Birdlife has cancelled a planned meeting with Nationalist Party leader Adrian Delia over statements supporting hunters in the ongoing controversy over the issuing of licences conservationists claim are illegal. 

The meeting had been requested by the PN after a criminal complaint filed by Birdlife claiming that the 6,000 hunters hunting during the spring season were doing so illegally with invalid licences issued by the Gozo ministry - rather than the environment ministry as required by law. 

However, Birdlife wrote to the PN leader on Saturday to cancel the meeting after Delia said he had met with the hunters' lobby FKNK and was "satisfied that no action will be taken against thousands of hunters who have broken no law".

In its letter, Birdlife accused Delia of jumping to conclusions without establishing the facts, and of appearing to support the breach and abuse of the law. 

The NGO reiterated its position that Gozo minister Clint Camilleri had no legal power to issue hunting licences. It pointed out that Camilleri was also responsible for the Wild Birds Regulation Unit (WBRU), which by law should be in the environment ministry's remit. 

"The PN can choose to become a populist party, as the Labour Party has done, but in doing so it will be abdicating its obligations as a party that says it cares about the rule of law and environmental protection," Birdlife said. 

Delia had previously hit out at the government for linking the PN to Birdlife's criminal complaint, after minister Silvio Schembri wrote that the PN had "always been against hunting".

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