Only two MPs are against a motion backing the Gozo tunnel project after it received unanimous approval from Malta’s two leading parties, with every single PL and PN MP voting in favour.
All of this despite the lack of published studies into the tunnel and a significant number of people vociferously against the proposal.
With the tunnel project a highly contentious issue, it would have been refreshing to representative democracy be a little more… representative. Surveys have shown that while the majority seems to agree with the tunnel, a very sizeable minority are fearful of the environmental and social damage it could do to Gozo.
PD Leader Godfrey Farrugia and MP Marlene Farrugia boycotted the vote, insisting that there wasn’t enough information over the feasibility and sustainability of such a plan.
Channelling their “fire and fury” in a statement, PD condemned the “shameless unity” and “blind political commitment” to a project which could have a severely negative impact on the island and its inhabitants.
PN Spokesperson for Gozo Chris Said did table a few superficial amendments to the motion, ensuring Parliament that he would be backing the project.
— Justyne Caruana (@justynecaruana) 17 April 2019
Quoting a social impact assessment, Gozo Minister Justyne Caruana was steadfast in insisting that the tunnel would mean an increase in investment and would ultimately “improve the lives of hundreds of Gozitan families”.
Said echoed these sentiments, adding that political consensus was essential to ensure that the tunnel would be realised. He also appealed to the government to publish all reports related to the project.
“There is no question that the project is warranted and required,” he said.”A Gozitan person who lives in Gozo but works in Malta suffers 16 hours more travelling time than the average Maltese.”
The only sort of opposition to the project came from PN MP Frederick Azzopardi, who argued that the government should have encouraged greater public participation in the proposal.
“An agreement between the two major parties should never take precedence over scientific studies,” Azzopardi said.
Parliamentary motion to unleash the full potential of #Gozo and Gozitans whilst providing guaranteed accessibility endorsed unanimously by @PL_Malta @PNmalta in Parliament. #GettingThingsDone @JosephMuscat_JM @justynecaruana @FrancoMercieca @Clint_Camilleri @AntonRefalo pic.twitter.com/l248HJxaS9
— Ian Borg (@followianborg) 17 April 2019
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, who said that the parliamentary consensus over the tunnel was clear, also addressed issues surrounding land reclamation and the fast-ferry service.
Meanwhile, PN Leader Adrian Delia warned that the entire social fabric of the island could be destroyed for development, adding that it was crucial to ensure that all publications related to the project were readily available.
Infrastructure Minister Ian Borg has confirmed that the studies will be published in the coming days.