appointed several experts to assist in an inquiry.

Further police investigations are underway. A man is being held for questioning.

A number of statements condemning the arson were issued yesterday by the Nationalist Party, the Labour Party, Alternattiva Demokratika and most local councils.

The Heritage Parks Federation, made up of Din L-Art Helwa, Gaia Foundation and Nature Trust, expressed the attack as an act of cowardice against a person who had done “sterling work” for the Majjistral Park.

The park is a nature and conservation area lying between Manikata and Ghajn Tuffieha.

It is home to a variety of plants and animals including endemic species, breeding birds, and other numerous migratory birds. Rare visiting birds were also observed recently. The Majjistral Park board was therefore calling for a ban on hunting within the park.

While expressing solidarity and support for Dr Castaldi Paris, the federation called on the authorities to do all they could to stop the spate of violence against individuals, who are the target of attempts of intimidation.

Earlier this week, Ray Vella, a warden at Foresta 2000 in Mellieha, which is jointly run by Din l-Art Helwa and BirdLife Malta, suffered minor injuries when shots were fired in his direction as he arrived at the premises at around 6.30am.