A progressive outlook for Gozo | David Camilleri

Alternattiva Demokratika candidate David Camilleri tells MIRIAM DALLI how AD’s vision for a ‘working Eco-Gozo’ could be the first step towards solving Gozo’s problems

What is your background?

I am the youngest of 16 siblings, coming of age during the excommunication of Labour voters and politicians by the Church. Being mistreated during the terrible 60s, after my father had been elected to parliament as an MLP MP, I was aware of the effects of politics on our daily lives from a very early age. I had admired Dom Mintoff for his audacity on social reforms, but after moving to New York City, I became critical towards him and his ruthless dealings with opponents.

At the same time, I recognised that the Nationalist Party had grown to only care about its own, After traveling extensively and setting roots in New York with my family, I came back in 2011.

How did you get involved in politics?

I was interested in politics at an early age, but it wasn't until 2000 that I started doing something. I held the exhibition 'Il-Gagga' at the Museum of Fine Arts in Valletta, juxtaposing a caged man and a caged bird, which caused quite a stir among the local hunters and trappers, leading to many threats and angry outbursts.

I then co-organised an animal rights march and another one against hunting and trapping in Valletta. And it took off from there. I came to know Harry Vassallo of Alternattiva Demokratika. His vast knowledge and thoughtful stances helped me a lot to not go overboard with my seemingly radical ideas regarding hunting and trapping.

Why AD?

It is the party with the broadest horizon and most progressive outlook and ideas. For example, AD was the first to come up with the Eco-Gozo concept, which the PN then filched on the eve of the 2008 election and made it theirs - but unfortunately only in name without a real sustainable and environmentally friendly vision: the nature destroying development of Hondoq Bay is still not off the table. What does the lopsided Eco-Gozo vision of the PN have to say to this? In addition, AD had always been against Hondoq development.

AD is on the forefront of thinking over social justice and the environment. It is also the only party fully independent as it doesn't behold to any business or other lobby or interests or clique.

If elected, what would AD do differently than the other two parties in Gozo?

AD would work for a true Eco-Gozo. The embellishment of roundabouts and along the one street  are not 'eco' as colorful signs that sprout up as soon as a small task is accomplished announce it to be. This 'eco' is a mere facade, while the house behind the facade is crumbling. A propos 'crumbling': the breakwater at Marsalforn is an apt example. Instead of embellishing the 'eco'-roundabouts what about rebuilding the breakwater that has been destroyed for many, many years all the while the storm surges eat away at the promenade and buildings?

Provided negative impacts can be suitably addressed, a boutique cruise line harbour could be developed at Marsalforn together with the breakwater and a small yacht marina. This would bring tourists to Gozo. Last year, only 15 cruise liners berthed at Gozo compared to 300 in Valletta. More boutique cruise liners would create many jobs. AD is all for creating jobs on Gozo - but they should be green jobs. Gozo's wealth is its breathtaking nature and open spaces, which risk being lost for future generations. The proposed development of Hondoq Bay is a sad example. Would the development of Hondoq Bay be 'eco'? Certainly not! What about the tourists who specifically come to enjoy a different experience? Islands full of hotels and villas are everywhere else. AD wants to see Hondoq turned into a Green Park to be enjoyed by all.

We would work for a better link to the university i.e. the reintroduction of the Mgarr-Sa Maison ferry line and a direct express bus link from Cirkewwa to the university also ensuring that more courses are offered at the Gozo campus.

We would work for the sustainable use of the water that belongs to all and not only those who have drilled illegal boreholes. We would work for the establishment of more renewable energy.

Why is AD against an airstrip in Gozo?

Gozo requires sustainable transport. Time and again it has been proven that an airstrip is not financially feasible. It is also destructive due to the amount of land which has to be utilised. There are other forms of transport linking the two islands which need to be analysed. The use of seaplanes for example needs further studies and could be a potential solution if a suitable base is identified.

Do you think that development in Gozo is spiraling out of control? And how can new investment be injected in Gozo's economy without negatively affecting the environment?

Developments like Hondoq Bay or the one that was planned at Ta' Cenc are unacceptable. Had it not been for the vigilance of NGOs, groups of concerned people, and some politicians - AD firmly among them - these developments would have gone through already. The proposed tunnel is another bad idea that would harm a true Eco-Gozo, not to mention the economic loss for hotels, farmhouses and flat owners. It would also mean no more special money from the EU due to the once-and-for-all loss of Gozo's double insularity. The monies which could be spent on the tunnel should be invested to resurface all the streets of Gozo with tarmac and develop Gozo's infrastructure, thereby creating the required jobs and creating wealth in Gozo.

You have vociferously opposed hunting. Are you an abolitionist or are you in favor of having controlled hunting?

In my heart I am an abolitionist. I can't understand at all why anybody would want to shoot or trap birds - such beautiful creatures. I am convinced that the hunters and trappers do Malta and Gozo a disservice. Without hunting and trapping, Gozo could be a tourist destination during the low tourist season of spring and autumn for bird watchers.  Aside from that, I have learned that change rarely happens over night; therefore I am dedicated to upholding the law regarding bird hunting and trapping that was adopted with the EU membership. But this law has to be enforced! I propose that there should be 12 full time ALE officers who are well equipped and trained, with four new 4X4 vehicles, rifles, binoculars, night vision equipment, video cameras, telescopes, radios, two 1,000 horse power speed boats and a helicopter working 24 hours a day all year round, to safeguard our wildlife.

As an artist, what would you say were the major concerns of local artists and what is AD proposing?

In one word: the major concern is survival! It is hard to survive as an artist. I know that myself. Artists need space and time to be creative, and having to struggle for the roof over their head or the bread on their table makes being an artist almost impossible. There should be more stipends for local artists, which would enable them to pursue their passion without having to worry about their day-to-day existence. There should be more subsidies for artists to go abroad to broaden their connections with the wider world. There should be a museum for contemporary artists in Gozo,

You are probably the first candidate to have a billboard on wheels. In the absence of legislation on party financing, how does the Green party make up for the imbalance among the parties' financial prowess?

There's no two ways about it: the money gap it is too huge! I finance all my campaign activities myself  But it's all right - it only means that I feel truly independent. Shortage of campaign money doesn't mean shortage of ideas, as my billboard on wheels can attest. I am all for party financing laws, though. It would level the playing field at least a bit and make the whole pre-election circus a bit more just.

How are Gozitans, known to be a conservative community, reacting to AD's liberal proposals such as supporting gay marriage and decriminalising drugs for personal use?

I believe there is a wide gap between younger and older Gozitans. The younger ones are open to gay marriage and decriminalisation of personal drug use, the older ones are very reluctant to support this necessary progress towards a more tolerant society. I think that the decriminalisation of personal drug use is absolutely necessary. So many young people in Malta end up with harsh prison sentences for using drugs instead of getting help. Regarding gay marriage, I don't even feel I have to argue on this point.

To me, it's the same as arguing whether blue-eyed people have a right to marry. Being gay is as 'normal' and 'natural' as having blond, brown or black hair.

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