NEWS | Sunday, 04 November 2007

After Cacopardo, Bondin seeks greener pastures too

Charlot Zahra

Former Nationalist MP Ray Bondin, who recently fell out of favour with the Nationalist Government after Ministry for Resources and Infrastructure Ninu Zammit dissolved the Valletta and Cottonera Rehabilitation Committees, is also seeking greener pastures.

Bondin, who had chaired the two committees since their inception in 1987 by the Eddie Fenech Adami administration, took part in an Alternattiva Demokratika (AD) press conference yesterday morning in Valletta alongside party chairperson Harry Vassallo.

Asked by MaltaToday whether his presence at the AD press conference meant that he would be contesting the forthcoming general election with the party, Bondin did not commit himself but said that with his presence, he wanted to underscore the party’s commitment towards the conservation of Malta’s national heritage.

“I am not saying that I will be contesting but I am seeing that AD has our national heritage at heart and wants to address this issue in a serious manner. My presence here emphasises this point,” Bondin said.

Bondin contested four elections on the Nationalist Party ticket between 1976 and 1992, however in 1987 he was elected to Parliament only following a by-election.

He is the second former Nationalist politician to associate himself with AD after former MEPA Audit Office investigator Carmel Cacopardo’s public outing at the green party’s Annual General Meeting a few weeks ago.

Cacopardo, former president of the Nationalist Party general council, joined AD as a member but it not clear yet whether he will be contesting the general election on the party ticket.

On his part, the AD chairperson thanked Bondin for “his many years of service to our national heritage and for the advice and assistance he has made available to all those wanting to contribute to quality conservation”.

He said that the Nationalist government “has consistently defaulted in taking care of one of the most important heritage assets that we have, the 27 kilometres of fortifications built by the Knights, not to mention the many other kilometres of other systems built by the British, most of which have been destroyed.”

He added that the government has only made minor efforts to do some restoration work but this without any integrated plan. Some of the restoration work that has been done is also of a very dubious technical quality.

“The recent announcement by government that the fortifications are going to be restored through a grant of 30 million Euros by the EU is an outrageous deception,” Vassallo said.

He explained that Minister Zammit was fully informed that at least 100 million Euros are needed to deal with the most urgent matters. “Unfortunately even the Prime Minister is saying that the bastions will be restored,” Vassallo lamented.

“It is indeed very positive that finally financial resources are being committed for this project but it is not correct to state that the whole system is being restored. In fact during the period 2007-2013 only a very small area will be dealt with,” he said.

“As in everything that is done by Minister Zammit”, the AD Chairperson explained, “there is no integrated plan but only sporadic projects which do not even cover the most urgent needs of the system. In many cases the projects chosen have been chosen because of the fact that they are very visible and not because they are the most important.”

In Valletta there are many areas where the bastions are literally falling apart but Minister Zammit has decided to start first with St John’s Cavalier as this is at a point where most cars enter Valletta.

“Everybody will see the new arch on the bridge into Vittoriosa but no publicity is being given to areas where danger to residents will continue,” Vassallo said. “Far from restoring all fortifications, the present exercise is little more than public relations cherry-picking,” he added.

“In order to proceed with its cherry-picking the government has ignored several reports available including the nomination report prepared by MEPA for listing of the bastions in the UNESCO World heritage list. The 30 million Euros have been earmarked for a public relations exercise ignoring the professionally prepared priority list,” Vassallo said.

He explained that there were whole areas of the bastions that have been completely forgotten such as those of Floriana and those of Cospicua.

The Cittadella, which is mentioned, will be done in the last two years of the project when everyone knows the danger that exists there. “Where parts of the bastions have been taken over by squatters the government has not found the courage to begin to address the issues of legal possession let alone of restoration.” Vassallo said.

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