News | Sunday, 03 January 2010

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Astrid Vella, Lino Bugeja claim harassment

Six NGOs yesterday issued a public condemnation of the harassment of Flimkien ghal-Ambjent Ahjar’s Astrid Vella and Ramblers’ president Lino Bugeja, claiming files related to the activists’ planning applications were leaked to the media.
“Ms Vella’s file has been traced to persons at MEPA who had no legitimate reason to be viewing it or, more seriously, retaining it. Such unethical practice has, in the past, led to leaks or possible misuse of sensitive information and also to files being ‘lost’, as was the case with one of the Bahrija application files. Austin Walker, in his capacity as Chairman and CEO of MEPA, and therefore directly responsible for MEPA’s day-to-day functioning, should investigate both the loss of the Bahrija file, as well as the improper access of the Astrid Vella file,” the NGOs – Birdlife, FAA, Friends of the Earth, GAIA Foundation, Malta Organic Agriculture Movement and the Ramblers Association said.
Vella’s application was to construct a small pool on the terrace of a block of flats. Vella said her 1998 application was refused and she did not appeal, and that she has not been the owner of this property for many years. “At no point did Ms Vella or members of her family apply for a pool or house in fields or on virgin land, as is being claimed.”
The NGOs said the “campaign of ongoing harassment” was in violation of the Aarhus Convention. “The harassment of those who seek to protect the environment contrasts strongly with pre-election promises that the environment was to be granted the highest level of protection. It is also an alarming regression in Malta’s democracy and a serious threat to citizens’ fundamental right to freedom of speech.”

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