Fighting for Gozo’s cause | George Paul Camilleri

Labour candidate George Paul Camilleri tells MIRIAM DALLI how Gozo needs to be injected with new life and for government to start taking it seriously

How would you describe yourself?

I am a very positive person and determined in whatever I involve myself in. I like challenges and aim for the impossible.

How did you get involved in politics?

I was always interested in politics and even when my wife and I emigrated to America, I made it a point to keep abreast with what was happening in Malta. When I returned to Malta nine years later, I joined the Fontana's PN committee and in 1990 and went on to become a councillor within the party's general council.

In 1992, I made a strong plea for Fontana to become an independent locality from Victoria with its own local council. I remember telling the PN's general council that the residents of Fontana would not be voting in the election if we didn't have our own council - a day later, Fontana got its own local council.

At the time, I believed strongly in the PN and always thought that it was the party that would keep this country moving forward.

But I was wrong and, unfortunately, it took me a long time to realise it. I can still remember Eddie Fenech Adami preaching about Christian and family values. What happened to these values? Values which are preached, but not practiced.

Today, 88,000 live in poverty which definitely doesn't reflect the famous words of 'work, justice and liberty'. I don't know whether to laugh or cry when I listen to the Prime Minister talk about the creation of 20,000 jobs. Where are these jobs? This is just one of the things that pushed me away from the PN... I am ashamed to say that once I formed part of the PN.

Why Labour?

Because it is the only solution for Malta. We all made mistakes and yes, we did hurt each other for so many years. And for what? Today I believe in a new tomorrow and this is why I chose Labour. I believe in the future; I have put the past behind me and the only future I see is in Joseph Muscat and his amazing movement. This is where the future stands and if you want to live it, then I urge you to join us.

I believe that a new page in history is about to be written and I want to be part of it. After all, we have a Prime Minister that won the last elections with 1,500 votes, lost the European Parlament elections with nearly 30,000 votes and suffered another blow during the divorce referendum and local council elections.

His reaction would always be 'we were expecting it'... in other words, he knew that he was heading in the wrong direction but persisted in doing so.

What will you bring to the table?

Ideas for business growth in Gozo. We need a one-stop shop for businesses in a proper industrial estate. Why should a self-employed, without workers, be refused to set up his own business by Malta Enterprise? Doesn't everyone have the right to make a living?

If elected, what will you be pushing for?

'Gozo's cause': in the last seven years, Gozo has become a home for the elderly, or really, more like a cemetry. It's useless for the upcoming generations and the best of our professionists and students are moving away to Malta to study and work.

Tourism has fallen back drastically and yet, nothing is being done to tackle it properly. All those doing business in Gozo repeat the same thing: no work in Gozo as shops register a continuous drop in clients.

All that the minister for Gozo or the Prime Minister talks about are figures, and not the solution.

Being self-employed myself, I strongly believe that we can improve the situation in Gozo. We can export our goods to countries where there the economy is doing well.

As an artist, what would you say are the major concerns and hurdles creative people face? What would a Labour government do to boost the local art and culture scene?

While govenment looks at art as a hobby, us artists make a living out of it. It's not just a hobby but work in which we have invested thousands of money - in Maltese lira, not euros. We can compete with companies abroad. We are equipped with the latest technology because we invested everything we had. Yet, we failed to find the necessary support from government.

The only incentive I see now is the reduction of 25% in the price of utilities, as proposed by the Labour Party. This is a very good start which is finally giving us hope to start creating more jobs. This would in turn help us keep the young people on the island, instead of moving to Malta or migrating abroad for work.

What are concrete examples of Labour's proposals to generate more work in Gozo for the Gozitans?

It goes without saying that tourism and manufacturing will be the first priority of a Labour government. I believe that the building of a bridge or the development of an airstrip will increase the connectivity and accessibility to the island. But we must first develop the island before it its too late.

Gozitans, are growing sick and tired of being treated like a crib.

Do you agree with the proposed development at Ta' Cenc and Hondoq? How can a balance be reached between environment protection and development?

To be perfectly honest, I completely agree with the Ta' Cenc project. Such a project would create jobs. On the other hand, I am concerned with the way the Hondoq one is being proposed.

I don't want to see another beach destroyed in Gozo. There are thousands who love the Hondoq beach, including scuba divers. The issue about environment protection is nothing but an excuse not to develop Gozo. We are used to these games by now. A balance can be reached between environment protection and development... in just the same way it was reached in other places.

Gozo has always been a PN stronghold, yet Joseph Muscat says he can feel that Gozitans yearn for change. What is the change that Gozitans want?

During my door-to-door visits and when I meet with people in the street, concerns mostly revolve around the need to create jobs, and not ones with precarious conditions. Another issue that surfaces is that of red tape, especially in relation to the issuing of permits.

How are Gozitans, known to be a conservative community, reacting to Labour's proposals to legally recognise gay couples and the stand of both parties to allow gay couple to adopt?

I remember the time when Gozitans were against building a bridge and today this opinion has changed: so much so that the majority want it by all means, especially the business people. Just like this opinion changed because of the times, so would other issues.

Gozitans recognise gay couples and every other human right. I believe gay couples have the right to be recognised as families. For God's sake, they are two people who love each other and live under the same roof. They should also have the right to adopt. Why should we be the last country in the world to recognise gay rights?

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