Landowners offered an expropriation deal by Infrastructure Malta should be wary of what they sign because the agreement they sign is legally “worthless”, activist group Moviment Graffitti has warned.
The activist group emphasised that according to the law, it is the Lands Authority that must value land and process expropriation requests. Infrastructure Malta has no such authority.
“Anyone signing this paper is giving Infrastructure Malta access to their land, but there is no guarantee this agency can honour the agreed valuations, because those fall under the Lands’ Authority remit,” Graffitti noted.
Infrastructure Minister Ian Borg has previously defended bilateral deals that Infrastructure Malta makes with landowners to bypass the Lands Authority procedure, saying they are made to “speed up the process”.
A Żabbar farmer's experience
Graffitti’s warning to landowners comes after Times of Malta highlighted the case of a Żabbar farmer whose land was dug up by Infrastructure Malta before an expropriation deal had been settled.
John Pulis refused to sign a contract given to him by the roads agency after it declined to tell him how much money he would be receiving for the land. He says Infrastructure Malta workers then moved onto the land and dug it up, before a deal was reached.
Infrastructure Malta has said that it does not need a permit for the land in Żabbar but has acknowledged that the Lands Authority valuation process “is still in progress.”
Graffitti considers legal action
Graffitti activists have been at the forefront of direct action to highlight Infrastructure Malta expropriations and their methods and on Monday demanded an investigation into them.
The activist group said that it was obtaining legal advice to see whether it can take Infrastructure Malta and its CEO Fredrick Azzopardi to court.
It noted that the Żabbar case was similar to other incidents in Dingli and elsewhere and said it is seeking legal advice to see whether it can take the agency and its CEO Fredrick Azzopardi to court.
“It is now clear that Infrastructure Malta is acting in breach of the applicable laws by entering citizens’ property without agreeing on expropriations. What happened in Zabbar is no different to what happened in Dingli, and countless other places in which IM simply entered farmers’ lands, knocked down walls, destroyed soil and crops, covered the area in tarmac and left without compensation,” the NGO said.
Police officers need better training
The activist group also said police officers needed to be better educated about correct expropriation procedures, as they all too often “sided with the bullies”.
It noted that law enforcement officers had immediately sided with Infrastructure Malta in contentious cases in Dingli and Zabbar and “took their word for everything”.
“IM and their representatives lied to the police when they said they had all the necessary paperwork in hand. Police officers did not intervene to protect citizens and investigate the matter, but instead chose to believe IM without having seen a shred of paperwork,” Graffitti said.
“We believe the Police Commissioner is responsible for the upholding of the law, and that the corps have a duty to step in and protect the citizen from such bullying,” it said.
Graffitti urged any members of the public with information about other unpaid expropriations to contact it via its Facebook page or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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