The turnout for Moviment Graffitti’s protest against the proposed marina in Marsascala was surprising, and not only for the numbers. Considering the town has always been a Labour stronghold, the community was out in droves to oppose Transport Malta’s project.
On the eve of the protest, Graffitti stated clearly that the Marsascala marina is much bigger than a local issue.
They pinpointed a series of developments, concessions, land grabs and encroachments that have blighted and continue to threaten towns in the south of Malta, from Xgħajra to Marsaxlokk.
The group noted that it is no different in Sliema and St Julian’s, in Buġibba and in Gozo; indeed, the whole island is under attack.
The protest in Marsascala brought together a whole town, including various associations such as fishermen, amateur sailors, festa and fireworks enthusiasts.
All of them have realised the imminent threat to their quality of life, their public spaces and in some cases, their hobbies. The protest provided them with a rare platform to speak out about what the marina will mean to them and to future generations, a discussion which is never held in political circles.
The ashes of the protest had barely settled when a different kind of platform went on to further infuriate public opinion.
AX Hotels installed a massive platform covering a substantial chunk of the pavement in Merchants Street to ensure outdoor dining. The Planning Authority quickly leapt to the hoteliers’ defence, saying the applicants were following all permits to the letter.
However, the permit was issued in lightning fashion (the hearing was held at the beginning of August despite the October target date) and the massive platform was erected on August 28, before the permit became officially public (September 6) and ignoring the 30-day period imposed by the PA to give appellants time to appeal.
It is also clear that AX knew they were getting the permit since a structure such as that cannot be built and installed in just two weeks in August.
Valletta residents were up in arms, and rightly so.
Numerous restaurateurs have exceeded the limits of decency when it comes to mounting street furniture onto public spaces.
Xuereb is another in a series of businesspeople whose interests sprouted across Valletta in the last few years, and whose contribution to the wellbeing of the community has been negligible.
In spite of his “masterplan” for the “Renaissance City” flaunted five years ago, Xuereb is now uglifying a UNESCO Heritage Site and reducing public accessibility without any repentance towards the community.
The installation of the platform in Merchants Street is an ostentatious symbol of the gross disrespect with which the business lobby treats local communities.
Comino was also in the headlines for the wrong reasons, with a report in Times of Malta showing sunbeds completely taking over the Blue Lagoon.
Despite the prime minister’s pledge to upgrade the Maltese product and the “general cleanup” mentioned a few months ago, Comino’s beauty has now fallen prey to the familiar mix of greed and lawlessness.
Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo appears out of depth and unable to respond as to whether he will take action on Comino, while the Malta Tourism Authority stonewalls the media as rightful questions about beach concessions are asked.
While pressure on public spaces continues to increase, the government remains obstinate in its greenwashing drive, trumpeting the refurbishment of gardens instead of ensuring the protection of public spaces from commercial interests.
However, Robert Abela should be careful about taking his own voters for granted.
His own hometown has given him a clear sign.
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