Public opposition to plans to build a marina in Marsascala is part of a Nationalist Party candidate's bid to get elected on the district, Transport Minister Ian Borg suggested on Monday.
Borg was answering questions from Times of Malta after residents, NGOs and the local council demanded the plans be scrapped.
When asked whether the opposition of residents as well as the local council would be taken into account, Borg said he was not obliged to campaign for a Nationalist Party candidate.
“The local plans that were devised by the Nationalist Party in 2006 are the local plans that govern the country today and these say that a marina can only be built in two places, in Marsascala and Xemxija,” he said.
“Now, there’s an ongoing process, I’ve met with the council, but I’m not going to be some canvasser for a PN candidate in Marsascala.
“So if that Nationalist candidate wants to get into parliament on the strength of a campaign about the marina, I’ll leave it up to the people of the district to engage with.”
Marsascala local council minority leader John Baptist Camilleri was one of the first people to bring plans to build the marina in the public eye and has been vociferously campaigning against it. Camilleri is also contesting as a Nationalist Party candidate on the third district for the next general election.
In a protest against the marina last Saturday, Camilleri explained that the council had made its position clear in August and last week presented a motion to the minister categorically in opposition to the marina.
When asked whether he himself was in favour of building the marina, Borg said that his stance on the project was irrelevant.
“This is not a matter of personal opinion. I am the minister of the entire industry and I do what is needed in the widest possible sense, including meeting with the local council, which I did,” he said.
Borg added that in 1998, the Nationalist government had gone ahead and built a marina in Birgu, where he was speaking, despite some public opposition.
“When former Prime Minister Dom Mintoff spoke against the project, they backtracked and said he was right,” Borg said.
“However when they were elected in ‘98, the first thing they did was build the marina in Birgu anyway.”
‘Don’t knock unless you’re against the marina’
Meanwhile, stickers distributed during last Saturday’s protest have begun to be shared on social media, with the bright yellow squares warning politicians to stay away unless they planned to oppose the marina plans.
“Electoral candidates: Don’t knock on this door unless you’re ready to say no to a marina in Marsascala,” the sticker reads, in anticipation of house visits from politicians ahead of an expected general election.
While on a visit to Marsascala on Monday Times of Malta also saw that several buildings had large banners reading “No Marina” hanging from their balconies.
Plans for the yacht marina were made public in August when Transport Malta published a pre-qualification document that suggested most of the bay would be taken up by pontoons and yacht facilities. Since then, residents of the area have held regular protests against the plans.
On Saturday residents, fishermen, feast enthusiasts and environmentalists once again gathered to protest plans for the marina, along with members of the local council.
Minority leader Camilleri said that when Borg met with the council on January 20, he told them he had not been aware of the council’s opposition to the marina, despite them having made their stance clear in August.
Camilleri also said that the minister promised Transport Malta would not move the project to its second phase until the council’s position had been made clear.
The council followed that meeting up with an email in which it explicitly said that it opposes the marina plans. Camilleri said the council has yet to hear back from the minister.
In November, a parliamentary question revealed that there are currently four contenders currently bidding for a contract to build the marina: Harbour Management JV; Scala Marina JV; G&P Borg Ltd; and Bonnici Brothers Services.
Harbour Management is a joint venture made up of Italian firm MCS, engineer Stefano Puppo, architect Marcofilippo Alborno, geologist Marco Abbo, as well as Turkish companies Onepage Teknoloji and Iven Insaat Marina Yatirimleri.
The Scala Marina joint venture includes Marina Di Valletta LTD, Naipaul Developments Ltd, V&C contractors, Bitmac Limited and Schembri Barbros Ltd.
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