The Malta Independent on Sunday, 22nd June 2008
The Ramblers’ Association of Malta said it finds it unbelievable and disquieting that the Prime Minister “secretly” agreed to sanction the illegal occupation of public land at Armier in a pre-election gimmick. To add insult to injury, Enemalta is now proposing to build a substation, costing an estimated e82,000, so that these illegal settlements can be better served.

The association is deeply hurt at how both large political parties are pandering to the unjustified demands of these organised squatters. RAM considers this expenditure from taxpayers’ money to be most unjust, ill-advised and indeed provocative to that part of society that is honest. This time Dr Gonzi will be setting a very dangerous precedent. He breaches basic moral ethics by rewarding wrong-doers and makes well-behaved citizens feel like stupid losers for being upright and law-abiding.

RAM has also noted that Qala local council is being given e10,000 from public funds in order to conduct its own technical study into the Hondoq ir-Rummien EIA. It believes that such a massive proposed project in an ODZ area should not even have been considered in the first place. It asks: why waste people’s time and money on such an abhorrent project? Is this just a gesture of appeasement, so that the government can then say that Qala residents were given the resources to combat this so-called development?

The PM, now directly responsible for Mepa, said: “ODZ is ODZ”. Or was this just pre-election talk, RAM asks. It still believed that the PM has the long-term good of the country at heart and said this project definitely did not fit the bill. It will simply contribute to the decline of Gozo as a pristine place, for both locals and visitors. It asks: why are we still set on ruining every last bit of relatively unspoilt countryside on these blessed islands? Why keep on entertaining this type of planning application? If this project goes through, it will simply reinforce the feeling of citizens that the big developers will always have their way in the end, thus contributing to the feeling of hopelessness.

The association cannot but welcome the new MLP leader’s declarations (made during his interview on Dissett) regarding his proposed environmental course of action: definitively excluding golf courses (this has been RAM’s policy all along) and defining the Hondoq ir-Rummien project as unsustainable. This too is in line with what the association and other environmental NGOs have been repeating for several years. RAM now eagerly awaits an MLP policy statement on the Armier squatters.