[WATCH] Government will have to listen to the people on land gifted to hunters, BirdLife says

BirdLife Malta CEO Mark Sultana says that momentum is building up against the government's lack of environmental concern as the organisation lambasts the decision to gift tracts of land to hunters and the opening of a finch trapping season

Growing opposition to government's decision to hand over land at Miżieb and L-Aħrax to hunting organisation FKNK will force the government to listen to concerns, BirdLife Malta CEO Mark Sultana believes.

Sultana was asked whether the coalition Spazji Miftuħa was weak in its opposition to government's plans back in summer when the deal was exposed by the media.

“Yes, I would have wanted more people to convince government, but with the help of the media, and the momentum that there is on the issue now, I believe government will have to listen,” he said.

Sultana was speaking during a BirdLife Malta press conference held outside the Office of the Prime Minister in Valletta during which the organisation voiced its opposition to the opening of the finch trapping season.

Asked whether he expects a reversal of the land transfer decision, Sultana said that while he doesn’t expect a government U-turn, there were other things the administration must commit itself to such as the creation of a wildlife crime unit to oversee enforcement.

Sultana insisted it was not a question of a lack of resources but a lack of political will.

“Last Sunday during the protest at Miżieb there were three times the number of police that there are when the hunting season opens. That speaks for itself,” he said.

BirdLife also said that along with other organisations filed a judicial protest over the handing over of public land to hunters.

Sultana called out government’s decision to challenge the European Court of Justice ruling and open an autumn trapping season for finches.

Prime Minister Robert Abela was receiving bad legal advice on reopening the trapping season, Sultana said.

“It is evidently clear the Prime Minister has been completely deceived by Minister Clint Camilleri who it seems, apart from being a trapper, is also a politician who doesn’t give a hoot about what our country has achieved over a period of 20 years for the environment,” he said. 

The NGO also called out “the weak excuse” given by government that the season will be opened for a 'scientific study'.

“He [Robert Abela] will be challenging the European Union and the European Court of Justice, resulting in Malta being taken once again to the European Court,” it said. 

BirdLife also stated that following the 2015 spring hunting referendum, then prime minister Joseph Muscat had promised to safeguard the environment, therefore Abela should honour that mandate.

“This is the same government, it is not a different government,” BirdLife said. 

The NGO said that it will continue to fight for the cause and will do its utmost in European institutions to stop the “arrogant and wrong decision” to open a trapping season in the interest of all Maltese.

“Environment has been relegated to the fourth tier under this government,” BirdLife secretary general Saviour Balzan said.

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