When activists drowned out a Planning Authority hearing concerning an ODZ fuel station with their drums, a couple of them ended up with bleeding heads.
One week later, as they sat in silence and watched that same authority’s board vote in favour of building a 38-storey tower and massive hotel at St George’s Bay, a far greater number went home with broken hearts.
Three local councils, 12 environmental NGOs and well over 4,000 private citizens were dead-set against db Group’s plans for the former ITS campus. But in the end, their opposition counted for little, with the PA gavel coming down 10-4 in favour of the project.
“This process was a farce,” fumes Moviment Graffiti’s Andre Callus. “Many of those backing the project did not say a single word. They just came, sat quietly and then voted in favour, without ever justifying their vote.”
Mr Callus, who is never shy of ruffling feathers, makes no attempt to hide his disdain in this Times Talk interview, which was filmed before the PA confirmed it had hired a private jet to fly in one board member specifically for the controversial vote.
“Too many people in this country are willing to be lackeys of those in power,” Mr Callus says.
Chief among the targets of his ire is Environment and Resource Authority chief Victor Axiak, who backed the project and praised developers for their preparedness.
To Mr Callus’ eyes, Prof. Axiak's behaviour was “pathetic”.
“You had 12 eNGOs arguing against the project, but then the man responsible for overseeing Malta’s environment asks three senseless questions and wraps things up by saying ‘if only every developer did likewise.’ It’s laughable”.
Mr Callus fulminates against the pro-business “mantra” that Malta appears to be gripped by.
“We throw money at the rich to get the crumbs from their table,” he says. “Pro-business has overtaken pro-people”.
The problem runs deeper than just the Planning Authority or any one project, Mr Callus says, and has everything to do with the way in which power is wielded in Malta.
But his suspicion of foul play at the heart of Malta’s planning processes continues to fester.
“Far too many suspect applications have been approved,” he says. “And when you try and understand why, you come up short”.
Watch the full Times Talk interview with Mr Callus in the above video