L-esperiment dwar Manoel Island

Nhar il-Ħamis li għadda kont preżenti għal laqgħa pubblika tal-Bord tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar fejn ġie diskuss il-Master-Plan tal-proġett.

Fost dawk li ma jaqblux mal-proġett ta’ żvilupp ta’ Manoel Island hemm żewġ linji ta’ ħsieb.

L-ewwel hemm dawk li ma jaqblux mal-proġett fil-prinċipju. Jiena ngħodd ruħi magħhom. Jidhrilna li d-deċiżjoni unanima tal-1999 tal-Parlament li għaddiet Tignè f’Tas-Sliema u Manoel Island lill-MIDI għall-iżvilupp kienet deċiżjoni żbaljata. Deċiżjoni li ma nistgħux naċċettawha qatt, jgħaddu kemm jgħaddu snin, għax qegħda iċċaħħad lilna lkoll minn l-aħħar spazji miftuħa fiz-zona. Biex tkompli iżżid, il-MIDI tul is-snin abbużat minn dak li jipprovdi l-kuntratt li għandha mal-Gvern billi xekklet l-aċċess f’Manoel Island bla ma kellha dritt tagħmel dan.

Min-naħa l-oħra hemm dawk li fil-waqt li ukoll ma jaqblux mat-trasferiment ta’ Manoel Island lill-MIDI imma jikkunsidraw lilhom infushom “nies prattiċi”. Dawn ippruvaw biex mill-mitluf isalvaw dak li jistgħu. Għal dan l-iskop twaqqfet il-Fondazzjoni dwar Manoel Island biex jiżviluppaw djalogu strutturat mal-MIDI u fl-istess ħin joħolqu mekkaniżmu għall-kontabilità tal-istess MIDI, għax hu ċar li f’dan il-qasam il-Gvernijiet kollha mill-1999 sal-lum fallew.

Dan l-esperiment tat-twaqqif tal-Fondazzjoni hu wieħed rari f’pajjiżna u ħadd m’għandu jagħti tort lil ħadd li hawn ħafna li huma xettiċi dwar kemm jista’ jkun effettiv. Ħadd ma għandu dubju li l-Kunsill Lokali tal-Gżira irid jiddefendi l-kwalità tal-ħajja tan-nies. Imma huwa fl-istess ħin ovvju li fuq in-naħa l-oħra, għall-MIDI, l-profitti huma l-prijorità.

Huwa għal dan l-iskop li naħseb li għandna noqgħodu ftit iktar attenti. Filwaqt li d-dibattitu hu utli u jservi biex jikkuntrasta ideat differenti hemm bżonn li jieqaf il-kliem iebes li bħalissa qed jintuża fuq il-media soċjali fid-dibattitu dwar Manoel Island. Ma jagħmel ġid lil ħadd.

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Manoel Island: one step forward

The controversy on the future of Manoel Island has been going on for ages.

The citizen’s action some 18 months ago led by eNGO Kamp Emergenza Ambjent and publicly supported by the Gżira Mayor Conrad Borg Manchè as well as various eNGOs led to the current breakthrough with MIDI, as a result of which common sense will be given the opportunity to prevail.

The setting up of the Manoel Island Foundation with environmentalist Claire Bonello as chair is a landmark decision. It does not signify agreement with what has been done to date but rather a determination that in the future, if we put our heads together, we can possibly avoid past mistakes. In time, perhaps, we can also seek to reverse some of the mistakes carried out so far.

When, together with countless others, I joined the protest at Manoel Island 18 months ago, I had one objective in mind: that access to the open spaces and the foreshore of Manoel Island belonged to all of us. There was an urgent need that this access be claimed back and subsequently guaranteed. This has now been done.

The Guardianship agreement focus specifically on the public’s right of access which right has always been in existence even though MIDI did its best to obstruct its use over the years. MIDI has (at last) bound itself to respect such a right of access and together with the Gżira Local Council has spelled out the details on how this can be reasonably exercised. The efforts put in by all environmentalists bore fruit such that MIDI clearly understood that it could no longer avoid the negotiating table. It risked further reputational damage which it could ill-afford.

The cynics among us correctly maintain that there is nothing for which to thank MIDI that has after all obstructed the public’s right of access for so many years! They are of course right, but it is time to move on to the next challenges. We move forward incrementally, one small step at a time.

The Guardianship agreement seeks to address two diametrically opposed positions: the Gżira community’s right of access as supported by the environmental lobby on the one hand and the MIDI development rights granted by Parliament in the 1990s on the other hand.

One can argue until eternity that Malta’s Parliament was irresponsible when it unanimously approved the motion granting development rights to MIDI over the Tigne peninsula and Manoel Island. I still hold that same view. No Green could ever support such a Parliamentary motion, not even with the restoration sugar-coating obligations woven into the agreed concession.

Given that Parliament has no political will to reverse the 1990s decision and take Manoel Island back into public ownership, the Gżira Local Council, supported by eNGOs was right to seek and arrive at the Guardianship agreement. The agreement fills a void which Parliament and government could not even understand, and consequently could not address.

A price had to be paid for the Guardianship agreement to be concluded. This was the acceptance, subject to the provisions of the agreement, of the Manoel Island Masterplan and commitment on the part of those around the negotiating table not to oppose or object to its implementation. I think that this is the point of contention brought forward by those who disagree with the Guardianship agreement. This might be considered a high price to pay. However, it must be pointed out that the agreement contains a number of limitations on the Masterplan’s implementation and grants the Manoel Island Foundation a legal basis to halt the commercialisation of the foreshore or the green open spaces.

Alternattiva Demokratika considers the Guardianship agreement to be a positive step forward as it addresses the pressing issue of access based of a realistic appraisal of the situation. Gżira Local Council and the eNGOs involved are to be applauded for their determination in reaching this goal. Moreover, the Guardianship agreement does not exclude the possibility that in future, a responsible Parliament would seriously consider taking all of Manoel Island back into public ownership. It should however be noted that only a green MP can guarantee that the matter makes it to Parliament’s agenda. The others are too “business friendly” to even consider the matter.

 

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 1st April 2018

Malta tagħna lkoll

Malta taghna lkoll

 

Tal-Labour Party ħelwin.

Jgħidulna li Malta tagħna lkoll.

Iżda ma qalulniex għaliex lesti li jħallu lil min jisraq biċċa minn Malta li hi tagħna ilkoll iżomma għalih. Fil-fatt is-serq tal-art biex fuqu inbnew il-boathouses tal-Armier tal-Labour Party iberkuh. Għal-Labour Party l-Armier fejn insterqet l-art m’hiex tagħna ilkoll, iżda tagħhom biss!

Ma qalilniex kif tista’ tkun Malta tagħna ilkoll imbagħad il-Labour Party jivvota favur li Bertie Mizzi jieħu f’idejħ (b’tender s’intendi) Manoel Island.

Mal-ambjentalisti ħafna kliem ħelu dwar kemm taħraqhom qalbhom għall-ambjent. Imma meta jkunu ma’ dawk li jiżviluppaw l-art, jitkellmu b’mod differenti. Iktar jitkellmu dwar kemm il-MEPA qed iżżomm l-iżvilupp lura. Ħalluna naħdmu, qalilhom Sandro Chetcuti!

Malta tagħna lkoll. Bil-kliem iva. Iżda bil-fatti ħaġa oħra.

Magħna taf fejn int!

Manoel Island : il-mozzjoni

Mozzjoni dwar Manoel Island approvata mil-Laqgha Generali Annwali ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika

Din il-Laqgha Generali,

konxja li l-izvilupp intensiv li sar f’ Tigne kemm fuq is-sit tal-MIDI kif ukoll fuq is-sit maghrufa bhala ta’ Fort Cambridge kerrah iz-zona kemm vizwalment kif ukoll bhala rizultat ta’ impatti fuq il-kwalita tal-arja b’zieda astronomika ta’ traffiku, liema impatti ser jizdiedu bl-izvilupp propost ghal Town Square,

tafferma li dan l-hekk imsejjah zvilupp bela l-ftit ispazju miftuh li kien ghad baqa’ f’tas-Sliema u li dan il-process ghandu jkunu imwaqqaf l-iktar kmieni possibli,

tirrizolvi li l-Gvern ghandu jiehu l-passi necessarji biex isewwi l-hsara li ghamel bil-kunsens tal-Oppozizzjoni Laburista bhala rizultat tal-politika zbaljata taghhom t-tnejn li biha jinkoragixxu zvilupp bla razan u li  ghaldaqstant f’dan il-kuntest il-Gvern ghandu jiehu lura Manoel Island minghand il-MIDI u jikkonvertiha f’park rikreattiv ghal pubbliku b’facilitajiet komunitarji u hielsa minn kull zvilupp spekulattiv u dan minghajr ma jhallas l-ebda kumpens lill-MIDI taht kwalunkwe forma

*****

This General meeting,

conscious that the intensive development carried out at Tigne both on the MIDI site as well as on the Fort Cambridge site has impaired the visual integrity of the area as well as through an astronomical increase in traffic generated has further cotaminated the quality of the air, which impacts will increase with the proposed Town Square developement,

affirms that this so called developement has engulfed the few remaining  open spaces left in Sliema and states that this process should be halted the earliest possible,

resolves that government should make amends for the damage which it has caused with the consent of the Opposition Labour Party as a result of their misconceived politics of encouraging development at all costs, and consequerntly resolves that government should reclaim Manoel Island back from MIDI and convert it to a recreational park accessible to the public, containing community facilities freeing the sapce from speculative development and that this should be done without the payment of any form of compensation to MIDI,

Bertie Mizzi u Manoel Island

Bertie Mizzi jrid idaħħaq.

Fl-intervista fuq is-Sunday Times tal-Ħadd li għadda qalilna li l-politiċi kollha (ħlief dawk li kienu Prim Ministri) għandhom nuqqas fid-dipartiment tal-onesta. Il-Prim Ministri kollha li ħadem magħhom, qalilna, kienu kollha nies ta’ subgħajhom dritt. Ikun hemm ċans nikkummenta fuq dan. Illum ser nillimita ruħi ghal dak li qal dwar Manoel Island.

Berti jidher li beda jikkonverti. Qalilna li minkejja li qabbad l-aħjar nies illum qed jifforma opinjoni oħra differenti (għandu second thoughts) dwar l-iżvilupp ta’ Tigne. Jikkonsla għax jgħid li tagħmel x’tagħmel dejjem ser issib x’tikkritika!

Berti lest biex ma jagħmel xejn, qal, (l-ebda żvilupp fuq Manoel Island) jekk ikun ikun ikkumpensat għall-ispejjes li għamel (expenses and unrecoverable costs jgħid Bertie).

Jidher li Bertie inkwietat : We will not be accused of raping Manoel Island when it was the government that issued this tender in the first place.”

Ir-responsabbilta’ ghar-“rape of Manoel Island” qed jgħidilna Bertie Mizzi hi tal-Gvern, mhux tiegħu! Mhux biss, qalilna ukoll li l-Parlament kollu qabel miegħu għax il-proposta għall-iżvilupp ta’ Manoel Island kienet approvata unanimament mill-Parlament.

Dan kollu (li l-Parlament approva l-proposta għal-iżvilupp ta’ Manoel Island b’vot unanimu) ma jfissirx li din hi deċiżjoni tajba. Ifisser biss li fid-dinja tal-flus il-PN u l-PL m’hemmx x’tagħżel bejniethom.

It-tnejn jaqblu ma Bertie Mizzi li hu fil-business. U għal Bertie business is business!

Greening our Communities

 

Alternattiva Demo­kratika will be fielding 10 candidates for next week’s local council elections. While many valid candidates are contesting these elections, the debate has focused on councillors who have created a mess. Topping the list are Sliema and Mosta who have let their electors down.

In Sliema, infighting, administrative irregularities and allegations of corruption (now under investigation) are surely not what electors voted for when they chose the candidates presented in 2009 by the Nationalist Party. The operation of the Sliema council over the past three years proves that in selecting its candidates the PN does not always consider competence as a primary criterion. The dissolution of the Sliema council was an appropriate step. It could, however, have been taken much earlier.

On March 10, electors will be called to clean up the mess created by Labour at Mosta where infighting has led to an ineffective council. I hasten to add that, notwithstanding the above, this council had quite a headache to bring its finances in order, an inheritance bequeathed by a 13-year PN council administration. Administrative incompetence at Mosta dates back to the first council that overspent its financial allocation, passing on the unsettled bills to subsequent councils. The unsettled bills surpassed the €1million mark!

The PN-led government has played a game of political chess at Mosta, tolerating infighting that led the council to miss meetings for five consecutive months. This should have led to its dissolution ages ago, thereby permitting the community to immediately replace those who could not deliver. By not dissolving the council, the government placed its political advantage before the interests of the Mosta community.

Last week, in an article in The Malta Independent, entitled The Way Ahead For Local Councils, Nationalist MP Robert Arrigo identified another serious issue. He spoke of instances where sitting MPs invest in the election of local councillors hoping that, upon election, they would have their protégés in place. It is very positive that Mr Arrigo emphasises that he will keep himself at arm’s length from direct involvement in the local elections in his constituencies.

Maybe it is also time to consider whether those employed in the private secretariats of holders of political office should be precluded from contesting local council elections.

AD has already had the opportunity to criticise Directive 5 issued by the Principal Permanent Secretary at the Office of the Prime Minister dealing with the participation of public officers in politics. While the most pressing issue, the right of public officers below salary scale five to contest local council elections without being required to take forced unpaid leave was resolved, there are additional matters that need to be tackled. Directive 5 needs extensive revision.

AD’s local council electoral programme places community identity and basic community services as the focal point of its mission statement. Local councils exist to serve and protect local communities, yet, various local councils have remained silent when faced with rampant over-development, which has devoured precious spaces in our towns and villages. The Mosta local council, for example, was conspicuously absent in the Wied il-Għasel debate. Residents have only been supported by AD and environmental NGOs.

Similarly, in Sliema, the local council has lost its voice on issues of over-development. It’s been ages since it spoke up on behalf of Sliema residents who feel trampled upon by so-called “developers” who have taken over Sliema, which is nowadays a permanent construction site!

Another case focused on by AD is the impact on residents of a quarry at Wied Inċita, Attard, which is too close for comfort to the residential area. Illegal developments have taken place in the quarry and, notwithstanding that it has been reformed (!), alerted and reminded of the issue many a time, the Malta Environment and Planning Authority has let the quarry operators free to do as they please. Minister Jason Azzopardi is probably unaware that part of the quarry is government owned! AD has also drawn attention to the development that Mepa recently approved on Manoel Island. Building about 500 apartments together with other structures on Manoel Island is not a good omen!

Over-development has led to the current glut, quantified at 53,000 vacant residential units in 2005 and now estimated to surpass the 70,000 mark. This glut strains the local councils’ budget for the upkeep of localities as, in fact, it means that services are unnecessarily stretched to service ghost towns! Vacant residential property in Malta adds up to nine times the size of Birkirkara!

The election of green local councillors on March 10 will ensure that environmental issues will be at the top of the local councils’ agenda. For it is through tackling environmental issues at a local level that the quality of life of our communities takes a leap forward. Experience has shown time and again that this only happens when green local councillors are elected.

Green is the colour of real change.

 

originally published in The Times, March 3, 2012