The ambassador for the promotion of ugliness

Many talk of referenda for hunting and trapping, but perhaps it is time to think outside the box – beyond what the parties want for our country – and work to repeal those planning policies which are changing our Island into the battle of the Somme.

Sandro Chetcuti started off as a magician. Then he somehow realised he had a vocation: of making big money from buying dirt cheap property. Surely, he was not the only one.

He had the attraction to power. At a rather tender age he started hanging around big people, namely Dom Mintoff. Not because of some ideological attraction but more probably because he felt important. As years passed by he was attracted to Vince Farrugia and the GRTU. Two big egos met and Farrugia encouraged Chetcuti into the fold and, more importantly, agreed with his intention of setting up a sub-section in the GRTU for developers and speculators. But as in all things, there is one king and one king only. Sandro Chetcuti saw his chance of building on his perseverance and hard work but this did not go down well with Farrugia, then director-general of the GRTU.

They ended on the opposite sides of the spectrum: Farrugia was flirting with the Nationalists in spite of the fact that he had some serious Labour history dating back to the bulk-buying days of the 1980s and his anti-VAT parade in 1996; while Chetcuti was sucking up to Joseph Muscat.

Then one fateful day, Chetcuti sent Farrugia an SMS he had intended for Muscat, and all hell broke loose. Farrugia, who was later shown to be rather careless with his own use of SMSes, faced off with Chetcuti. Push literally came to shove and what followed was Farrugia manipulating a very serious physical encounter with Chetcuti – who hit him – and portraying it as an attempted murder. Chetcuti was then seen by the press as a friend of Joseph Muscat: he was arrested and had it not been for the publication of Vince Farrugia’s list of SMSes illustrating his despicable attempt to change and manipulate the course of justice, things would have been very different for Chetcuti.

Farrugia and some of his GRTU colleagues were accused of perjury and the matter sort of stopped there. At the time I chose to highlight the kangaroo court that pervaded in the media. It reminded me of the way the media had tackled the murder attempt on Richard Cachia Caruana’s life and the vile portrayal of one the key witnesses, Nicholas Jensen, who changed his version of the story insisting that it was not Charles Attard ‘iz-Zambi’ he saw leaving the scene of the crime but Joseph Fenech ‘Zeppi l-Ħafi’. That led to a fascist attack on Jensen’s medical condition which was supposed to undermine the veracity of his statement, an argument led at the time by Daphne Caruana Galizia, In-Nazzjon and The Times.

In Chetcuti’s case, history repeated itself with a certain Sylvia Gauci – then a prime witness – claiming that her original version was not the truth and that she had been suborned not to say the truth.

I recall that when Vince Farrugia had made it clear to me before this episode that Sandro Chetcuti was a big asset to the GRTU (I had bumped into him at a restaurant), I told him that Chetcuti was a bomb waiting to explode. When it did explode and I reluctantly felt the need to stand up for Chetcuti, I did so because I could not accept the sad reality that the media was being so untruthful.

After the court case, where the AG removed the attempted murder charge and Chetcuti got off with a suspended sentence, Farrugia was found to have lied and later was investigated for perjury.

Chetcuti focused not only on getting closer to Labour but more importantly on creating his own organisation. At one point before 2013, I remember him collecting money for the Labour party and organising encounters with the PL leadership. When Labour won he was there at Castille with his family dressed in an uncomfortable over-trimmed suit greeting Joseph Muscat and Michelle with an unusually big smile.

Since 2013 he has advocated for more flexibility in planning permits for development, more green cards for his kind of business, a venture that is seeking to turn this country into a cement ecosystem. There is no need of any effort to convince Muscat of this approach. The Prime Minister knows that the economy needs the construction industry if it is to keep this steep, steep rise. The concern of seeing the permanent uglification of Malta and Gozo is not remotely on his radar.

Chetcuti talks in silly riddles about sustainability and insists his is a constructive and responsible lobby. But the truth is that this is political talk that is full of contradictions. A cursory look at the projects which Chetcuti captains himself – most of the time with another businessman by the surname of Stivala – will show that his projects are not only a far cry from the sustainable bullshit he preaches, but the same construction cancer that we have seen over the years.

Chetcuti, like Muscat, is interested in the final product and that is all about profit and financial sense. There is little more than this.

He has now not only managed to register his mark as the chief of a strong lobby – probably the strongest in the country – but also enlisted himself as a paid consultant with the parliamentary secretary for planning.

Chetcuti has talked of the “magic” of Muscat, which is true to some extent, though I am sure Muscat would prefer to talk of hard work and good policies instead of “magic”. But the magic that Chetcuti is talking about is linked to only one thing: money, money and more money.

This is the one thing he has that other people do not have. Other people – and I am referring to the vast majority – have better arguments and higher cultural and moral views but they do not have cash. Chetcuti has nothing from this moral standpoint, but he is very good at showing his muscle and being the ambassador for the promotion of the uglification of the Maltese islands and for representing that segment of society who could not give two hoots about what happens after they denude Malta and Gozo of their character.

I have nothing personal against Chetcuti but yes, I am against the democratic deficit in deciding for or against. Chetcuti wins an argument irrespective of whether he is right or wrong. His strength does not lie in his words but in his muscle when it comes to financing both parties.

The hunters, too, are very much in the same soup; they threaten with their vote and that is why year in and year out politicians genuflect whenever hunters talk.

Chetcuti has the same magic: he talks most of the time without any substance in his arguments and he is listened to. And even though everyone is aware that he is more interested in listening to his own voice and has an inflated ego, they know that in this case the only argument that counts is that money talks.

So when the junior minister for planning required someone to advise him about being more sensitive in issuing permits and to consider those policies that deal with height limits, he appointed a consultant who also acts as the lobbyist who wants more wanton destruction.

Governments who argue that they are democratically elected do not uphold policies because they are right or wrong. They do not decide on the basis of evidence but rather on the strength of the lobby concerned. And Chetcuti has just that: the strength of the richest lobby in the country but the intellect of someone who thinks that a brick is more important than the rich diversity of our countryside and history.

It is time to nip this guy’s ascendancy in the bud. To show him for what he is. A man who has only one interest: to further the interest of this small powerful lobby at the expense of our miniscule footprint and the relative beauty of where we live. I also have no doubt that Sandro Chetcuti also has every intention to use his high-profile to engage in the political sphere someday. Something he considered some years back before he got dragged into court after foolishly confronting Vince Farrugia in his Valletta office.

Democracy does not persist only for that small occasion that we experience every five years. It can happen every day. And nowhere in the electoral programme of the two parties was it written that the elected government would kiss the ass of the contractors’ lobby. Muscat and Delia are doing just that.

Many talk of referenda for hunting and trapping, but perhaps it is time to think outside the box – beyond what the parties want for our country – and work to repeal those planning policies which are changing our Island into the battle of the Somme.

I should add that there is no point in emphasising that many of the policies date back to the time of George Pullicino and the Nationalist party, and then refuse to repeal them.

Beyond what any politician says and whatever Sandro Chetcuti wants us to believe, we still can cry out loud that one of the top three declarations in the Constitution of Malta is very clear: ‘The State shall safeguard the landscape and the historical and artistic patrimony of the Nation.’

Which is why someone like Chetcuti should be vehemently opposed because he stands for precisely the complete opposite and is there to promote the destruction of what is left of our landscape, historical and artistic heritage while he keeps pontificating that it makes sense for our economy… magic!