Guest Post: Xebbajtuna! Four Key Reasons You Need To Attend This Saturday’s National Protest
Malta’s contemporary landscape is dominated by half-finished construction sites, concrete dust, exhaust fumes, and cranes decorating the horizon.
These are all testament to the sorry state of environmental protection, its root cause stemming from the planning institutions that are supposed to be protecting our green and urban spaces.
We’re sick and tired of this. That’s why we’re calling on the public to join us on Saturday 27th May at Triton Fountain in demanding changes to planning policies, radical institutional reforms, and an overall shift in Malta’s economic model away from endless growth and towards prioritising the people’s well-being.
Are you unsure about attending the protest? Don’t worry, we’re here with some reasons as to why you should join us in Valletta this week.
1. Public spaces are disappearing, and it’s all thanks to the Lands Authority.
Public space is a limited resource on the Maltese islands, meaning the destruction or selling of any one space has a major effect on our social wellbeing. Physical and mental health issues are on the rise, and many people are now anxious about the future of the Maltese natural environment.
There is a key culprit to the disappearance of these public spaces – the Lands Authority.
It’s tasked with managing public land yet keeps selling off parcels of space to private businesses at our expense. Just think about the deckchair concessions on Comino’s beaches, or the restaurant tables and chairs encroaching parks and pavements.
People should be able to live a fulfilled and healthy life – this includes enjoying and preserving public spaces.
2. Developers are wreaking havoc across the country with the help of our various planning and environment institutions.
It seems as if it’s every day that we learn of a new and shocking development being proposed by some fat-cat developer. Think of Joseph Portelli’s apartment projects in Qala and Sannat in Gozo, or Michael Stivala’s high-rise hotels in residential zones in Gżira and Sliema.
Let’s not forget the gross monstrosity that dB Group have planned for Pembroke, which would completely transform the village’s landscape.
And despite thousands of objections, institutions like the Planning Authority or the Environment and Resources Authority keep approving such bombastic projects, even in Malta’s Outside-Development Zones.
Not to mention a new scheme by the Planning Authority to help developers regularise their own ODZ illegalities…
3. People power works! Just look at what we’ve been able to achieve.
It’s easy to look back at past protests and think that they did nothing in the grand scheme of things. But we should not overlook our victories over the interests of the powerful few. Indeed, people power has gotten us pretty far already!
Just this month, the approval of a permit renewal for a Mistra residential development project was revoked following an appeal by the residents of Xemxija.
The development plans must now undergo further scrutiny to assure it complies with the newer planning regulations that have been put in place since the first permit was issued in 2014.
This would not have happened had the residents given up on the protection of green spaces in their locality. And we’ve had some other pretty big wins too.
The residents of Marsaskala, hand-in-hand with Moviment Graffitti, managed to prevent plans for a marina in the local bay from being carried out.
Years back, we also managed to change the local policies on fuel stations. It’s clear that at this moment planning and environmental institutions don’t work in favour of the environment, but we can fight back and demand change, and we’ve done so with clear success.
4. Only greedy developers benefit in the current system.
Let’s stay you choose to stay home on Saturday. Fair enough, but we challenge you to ask yourself: who will benefit the most from this?
The Portellis and Stivalas of the day.
They can afford to buy their private yachts and islands while we’re stuck in a landscape of construction dust and high-rise buildings of their doings.
They make their millions from Malta’s beaches and green spaces while we work 9-to-5 jobs for miserly wages. We should not settle for this. We want an economy that is fair and just, one that puts our wellbeing front-and-centre, instead of sacrificing it to the profit of the wealthy few.
This is what we deserve, and this is what we will fight for. Your presence on 27th May is a vital part of the continuous fight ahead of us.
We won’t say this will be easy, but it will be easier if we stand together. So stand with us, be counted, and make your voice heard!
We hope to see you there.
You can find the details and the demands of the upcoming protest here. If you form part of an organisation that would like to be involved in this protest, register your participation here: www.xebbajtuna.org
Amy Marie Abela is a postgraduate student at the University of Malta undertaking research in Modern Arabic Literature from a feminist perspective. She is also an active member of Moviment Graffitti.
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