Fekruna expropriation had a public purpose

"Did the Xemxija expropriation process involve any politician meeting any of the owners? No. Did it have as its basis a public purpose? Yes. A resounding yes."

28 January 2016, 9:25am
The Mare d’Oro expropriation was of over €4 million and was sealed on the eve of the 2013 election
The Mare d’Oro expropriation was of over €4 million and was sealed on the eve of the 2013 election
I write this as my right of reply after your editorial today the 27th January 2016 said thus: “details of the Fekruna expropriation in St Paul’s Bay which took place in the last days of the PN administration are strikingly similar to the Gaffarena case”.

For the umpteenth time, this is simply not true. Repeating a lie will not make it into a truth.

Did the Xemxija expropriation process involve any politician meeting any of the owners? No. To date, neither myself (as Parliamentary Secretary) nor then Minister Fenech (who was Minister of Lands till 2012) did we ever meet the owner or any of his representatives on his behalf. Never. 

Was the Xemxija expropriation “instigated” by the owner, as in the Old Mint street scandal? No. The first part of the expropriation took place in summer 1996 (after the 21st July 1996 public protests due to the lack of accessibility to the foreshore and the subsequent September 1996 Ombudsman’s report calling upon the Government to ensure this accessibility). After the conclusion of the court litigation, in 2013 the second part of the expropriation was concluded. 

Was this second part of the expropriation process carried out with any undue “haste” or “urgency”, as in the Old Mint scandal wherein the deal was sealed and wrapped, after “secret negotiations”, in under 3 months? No. After the 2008 elections and in line with a public commitment by the PN pre-2008, the Government identified five areas of scenic beauty privately owned which Government wanted to be publicly enjoyed.

These five areas were: Riviera Martinique (Ghajn Tuffieha), Ulysses Lodge (Ramla Bay), ex Festival Apartments (Mellieha), Tiguglio (St Julian’s) and Fekruna Point, Xemxija. Tonio Fenech and myself in 2009 appointed a Property Evaluation Committee made up of top officials from the Finance and Land Departments. It was they who conducted the negotiations all along. Out of these 5 sites, negotiations were concluded at the end of 2012 on one site, that is after almost 3 years, namely Xemxija. 

Did the Xemxija expropriation involve any “collusion” or “secret negotiations” as in the Old Mint Street scandal? No. 

Were there any manipulation of minutes in Lands Dept. files in the Xemxija expropriation, as in the Old Mint Street scandal? No

Were there any top Lands Dept. officials who showed or alerted the Government with any “grave concerns” or “strong reservations” on the Xemxija expropriation process, as happened in the Old Mint Street scandal? No.

Was the Xemxija expropriation done in a piecemeal manner as happened in the Old Mint Street scandal (where this Government purchased two one-fourth undivided shares from the same owner, at the expense of the other co-owners, for the first ever time)? No. 

Most important of all, did the Xemxija expropriation have as its basis a public purpose? Yes. A resounding yes. Proof of this was not only Government ensuring the accessibility to the foreshore as per 1996 Ombudsman report, but also because this Government continued (rightly so) the embellishment works in the area which could only start thanks and due to the expropriation. If this Government thought there was anything untoward in the Xemxija expropriation “concluded” a few days before the election (after three years of negotiations), why didn’t it revoke it? It had the legal means, the right opportunity and the time factor in its favour to stop and revoke it. But it didn’t. It did not because Government knows that there was indeed a valid public purpose. 

You might want to remind your readers how the National Audit Office in its trenchant criticism of the Old Mint scandal dedicates almost an entire chapter in its Report to tear to shreds the absolute lack of any public purpose. 

Jason Azzopardi MP