In a well-researched book In the name of the Prince: Maltese Corsairs (1760-1798), author Liam Gauci asserts that being a corsair was a thriving industry during the reign of the Knights of St John.
As opposed to piracy, corsairs were granted an official licence to loot. This piece of paper made all the difference. It gave piracy legitimacy. On his part, the Prince of Malta acted as protector, fully aware that it served his coffers well.
While corsairs have long gone, some still have the traits of corsairs.
Sadly, particular ‘fat cats’ have acquired a licence to loot whatever makes them fatter, irrespective of the common good, our heritage and/or the harm inflicted on the public.
Public land, ODZ zones, historical sites, gardens, valleys and even pavements have been and are being ‘looted’. Some are even eyeing our sea by proposing that land reclamation is our golden future. Nothing is being spared.
Only those who stand to gain choose not to witness this rape of our island. Agreeably, this overtake didn’t start yesterday, but does it justify the present frenzy?
Evoking the past to justify the present is a stale argument. Regrettably, Malta has not only become one construction site but is slowly returning once more to a feudal state, owned and possessed by the powerful few who considered themselves privileged to do and go as they please.
I, and a growing number of others, are not impressed. We are not against sustainable development. We are neither against any business guru. On the contrary, many are trustworthy and through their entrepreneurship our nation has made several advancements.
Our grave concern is about a restricted but influential and vociferous number who consider themselves more equal than others and are determined to make hay while the sun shines.
While sadly a number of Maltese seem blinded by bread and circus tactics, the government is acting as an enabler and protector. Much as the Knights protected and legitimised those who pillaged, justifying it as a means to bring food to the table, the government is trying to convince us that this is the price we have to pay if we want to make a leap in our quality of life. It is the ‘economy, stupid’ mantra in our face all over again.
A case in point is the current Corinthia saga, not to mention other mega proposals sprouting all over.
After the government, through its muppet Planning Authority, craftily rubber stamped all mega developments which were found in the now defunct Paceville master plan, mainly Mercury House, Villa Rosa Complex and the db monstrosity to the dismay of the three local councils and a record number of objectors, the government is adamant to accede to the Corinthia Group.
Some are looting with a little help from the current Prince of Malta
Corinthia is requesting the lifting of the current restrictions imposed and turn public land into private land. In return the group will construct high-end residences and a ‘six-star’ hotel. The building of a ‘six-star’ hotel is not the main quandary here, in view of the fact that land has been granted purposely for such an initiative.
The bone of contention is not only that the submitted plans further deteriorate the skyline, or that of the lack of sound surrounding infrastructure to sustain such development in an area already heavily developed, but that of giving public land to a private commercial entity.
This is the crux of the matter.
It is a grave social injustice; getting rich at the expense of others. As in the db debacle, the government is ready to dish out public land estimated at millions for a pittance. When land worth over €700 million is being sold for only €51 million, it is nothing more than daylight looting.
Sarcastically, we are told to accept this deal as the price of progress. The progress mantra comes very handy to those who seek self-advancement. Whose progress, may I ask? Is it progress of the many or of the privileged few?
While acknowledging that the Corinthia Group is a feather in our national cap, is it entitled to grab land for a pittance? Does it warrant to take public land and sell it handsomely, as in the case of the db Group?
Does the Corinthia Group also have a licence to loot under the pretext of doing business?
Once more the Labour government has shown its true colours. Sadly, the party betrayed its ideological roots and stopped being the voice of the left. Again the government is sharing its bed while Joseph Muscat is enabling the politics of the few to ride over the interest of the many.
Adrian Delia was correct when stating that in the Corinthia deal, the government is choosing to feed one mouth.
I am proud that St Julian’s local council has been consistent throughout. We are not for turning!
Malta may have flourished under the Knights but did so at the expense of being labelled as the island of furbani.
Sadly, some still are looting with a little help from the current Prince of Malta.
Albert Buttigieg is deputy mayor of St Julian’s and a Nationalist Party candidate for the local council elections.
This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece