New AD leader calls for halt to petrol station permits, more discussion on abortion

The government's recent committment to phasing out internal combustion engines was not in step with its approval for more petrol stations, says Carmel Cacopardo

Matthew Agius
16 September 2017, 12:55pm
Carmel Cacopardo at this morning's general meeting
Carmel Cacopardo at this morning's general meeting
Carmel Cacopardo, the newly elected leader of Alternattiva Demokratika has used his inaugural speech to call for an immediate moratorium on permits for new petrol stations and a renewed national discussion on abortion.

At a press conference, also attended by AD's now former leader Arnold Cassola, Cacopardo said the party had gathered 50% less votes in the last general election. “This happened because we are not yet organised enough. We lack the organisational manpower to deal with such setbacks.” This was not the first time the party had suffered setbacks, he said, pointing to 2003 when there were calls for the party to shut down. “But here we are,” said the Green party veteran.

This was nothing new, said Cacopardo, but was something that had to be tackled with increased activism as the green party. Social media, whilst a good and effective tool was not a substitute for political activism, he said, adding that it could be harmful it if not used properly.

AD's activism had to give a voice to the weak, be closer to grassroots and to those who are hurt and affected he said. “We must be close to those whose homes have been surrounded by high rise construction that blots out the sun – a right that is constantly being expropriated from them by speculators with the blessing of the authorities. We must be close to those who want to enjoy nature in the Maltese countryside but feels threatened by lead shot...close to those who long for restful quier but is unable to by the cacophony of noises surrounding them.”

AD had made an outsize contribution to Malta's political agenda, he said, introducing environmental conciousness, transparency and accountability as well as civil rights – amongst them divorce and rights for the LGBTIQ community. He said he “noted with satisfaction” that AD's 22008 proposal for granting 16 year olds the right to vote had finally been adopted.

On Prime Minister Joseph Muscat's recent commitment to the phasing out of internat combustion engines, Cacopardo said this was also something the party had been insisting on, in the hope of improving air quality and reducing the incidence of respiratory illness.

“But common sense says that it would make more sense for the government to also announce an immediate moratorium on the approval of applications of petrol stations that are sprouting everywhere. We don't need them today and we will need them even less when we eliminate petrol and diesel engined cars from our roads.”

Every petrol station requires 3000sqm of virgin land, he said, insisting that permits should immediately stop being issued “so that the impact of the planned petrol stations on residents and the countryside is not made worse than it already is.”

Cacopardo also highlighted the issue of rising rent prices. “The rent market is not working because the logic of demand and supply should have led to a decrease in rental prices and not astronomical increases when faced with...over 70,000 empty properties.”

He praised the efforts of Alleanza kontra l -Faqar in tackling what he described as “the greed of the landlords.” “The time has come for governement to implement another of our proposals – to tax empty dwelling houses and redistribute the tax on those who cannot keeep up with rising rents.”

The biggest message of the 2011 divorce referendum was the acceptance of moral pluralism and resistance to the intransigence of religious fundamentalism, he said. This was further manifested by the granting of civil rights to the LGBTIQ community, something which AD consistently supported.

Cacopardo and former AD leader Arnold Cassola (right)
Cacopardo and former AD leader Arnold Cassola (right)
Cacopardo demanded a parliamentary discussion on abortion rights, claiming that in 2016, 58 Maltese women procured an abortion in the UK. Figures for other countries were not available, he said, but “this means that abortion is amongst us. The youth parliament is right in demanding a discussion on this. It is the minimum required in a country that is supposed to respect ethical pluralism. This silence must stop immediately. It is not in the interest of the country to run away form problems and sweep them under the carpet.”

He ended with a dig at the major political parties, both currently mired in scandals revolving around ethics and corruption. “Whilst others are obsessed with freemasonry and brothels.,” he said to applause, “we must remain focused on strengthening our party's organisational capabilities. This is the only way to translate our beliefs into concrete political action.”

Court reporter Matthew Agius is a Legal Procurator and Commissioner for Oaths. Prior to re...