Thursday, 12 March 2009

The 7th wonder of Gozo

On the anniversary of MEPA's enforcement to stop further construction of a 2-storey concrete building in Dwejra, Gozo, Alternattiva Demokratika celebrated symbolically this "first anniversary of shame" when the Party's two European Parliament candidates and members of the Gozo Regional Council visited the site.

Yvonne Ebejer Arqueros, AD's candidate in the forthcoming elections for the European Parliament remarked, "It is truly shameful that the Prime Minister, responsible for the environment and its impact on the tourist sector, failed to take action to safeguard this unique site in the Maltese islands. On the pretext that the Authorities are investigating irregularities concerning its approved plan, he permits such a scandal to remain stark naked a year later to all the thousands of visitors in guided tours to the Inland Sea."

During this press conference I stressed that for one whole year a number of environmental organizations have been appealing to the Prime Minister to settle various issues regarding this officially heralded Heritage Park, intended to be the first of its kind for Gozo.

This project stuttered from its very beginning when MEPA took over one and a half years to sanction the Dwejra Action Plan. In March 2007 European Union funds for this project were no longer available. Since then no steps were taken for the continued protection of this site; consequently, we have today a glaring scandal of this advertised heritage zone, listing 80 irregularities ranging from illegal structures, unsanctioned extensions of stone quarries and illegal dumping of construction waste and other refuse on public pathways.

Dr Arnold Cassola emphasized, "It is absolutely urgent that an illusory Management Board wakes up from its deep slumber, and that site managers are appointed according to the recent recommendations of the European Union which had provided adequate funds for the continued protection of this site. The Dwejra Management Board shoulders a grave responsibility and is urgently requested to settle the issue of this monstrous concrete structure already one year on since MEPA declared these works to be in contravention to its own approval plan."

"It is unfair that whereas the ordinary citizen faces stiff fines, Government and its affiliate authorities carry on in their routine administrative tasks as if no illegalities did ever occur. The public silently stands to watch these injustices."

Prof Cassola concluded by saying, "Alternattiva Demokratika again calls upon the Gozo Associations, especially the Gozo Tourist Association and the Gozo Chamber of Commerce to represent, as they are bound to do, the issues that interest Gozo best, to positively criticize where needed and not to prioritise their political alliances at the cost of delayed development of Gozo as a European region."

The end of the Gozo Channel Monopoly

The Malta Government should not once again lose the opportunity, as happened in the past, to apply for funds from the European Union through the Marco Polo Program. Applications for this funding opened again on the 10th of February this year. These funds would help the Company, awarded the tender, to expand the transport of all merchandise from San Maison as well as from the Freeport, to Mgarr port and vice-versa. Thus pollution, transport costs, road damage and traffic jams now resulting from the overland carriage of goods by huge lorries will be substantially reduced.

This is also the year when Gozo Channel's monopoly of the public sea transport to and from Gozo has to come to an end. We at Alternattiva Demokratika therefore strongly recommend to the Minister concerned that instead of keeping the matter under the carpet, a number of factors must be considered.

Firstly, the future of the existing 240 employees of Gozo Channel must be safeguarded. It is most unfair that after these workers were used as a vote-catching exercise in previous Elections by both the Labour and Nationalist governments, they are now being kept in the dark with regards to their future. The Union representing these workers must be proactive in this regard.

Secondly, the government must not forget that the Gozo Channel provides a vital 'life-line' for Gozo. Therefore the Gozo Channel service must not be looked upon simply as a business venture but as a public service. The needs of Gozitan workers and students in Malta must remain one of its top priorities even when considering tariffs and schedules.

Thirdly, a clause should be included, in the new tender, binding the successful applicant to reduce to a minimum the pollution and energy consumption levels by the ships providing the service.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Sagra ta' San Girgor - Kercem

This weekend, The Kercem Local Council organised the Sagra ta' San Girgor. My family visit some of the exhibits in the locality and obviously ordered a nice torta tal-gobon from tal-Mezzan.

On Friday the 8th March, the 2 candidates of Alternattiva Demokratika (AD) for EU parliament together with Michael bajada and myself attended the traditional lunch at the locality. During this event we emphasized the importance of the utility of funds both from local government and EU for the promotion of popular Maltese and Gozitan traditions.

Yvonne Ebejer Arqueros, candidate for European Parliament, said “The Green Party believes that the use of these funds can lead to the enhancement of local traditions as regards history, culture, gastronomy, music, and others. These traditions can be transmitted from one generation to the other whilst at the same time generating new jobs in the field of tourism during the winter months when tourist attractions are lacking.”

“We encourage the local councils in Malta to take example from the activism of some of these Gozitan local councils and to be pro-active and innovative in their proposals in order to tap as much EU funds as possible in order to develop historical and cultural traditions which would create new job opportunities related to cultural and heritage tourism.” Concluded Prof. Arnold Cassola, Alternattiva Demokratika Chairperson.

Eco-Gozo and Ta' Lambert - Xewkija

During an on-site visit to Ta' Lambert on Thursday 5th March, Dr Arnold Cassola, Chairperson for Alternattiva Demokratika (AD), accompanied by other Gozo Regional Committee members of the Green Party in Gozo, remarked, that it seems that either the Authorities are turning a blind eye to certain individuals who are above the law, or, that the Government, contrary to its much-vaunted eco-Gozo campaign, is hell-bent to irreparably harm the long term sustainability of Gozo as a quality tourist destination.

The Ta’ Lambert site, adjacent to the defunct Gozo Heliport in Xewkija, is now being turned into a bulky refuse area, where waste is being discarded by heavy vehicles that could easily be monitored and apprehended. On the one hand Government attempts to brand itself as being environmentally conscious, and then here at Ta’ Lambert we have visual proof of Government’s failure with regards to waste management.

Prof Cassola also remarked that it is futile for the Prime Minister to declare that his government will adopt Alternattiva Demokratika’s green policies to turn Gozo into an ecological island.

The Nationalist Party either did not fully comprehend AD’s green policies, or failed to weigh up the consequences of tourist complaints for the foul smells and country eyesores in areas like Ta’ Lambert in Xewkija. Tourists are encouraged to take country walks, and such embarrassing illegal smelly black spots are often encountered. The area is also turning into a parking space for construction and heavy plant machinery which are a huge eyesore to the marvellous countryside around.

The Xewkija Local Council, composed of a majority of Labour council members, pretends to be the victim of this sad state of affairs, but then it has not taken any action whatsoever. Alternattiva Demokratika is well informed that a number of upright public spirited individuals did approach the Xewkija Labour mayor, and that they did provide information on a named contractor who takes the law in his own hands discarding waste in this area. On the other hand, the nationalist-led Ghajnsielem local Concil in which Ta’ Lambert area also falls, is also dead silent on this issue. The person or authority that fails to take action is in law an accomplice to this crime.

During this press conference at Ta' Lambert, I remarked that “It is of utmost importance that the Gozo Ministry recognizes instantly and permanently that the protection of such areas in the Gozo countryside, and pertinent heritage sites help to enrich various tourist niches that embellish the Gozo product. It is a fact that tourists seek Gozo as a destination specifically for its natural environment”.

“This smelly garbage site at Ta’ Lambert growing daily in front of a blindfolded compliant authority is scandalous and a shame. We need to clean up this site and under the supervision of professional archaeologists restore this heritage to the nation”.

I would like to appeal to the Gozo Associations, especially, the Gozo Tourist Association (GTA) and the Gozo Business Chamber (GBC) to actively lead in all matters that benefit the island and to have the courage to shed off political alliances that may hinder Gozo’s development as a true European region.

Il-Karnival....mar u gie

This year I enjoyed the carnival much more than expected.

We organised a traditional meal on the 20th February with carnival costumes and folk music at one of our farms.

It was such a great fun, good food, music and dance...

These short video clip can give you an idea of the fun we had: