Courts ac­cept plea from Qormi coun­cil in float­ing coffins case

Malta Independent - - NEWS -

The First Hall of the Civil Court ac­cepted the plea put for­ward by the lo­cal coun­cil of Qormi, that the In­fra­struc­ture Min­is­ter and the Tourism Min­istry be ex­cluded in a case filed by a man who of­fers funeral ser­vices.

In ad­di­tion to this, the court then re­fused the plea of the Plan­ning Au­thor­ity and the En­vi­ron­ment and Ru­ral Af­fairs Min­is­ter (un­der the for­mer ad­min­is­tra­tion) mean­ing that they will con­tinue to be de­fen­dants in the case. The court also or­dered the Di­rec­tor Gen­eral of Works to form part of the case.

The case was filed by Kar­menu Mif­sud who of­fers funeral ser­vices as part of his work. Mr Mif­sud con­ducts his busi­ness from var­i­ous lo­ca­tions, one of which is done through a num­ber of ware­houses in his posses­sion in Paul Far­ru­gia Street, Qormi.

In these ware­houses, Mr Mif­sud holds coffins, ve­hi­cles and other items in con­nec­tion with the ser­vices he of­fers.

On 25 Oc­to­ber 2012, a heavy storm hit the is­lands. Dur­ing this storm, large vol­umes of wa­ter started to break through the ware­houses and flood the con­tents in­side. In his com­plaint, Mr Mif­sud ex­plained that vast overde­vel­op­ment in the area sur­round­ing the val­ley ad­ja­cent to his ware­houses prior to 2010 meant that ex­ces­sive rain wa­ter was be­ing con­cen­trated in a cer­tain area. More­over, part of the land sur­round­ing the devel­op­ment was covered with ce­ment, mean­ing that the soil was un­able to ab­sorb any of the rain wa­ter.

This led to the wa­ter get­ting into the ware­houses, with a num­ber of coffins lo­cated within even end­ing up out float­ing in the street.

Mr Mif­sud com­plained that although the con­se­quences of such devel­op­ment in the area was known, none of the nec­es­sary ac­tion was taken, re­sult­ing in Mr Mif­sud’s mov­able and im­mov­able prop­erty be­ing dam­aged.

For these rea­sons Mr Mif­sud filed a case against the In­fra­struc­ture Min­is­ter, the En­vi­ron­ment and Ru­ral Af­fairs Min­is­ter, the Tourism Min­is­ter, the for­mer Malta En­vi­ron­ment and Plan­ning As­so­ci­a­tion and the lo­cal coun­cil of Qormi.

He re­quested for all the above par­ties to pay the dam­ages he in­curred.

Judge Jac­que­line Padovani Grima ac­cepted the plea put for­ward by the Qormi lo­cal coun­cil and re­moved them from the case.

Wit­nesses on be­half of the lo­cal coun­cil tes­ti­fied that de­spite the coun­cil not be­ing re­spon­si­ble for any val­leys, it still paid out of its own pocket to clean up the dam­ages from flood­ing in the val­ley.

With re­gard to the now Plan­ning Au­thor­ity, the courts held that while the fi­nal de­ci­sion was not taken by the en­tity, this does not take away from the fact that it had a big im­pact on the flood re­lief project. The courts also held that it was the PA who has the func­tion­al­ity and power to put for­ward pro­pos­als for flood re­lief in par­lia­ment that would need to be ap­proved by the min­is­ter.

The court con­cluded that the En­vi­ron­ment and Ru­ral Af­fairs Min­is­ter was fairly in­cluded in the case and chose to re­tain this de­fen­dant so that he may an­swer for de­ci­sions taken in open court.

From var­i­ous tes­ti­monies, the in­volve­ment of the Gen­eral Di­rec­tor within the Ser­vices Di­vi­sion in the flood re­lief project came to light, which is why the Gen­eral Di­rec­tor for Works has been in­cluded in the case.

With re­gard to the In­fra­struc­ture Min­istry and Tourism Min­istry, the courts held there was no proof as to why they should be in­volved in the case.

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