MaltaToday | 31 August 2008

NEWS | Sunday, 31 August 2008

Resign? ‘I still have much to contribute’

He put the Malta Tourism Authority to shame by saying the environment was not a priority in tourism, prompting a damage-limitation exercise by junior minister Mario De Marco and an official statement by the MTA to say they like trees.
But MTA chairman Sam Mifsud is not resigning his post.
“I do not intend to resign as chairman of the MTA since, I believe, I still have much to contribute to the betterment of Malta and Gozo’s tourism industry,” Mifsud told MaltaToday.
For the man the government entrusts with ‘product Malta’, to say tourism policies are based on priorities that don’t include the environment or heritage, is at best heretical.
Mifsud said this in a court that is trying former MTA acting chief executive George Micallef, accused of making a false declaration in the report he penned to favour a disco in Mistra – controversially, the ‘Spin Valley’ disco in the green belt owned by disgraced Nationalist MP Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando.
Sam Mifsud defended the report, but dropped jaws when stating that green matters did not figure in tourism consideration, and that this was backed up by policies, and added that there was a need to increase entertainment places in the north of the island and along the coast.
With Alternattiva Demokratika and the Labour Party in an outburst over Mifsud’s spurious comments, out came parliamentary secretary for tourism Mario De Marco in an effort to calm the waters by completely rebutting every single thing Mifsud said.
“We cannot have a sustainable tourism industry if we do not maintain, conserve, and upgrade our environment… Any report drawn up by the MTA after the Tourism Policy for the Maltese Islands 2007-2011 was adopted in January 2007, ought to take into account environment considerations. Furthermore the National Tourism Policy and Plan include no reference to the need to spread places of entertainment to the north.”
Effectively, it means Sam Mifsud was wrong on both counts – that the report the MTA sanctioned to make a case for the Mistra discotheque should have never been approved by the authority. And that the north did not need any entertainment renaissance.
Speaking to MaltaToday, de Marco said he gave clear instructions to Mifsud just a few days after his appointment that in the MTA’s assessment of any tourism project, the environment has to be an important part of its considerations.
“Mr Mifsud has assured me that my instructions have been forwarded to the respective units of the MTA that process and consider tourism projects and are being implemented.”
Even though his testimony belied Mifsud’s appreciation of tourism policy, de Marco says that as long as government policy is followed and there is no evidence of wrongdoing, the current chairmanship of the MTA is tenable.
As for Mifsud’s court testimony, de Marco says the issue predates his appointment as parliamentary secretary, and considers inappropriate to comment on the testimony.
What is clear is that Sam Mifsud is standing up for George Micallef in court, but he tells MaltaToday that his comments “regarding past procedures are the subject of a lawsuit which is still sub judice, and I don’t feel it is pertinent to comment further at this stage.”

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