Fab­ri­ca­tion against the Ram­blers’ As­so­ci­a­tion

The fol­low­ing is a right of re­ply re­ceived by this news­pa­per from the Ram­blers As­so­ci­a­tion that is be­ing pub­lished in terms of the Press Act

Malta Independent - - NEWS -

The Ram­blers’ As­so­ci­a­tion hereby re­jects with dis­dain the al­le­ga­tions which were made by Noel Ciantar as re­ported in the ar­ti­cle “Whistle­blower claims dis­crim­i­na­tory and se­lec­tive cam­paign linked to Ian Borg”, that ap­peared in The In­de­pen­dent on Sun­day the 24th July 2016.

The ar­ti­cle, whose logic is con­fus­ing and de­lib­er­ately mis­lead­ing, aims to as­so­ciate in some way the cam­paign run by the Ram­blers’ As­so­ci­a­tion for pub­lic ac­cess to the medieval set­tle­ment of Sim­blija, with un­re­lated is­sues cen­tered around Par­lia­men­tary Sec­re­tary Ian Borg, with whom Ciantar ap­par­ently has an axe to grind.

For the ben­e­fit of the read­ers of this ar­ti­cle, it should be re­marked im­me­di­ately that the medieval ham­let of Sim­blija is a Grade 2 and Class B Sched­uled Na­tional Mon­u­ment lo­cated on pub­lic land. In or­der to make this piece of Mal­tese her­itage ac­ces­si­ble to the pub­lic, the area was re­stored, and the troglodyte caves and chapel were cleaned out. As some of the caves were be­ing used for agri­cul­tural stor­age, two garages were built near the site to be used as al­ter­nate stor­age by the fam­ily con­cerned. Th­ese garages cost ap­prox­i­mately Lm20,000 (€46,587), of which Lm5000 (€11,647) were ob­tained from EU funds un­der the Raphael project

(PQ 31860 of 2012 http://pq.gov.mt/PQWeb.nsf/7 561f7­daddf069ac1257d1800311f18 /c1257881003b3b78c12579aa0049 83ab!OpenDoc­u­ment)

The site was then for­mally opened to the pub­lic in 2003, ac­com­pa­nied by the usual com­mem­o­ra­tive plaque (above), sev­eral in­ter­pre­ta­tive pan­els round the area, and signs guid­ing peo­ple to Sim­blija from as far away as Ra­bat.

Over the years the in­for­ma­tion pan­els were re­moved without trace. On the eve of the last elec­tion the mar­ble plaque disappeared as well. A pad­lock was placed on the door of the medieval chapel, renowned to be the lost Santa Mar­ija ta’ Cal­lus. And to­day the troglodyte cave next to the chapel is full of trash in­clud­ing empty fruit boxes pos­ing a real fire hazard.

Now hardly a fly es­capes Noel Ciantar’s at­ten­tion in that area, with his dogs and care­ful watchout! Did he, as a self-de­clared “whistle­blower,” blow his whis­tle about th­ese ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties? How can one be blamed for doubt­ing whether Mr Ciantar had a hand in it!

When Mr Ciantar is asked what hap­pened to th­ese signs, his an­swer is “Ask MEPA”. We leave it to your read­ers to judge whether MEPA would take it upon them­selves to up­root th­ese signs them­selves or pay some­one to do it. Mr Ciantar has made it his per­sonal cru­sade to keep the pub­lic away from the area by putting up warn­ing signs and “pri­vate prop­erty” signs all around Sim­blija (photo above). In the even­tu­al­ity that any per­son ac­tu­ally dares to en­ter his “sanc­tum”, Mr Ciantar then re­sorts to in­tim­i­da­tion and bul­ly­ing, as has been ev­i­denced by many a vis­i­tor.

Mr Ciantar does not hold a le­gal ti­tle of prop­erty on this land, but only a ti­tle of agri­cul­tural lease to his fam­ily, as well as to var­i­ous other ten­ants. Re­search car­ried out by the Ram­blers’ As­so­ci­a­tion has shown that for the last few years the Lands De­part­ment re­fused ac­cep­tance of the lease rate. It was also re­cently an­nounced that the other ten­ant farm­ers have pe­ti­tioned the gov­ern­ment to re­vise the lease be­cause, un­like Mr Ciantar, they want free ac­cess to the Sim­blija area as it had been his­tor­i­cally.

The Ram­blers’ As­so­ci­a­tion has never at­tacked Ciantar’s ti­tle over the sur­round­ing agri­cul­tural land as he is claim­ing, but fo­cused only on en­sur­ing the right of pub­lic ac­cess to the Na­tional Mon­u­ment it­self.

With re­spect to all the other is­sues men­tioned by Mr Ciantar, one can con­clude that he made up all th­ese fab­ri­ca­tions and red her­rings to de­vi­ate the reader from the cen­tral point - that he is capri­ciously and un­scrupu­lously bar­ring the pub­lic from na­tional her­itage that was re­stored us­ing pub­lic funds. The beauty of this site and its cul­tural con­se­quence are unique and ev­ery­one should have the right to ac­cess it.

Re­gard­ing the Dingli In­ter­pre­ta­tion Cen­tre men­tioned by Ciantar, it was clear from the start that this so-called in­ter­pre­ta­tion cen­tre was sim­ply a front for a restau­rant on pub­lic ODZ land, some­thing which un­for­tu­nately has be­come com­mon prac­tice in this blessed land of ours. We have no idea at all why Mr Ciantar is us­ing this clear mal­prac­tice to jus­tify his hold on Sim­blija. Ex­cept pos­si­bly to confuse the is­sue even fur­ther.

The rest of the ver­i­ta­ble con­spir­acy the­ory spun by Mr Ciantar, con­sist­ing of a se­ries of in­sin­u­a­tions based on a biz­zare as­sort­ment of un­con­nected facts, only serves to con­ceal the ul­te­rior mo­tive for his at­tack: that he has ar­ro­gated upon him­self the right to keep the pub­lic away from a Na­tional Mon­u­ment re­stored us­ing pub­lic funds, that he has been al­lowed to get away with his at­ti­tude for so many years, and that he is hop­ing that peo­ple will give up and won’t ac­cess the site.

Un­for­tu­nately Mr Ciantar’s at­ti­tude is quite com­mon in Malta where peo­ple take over and do as they please upon pub­lic land with seem­ing im­punity. There­fore it is no won­der that like many oth­ers Mr Ciantar is get­ting away with it.

After his lat­est botched at­tempt at de­fam­ing the Ram­blers, one won­ders whether an­other ten years have to pass be­fore ac­cess to Sim­blija is justly re­stored to the pub­lic. It is im­por­tant to note that there is noth­ing of­fi­cial which bars any ac­cess to this prop­erty ex­cept Mr Ciantar’s al­le­ga­tions and pre­tended rights. It seems that this ad­min­is­tra­tion, just like the pre­vi­ous one, is not tak­ing the mat­ter se­ri­ously. How­ever since it is Gov­ern­ment Land and a cul­tural site, the Gov­ern­ment should en­sure pos­ses­sion and pro­tec­tion of this prop­erty and that ac­cess to the pub­lic in gen­eral is not de­nied.

Lane lead­ing to Sim­blija

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