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Opinion - Saviour Balzan • 04 July 2007

Salvu’s bungalow story

Salvu Sammut must be enamoured with the idea of taking to the streets.
As leader of Malta’s largest union – the General Workers’ Union – he argues he is all for developing bungalows at Ghadira Bay because it will lead to more work for the workers.
Having said this, he does not seem to have followed the same thinking process when it came to villas at Ramla (read James Debono’s news story on the front page).
If bungalows at Ghadira create work, the ones at Ramla should do the same trick. But then bungalows at Ramla do not belong to a commercial company run by the GWU. For if they did, Mr Salvu Sammut would probably have had a very different view.
I adore this kind of hypocrisy. Every time a crane plants itself in the middle of a street and blocks the entire traffic flow, the crane operator has a well rehearsed retort to anyone daring to complain about his brazen behaviour: “How do you expect me to make a living?”
Salvu Sammut and the other 1,500 protestors at Valletta must have all asked themselves what a horrible thing it is to develop Ramla l-Hamra and how MEPA should be ashamed of itself.
Yes, I agree. But as the names of MEPA’s board members were read out one by one to the applause of the protestors, I am not quite too sure if Salvu Sammut was whistling and booing too.
If he was, he should have a rethink. The same board members were the same individuals who gave the green light for 30 bungalows on the garigue at Ghadira.
Now Saviour Sammut probably thinks that garigue is some kind of giant caterpillar that eats naughty boys in the middle of the night. No – garigue is a unique habitat home to hundreds of plants and indescribable insects.
But if Salvu Sammut is ignorant about all this, so are the members of the MEPA board appointed by this government.
Their names should not be read out, but it would not be a bad idea to erect a plaque next to all the controversial localities they have agreed to allow development to take place in, with the following words: “To all those who think this site should have remained untouched and in its natural state, we have one simple answer: UP YOURS!”.
Sammut was obviously willing to admit that he did ask the Prime Minister and a senior official at the OPM to look into the permit application for 30 bungalows at the Danish village.
That Sammut does not feel one iota of embarrassment at admitting to such a thing is perplexing.
Which goes to prove that the next time you read a story about political intervention at MEPA in one of GWU newspapers, you should not take the story too seriously. Or as an alternative, just ask Salvu Sammut for a definition of ‘political interference’. It also goes to prove how serious political patronage in this country is.
Mr Sammut will of course argue that I am a divine pain in the ass, and that I am saying all this because I have a grudge against the union. Bollocks.
But I do have a problem with people taking to the streets to complain about development when they themselves are involved in projects which are not fundamentally different from the same development they want us to believe they oppose.

If the Prime Minister had any sense he would call roads minister Jesmond Mugliett and ask him to resign at once.
But Dr Gonzi will not and cannot kick out Jesmond. He knows that he cannot afford to lose Mugliett in this crucial and particular constituency for the PN.
Yet Mugliett’s interference with the ex-chief executive at the Malta Transport Authority (ADT) to halt the removal of two ADT officials (one of them Mugliett’s canvasser) which had been implicated and found guilty of receiving bribes, is tantamount to intolerable and unacceptable political interference.
Yesterday he retracted his first admission and dragged the whole ADT board by claiming that it was a collective decision.
In another, normal situation, the press would be calling for his blood. But this is Malta, and when it was revealed in The Times it should have hit the front pages.
Everyone in the Nationalist party knows that Mugliett crossed the line. Gonzi continues to prove that given half a chance, he prefers to do nothing about the situation. As in all the other cases of abuse of power, or conflicts of interest, or political interference, Gonzi naturally freezes and does absolutely nothing. He neither appears to castigate his ministers or defend them.
He is a prisoner of destiny. He may argue that he is for zero tolerance of abuse and corruption, but I have yet to see him in action.

I was delighted to read that the federation of hunters and trappers (and of course conservationists), led by Lino Farrugia, issued a statement about what George Pullicino had to say in MaltaToday about autumn hunting.
I stand to be corrected, but did not Lino Farrugia say that he had boycotted MaltaToday? Well, if there is one person who ignored Lino’s diktat it had to be Lino himself, who typically responded to what appeared in MaltaToday.

Hurrah, hurrah! After years of strategic planning, surveys, intelligence gathering and the use of underpaid consultants, the launch of the shuttle service from Malta International Airport to Cirkewwa, was finally inaugurated.
A heartfelt thank you to the ministers for their unending support for this project which will change the face of the earth and improve the economy of our sister island.


MediaToday Ltd, Vjal ir-Rihan, San Gwann SGN 02, Malta
Managing Editor - Saviour Balzan