Gżira’s Labour mayor has accused his party of betraying its socialist principles over plans to turn part of a public garden into a petrol station.
Conrad Borg Manchè lambasted his party’s president for fronting a court case on behalf of the Lands Authority over plans to move the petrol station to the site of Ġnien il-Kunsill tal-Ewropa, decreasing it in size by almost 1,000 square metres.
In a derisive Facebook post, Borg Manchè criticised Ramona Attard who, as the authority’s lawyer, is seeking to stop a council court case which is trying to reverse the Lands Authority’s highly controversial decision to grant part of the garden for the relocation of the petrol station.
He also responded to those who were criticising him from within his own party, insisting that he was adhering to the true spirit of socialism while those who were trying to grant the locality’s only green lung to speculators were doing exactly the opposite.
The garden has been the subject of five legal battles initiated by the Gżira council, which is fighting to stop the Manoel Island service station from being relocated. The petrol station, which has until now occupied a small area close to Manoel Island bridge, had been granted planning permission to move to the garden.
If the move goes ahead, the petrol station is set to triple in size and occupy over 900 square metres of the 20,000 square metre garden.
Plans for the petrol station include fuel pumps, a car wash, a tyre vulcaniser section, a radiator flushing service section, and a shop.
The Gżira council also launched a petition against the relocation, with Borg Manchè encouraging more residents to sign and keep up the pressure.
He vowed to continue the battle to save the garden, despite the attacks he was receiving, even from within his own party, that made him question whether these were following socialist values.
He said that destroying a garden that has been serving the people for more than 120 years so it can be given to a petrol station that will render it unusable because of the high levels of carcinogenic fumes was “the most anti-Socialist act that one can do”.
Ironically, the Labour Party recently launched Project Green which aims to turn public land into green open spaces to be enjoyed by families.
“I am doing my part as your representative despite being attacked, as you may be following during the council meetings. But I will turn your trust into work for you without fear of anyone,” he wrote.
Borg Manchè said that although Attard quoted the law in a court sitting on Wednesday, she did not quote the entire article which spoke about the spirit of the law when it comes to public land. It states that it is ultimately the government’s duty towards its people to ensure the best use of public land.
“That’s exactly what I’m fighting for, so that a land that belongs to the people, especially in its use, is not destroyed for the greed of others,” he wrote.
“Senior members of the Labour Party took it out on me because I stood up to this abuse and I was able to stop it because it happened to be in the right place at the right time… I am amazed at how many hate and humiliate people in the same party to serve themselves and a businessman.”
Replying to a statement by one of them who accused him of causing trouble by not toeing the party line, Borg Manchè said: “I can assure him and everyone that I will keep fighting at the cost of everything and that petrol station there will not happen. It is inconceivable that a socialist party does not give serious priority to the environment. I am not a yes man and I will never be one.”
He said the appeal judgment by Mr Justice Lawrence Mintoff will be delivered on April 26.
Borg Manche’ called for the public to sign the petition against the petrol station’s relocation at www.gziragardens.com.