Gov­ern­ment takes le­gal ac­tion on Ma­noel Is­land

Malta Independent - - FRONT PAGE - He­lena Grech

The gov­ern­ment is call­ing on MIDI by way of a ju­di­cial protest, to abide by its con­tract and the laws of Malta and to pro­vide the ac­cess to the fore­shore at Ma­noel Is­land.

Gov­ern­ment yes­ter­day filed a ju­di­cial protest in the first hall of the Civil Court, through the Of­fice of the At­tor­ney Gen­eral, charg­ing that MIDI is not stick­ing to the terms of its con­tract with the gov­ern­ment as it was deny­ing ac­cess to parts of the fore­shore that are not in pos­ses­sion of the com­pany. MIDI said it will re­ply to this protest next week.

The gov­ern­ment said that while it was all for be­ing pro-busi­ness, it would not tol­er­ate il­le­gal­i­ties and abuse.

In re­lated news, the Plan­ning Au­thor­ity has is­sued MIDI with an en­force­ment no­tice or­der­ing the com­pany to im­me­di­ately re­move four gates it had in­stalled with­out per­mit. The PA gave MIDI 16 days to take ac­tion or ap­peal the or­der.

In the mean­time, Kamp Emer­genza Am­b­jent, to­gether with fish­er­men and with the sup­port of Gzira Mayor Con­rad Borg Manche set sail to the Ma­noel Is­land fore­shore in protest of its blocked off ac­cess by the MIDI group.

Po­lice ap­peared on site and blocked ac­tivists at Ma­noel Is­land from ad­vanc­ing more than five me­tres fur­ther from the coast­line.

KEA have placed a ban­ner on the fore­shore, de­mand­ing ac­cess to the area im­me­di­ately. A num­ber of ac­tivists said they would be spend­ing the night on the Ma­noel Is­land fore­shore.

KEA leader An­dre Cal­lus said that it is un­ac­cept­able for MIDI to ex­ert its power un­fairly and de­prive the pub­lic from be­ing able to en­joy the pub­lic space.

“It is a mat­ter of prin­ci­ple,” he said.

Asked whether MIDI have taken any le­gal ac­tion against the ac­tivists or the Gzira Mayor, both Mr Cal­lus and Mr Borg Manche said that they have no le­gal ba­sis to take ac­tion against them. Mr Borg Manche added that nei­ther he nor KEA have been no­ti­fied of le­gal ac­tion be­ing taken against them.

Mr Borg Manche stated that there will be no forced en­try to the fore­shore, how­ever in view of the ju­di­cial protest filed by the gov­ern­ment call­ing on MIDI to pro­vide ac­cess to the area in ques­tion, it re­mains un­clear whether the protest planned for this morn­ing will be tak­ing place. MIDI re­acts In an eight-point state­ment, MIDI said that while it has no prob­lem with pub­lic ac­cess to the fore­shore, it does have an is­sue with the pub­lic ac­cess­ing pri­vate prop­erty held by the com­pany for the last 16 years. MIDI ex­plained: “1. The le­gal po­si­tion at the ba­sis of this is­sue is pred­i­cated on the con­fu­sion of two sep­a­rate is­sues. MIDI has ab­so­lutely no is­sue what­so­ever with the pub­lic hav­ing ac­cess to the fore­shore. This is a mat­ter of pub­lic pol­icy, and mem­bers of the pub­lic have reg­u­larly landed on the fore­shore to swim or fish through­out MIDI’s ten­ure of the is­land. The core is­sue is whether, given the in­ac­ces­si­bil­ity of the fore­shore from Gzira, the pub­lic has the right of pas­sage over pri­vate prop­erty held by MIDI for the last 16 years.

“Hence the is­sue which has now been raised is not whether MIDI has de­nied pub­lic ac­cess to the fore­shore but whether the pub­lic has the right to ac­cess the fore­shore over pri­vate prop­erty be­long­ing to MIDI.

“2. MIDI has al­ways been ad­vised that it is to­tally within its rights to pre­vent such ac­cess. The mat­ter has now been taken up by the At­tor­ney Gen­eral, who has just sent a ju­di­cial protest to this ef­fect. MIDI con­tends that this is be­ing based on a clause re­lat­ing to the post-con­struc­tion and not the ear­lier phase.

A counter-protest will be filed on Mon­day 26 Septem­ber. An ar­ti­cle was also car­ried in a sec­tion of the press stat­ing that such right of ac­cess em­anates from the Out­line Devel­op­ment Per­mit is­sued by the Plan­ning Au­thor­ity.

“How­ever, the grant in ques­tion is gov­erned by the deed of em­phy­teu­sis, and no per­mit can au­to­mat­i­cally give le­gal rights to ac­cess over pri­vate land.

“3. The prob­lem arises in that there is no di­rect land ac­cess to the 5 me­tre fore­shore shown marked in green, for rea­sons of geog­ra­phy.

“In­deed the ac­cesses are blocked on one side by the Ma­noel Is­land Yacht Yard (marked in yel­low), which does not be­long to MIDI, and on the other by the Laz­zaretto (marked in brown), which is still un­safe and in any case part of it has no fore­shore.

“Hence the is­sue which has now been raised is not whether MIDI has de­nied pub­lic ac­cess to the fore­shore but whether the pub­lic has the right to ac­cess the fore­shore over pri­vate prop­erty be­long­ing to MIDI.

“4. MIDI is cur­rently in ne­go­ti­a­tions with Gov­ern­ment, as grantor, to uni­lat­er­ally al­low pedes­trian ac­cess over its pri­vate by mem­bers of the pub­lic dur­ing day­time, pro­vided MIDI is aware of who is en­ter­ing and ex­it­ing.

“It will also be erect­ing fences around the en­tire is­land (once it re­ceives Plan­ning Au­thor­ity per­mits) to pre­vent tres­pass­ing over its pri­vate prop­erty to her­itage sites, and other ar­eas which are not yet safe for un­re­stricted pri­vate ac­cess.

“Of course, once the devel­op­ment has been com­pleted, MIDI plans to have a park plus var­i­ous ar­eas of pub­lic ac­ces­si­bil­ity, much as now ex­ists at Tigne` Point, where the pub­lic pi­azza and un­der­ground road were con­structed by MIDI, as part of its obli­ga­tions un­der the deed.

“5. The de­ci­sion to de­velop Ma­noel Is­land was not MIDI’s. In 1992 the Gov­ern­ment of Malta, through the then Malta Devel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion, is­sued a call for ex­pres­sions of in­ter­est, for the devel­op­ment of Tigné Point and Ma­noel Is­land.

“MIDI was se­lected as the pre­ferred bid­der, and af­ter long ne­go­ti­a­tions with both Na­tion­al­ist and Labour-led gov­ern­ments, the deed of em­phy­teu­sis was fi­nally passed by Par­lia­ment with the unan­i­mous ap­proval by BOTH sides of the House in 2000.

“MIDI now has the obli­ga­tion to de­velop the is­land, in line with the pro­vi­sions of this deed, by 2023.

“6. MIDI ac­quired a large part of Ma­noel Is­land un­der the ti­tle of em­phy­teu­sis.

“The bound­aries are out­lined in red in the at­tached plan. It im­me­di­ately opened the area shaded in blue, to the pub­lic.

“This area has never been main­tained or cleaned by Gzira Lo­cal Coun­cil, as was its right since the Lo­cal Coun­cils Act specif­i­cally ex­cludes Ma­noel Is­land from the ju­ris­dic­tion of any lo­cal coun­cil.

“7. The Gzira Lo­cal Coun­cil, as al­ready stated, in line with the Lo­cal Coun­cil Act has no com­pe­tence over Ma­noel Is­land, and hence all dis­cus­sions must be un­der­taken with Gov­ern­ment.

“De­spite the forced and un­law­ful en­try as well as pop­ulist and mis­lead­ing state­ments is­sued by the Gzira Lo­cal Coun­cil, when the Mayor con­tacted Midi's CEO re­quest­ing a meet­ing, this was im­me­di­ately ac­ceded to.

“MIDI has heard what they have to say and will seek to co­op­er­ate with them, as good neigh­bours. MIDI re­it­er­ates its po­si­tion that the con­tin­u­ous protests, clean ups, and other ac­tiv­i­ties or­gan­ised by Kamp Emer­genza Am­b­jent sup­ported by the Gzira Lo­cal Coun­cil with dec­la­ra­tions that they are ready to re­sort to forced en­try if ac­cess is not granted are not con­ducive to reach­ing a so­lu­tion and only serve to in­cite vi­o­lent con­duct and van­dal­ism.

“8. Fi­nally, there have also been in­cor­rect state­ments made in the me­dia that MIDI has amounts out­stand­ing with Gov­ern­ment. MIDI cat­e­gor­i­cally states that it has al­ways paid its dues to Gov­ern­ment (and all other cred­i­tors for that mat­ter) and there are no amounts cur­rently out­stand­ing to Gov­ern­ment.

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