A large group of Senglea residents held a protest on Sunday over plans by the American University of Malta to extend its footprint on the Waterfront.
The protest was the latest in a series of activities led by the group ‘Action: Give us back our land’, a non-partisan organization that aims to raise awareness about the over-development in the harbour area.
Around a hundred people turned up for the protest in front of the area known
as the Knight’s Building, undeterred by the rain.
Many were clad in red and yellow shirts and scarves, the eponymous
colours of Senglea.
The AUM is seeking to build an administration block between the Knight’s Building and il-Maċina as well as a dormitory closer to Senglea.
The activists said that the proposed development would obscure Senglea’s Sheer Bastion and reduce open spaces available to residents.
“The people who should have organized this protest aren’t here today,” Joseph Tonna, who led the protest march, told Times of Malta.
“I would have expected the local council to bring people together and tell them what is happening. There are people in better positions than me to act on this situation.”
Dr Tonna gave an impassioned speech, saying that prime land had been given away without any Sengleans raising their voices.
He said that the restriction of access to public landmark buildings such as the ones given to Sadeen group for the AUM harked back to a time when the Maltese needed permission from the British to access certain areas in their own country.
“We will not let them cover our gem of a city with a monstrous building. Malta’s history is interlinked with that of Senglea and these bastions are soaked with the blood of our ancestors. Let us not go down in history as those who put up no resistance against this invasion by Sadeen from Jordan,” Dr Tonna said.
He insisted that the area between Maċina and the Knights Building should remain an open space for the community, so as not to cover the bastions which are an integral part of history.
Dr Tonna said that residents had welcomed pledges by Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi that the Senglea entrance would undergo a €2 million restoration.
However, he said, the views of this entrance would be completely ruined should the AUM extension go ahead as planned.
Speaking on behalf of ‘Action: Give us back our land’, Andrea Dibben backed Dr Tonna’s plea and said that the extension was “in fact a monster” that would “choke our densely populated home and make life for residents and visitors harder”.
“The impact will be huge and can never be undone,” Dr Dibben warned.
“We appeal to our local councils and all other local authorities, to start representing our interest and to the Planning Authority to implement guidelines which respect the community and preserve our unique history.”
During the protest, the organisers launched a petition against the planned AUM extension.