More than 3,000 people gathered in Valletta this morning to take part in what many are considering to be the biggest pro-environment protest ever seen in Malta.

The protest was organised by the newly set up Front ─Žarsien ODZ which aims to stop development in outside development sites such as Zonqor point.

Protesters of all ages walked down Republic Street from the new Parliament before stopping at Great Siege Square, with crowds spilling into Republic Street as the square could not fit everyone.

Many participants carried banners and placards calling on the government to protect the environment. One read Malta taghna jew ta l-ispekulaturi?, another said L-Ambjent Sahhitna.

Front spokesman Shaun Grech said the organisers were overwhelmed by the turnout.

"We are not a group of people with partisan interests... we are saying no to further destruction."

Spokesman Michael Briguglio said: "This is the biggest protest of common citizens ever held in Malta… We were not expecting such a massive response. This shows that Malta belongs to us all and does not just the contractors.”

He called on the government to immediately publish the contract with Sadeen Group proposing the development of a new university at Zonqor.

Before the election, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat promised the most transparent government in history but now he needed to keep the promise he made, Dr Briguglio said.

“If Malta really belongs to us all, you cannot ride roughshod over the will of the people,” he said.

He noted that a vacancy for a post in the Environment Protection Directorate was posted online yesterday.

“This is a gimmick, what we want is concrete action,” he said.

Lino Bugeja from the Ramblers’ Association described development on ODZ land as “the greatest siege Malta had ever faced, greater that than of 400 years ago”.

The countryside was suffering, he said, and the situation getting worse every year. Villas were being built in valleys and public access paths were being closed off. There was also construction in agricultural land and the huge gathering for the protest showed that people were fed up, he said.

Participants also included Opposition leader Simon Busuttil and Labour MP Marlene Farrugia.

She said that after today’s protest, the Prime Minister should show he was able to listen and immediately find an alternative site. She said she was confident he would do just that.

“He showed in the past he is able to listen and I am convinced he will do it again.”

Those speaking at the protest also included Marsascala Labour deputy mayor Desiree Attard and PN councillor Charlot Cassar.

The front, which has been endorsed by a number of organisations and politicians, was set in retaliation to the proposed development of a private university at Zonqor Point, taking over 90,000 square metres of land.

 

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