A number of Labour voices are backing tomorrow’s national protest against over-construction and disregard for the environment, even if most are unable to attend.

Times of Malta is also informed by the organisers that at least three Labour mayors have signalled their intention to attend the event being held on Saturday at 10.30am in Valletta.

Former prime minister Alfred Sant, who said he would be away when asked if he would be there, said the protest was justified over a number of issues.

Former prime minister Alfred SantFormer prime minister Alfred Sant

He said that if organised with skill and non-partisan leanings or commitment, such protests were “very effective to raise consciousness about what can be done differently to protect and enhance our fragile urban and rural environment.”

“Environmental protection that is effective has obviously become a genuine national issue. If it does not become polarised into a partisan issue, which is what those presently making a killing from environmental laissez-faire would like to happen, maintaining efforts to raise consciousness about this deep problem will eventually have an impact,” Sant said.

President Emeritus Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca said she supported the protest, as she supported “any non-party political initiative in favour of better environmental planning for the well-being of our children.”

President Emeritus Marie-Louise Coleiro PrecaPresident Emeritus Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca

While unable to attend due to a family commitment, she said active citizenship was fundamental in a democracy, needed to bring about change for the common good.

Former Labour education and foreign minister Evarist Bartolo will not be able to attend as he will not be in Malta.

“I hope that the protest will be a success and that there is a good turnout,” he said.

“It is useless to complain in private circles that the country is being ruined by overbuilding. It is important to protest publicly and also to use the vote to show disagreement with policies. The only language that people in power in democracies understand is how citizens exercise their right to vote.

“If people in power are not ready to change policies that cause dissatisfaction among citizens, dissatisfied citizens should vote for politicians who are ready to stop the country from further ruin through overbuilding,” he said.

Former Labour education and foreign minister Evarist Bartolo.Former Labour education and foreign minister Evarist Bartolo.

Labour mayors back protest

One of those attending is Gżira’s Labour mayor Conrad Borg Manché, who will also be speaking during the event.

He believes that such events work to nudge the people in power to bring about change.

“The best way to bring about change is for the people to be heard. Public protests worked in my case,” he said, referring to those held over Manoel Island.

As Gżira mayor, he led protests to force MIDI to revise their Manoel Island plans and grant the public foreshore access in 2016. More recently he fought successfully against moving a petrol station into Gżira’s public garden.

Gżira’s Labour mayor Conrad Borg Manché.Gżira’s Labour mayor Conrad Borg Manché.

Former Xagħra mayor Christian Zammit, another staunch environmentalist, will not be able to attend due to other commitments but said: “I have made my position quite clear during the last two or three years: building policies in Malta need an overhaul.

“Protests were necessary against the 2006 horrible rationalisation process and are now necessary once again in connection with policies ruining skylines and streetscapes of Gozitan towns and villages.

“What is utterly needed as well is that parties and candidates reveal who sponsors them in order to avoid any doubts or suspicions.”

Former Xagħra mayor Christian Zammit.Former Xagħra mayor Christian Zammit.

The outspoken Labour mayor resigned from the council and from all positions in the Labour Party about a month ago, saying he was “getting out of the way”. He had spoken about his anti-construction battle to safeguard the environment saying it was “not relevant” to its population.

A prominent environmentalist agreed with the sentiment voiced by Labour proponents. Lawyer Claire Bonello, who has fought many a court battle against unjustified construction, said protests are a tool in activists’ arsenal.

“Together with perseverance and sustained activism and legal action, we will bring about change. The time will come when the environmental atrocities being carried out now will be called out.

'We will never surrender'

“In the meantime, we fight the good fight. We will never retreat, never surrender. We’ll get there,” she said.

Planning to attend, she said the protest would sum up the predominant feeling in the country: “We are sick and tired of this orgy of over-development, environmental pillage, inexistent enforcement and destruction of the natural and built environment and our well-being.”

The protest is called Xebbajtuna! Bidla fl-Ambjent u l-Ippjanar ISSA! (We’ve had enough. Changes in environment and planning now). It is organised by Moviment Graffitti, Friends of the Earth Malta, Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar, Din l-Art Ħelwa, Nature Trust Malta, Għawdix, BirdLife and Ramblers’ Association and endorsed by some 250 academics.

Protesters will meet at the Triton Fountain outside Valletta at 10.30am to demand a better economic model that enhances quality of life as well as institutional and policy reforms in the fields of environment, planning and lands.

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