Today, numerous organisations and NGOs concerned about the destruction of our beloved country due to excessive building will hold a rally in Valletta at 10.30am.

This is an appeal to all people of goodwill, to all persons of all ages who are concerned about the loss of cultural buildings and streetscapes, about the loss of more and more agricultural land and the elimination of green spaces to attend.

We must show up in our thousands from all walks of life and from all political views. By losing our cultural heritage we will turn our country into a stone and concrete desert.

Our youth are leaving the island because they feel suffocated here. They are our future and we must all, young and old, employed or pensioners, schoolchildren and university students, show up to stop the rot.

Complaining at home, writing articles like I do, signing petitions like I have done on numerous occasions, shouting against the local destruction of the village or town, street or square where one lives is not enough.

This is a national issue. Mobilisation of the masses is the only way this can be put to a stop.

The MHRA should join this event as should the Chamber of Commerce, the trade unions, the Chamber of Advocates and Chamber of Architects.

In the 1980s, when private schools and religious education were being threatened, over 100,000 Maltese rose up and marched from Valletta through Floriana and they won the day because schools remained open and our children’s choice of type of education remained available. This is how democracy worked and should work.

My dearly beloved brother, Harry, who died a few years ago, led the parent teacher organisation that led the rally and campaign and succeeded.

Today, others lead and I will follow courageously and, hopefully, with all readers of the Times of Malta. It is your land and your children and grandchildren’s future that is at stake.

Malta is slowly but surely being led towards the complete loss of its cultural heritage with the constant destruction of palazzi, old gardens, beautiful villas and town centres. Dwarfed by the increasing number of higher and higher buildings, our cultural centres will be overshadowed: buildings and monuments are a visible part. Traditions, processions, festivals are the intangible part.

Richard England is quoted as saying that he knew Malta first as a virgin but she has now become a whore. How correct he is.

The recent unacceptable statement of Michael Stivala, president of the Malta Developers’ Association, about the vision of his members, which will destroy completely and absolutely the beauty, or what remains of it, of our country, is another nail in our own home-made coffin.

Malta is slowly but surely being led towards the complete loss of its cultural heritage- John Vassallo

Add to this the recently launched campaign by the Comino developers to try to sweeten the bitter pill of the destruction of the Natura reserve and only unspoilt islet we have left must be uncovered for what it really is. Too many people who exploit the geography of the Maltese islands for their own financial gain seem to be allowed to get away with the destruction of our culture.

This week, Europa Nostra, of whose council I am a member, the pan European network of Cultural Heritage Organisations in Europe, have launched their annual ‘Most Endangered Sites’ programme. This is an annual programme funded by the EU whose aim is to bring attention to sites across the continent that are in danger of loss through natural or man-made causes.

The entire country of Malta, including Gozo and Comino as separate sites, should and one day will certainly fit the conditions to be included in this blacklist.

Are we, as a people, going to allow the destruction of our country by the savage and barbaric ideas of certain developers or are we going to put up a fight?

The Maltese have put up fights against threats ever since Roman times, the Ottoman Empire in the Renaissance and Nazism or Communism in the last century.

We are now called upon to join ranks against attacks on intangible and tangible heritage.

Valletta is under threat: the capital city’s few remaining residents are finding it very difficult to live there, there is too much loud music and too many eateries or boutique hotels.

Are we going to sit idly by and just see the death of Valletta for 30 pieces of silver?

Ditto the developers of Comino, Pembroke, the Fortina shoreline and Villa Rosa.

In Comino they are selling the concept of a hotel but are really planning to sell off villas in a unique villa area closed to the Maltese.

Are we going to stand up and fight?

When 30 per cent of the population and over 60 per cent of those under 20 decide not to vote anymore, having lost hope in the present politicians of both sides who lack vision and the guts to stand up and fight for our culture and way of life, I call on these youngsters to seek and find a new young leader to follow him or her in the next battle for life or death that faces our beloved country.

John Vassallo is a former ambassador to the EU.

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