Kamp Emergenza Ambjent makes good on ultimatum despite government action and PA enforcement notice
Kamp Emergenza Ambjent has made good on its ultimatum and yesterday restored access to the Manoel Island foreshore by tearing down a side-fence that was blocking access.
In the meantime, the government filed a judicial protest on Friday against MIDI plc calling on them to adhere to the concession agreement and provide access to the foreshore. The Planning Authority (PA) also issued an enforcement notice on Friday which gave MIDI 16 days to remove four gates that were installed by the company without the necessary permits.
A week ago, a group of activists said that should MIDI plc not provide access to the foreshore within seven days, they would enter “with or without permission”.
KAE leader Andre Callus said: “The action taken by the government and PA are very positive, and we are extremely satisfied to see that the pressure we have exerted has resulted in concrete action being taken.
“But this is not enough because court proceedings can take years – therefore, now more than ever, we must keep up the pressure. The court proceedings have not even formally begun, and the government has not filed a case. It filed a judicial protest against them (MIDI) – it is the first step and an important one.
“The point is that we gave MIDI one week to provide access or we would gain entry. That week has passed and MIDI did not provide access, so we are delivering on our promise.
“Apart from government pressure, it is necessary for the people to keep applying pressure because every day that access is blocked; everyday MIDI does something illegal.”
Asked why KAE did not wait for the 16 days provided by the PA through an enforcement notice to allow public access to the foreshore, Mr Callus said MIDI has a right to appeal, and for each day that they do not adhere to the notice they only get slapped with a €4 fine.
“We hope that MIDI will respect the notice; however we need to turn up the pressure because the public has a right to enjoy the foreshore, and we cannot continue to allow powerful entities to do as they please at the expense of the public,” he said.
The government filed a judicial protest in the First Hall of the Civil Court, through the Office of the Attorney General, saying that MIDI is not adhering 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.
The government said that while it was all for being probusiness, it would not tolerate illegalities and abuse.
Gzira Mayor Conrad Borg Manche said during yesterday’s protest that 16 years of no access to residents were enough. “They (MIDI) had all the time in the world to fix this. They do not really care about the place. The Lazzaretto still lies in ruins. They only restored the fort because they can turn a profit from there.”
He added that the Gzira local council has requested jurisdiction over Manoel Island because it falls under no entity or local council.
Paul Buttigieg from Harsien Hondoq also addressed the crowd saying that he was pleased to see strong support for a cause that is in the public’s name. He said that thanks to such initiatives, the public interest may start to be prioritised. The group was set up in protest of the proposed development at Hondoq ir-Rummien.
Mr Borg Manche said there could never be justification to close down a kilometre of public foreshore. “We are Maltese, this is our country and we have a right to enjoy it.”
They celebrated behind the main gate after gaining access to the area from a side-fence opened by KAE this morning.
In comments to The Malta Independent on Sunday, Mr Borg Manche said: “My advice was that no gate or fence should be forced opened. The first time the gate was opened I was part of it and it was necessary, because we would not have been taken seriously.
“Now that the government has taken steps, let’s wait and see how that progresses. In fact, KEA said they will be taking full responsibility for the removal of the fence this morning (Saturday).”
Present for the protest was Opposition Whip David Agius, together with PN Gzira local councillors.
“I am here as a private citizen and as a representative of the PN together with our local councillors. Obviously we support the opening of the shore to the public. We were the first in Parliament to promote the Public Domain Bill and we maintain that the shore here, and all around Malta, is accessible to the public,” Mr Agius said.
Turning to why KAE has taken up the long-standing Manoel Island foreshore issue considering the number of situations where public land is occupied by private citizens/entities, Mr Callus said: “When we (KAE) started, we did not want to just stick to this issue. We have also tackled issues such as the high-rise buildings and the Environment and Resource Authority (ERA).
“KAE is not an NGO; we are an alliance of concerned individuals. What we tackle depends on the alliance and on the way certain situations progress – we cannot speak about all issues all the time. We must tackle injustices one at a time.”
Asked whether there are future plans to tackle similar issues, such as the illegal Armier boathouses that have occupied public land, Mr Callus said that the group recently organised a protest outside the ERA for not exerting enough strength on the high-rise building issue – something that will have a significant environmental impact.
Manoel Island should become an eco-island AD –
Alternattiva Demokratika chairperson Prof. Arnold Cassola said yesterday: “It is good to see that the government has taken legal action against MIDI. There should now be rapid enforcement against the blatant infringements by MIDI. Alternattiva Demokratika reiterates that Manoel Island should be reclaimed by the government and maintained as an Eco Island Natural Park, with only pedestrians and bicycles allowed inside.
“After the legal action taken against the Manoel Island operators and the tuna fish farm owners, it is now imperative that these measures are enforced a.s.a.p. and then extended to other areas which have been illegally taken over, and sometimes developed, such as Montekristo Estates, Armier, and so on…”
PN calls for common sense solution
Ina statement, the Nationalist Party said, “The solution should be one of common sense in the interest of all Maltese and Gozitans, and not just in the interest of Gzira residents.
“This issue can only be resolved if Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, in his capacity as Prime Minister, sits down at a table with the MIDI consortium, which is blocking access, and provides assurances that the interest of all Maltese and Gozitans is being prioritised.”
Residents right to ask what was done by PN Labour
In a statement of its own, the Labour Party questioned why PN leader Simon Busuttil was attacking the Gzira Mayor, who as acting in the interest of the residents. Dr Busuttil, the Labour Party said, was also attacking the government, which had been the first to take action and stand up for the residents.
“Residents were right to ask why the previous government had done nothing about the issue,” the PL added.