Will they heed the warning signs?
The past week has been characterized, in my view, by at least two important statements from two prominent and longtime Labor Party icons, Manwel Cuschieri and Jason Micallef.
They both wrote on their own behalf and they strongly criticized the recent decisions that have been taken. Micallef, former Labor Party general secretary and party media chairman, has criticized the Planning Authority’s approval of a massive development in Gozo, identified with tycoon Joseph Portelli, which will include a swimming pool in an ODZ area in the Vale of Marsalforn.
Days earlier, Micallef had sharply criticized the situation at the Blue Lagoon in Comino after activists led by Graffitti took direct action and removed sun loungers and umbrellas cluttering what would otherwise be an idyllic site.
Manwel Cuschieri, a former party chairman, also wrote about the Marsalforn Valley candidacy and called for an investigation.
These separate statements provoked a wave of comments, quickly forgotten following the announcement that Malta had been removed from the gray list. On the side of the PN, these statements were greeted with an avalanche of derision, as one might expect.
It is myopic to make fun.
First of all, these negative statements were not the only ones to come from the Labor ranks. Similar negative statements have come from a multitude of lower lights.
Taken together, they signify growing disenchantment on the Labor base with the development lobby pushed hard by so many entrepreneurs, big and small, and facilitated by a weak PA and weaker MTA.
These remarks by the two Labor notables must be carefully considered given the silence of the nationalist opposition, which took about five days to express itself on the situation at the Blue Lagoon.
Later revelations in the still free social media revealed the close links between the Blue Lagoon entrepreneurs and the Labor Party and now also the family ties between the Minister of Tourism and some Comino ferries.
This country has lost its third and smallest island. It was a pirate lair many years ago. Then he suffered from gross negligence. Now it risks being overcrowded and massively exploited by so-called get-rich-quick corporations maximizing their ties to labor ministers, MPs and even MEPs.
In a few clicks, you can see what our neighbor Italy is doing. Take Sicily, for example, or even Sardinia. Ask the Maltese who came to prefer to go there instead of queuing for the Gozo Canal ships. Or who buy a property at a fraction of what it would cost them here. Or who enjoy the restaurant dishes they find there, at a cheaper price too.
The Blue Lagoon and Marsalforn Valley developments are not the right models for the future. When the Prime Minister pulls out his boat and starts crossing every weekend, all he has to do is look around and wonder how much better Malta can be if he stands up to the potential developers rushing in around him and pushing him to ruin Gozo, for example the bays of Xlendi and Marsalforn, just like many bays in Malta, were destroyed.
But he won’t. He won’t stem the tide. It will always yield to land gobblers and builders of tiny boxes on top of each other and anyone looking for a quick buck. Manwel Cuschieri and Jason Micallef and everyone else might as well give up.