Mepa PRO signs 6,500 plus anti-Mepa petition
21 June 2007
As part of Mepa’s desperate attempt to justify its decision to allow the building of villas at Ramla l-Hamra Bay, Sylvana Debono, the authority’s PRO, ended up signing an online petition calling for the authority she forms part of, to annul the permit it granted.
The Malta Environment and Planning Authority (Mepa)’s public relations office, led by Debono herself, is currently doing its utmost to convince the public that the environmentalists’ claims that the permit for the building of Ramla l-Hamra, are “not true”.
Besides the numerous press releases, the authority is even paying for adverts on local websites, to promote their specially designed web page giving the arguments being used to defend the recently issued permit for 23 villas at the picturesque Ramla l-Hamra.
The permit gives the green light to a construction project a few metres away from a Natura 2000 site, which benefits from EU funds for conservation, and is also listed by the same authority as a Special Area of Conservation of International Importance (SAC).
Environmentalists, led by seven green NGOs, are calling on all those who disagree with turning Ramla l-Hamra into a building site to participate in a national protest march in Valletta next Monday, 25 June, at 1830hrs. For more information, and to support the environmentalists’ cause by signing the petition, log on to www.saveramla.com.
The 4,698th signature!
Debono, who also writes opinion articles for the Nationalist Party’s newspaper, signed the online petition calling for the “annulment of the Ramla l-Hamra development permit”, launched by ‘Save Ramla’, an action group including environmentalists and Gozitan residents. Since the petition also allows for the posting of comments, Debono signed the petition to be able to write down Mepa’s arguments against the environmentalists. In fact she referred to seven of the environmentalists’ arguments against the development, including those endorsed by the petition, and contradicted them all.
But by so doing, “Sylvana Debono, PRO MEPA” has become one of the 6,500 plus individuals protesting against the destruction of Ramla l-Hamra. In fact she was the 4,698th person who signed the petition.
When contacted on Wednesday, Debono admitted that it was she who signed the petition. “If someone is trying to conclude that I signed it because I approve of it, that is not all there is to say. The only way that I, err, Mepa could mention its voice on ‘Save Ramla’ was with that manner… by signing the petition”.
Environmentalists published Mepa comments
But this is not true, because Debono had already “mentioned its [Mepa’s] voice” by posting the same write up attached to her petition entry, on the ‘Have Your Say’ section of the same newspaper. And the administrators of the website were kind enough not to censor Debono’s comments defending the building of villas at Ramla l-Hamra, clearly showing that they were not seeking to stifle Mepa’s position.
This is quite different than the attitude shown by Mepa towards environmentalists and other objectors during the last weeks. The authority did not accept a call for the postponement of the Ramla l-Hamra permit decision, in order to check out allegations of irregularities made by the objectors. When ‘Flimkien ghall-Ambjent Ahjar’ (FAA) publicly criticised Mepa for shortcomings in the Ramla l-Hamra permit, the authority’s chairman declared a boycott against this green NGO.
Debono answers again…
Apparently angered by maltastar.com’s questions, Debono immediately followed the telephone conversation with an e-mail. She stated: “The submission made on the petition Save Ramla, was made in my professional representative capacity as PRO of Mepa. The comments attached to the signature show clearly that this is not a signature in approval but quite the opposite. Hence any portrayal of the signature as a sign of approval would be a complete and downright lie. Please be guided accordingly”.
Interestingly, the individuals who signed the petition right before and after Debono’s entry, give a completely different picture of the public’s sentiments towards the authority she represents, Mepa. One states “Please stop this scandalous behaviour. If MEPA is no longer functioning as it should be, then it is about time we do away with it!” The one posted after Sylvana signed the petition, stated: “This country could be a jewel in the centre of the Mediterranean but has been turned into a pigsty by developers with the blessing of the authority SPECIFICALLY set up to avoid land development speculation”.
Another one is short, albeit not so sweet – “Power corrupts”.
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