Environment Minister rebukes Mepa chairman for 'overreaction' - http://www.timesofmalta.com/
Saturday, June 16, 2007

Massimo Farrugia

Environment Minister George Pullicino believes the chairman of the Malta Environment and Planning Authority, Andrew Calleja, overreacted when he slammed an NGO and the media in the wake of heavy criticism.

Mr Calleja was livid during a press conference on Monday in which he sought to defend Mepa's decision to grant a permit for a tourist complex to be built close to Calyspso's Cave.

Appearing outraged and losing his cool on several occasions when fielding questions from journalists, Mr Calleja declared a boycott against Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar, the environmental NGO, for the "unjustified" criticism it had levelled at the authority.

A spokesman for the Environment Ministry, answering questions addressed to the minister, told The Times that Mr Pullicino understands the chairman was offended by the amount of misinformation that was being fed "notwithstanding Mepa's willingness to inform the FAA about the project proposal prior to the board decision".

However, according to Mr Pullicino, the chairman overreacted when he declared a boycott against the NGO, even though he immediately qualified his statement by explaining that while the FAA would have full access to documents and information as the law prescribed, there should be no preferential treatment given to an NGO which has "distorted the facts".

Asked about Mr Calleja's decision to call a press conference to defend Mepa, the ministry spokesman said the authority must do its best to explain its decisions in the best possible manner.

The minister's rebuke comes after several NGOs and the Church Environment Commission criticised the "boycott".

During Monday's press conference, Mr Calleja sought to defend the authority from the heavy fire it came under for permitting 23 self-catering villa-style tourist units to be built at Ramla l-Hamra. He reacted to the FAA's call for the resignation of all Mepa board members after the NGO's spokesman, Astrid Vella, argued that the development casts doubt on Mepa's vetting procedures.

The chairman rebutted Ms Vella's claims that the procedure contained irregularities saying FAA had distorted the facts.

Mr Calleja also attacked the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage saying he had received an e-mail from the assistant superintendent an hour before the meeting held in public on June 6, after which nobody from the superintendence had bothered to turn up.

Critical of the "incredible reportage" by the media on the day of the decision, Mr Calleja said his wife had been so impressed by the news coverage that she chastised him when he got home and he had to "explain the facts to her".
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16 Jun 2007 by Saveramla.com