Chairman's attack on NGO (letters) -
Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Vincent Vella, Mosta.

Since I was not present at the meeting when Mepa granted a permit for a tourist complex overlooking Ramla l-Hamra in Gozo, and since I do not have access to the files dealing with the case, I will restrict myself to the article as appearing in The Times of June 12, 2007, under the title Mepa Defends Ramla Permit. Let's have a look at what emerges from the article - besides chairman Andrew Calleja's bruised ego that is to say. The chairman's main thrust is that "only the area occupied by the present building would be redeveloped". On the other hand, Astrid Vella of Flimkien ghall-Ambient Ahjar contends that "the outline permit covers much more land than the existing structures". Moreover, Ms Vella says that she would be in a better position to substantiate her allegation once the FAA "is allowed access to the Mepa file on Ramla l-Hamra".

Ms Vella also challenged Mr Calleja to publish the reports compiled by a group of archaeologists and the auditor. Mr Calleja, much irked by Ms Vella's contentions and attitude at the meting, declared a boycott on FAA.

Well, my first reaction on the reading the article was: If Mr Calleja cannot take the flak that comes with such a position, he should resign and not turn "livid" and bluster and issue boycotts. Frankly, we are not impressed.

Why should we believe Mr Calleja and not the FAA? Nobody is accusing him or the other members of the board of any "irregularities", but we have witnessed too many official (and officious) stooges, all too eager to sell their masters' projects/policies, not to have grown slightly cynical.

Individuals pitted against government ministers and their fronts are in a singularly disadvantageous position. That's what NGOs like FAA are for - to fight the good fight. If all the files and reports were made available it could be decided whether Mr Calleja and Mepa have been unfairly treated and are owed an apology. Until this is done, and until Mr Calleja keeps reacting petulantly by throwing tantrums and imposing boycotts, he has to allow us our scepticism...together with the sneaking suspicion that, by finding an excuse not to show FAA the files and reports, this is indeed, as Ms Vella said, "in line with Mepa's present policy to gag its critics".

James A. Tyrrell, Larne, N. Ireland.

I read about the attack by the chairman of Mepa, Andrew Calleja, on the FAA in general and Astrid Vella in particular. If he thinks he was livid he couldn't begin to imagine what I'm feeling right now. Here we have a person who is empowered with the responsibility of protecting the environment on Malta and Gozo launching an attack on the spokesman of the FAA, the environmental NGO! How dare he? On the one hand we have Ms Vella who fights tirelessly for the good of the environment and on the other the chairman of an authority seemingly hell bent on destroying it.

I have to say that when I was reading this report I had a clear vision in my head of a worm frantically wriggling on a hook! I would however ask the readers of this letter to consider this question: Which one of these two people can you honestly say cares most about their country, your country?

Since FAA represents civil society, this is also an arrogant insult to the public, a fact which also reflects very poorly on Mepa and the authorities.

I should also remind Mr Calleja that when he said the process is above board, the "process" he is referring to is the destruction for all time of one of Gozo's most beautiful treasures. Perhaps he would be better served in future by referring to such environmental rape for what it is, rather than trying to trivialise it by referring to it as the "process". Can I reiterate just how unjustified his attack on Ms Vella was. She not only speaks passionately from her own heart; she also voices the opinions of the ordinary Maltese and Gozitan people as well as tourists like myself. But then Mr Calleja has not only criticised the FAA; he has also criticised the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage and the media in general. It would appear that everyone is wrong except the arrogant Mr Calleja and Mepa.
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20 Jun 2007 by