In one of his telling poems, American author Matt Rasmussen wrote: “No island is an island. There is no new land, just the same body broken open.”

The fact that as a nation we live on two islands seems to trouble our psyche. Economic theory suggests that getting these two islands better connected will lead to more business and industry, revving up Gozo’s performance to full capacity.

Figures rolled out showcase that the archipelago is becoming a top tourist hot spot. But is Gozo getting its fair share of the current bonanza? According to statistics, December marked another lucrative wave as “over half a million visitors” battled the extra mile to huddle up north and wallow in its tranquility.

Inspite of this euphoric commercial bubble, the underlying thought about a quicker way to get to the sister island has not been put to bed.

Recently the government announced that a call for tenders had closed and seven offers had been submitted to start laying the groundwork for the tunnel. The central question to be asked in the fact of this infrastructural upheaval is: Do you or don’t you want a permanent link?

Those who follow the media have read how ‘respondents’ are on tenterhooks for the link to be baptised. However, during my daily commute between the islands I’ve met more individuals who are more sceptical about the whole idea than are for it.

Let’s not beat about the bush. The way commuters travel to and from Gozo is still mothballed in a time warp. The signs are there for all to see. The means of crossing to and from the mainland need to be rushed back to the drawing board. And see how to cater for more tourists, students and workers, getting them to the church on time, so to speak.

The tunnel seems like a step too far. One we can never go back on

News coverage of late has been concerned with the government’s racing pace, with the geographical routes and entry points, and whether the public is shifting into gear for a permanent link. It is time – although I believe we’re already late – to seriously assess public opinion on the matter, especially what Gozitans think about this conundrum. I have the impression that we talk about the link as if it’s a fantastic el dorado while the reality possibly lies somewhere else.

The tunnel seems like a step too far. One we can never go back on. A development that will completely change the way Gozo breaths, heaves and shifts.

Public opinion comes in two bright but contagious colours: red and blue. Anything in between is anathema. Although it looks as if both political parties are in agreement about the tunnel, God forbid that this means party loyalists ending up blindly cheering the trail blazers without bothering to sit down and think about the ups and downs of constructing this marine behemoth.

Amidst the barbed debate on the link, the Gozo Channel ferries seem to have been sidestepped. How about urgent improvements or, better still, a much-needed upgrade in the way people cross between Ċirkewwa and Mġarr?

The introduction of a fourth ferry seems to have been shipwrecked, while the introduction a fast ferry service from Valletta seems mired in a reverie one eases into after downing several glasses of a full-bodied Shiraz.

Historically it seems that talks, studies and discussions have never come this close to getting such a project going. Can the same terms be applied to a civil public forum?

What’s wrong with listening to and digesting the arguments of those who feel that “Gozo will never be the same with the tunnel?” Will Gozo’s quaint characteristics remain intact with the tunnel? What about those who believe that a permanent link is needed but has to be accompanied by an additional transport service?

It’s the way people who put diverse proposals on the table are demonised that kill healthy debate and leads to unsavoury group think.

The tunnel will change the collective mindset. For the country’s sake and even more so for those who will inherit this space once we move on, let’s be mature enough to conduct a sane discussion on this quantum step, which looks more like dividing the two islands than getting them closer.


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