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Busuttil: ‘I never mentioned ODZ or land reclamation for Freeport’

While Labour lambasted Busuttil for what it claimed was a U-turn on his ‘ODZ is ODZ’ stand, Busuttil has been adamant about what he said

saviour_balzan
Saviour Balzan
2 August 2016, 11:56am
By building on business at the freeport, I never said that ODZ land should be taken up - Opposition leader Simon Busuttil
By building on business at the freeport, I never said that ODZ land should be taken up - Opposition leader Simon Busuttil
A mini summer-storm has erupted around Opposition leader Simon Busuttil over his statement that he was shocked at Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s declaration that he did not agree with expanding the Malta Freeport footprint at Birzebbugia.

It was an opportunity for the Labour-led council in Birzebbugia to condemn his statements in favour of the freeport expansion, when mayor Kevin Barun filed a motion at an extraordinary council meeting.

While Labour lambasted Busuttil for what it claimed was a U-turn on his ‘ODZ is ODZ’ stand, Busuttil has been adamant about what he said.

“The only thing I did was to express surprise that the PM could publicly declare that he does not want one of our best performing and best paying companies to grow further,” the PN leader told MaltaToday.

“This sent the wrong message to the Freeport, to stop investing. I never made any reference to any land, whether outside development zones (ODZ) or reclaimed.”

Indeed, the politically-appointed CEO of the Malta Freeport, Aaron Farrugia, who is also a Labour party candidate, had said in a recent interview that he himself supported further land reclamation for the freeport.

“The government is planning to build new projects through land reclamation. We are looking into the possibility of having artificial land next to the Freeport, given that the sea over here is the deepest all around the island.”

He was talking to The Report, an online newspaper partnered with The Guardian.  Farrugia said in June 2014 that he saw this happening in five to seven years.

“By building on business at the freeport, I never said that ODZ land should be taken up,” Busuttil told MaltaToday this week.

But Busuttil’s statements were pounced upon by Labour mayor Kevin Barun, who filed a motion for a vote at a council meeting, insisting that Busuttil’s statement of “shock” was akin to a stance in favour of expanding the Freeport on land lying in ODZ – outside development zones. Most of the Freeport lies in fact on reclaimed sea and not on pristine land.

“Muscat pledged not to allow the Freeport to expand further into the heart of Birzebbugia. Busuttil said that he was shocked at Muscat’s statement, which logically means that he was shocked that the Prime Minister doesn’t want the Freeport to expand,” Barun said.

On the other hand PN councillor Hermann Schiavone has accused Barun of twisting Busuttil’s words. 

Schiavone presented a counter-motion that called on political parties to come clean on their stances on further Freeport expansion, on the Freeport to build bridges with Birzebbugia residents through the principle of corporate social responsibility, and on the government to give an account of the impact on residents of a gas tanker that will be moored in Marsaxlokk Bay as part of Labour’s flagship LNG power station project. 

“The greatest concern of Birzebbugia residents is the gas tanker, not the expansion of the Freeport,” Schiavone argued.

saviour_balzan
Saviour Balzan is the founder and co-owner of MaltaToday. He has reported on Maltese poli...
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