Close on the heels of a debate on vacation leave for IVF patients, Nationalist Party leader Adrian Delia is facing another major national policy test – this time concerning the government’s decision to extend the hunting and trapping hours at the Majjistral Nature Park.
Hunting at the Mellieha nature park was only allowed till 10am but has now been extended to regular hours – 12:30pm for hunting and 2:30pm for trapping – by virtue of a legal notice at the end of October.
The Partit Demokratiku yesterday tabled a motion against this legal notice, arguing the extension of hunting hours will prove detrimental to the remainder of Maltese society, and that the legal notice itself breaches the Environment Protection Act as it was introduced with no prior consultation.
The motion will now be debated in Parliament on 18th and 19th December, and early indications are that this could prove a challenging test for Adrian Delia.
Indeed, PN MPs have told Lovin Malta the party had been discussing internally whether to file a similar motion for around three weeks but Delia ultimately decided not to go down that route because he was concerned it could anger hunters and alienate them from the PN.
PN sources said Adrian Delia was wary of creating a rift between the party and hunters
“The internal discussion was quite heated and the parliamentary group was split over whether to file the motion or not,” one MP said. “Everyone agreed in principle that the legal notice was wrong and the argument against filing a motion was solely that it will anger the hunters.”
The source said things came to a head on Wednesday evening as the 30-day deadline to oppose the legal notice approached.
“As we were still split, it was up to [PN leader] Adrian Delia to make a decision but he decided not to go ahead with the motion,” he said. “He didn’t want to start a fight with the hunters, especially after the backlash he had got from them after he declared he had voted to ban spring hunting.”
Another PN MP confirmed this version of events and said the Partit Demokratiku’s motion means the PN has lost the chance to take the lead in defending the Majjistral Park.
The PN’s spokesperson refused to confirm or deny this version of events, arguing the party cannot disclose what goes on within parliamentary group meetings. He confirmed the PN will discuss internally what stance to take on the PD’s motion but refused to answer when asked why the PN didn’t file its own motion against the legal notice.
Partit Demokratiku MPs Godfrey Farrugia and Marlene Farrugia
PD MP Godfrey Farrugia told this website the motion proves the little ‘Orange Party’ is ready to stand up for righteousness in Parliament.
“We stood up for hunters when they were facing challenges but we champion the environment too…it’s all about striking the right balance,” he said. “Hunters can already hunt throughout the day in nearby Mizieb and L-Ahrax…why should they deprive everyone else of the right to enjoy free and open protected countryside at Majjistral during the best seasons to go outside?”
He said he had no idea the PN – the PD’s coalition partner in this year’s election – was also discussing whether to file a motion.
BirdLife Malta and the three environmental NGOs (Din l-Art Helwa, Gaia Foundation and Nature Trust) which manage the Majjistral Park have condemned the government for “riding roughshod” over educational and visitor activities organised by the Park’s management.
Parliamentary secretary for animal rights Clint Camilleri, himself a hunter
The Majjistral Park’s chairperson Sammy Vella told MaltaToday last month of the pressure he had received by government ministers to give his blessing to the relaxation of hunting restrictions.
“I was summoned before [environment minister] José Herrera and parliamentary secretary [for animal rights] Clint Camilleri to be told that it had been decreed that the hunting and trapping hours would be increased,” he said. “Camilleri made it very clear that he had been delegated by higher authority to godfather this new legal notice. My reaction was, understandably, not very understanding. I considered it my duty to call a spade a spade. It seems the Hon. Camilleri is allergic to spades because I was, subsequently, taken to task by Herrera for failing to demonstrate sufficient deference to the newly appointed parliamentary secretary,” Vella said.
He described the government’s decision as a full-frontal attack on the viability of the park and warned the extension of hunting hours will throw the park’s activities into disarray.
“There is simply no way nature visits and hunters could be accommodated in the same place at the same time…the suggestion is purely preposterous and needs to be condemned without reservation,” he said. “We have made one compromise after another to try to accommodate the hunting lobby whilst retaining a modicum of sustainability and viability for the Park. Any further encroachment would render the Park just another hunting reserve.”