NEWS | Sunday, 22 July 2007

History revisited for a government that has forgotten its past

Matthew Vella

The tables have turned for the Nationalist government as a former party candidate prepares to take legal action over alleged political discrimination at the hands of the Malta Environment and Planning Authority, in a case that harks back to Carmel Cacopardo’s suit against former Works Minister, the late Lorry Sant.
The irony will certainly not be lost on Environment Minister George Pullicino, lampooned by comparison to the notorious Labour minister Lorry Sant at last year’s mass protest against the extension of building zones by the placard ‘Vote George, Get Lorry’ – which has since become an aphorism for the Nationalists’ environmental record.
Cacopardo is at the centre of the row between MEPA chairman Andrew Calleja and the authority’s own ombudsman Joe Falzon, who is demanding that MEPA reinstate Cacopardo, an architect, as his investigator.
Calleja has since declared Cacopardo was not fit for the job after acting as moderator in a discussion on MEPA reform organised by Alternattiva Demokratika, the green party.
Cacopardo’s judicial protest filed against government this week, in which he claims discrimination and having been denied his freedom of expression, bears stark similarities with the Constitutional case he filed against Lorry Sant for terminating his employment at the Works Division after penning articles criticising the government in PN organ In-Nazzjon.
Cacopardo had been working the Works Division as an architect shortly after graduating in 1982. Soon after a Cabinet reshuffle reinstated Lorry Sant as works minister, in October 1984 Godwin Drago, aacting-director at the works division, informed Cacopardo he had been summarily dismissed from employment.
“He said the reasons I was being sacked were for four articles I had penned in the papers,” Cacopardo recalls, referring to his vocal criticism of the government of the day. “I had already been tipped off from an insider about my termination of employment, so I took along a union officer with me to witness my dismissal.”
The next day, defying the authorities by signing in for work, he was physically evicted from the building when the police was called in.
What ensued was a Constitutional case which found Cacopardo had suffered political discrimination in the termination of employment, which the court found had been instigated by the Works Ministry itself, and that the division had clearly not acted in the same manner with other employees who had published articles in other newspapers – namely Labour sympathisers.
Today Cacopardo looks back at the 80s with a sense of relief: “You could say I don’t feel the tension there was back then in those days, but it is clear the tables have turned… there are dozens of MEPA employees who chaired political party meetings, so it doesn’t make sense that I have been singled out.”
His former superior, Joe Falzon, has dismissed the MEPA chairman’s argument that Cacopardo is ineligible because he chaired an AD meeting. “Cacopardo has been in politics as a Nationalist candidate for a long time and nobody found any objection. His participation in an AD meeting was limited to facilitating a meeting of NGOs. I find no problem with that… This just a puerile excuse as Cacopardo has a right to his opinion on the way the environment should be protected… the only reason Cacopardo is not wanted is because he was doing a good job.

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