I can’t breathe. Sadly, these were the last words uttered by George Floyd who died of asphyxiation after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

Floyd’s desperate plea has now become a worldwide rallying cry against the malaise of xenophobia.

Although racism undoubtedly suffocates one’s human dignity, sadly there are other grave issues which are preventing us from being able to ‘breathe’ properly!

There is no need to go to Minneapolis!

In Malta, some can’t breathe fresh air due to excessive dust emanating from various construction sites, linked by a trail of fine dust, turning zones into a Sahara-like desert. As a consequence, cases of asthma are on the increase.

The public can’t enjoy walking freely on pavements since many of them are being taken over by tables and chairs. It is ironic that while we are encouraging physical mobility, especially for our elderly, many seafront pavements have been turned into an extension of a restaurant or bar. Pavements have also become inaccessible because of some irresponsible residents who take out their garbage at the wrong time.

Some of our residents can’t enjoy a good night’s sleep. A number of developers work during the night with the excuse that they have targets to reach.

Others can’t enjoy staying indoors or working from home as they have to endure  unbearable excavation noise without adequate site perimeter barriers to minimise sound disturbance.

Others, living in quaint resi­dential areas, have to deal with drunken revellers of bars which are permitted to ope­rate within residential areas.

And with summer on our doorstep, some can’t even swim. Although the foreshore ought to be free and accessible, some coastal areas are being encroached upon by private businesses.

In St Julian’s, almost all our foreshore has been privatised. To make matters worse, the Planning Authority is set to approve the hideous proposal of the Captain Morgan fast ferry catamaran.

Ironically, all current policies underline that Balluta Bay is a swimmers’ zone and not a port for a 33-metre-long commercial catamaran, ferrying back and forth approximately 22 times a day.

But who cares if the quaint bay is turned into another Sliema Ferries as long as the Zammit Tabona dynasty is kept happy!

Others can’t even walk freely in the countryside as hunters have been allowed to shoot with impunity, patronising us with their RTO signs and bullying anyone who dares stand up to them.

Who cares if the quaint bay is turned into another Sliema Ferries as long as the Zammit Tabona dynasty is kept happy- Albert Buttigieg

Sadly, the prime minister has resurrected a proposal to hand over l-Aħrax tal-Mellieħa and Miżieb to the hunters’ lobby. Joe Public also demands to enjoy the countryside, without the risk of being turned away by aggressive hunters.

Many people can’t even park their cars as ‘temporary structures’ have been constructed in place of parking bays, occupying precious car parking spaces and increasing the frustration of residents.

The recent saga of Nola Café in St Julian’s, which took up five parking spaces, including one for disabled people, aided and abetted by the central authorities, is just a classic, sleazy example of how residents are treated and looked down upon with disdain, not­withstanding the government’s spin that residents come first.

Sadly, due to the arrogance of the greedy few ‒ who are enabled by politicians who time and time again put votes and party before the common good  ‒ residents cannot walk freely, sleep soundly, enjoy their homes or their sea and are unable to find parking spaces or catch a breath of fresh air.

Some may say I am being cynical, but when one carries out an honest appraisal, simi­lar conclusions are reached. Honest Maltese citizens are fed up with being walked over and stamped upon by the arrogance of the few.

Following Floyd’s cruel murder, a movement of people stood up and raised their voice. So must we stand up and be counted. The core solution to this constant suffocation is to firmly advocate and uphold without exception the common good over the interests of the greedy few.

As Albert Einstein once said, the world is a dangerous place not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.

I and others choose not to look on and do nothing.

We need to breathe! We want to breathe! We will breathe!

Albert Buttigieg is mayor of St Julian’s.

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