Bernard Grech: where’s the alternative on environmental protection? Mark Sultana

BirdLife CEO: PN leader Bernard Grech has been caught in a buttering campaign to be clearly seen as sympathizing with the hunters

PN leader Bernard Grech (centre) in a meeting with an FKNK delegation
PN leader Bernard Grech (centre) in a meeting with an FKNK delegation

In the past weeks, we have learnt that the Nationalist Party, led by the recently chosen leader Dr Bernard Grech, will not be an option for those who, like many, have nature – in particular bird protection – at heart. 

When the news came out that Dr Grech had announced a reshuffle in the shadow ministers portfolios it was very surprising, and even more disappointing, to notice that two persons that had been vociferous and clear about the need for better planning and stricter environmental law enforcement had been removed. I refer to Mr David Thake and Dr Kevin Cutajar. 

One can argue on this decision ad nauseam, but every decision sends a message which in this case is that Dr Grech will not tolerate those who voice their issues if these go against lobbies such as the building lobby, hunters and trappers and possibly others. There is one way to prove me wrong on this, and that is Robert Cutajar’s actions now that he has been chosen to handle the environment agenda for the Nationalist Party. 

I know I irked him with my recent social media comments about his doubtful environmental credentials, but instead of being offended he should have issued his first statement a few days ago when illegal hunting cases were dismissed due to the prosecution being late by two years and 90 days in summoning the ‘alleged’ culprits. But maybe it’s too early so I will wait a bit more and remain hoping that Mr Cutajar will prove me wrong. 

To make things worse the Nationalist Party believes that the killing of birds as a pastime deserves a voice in its cabinet of shadow ministers. The big downfall of bird protection remains the fact that both main political parties want to keep hunting and trapping a decision-making priority when choosing our future governments. I have said it many times that hunting is one of the most egoistic past-times, apart from being destructive. 

But even more egoistic is the fact that a hunter might choose his future government based on which government will allow him to kill the most birds, for the longest period, with the weakest laws and the highest inertia in enforcement. The Nationalist Party is encouraging this short-sighted egoistic way of voting. It is also sending a message that other pastimes which are more friendly than the privilege of holding a loaded shotgun and killing birds, are not relevant to him. 

I doubt it was a coincidence that on the same day of this reshuffle Dr Grech met the officials of the hunting lobby. It is relevant to point out that from the four hunting lobby officials present,  one had been found guilty at court for obstructing law enforcement from doing their task, while another official was found guilty of punching an environmentalist in Miżieb. This meeting had nothing wrong in my eyes except for the comments that Dr Grech opted to give to the media. 

Dr Grech stated he believes that those who have past times in nature do so because they love nature. Dr Grech told the Maltese and Gozitans that killing of birds is showing love to nature. He continued saying that he is fed up of seeing a mentality that perceive hunters as harming the environment and promised that he will work hard to remove this perception.  

This does not make sense and I can only conclude that Dr Grech was caught in a buttering campaign to be clearly seen as sympathizing with the hunters.