Villa Gollcher fil-Mosta: nipproteġuha

 

Ministri tal-Gvern, u ta’ madwarhom, qieshom qegħdin fil-kju għall-prosit wara li tħabbar li Ta’ Qali ser ikun estiż biex ikun l-ikbar spazju miftuħ f’Malta. Park Nazzjonali, qalulna. Sal-ħin li qed nikteb għadu mhux ċar x’inhu propost eżattament, avolja l-fatt fih innifsu li l-ispazji miftuħa aċċessibli għal kulħadd ser jiżdiedu hu pass posittiv u li hu inkoraġġanti.

Huwa biss biż-żmien li nistgħu nsiru nafu jekk din l-aħbar hix intenzjonata biex tostor azzjonijiet oħra, bħal, pereżempju, l-qerda ta’ Villa Gollcher fil-Mosta. Ninsab infurmat li din il-possibilità, li Villa Gollcher tinqerd u flokha jkun żviluppat xi ħaġa oħra, ġiet diskussa minn kandidat tal-Partit Laburista għall-Kunsill Lokali tal-Mosta waqt laqgħa b’attendenza miżera li saret għall-komunità tan-negożju fil-Mosta. Speċifikament issemmiet il-possibilità li fuq sit li effettivament hu protett ikun ipprovdut parkeġġ għal 500 karozza!

Villa Gollcher qiegħda fil-qalba urbana tal-Mosta b’kejl superfiċjali ta’ madwar 13,000 metru kwadru. Il-parti l-kbira tas-sit hi okkupata minn ġnien mimli b’siġar taċ-ċitru. Villa Gollcher mhix skedata. Imma kont sorpriż meta identifikajt li hemm protezzjoni permezz tal-policy CG09 tal-pjan lokali għaċ-Ċentru ta’ Malta li kien approvat fl-2006. Mhux normali li nsibu sorpriżi bħal dawn fil-pjani lokali għax ġeneralment dawn kienu użati biex ikun immassakrat il-wirt mibni tagħna.

Il-Pjan Lokali jenfasizza li siti bħal Villa Gollcher fil-Mosta, bi ġnien imdaqqas, identifikati bħala spażji mhux mibnija bejn il-bini, għandhom ikunu mħarsa. Il-pjan lokali għaldaqstant jipprovdi li m’għandhomx ikunu kkunsidrati proposti biex isir żvilupp fuq dawn is-siti li bħala riżultat tiegħu jinħolqu binjiet separati, residenzjali jew mhux, u dan inkluż garaxxijiet għall-karozzi. L-unika possibiltajiet li jistgħu jkunu kkunsidrati huma dawk li jikkonċernaw xogħol żgħir immirat biex jikkonserva u/jew jirrestawra dawn it-tip ta’ propjetajiet fiż-żoni ta’ konservazzjoni urbana. Jista’ jkun hemm il-possibilità ukoll għal żidiet żgħar kompatibbli mar-regoli għaż-żoni ta’ konservazzjoni urbana imma jidher li hu possibli li Villa Gollcher fil-Mosta insalvawha.

Dejjem hemm il-logħob tal-iżviluppaturi, pereżempju, li ma jiħdux ħsieb il-bini biex tiġrilu l-ħsara u eventwalment ma jibqa’ xejn x’ikun protett! Biex nevitaw dawn l-affarijiet għandna ninsistu mal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar biex tagħti kont ta’ egħmilha. Dan billi tassigura li sidien il-propjetà ma jippruvawx jonqsu mill-obbligi tagħhom biex jirnexxielhom jevitaw milli jintlaħqu l-miri tal-pjan lokali intenzjonati biex ikunu protetti ż-żoni ta’ konservazzjoni urbana.

Jiena infurmat li minkejja dan kollu, diġa ġie iffirmat konvenju biex tinbiegħ Villa Gollcher fil-Mosta, u dan soġġett li jinħareġ permess ta’ żvilupp mill-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar għal svilupp massiċċ. Qed jissemmew miljuni kbar ta’ euro. Ilkoll nafu x’kapaċi jagħmlu l-flus!

Hemm ħafna ġonna mdaqqsa li jeħtieġilhom u jixirqilhom ikunu protetti fiż-żoni urbani tagħna li qegħdin fil-periklu li jkunu ssagrifikati u jkunu soġġetti għal żvilupp. Biex dan iseħħ irid ikun hemm il-kompliċità tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar, għax il-bqija dan ma jistax iseħħx. Huwa dover tagħna li nassiguraw li l-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar tkun kontinwament attenta biex dan ikun evitat f’kull ħin. L-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar għandha tkun iffukata biex twettaq dmirha ħalli l-ippjanar għall-użu tal-art ikun servizz li minnu tibbenefika l-komunità kollha.

Forsi, min jaf, il-ħarsien tal-wirt mibni tagħna ikun xi ftit iktar faċli milli hu illum.

Ippubblikat fuq Illum : il-Ħadd 12 ta’ Mejju 2019

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Hands off Mosta’s Villa Gollcher

Government Ministers, and hangers-on, are queuing to share credit for the announcement regarding Ta’ Qali’s extension into the largest open space in Malta. A National Park. At the time of writing, it is not at all clear as to what is being proposed -even though the number of increasing accessible open spaces is laudable.

Time will tell whether this announcement will be used to camouflage other action, such as – for example – the chopping up of Villa Gollcher in Mosta. I am informed that this possibility, the demolition of Villa Gollcher and the redevelopment of the site, was recently discussed by a Labour Party Mosta Local Council candidate during a sparsely attended meeting for the Mosta business community. Specifically mentioned was the possibility of providing parking for 500 cars on what is currently a protected site: Villa Gollcher.

Villa Gollcher lies within the urban core of Mosta. It has a superficial area of around 13,000 square metres. Most of the area is taken up by a large garden full of citrus trees. Villa Gollcher is not scheduled. However, I was surprised to identify its protection through Policy CG09 of the Malta Central Local Plan which was approved in 2006. A pleasant surprise – which I am not accustomed to finding in the Local Plans as they have generally been used time and again to place our built heritage on the development chopping board.

The Local Plan, in fact, underlines the special provisions applicable in respect of sites which, like Villa Gollcher in Mosta, are identified as open space enclaves. In this respect, it is stated in the Local Plan, that the Planning Authority “will not consider any development or redevelopment proposals that create new independent residential/non-residential units, including garages for the parking of vehicles.” The only possible developments which may be considered are very minor ones which are aimed at converting/restoring this, and similar properties, in urban conservation areas. There may be room for minor additions compatible with Urban Conservation rules but I believe that – on the basis of the above-quoted policy – it is possible to save Mosta’s Villa Gollcher.

Of course there are the usual tricks which developers play, such as facilitating the dilapidation process through a lack of maintenance. In this respect, we should hold the Planning Authority to account: with appropriate measures it should ensure that owners of properties do not try to successfully stultify the Local Plan policies intended to protect the character of our urban conservation areas.

I am informed that, notwithstanding all this, a promise of sale has been entered into respect of Villa Gollcher, subject to the condition of the issuance of development permits for a large-scale redevelopment. Millions of euros are in play and at stake and we all know that money talks.

Many large gardens worthy of protection in our old urban areas are at risk of being sacrificed on the development chopping board. This will only be possible with the complicity of the Planning Authority and it is our duty to ensure that the Planning Authority is kept on its toes in order that this is avoided. It should be focused on carrying out its duties in ensuring that land use planning is a service from which the whole community stands to gain.

Maybe, who knows, protecting our heritage would be an easier task than it is today.

published in the Malta Independent on Sunday : 12 May 2019

L-aħdar: sens komun ambjentali

Iktar minn sentejn ilu, nhar l-20 ta’ Marzu 2017, il-Kunsill Eżekuttiv tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar irrifjuta applikazzjoni għal kontroll tal-iżvilupp intenzjonata biex tistabilixxi x’jista’ jinbena fuq art f’ Ta’ Durumblat il-Mosta, b’kejl ta’ 38,600 metru kwadru.

Ma kienitx sorpriża meta iktar kmieni din il-ġimgħa din l-applikazzjoni reġgħet tfaċċat fil-forma ta’ applikazzjoni ġdida fuq art ftit ikbar fid-daqs, din id-darba 40,500 metru kwadru. Il-proposta hi biex iż-żona kollha tkun żviluppata f’waħda residenzjali b’binjiet ta’ erba’ sulari, b’waħda minnhom parzjalment taħt il-livell tat-triq.

Il-ġlieda biex inħarsu l-ambjent jeħtieġ li nġedduha kuljum billi l-forzi tar-rebgħa qegħdin f’posizzjoni b’saħħitha li jibqgħu jippruvaw sakemm iġibuha żewġ.

Għadna taħt l-effett tal-eżerċizzju ta’ razzjonalizzazzjioni li kien implimentat taħt id-direzzjoni tal-ex Ministru tal-Ambjent tal-PN George Pullicino bir-riżultat li madwar żewġ miljun metru kwadru ta’ art barra miz-zona tal-iżvilupp (ODZ) ingħataw għall-iżvilupp. Dakinnhar, fl-2006, l-Opposizzjoni Laburista kienet ivvutat kontra din l-inizjattiva, imma hekk kif ħadet is-setgħa, konvenjentement insiet kollox. Huwa biss issa li bosta qed jirrealizzaw kemm hi kbira l-ħsara ambjentali li ser tkun ikkawżata minn dan l-eżerċizzju ta’ razzjonalizzazzjoni. Sfortunatament, ir-rimedji possibli għal din il-ħsara huma limitati. Is-sitwazzjoni hi agħar minħabba li l-Gvern, bi strateġija ċara ma jaġixxix. Għax hu konvenjenti li jistax jwaħħal fil-Gvern ta’ qablu għal din il-mandra.

Il-punt hu li ma għandna l-ebda ħtieġa ta’żvilupp massiċċ fuq art verġni, bil-konsegwenza li tisparixxi iktar art agrikola fil-periferija taż-żoni urbani tagħna, bil-possibiltà li jingħaqdu fiżikament il-lokalitajiet. Il-mistoqsijiet li qamu sentejn ilu meta konna ffaċċjati bl-applikazzjoni oriġinali għadhom hemm, mhux imwieġba. Dawn ġew injorati mill-iżviluppaturi u dan minħabba li l-applikazzjoni l-ġdida hi identika għal dik oriġinali.

Għalfejn iridu żvilupp daqshekk intensiv? Xi studji hemm li jkejlu l-impatt tal-proposti ta’ żvilupp fuq l-infrastruttura tal-inħawi? Iż-żona li hu propost li tkun żviluppata hi sostanzjali. Zona li kien jagħmel sens li tkun pulmun aħdar għall-Mosta ser tispiċċa mibnija b’mijiet ta’ residenzi u garaxxijiet.

Meta għandna Gvern li mhux kapaċi jieħu posizzjoni ċara kontra żvilupp esaġerat, l-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar ma tantx għandha fejn tiċċaqlaq u dan billi d-deċiżjoni bażika favur l-iżvilupp esaġerat ilha li ttieħdet mill-Parlament sa mill-2006. Li baqa’ li jkun deċiż huwa n-natura tal-iżvilupp permissibli, inkluż jekk ikunx permess bini intensiv inkella bini baxx b’ħafna spazji miftuħin madwaru.

L-iżvilupp propost fil-Mosta m’huwiex sostenibbli għax ma nistgħux nibqgħu nitilfu iktar raba’ bla bżonn.

Alternattiva Demokratika hi l-uniku partit politiku li konsistentment oppona l-pjan ta’ razzjonalizzazzjoni u emfasizza l-ħsara ambjentali li dan kien ser jikkawża fil-lokalitajiet tagħna. Dawk li jridu jħaxxnu bwiethom, ovvjament jaħsbuha mod ieħor. Dawk li jiddeċiedu, min-naħa l-oħra, b’mod konsistenti injoraw l-impatti ambjentali.
Din il-problema mhix waħda limitata għall-Mosta, imma hi mifruxa ma’ Malta u Għawdex. Kelli l-opportunità li niġbed l-attenzjoni għal diversi eżempji f’lokalitajiet oħra bħall-Marsaxlokk, il-Mellieħa, Ħ’Attard, Pembroke, San Ġiljan, tas-Sliema u diversi lokalitajiet oħra, fejn ir-rgħiba tħalliet issaltan.

Din hi kampanja favur is-sens komun, għax is-sens komun ambjentali hu aħdar. Huwa d-difiża tal-ġid komuni. Il-ħarsien tar-raba’ minn żvilupp mhux neċessarju hu essenzjali għax ma nistgħux nibqgħu nitilfu iktar art fi ġlieda mar-rgħiba. Hu mod kif inqegħdu fil-prattika dak li nipprietkaw dwar l-iżvilupp sostenibbli.

Meta jkollok daqshekk politiċi jipprietkaw kemm jemmnu fil-prinċipji tal-iżvilupp sostenibbli diffiċli li wieħed jifhem kif Alternattiva Demokratika hi prattikament waħedha fuq il-front politiku li jopponi l-iżvilupp esaġerat.

Il-ħarsien tal-ambjent hu ferm iktar minn eserċizzju ta’ tindif. Huwa dejjem tajjeb li jinġabar l-iskart mormi mal-kosta jew fil-kampanja. Li topponi l-iżvilupp esaġerat huwa tindif preventiv tal-periferiji urbani tagħna. Ir-residenti jeħtieġu l-appoġġ. Imma anke huma jeħtieġ li jifhmu li jekk ser jivvutaw bħas-soltu l-affarijiet mhux ser jinbidlu.

 

Ippubblikat fuq Ilum: Il-Ħadd 28 t’April 2019

Environmental common sense is green in colour

Over two years ago, on 20 March 2017, the Planning Authority’s Executive Council threw out a Planning Control application intended to determine the nature of permissible development in a stretch of land at Ta’ Durumblat Mosta having an area of 38,600 square metres.

It was no surprise that, earlier this week, the application was resubmitted to the Planning Authority in respect of a slightly larger area in the region of approximately 40,500 square metres. The proposal is to develop the whole site into a residential area subject to a proposed height limitation of three floors and a semi-basement.

The battle to defend our environment needs to be renewed every day, as the forces of greed are well placed to continue with their endeavours, until they succeed in gaining acceptance of their proposals.

The rationalisation exercise was carried out under the direction of former PN Environment Minister George Pullicino. It has resulted in around two million square metres of land outside the development zone (OZD) being given up for development – and the full impact is yet to be felt.

In 2006, the then Labour Opposition voted against this initiative, yet it conveniently forgot all about its stand when it was elected into office and it is only now that many are starting to realise the significant environmental impact of the rationalisation exercise. Unfortunately, the possibilities to remedy the damage in store are very limited and this limitation to act is further compounded by a government which (strategically) fails to act, as it is most convenient to be able to point fingers at your PN predecessors in government.

The point at issue is whether we need further large-scale development on virgin land, with the result of gobbling up more agricultural land on the periphery of our urban areas which will potentially merging neighbouring localities.

The queries raised two years ago – when the original application was submitted – are still unanswered. These queries have been ignored by the developers as the application that has been resubmitted is practically identical to the original one.

Why are the developers proposing so intensive a development? Do studies exist to assess the impacts which this proposal will have on the infrastructure of the area – which is substantial? Hundreds of residential units and garages will be constructed in an area when it would make more sense for it to remain as a green belt around Mosta.

Faced with a government which is reluctant to act against over-development, the Planning Authority does not have much elbow room for manoeuvre because, for all intents and purposes, the basic decision in favour of over-development has already been taken by Parliament – way back in 2006. What’s left to be decided is the nature and extent of the development. Whether, for example, the development would be intensive as proposed in the application or else low-density, such as limited to bungalows with a 25 per cent site coverage

The proposed development in Mosta is certainly not sustainable, as we cannot afford to lose more land to the current development spree.

Alternattiva Demokratika has been the only political party to continuously and consistently point out that the implementation of the rationalisation exercise will cause environmental havoc in our local communities. Those seeking to line their pockets obviously think otherwise. The decision-makers have also been consistent in ignoring environmental impacts.

This problem is not limited to Mosta but is spread all over the islands. I have had the opportunity to point out various other instances in Marsaxlokk, Mellieħa, Attard, Pembroke, St Julians, Sliema and various other areas where, once again, greed has won the day.

This is a campaign for commonsense to prevail, as environmental common sense is inevitably green in colour, in defence of the ecology and the common good. Protecting agricultural land from unnecessary development is essential as we cannot keep losing more land to greed. It is also the only practical way to implement sustainable development.

With so many political personalities proclaiming their adherence to basic principles of sustainable development, I fail to understand how Alternattiva Demokratika is practically on its own on the political front in consistently opposing over-development.

Protecting the environment entails much more than clean-ups. It is laudable to clean up the mess of rubbish accumulated along the coast or in the countryside but at this point in time campaigning against over-development is an exercise in preventively cleaning up the periphery of our urban areas. Residents need our support but they must, however, also note that if they vote as usual, they will be condemning themselves to more of the same.

 

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 28 April 2019

Open a bottle of wine baby!

The developments over the past week in the investigation into the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia in Bidnija have been substantial.

At this point in time, it appears that, as a result of the Malta Police having been assisted by more experienced investigators, they have possibly started mastering the technological divide which, until fairly recently seemed unbridgeable. Searches, arrests and arraignments have followed in quick succession. Other hitherto unsolved crimes involving bombs in the past few months may now possibly be on the verge of being solved too.

The systematic and detailed leaks to both local and foreign news outlets are apparently a celebration of this new technological mastery, although those master-minding the leaks may also be sending messages to those who can still spill the beans as to who commissioned the assassination.

“Open a bottle of wine, baby!” Feeding the press with titbits as to the celebratory bottle of wine requested by the same fingers which triggered the bomb through an SMS may send shivers down our spines as to the carefully planned assassination and the ruthlessness of the perpetrators. This precise detail was then followed by the information that the mobile phone used to trigger the bomb had exceeded its credit limit which led to a hitch, as a result of which an essential €5 mobile phone credit top-up served to unmistakeably identify the fingers operating the deadly phone.

A detailed examination of the conversations and messages exchanged through the deadly mobile phone has, most probably, revealed much more information which -rightly- has not been yet released. Even this information may be ultra-sensitive, at this point in time, in the exercise to identify those who may have commissioned this murder.

Undoubtedly, police investigators will have identified a multitude of possibilities, some realistic, others far-fetched, as to who could have had an interest in commissioning the assassination. Some of those arrested during the large-scale police operation in Marsa, Ħaż-Żebbuġ and St.Paul’s Bay earlier this week, are, in fact, indicative of this investigative line of action, even though seven of those arrested were eventually released on police bail.

Among the leaked information is the fact that the assassination has been planned for two months, meaning that the police have detailed information of electronic messages and phone conversations spanning this long. This undoubtedly will be the source of much more information that has so far been withheld. It could point towards other leads of crucial importance to understanding the still unknown elements of the plot.

The leaks are undoubtedly sourced at the nerve centre of the investigation. They reveal  uneasiness on the part of the police with regard to the local media, opting to leak substantial information to the foreign press. The local media also demands information, even though at times to make this available would clearly be counterproductive. The police would do well to invest substantially in some professional training on how to deal with the press. The top brass of the police force (starting with Commissioner Cutajar) clearly need it.

Notwithstanding these developments, basic misgivings about the investigation itself remain. The bad move on the part of Magistrate Consuelo Scerri-Herrera, who rushed head-on into the investigation when it was ethical to have stayed miles away from it, as well as the involvement of Deputy Commissioner Silvio Valletta, are serious mistakes that should have been avoided. The results obtained so far in the investigation do not cancel out these basic mistakes.

The arraignments made so far are a step forward. The case will, however, only be solved when those commissioning the assassination, as well as their motives, are known. It is only then that Daphne will rest in peace.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 10 December 2017

Iftaħli flixkun inbid, qalbi!

L-iżviluppi matul il-ġimgħa li għaddiet fl-investigazzjoni dwar il-qtil ta’ Daphne Caruana Galizia fil-Bidnija kienu sostanzjali. Jidher li l-Pulizija Maltija, bħala riżultat tal-għajnuna li rċieviet minn forzi tal-ordni ta’ pajjiżi oħra b’esperjenza vasta f’dawn it-tip ta’ investigazzjonijiet bdew jitgħallmu jużaw it-teknoloġija biex isolvu l-investigazzjonijiet. Bħala riżultat ta’ dan segwew tfittxijiet u arresti, u tlieta ttellgħu l-Qorti akkużati bil-qtil. Jidher ukoll li każijiet oħra ta’ qtil b’bombi li seħħew fl-aħħar xhur hu possibli ħafna li jissolvew.

L-informazzjoni li ħarġet u għada ħierġa kemm lill-medja lokali kif ukoll lil dik barranija jidher li hi ċelebrazzjoni ta’ dan l-għarfien ġdid: li t-teknoloġija tista’ wara kollox tkun għodda tajba u utli ħafna fl-investigazzjonijiet. Imma jista’ jkun ukoll li l-informazzjoni li ħarġet hi ukoll messaġġ li issa, wara kollox, ftit baqa’ mistur u li min għandu jikxef il-ftit li baqa’ jaqbillu jiċċaqlaq: min ordna l-qtil ta’ Daphne Caruana Galizia?

“Iftaħli flixkun inbid, qalbi!” Li nkunu nafu dwar t-talba għal-flixkun inbid biex jiċċelebra, liema talba saret minn l-istess swaba’ li splodew il-bomba permezz ta’ SMS li ntbagħtet hi aħbar li għandha tqabbadna l-bard għax tikxef il-preparazzjoni u l-kefrija ta’ dawk li ħejjew għal u wettqu dan il-qtil. Dan id-dettal hu segwit minn informazzjoni li t-telefon ċellulari li ntuża biex tkun sploduta l-bomba kien wasal fil-limitu, għax ma kienx baqa’ flus u li kien meħtieġ top-up ta’ €5. Kien bħala riżultat ta’ dan it-top-up li ġew identifikati l-identità tas-swaba’ qerrieda.

Bla dubju, eżami dettaljat tal-messaġġi u l-konverzazzjonijiet li seħħew bil-mobile qerriedi żvelaw ħafna iktar minn hekk. B’mod għaqli dan s’issa għadu mhux magħruf mill-pubbliku. Għax jista’ jkun li din l-informazzjoni għad tista’ twassal f’ras il-għajn: min ordna l-qtil. Dawk li qed imexxu l-investigazzjoni mingħajr dubju jkunu identifikaw il-parti l-kbira tal-possibilitajiet dwar x’seta ġara: uħud rejalistiċi, oħrajn xi ftit jew wisq inġebbda: possibilitajiet dwar min seta’ kellu interess li jordna dan il-qtil. Uħud minn dawk arrestati bħala riżultat tal-operazzjoni tal-Pulizija li seħħet iktar kmieni din il-ġimgħa fil-Marsa, Ħaż-Żebbuġ u San Pawl il-Baħar jindikaw x’qed jaħsbu l-investgaturi dwar dawn il-possibilitajiet.

Fost l-informazzjoni li ħarġet hemm li l-qtil kien ilu jkun ippjanat għal madwar xahrejn. Dan ifisser li fl-investigazzjoni tagħhom il-pulizija eżaminaw tal-inqas informazzjoni elettronika li tmur lura tal-inqas xahrejn. Dan ifisser ukoll li hemm ħafna iktar informazzjoni li s’issa għad ma ħarġitx għax probabbilment m’huwiex għaqli li din toħroġ minħabba li titfa dawl fuq dak li s’issa għadu mhux magħruf: min ordna l-qtil?

L-informazzjoni bla ebda dubju ħarġet minn ras il-għajn. Imma turi Pulizija li m’hiex kunfidenti mal-istampa lokali u li għaldaqstant għażlet dik barranija biex tiżvela dak li riedet. Anke l-istampa lokali għandha dritt li tkun infurmata avolja kulltant din l-informazzjoni tista’ tkun kontro-produċenti. Jidher ċar li l-Pulizija għandha bżonn tinvesti f’taħriġ professjonali fuq l-imġieba tagħha mal-istampa. Taħrig li għandu jingħata lill-fizzjali kollha: jistgħu jibdew mill-Kummissarju Cutajar.

Minkejja dak kollu li seħħ matul din il-ġimgħa, l-kritika inizzjali dwar l-investigazzjoni tibqa’ waħda valida. Il-pass żbaljat tal-Maġistrat Consuelo Scerri-Herrera li telqet tiġri lejn il-Bidnija biex tibda l-investigazzjoni meta kien ovvju li għal raġunijiet etiċi kellha tibqa’ l-bogħod kemm jista’ jkun jibqa’ żball li jeħtieġ li jkun indirizzat biex ma jkunx hemm ripetizzjoni tiegħu. Anke l-involviment tad-Deputat Kummissarju Silvio Valletta kien żball oħxon li ma jitħassax bir-riżultati miksuba s’issa.

Il-konkluzjonijiet s’issa tal-investigazzjoni huma pass il-quddiem. Il-kaz imma ikun riżolt biss meta jkun magħruf min ordna l-qtil kif ukoll il-motivi tiegħu jew tagħha. Huwa biss f’dak il-ħin li Daphne tkun tista’ tistrieħ fis-sliem.

 

Ippubblikat f’Illum – 10 ta’ Diċembru 2017

 

L-investigazzjoni dwar il-qtil ta’ Daphne taħt il-lenti

Fiċ-ċirkustanzi kif qed jiżviluppaw, ħadd ma jista’ jagħti tort lill-familja Caruana Galizia li jkollha dubji serji dwar il-proċess kollu tal-investigazzjoni dwar il-qtil ta’ Daphne Caruana Galizia.

L-investigazzjoni bdiet fuq sieq ħażin mill-ewwel, meta tfaċċat il-Bidnija l-Maġistrat Consuelo Scerri-Herrera. Il-Maġistrat damet ħin twil iddur mal-lewża sakemm iddeċidiet li tastjeni u titlob li jinħatar Maġistrat ieħor. Biex tagħqad sakemm iddeċidiet ordnat numru ta’ familjari ta’ Daphne Caruana Galizia biex ikunu l-Qorti propju fl-ewwel siegħat tal-investigazzjoni, kważi immedjatament kif inqatlet.

Bla dubju l-Maġistrat Scerri-Herrera ittratta ħażin ħafna lill-familja ta’ Daphne.

Imbagħad sirna nafu li l-investigazzjoni kienet taħt id-direzzjoni tad-Deputat Kummissarju (tal-Pulizija) Silvio Valletta li hu miżżewweġ lill-Ministru għal Għawdex Justyne Caruana. Xahar ilu ktibt li kien ikun għaqli kieku l-investigazzjoni qed imexxiha fizzjal ieħor tal-Pulizija. Dan minħabba d-dellijiet politiċi li bil-fors iġorr miegħu d-Deputat Kummissarju. Tajjeb li nfakkarkhom x’kienet irrappurtat il-gazzetta Illum meta Silvio Valletta kien qed jissemma’ għal Kummissarju tal-Pulizija:

“L-ILLUM tista’ tiżvela li fost il-persuni li ġew avviċinati biex jokkupaw il-kariga ta’ Kummissarju tal-Pulizija kien hemm l-Assistent Kummissarju Silvio Valletta. Is-sorsi qrib il-Korp tal-Pulizija li tkellmu mal-ILLUM qalu li minkejja li Valletta kien ikkunsidrat bħala kandidat mill-aktar idoneu għall-kariga, hu rrifjuta.
Għalkemm għadu mhux ċar x’inhuma r-raġunijiet kollha għal dan ir-rifjut, dawk li tkellmu magħna qalu li waħda mir-raġunijiet ewlenin għalfejn Valletta ma xtaqx li jokkupa l-ogħla kariga fil-korp kien minħabba l-kariga politika ta’ martu, Justyne Caruana. Nies li tkellmu ma’ Valletta qalu li l-Assistent Kummissarju jħoss li l-fatt li Caruana hija Membru tal-Kabinett u persuna prominenti fil-Partit Laburista, seta’ jitfa’ wisq piż u dell fuq l-operat tiegħu kieku aċċetta li jkun fit-tmun tal-Korp.”

Dan kollu seta jkun evitat, bi ftit ħsieb. Inutli noqgħdu nparlaw żejjed fil-konfront ta’ xulxin. Kieku l-affarijiet isiru sewwa, mill-ewwel, jkun tajjeb għal kulħadd.

From the Farm to the Fork

 

 

The local vegetable and fruit supply chain was under the spotlight last month. On 12 October, environmental NGO Friends of the Earth Malta organised a round-table at Vincent’s Eco-Farm at Żebbiegħ and published Agro-Katina, the result of its research tracking the food we consume, from apricots to zucchini. The report can be downloaded at https://foemalta.org/wp-content/uploads/AgroKatina-Report.pdf .

Maltese agriculture is characterised by small farm holdings, with three quarters of registered farmers working an area less than one hectare. With a hectare covering ten thousand square metres, this means that most local agricultural holdings are slightly less than nine tumoli in size.

Agriculture contributes a miniscule amount to the GDP – less than two per cent – but it is, however, essential to ensure the preservation of the rural characteristics of the Maltese islands.

Even though we are far from self-sufficient, agriculture can increase our self-reliance, thereby reducing our vulnerability to outside shocks.

It has been observed in the report that specific localities are linked to specific products: Rabat and Dingli are linked with onions, pumpkin with the northern agricultural region – primarily Mosta, Mġarr and Mellieħa – with cauliflowers being linked to Siġġiewi and Żebbuġ.

The report refers to the introduction in the local market of long, dark-skinned zucchini contrasting with the local round (or long) varieties of a lighter shade. As consumers overcame their hesitancy to a new product introduced to the market, local farmers started experimenting with growing it locally and, to their surprise, discovered that this variety (commonly found in Sicily and Southern Italy) had the advantage of being well adapted to the local climate.

Seasonality is still an important factor in agricultural planning, even though this is gradually on the decline primarily as a result of the competition from imported products which are available throughout the year. This seasonality is rightfully observed in the various village celebrations focusing on the availability of specific products: Manikata (pumpkins) and Mgarr (strawberries) readily come to mind. They educate consumers and contribute to a better understanding and appreciation of agriculture’s contribution to the country.

The report briefly refers to the “local vs imported produce” issue. It is emphasised that it only takes around 24 hours for locally grown fruit and vegetables to travel from the farm to the fork, hence ensuring that they are fresh, ripe and in season. This is not only reflected in a fresh appearance but also in an unmistakable advantage in terms of natural flavour and nutritional value, compared to imported produce.

Agriculture is the main user of water in Malta. It is also the major polluter of our water table. A study carried out in 2008 by the British Geological Survey on the nitrate contamination in Malta’s groundwater, commissioned by the then Malta Resources Authority, concluded that groundwater nitrate had been stable for the last 30-40 years. Notwithstanding, this has resulted in the contraction of the agricultural sector in the same timeframe.

The challenges facing agriculture in the immediate future are various. Climate change and the water crisis top the list. The changes in weather patterns will undoubtedly be a major headache. This will necessarily impact the viability of some crops, maybe bringing about changes to the season/s during which these crops are available. It will also possibly create the conditions for new crops.

The average age of the farmer is now around 55 – and this is not just in Malta, but across the EU. There is a growing awareness that we may be close to losing our farming community, in fact the impact of this loss is already being felt as it is fairly obvious that there are substantially fewer people protecting our countryside on a day to day basis.

The distance between the farm and the fork is increasing.

This is not good news.

published in the Malta Independent on Sunday: 12 November 2017

Daphne: riflessjonijiet f’jum il-funeral

Illum waranofsinnhar isir il-funeral ta’ Daphne Caruana Galizia, kważi tlett ġimgħat wara li nqatlet, meta fil-Bidnija splodiet bomba li tqegħdet mal-karozza li kienet qed issuq, ftit wara li telqet mid-dar tagħha.

Intqal, u bla dubju għad irid jintqal ħafna iktar dwar dan il-qtil, li ħasad lill-pajjiż kollu.

Wara sbatax-il jum il-Pulizija għadha qed tinvestiga u dan a bażi tat-truf li għandha f’idejha s’issa.

Ser jaslu? Ma nafx, imma nispera li jaslu għax il-pajjiż kollu ma jistax jibqa’ ttorturat bi qtil ieħor mhux solvut.

Hemm uħud li rċevew messaġġ li l-presenza tagħhom għall-funeral mhiex mixtieqa. Dan hu kontinwazzjoni tal-kontroversji li fihom kienet magħġuna ħajjet il-maqtula. Huma kontroversji li mhux ser jintesew kif ġieb u laħaq, għax bosta minnhom għad jeħtieġu spjegazzjoni kredibbli. Spjegazzjoni li s’issa ma tidhirx b’nemes.

S’issa ħadd għadu ma nġabar mill-Pulizija biex ikun interrogat dwar dan il-qtil. Imma qed jintqal li l-Pulizija qed jikkunsidraw li jmorru f’Katanja fejn hemm Malti li ġie arrestat f’Lampedusa mill-Guardia fi Finanza dwar kuntrabandu ta’ fjuwil. Dan jindika l-linja investigattiva li preżentement qed issegwi l-Pulizija. Imma jekk dan kollu jindikax li l-kaz issolva hu prematur biex jingħad.

Imma f’dawn l-aħħar ġranet saru ukoll il-mirakli. Għax il-Pulizija donnhom ikkonkludew żewġ każijiet jaħarqu, qiesu biex jgħidulna li ma kienux reqdin. Jew, agħar minn hekk, qiesu biex jgħidulna li ħadd ma jmexxihom min imneħirhom.

Mhux kulħadd hu konvint minn dan u għalhekk sfortunatament żdieded l-isfiduċja fil-Korp tal-Pulizija u l-għajta għar-riżenja tal-Kummissarju.

Il-Pulizija jistgħu jifdu lilhom infushom f’kull ħin billi jagħtu prova li kapaċi jaħdmu sewwa. S’issa din il-prova għadna qed nistennewha.

Bloodshed in Bidnija

 

Daphne is dead, brutally murdered in a hamlet few people outside Malta had ever heard of before. The initial shock left us dumbstruck. Before we had gathered our thoughts, the PN had returned to its assault on the government based on allegations of sleaze, cronyism, poor governance and erosion of the rule of law.

The voice of prudence and moderation was never given a chance.

So far, nobody has a clue who killed Daphne, except her killers. The notional responsibility of every government for everything that happens in its jurisdiction has been stretched to include an assassination which most probably could not have been prevented by a democratic government tuned to perfection and a police force with every resource possible and imaginable.

We have been wounded collectively but we are being invited, coerced even, to fragment. Accusations fly, allegations are remade and attached by unfathomable logic to the awful event. Is this what we were expected to do, instantly to turn on one another? By whom?

Nobody has accused the government of having a hand in Daphne’s murder. Nobody has dared because it would be counter-productive. A government having just won a landslide victory, almost disoriented by a floored and self-harming Opposition would not invent such a nightmare for itself. So, because it is impossible to accuse the government directly, the next best thing is to accuse indirectly, to inflate notional responsibility to actual responsibility, to demand resignations that will not happen and foment an atmosphere of profound discontent.

It is an understatement to say that the reaction of the Adrian Delia’s PN to Daphne’s murder is disappointing. We had a right to expect sobriety, moderation, prudence, even a truce in the endless feud. Instead we had a scandalous populist exploitation of a crime of historic proportions.

Nobody in his right mind suspects that the Government had a hand in Daphne’s murder. Despite the very public excoriation suffered by Adrian Delia at the hands of Daphne during the PN leadership race, nobody in his right mind could suspect Adrian Delia of assassination. How about one of their henchmen unhinged? Possible – but not plausible: a political motive for the murder seems farfetched.

Something more personal involving great financial loss, perhaps imprisonment for a merciless criminal seems far more plausible. We have been thrown head first into the “what if” season and among all the “what ifs”, this seems to be the best bet.

But there is worse, far worse, to contemplate. What if Daphne’s killers simply picked her for her prominence? What if she is collateral damage in an attack on Malta? It took decades for evidence to emerge that Italy’s anni di piombo had been largely orchestrated by the CIA. The terrorists at both extremes of the Italian political spectrum never suspected that they had been so deftly manipulated into turning their country into a war zone. Today the CIA should have no interest in destabilizing Malta but the game they played could be played by others.

What if Daphne and Malta are both victims in a larger game? In this scenario, the devil in the piece has to be Russia and its geo-political interest in the Mediterranean. Profoundly humiliated by the West’s role in the Arab Spring, it has kept Assad in place in Syria against all comers at the cost of hundreds of thousands dead and millions reduced to refugee status. Did the Kremlin pick Malta and Daphne in Malta to show the EU that it could destabilize a member state? Our government may have achieved more prominence than is good for us when it supported the Russian embargo and when it refused to refuel the Russian fleet on its way to Syria. Perhaps the Russians are innocent, but this is the “what if” season and they must forgive us for not excluding them.

What is certain is that this is a time for prudence, for moderate discourse, for credible leadership. We are all called upon to avoid playing the killers’ game. Upping the ante in the wake of an event such as this is the last thing we should be doing. We should not be turning the country into a political powder keg. Only our enemies, as ruthless as Daphne’s killers, would want us to do so.

Defeated as they are, the PN owe the country responsible leadership appropriate to the grave circumstances of the moment. The government owes the country a steady hand at the helm and consideration of the long-term reforms that will give us the resilience to face an assault such as Daphne’s assassination without the fear of destabilization.

Duopoly makes us vulnerable, authentic democracy could make us less of a target of choice.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday 29 October 2017