Aaron Farrugia slams PN for appointing former George Pullicino aide to ERA board

The Minister said that Chris Ciantar's appointment is reminiscent of the PN's 'George Pullicino days', having been the permanent secretary in Pullicino's rural affairs ministry

Environment Minister Aaron Farrugia came out in full force during Parliament to criticise the Nationalist Party’s appointment of Christopher Ciantar to the Board of the Environment and Resources Authority.

His criticism centred around the fact that Ciantar had been a permanent secretary to resources and rural affairs minister George Pullicino, and had advised the previous PN administration on a number of controversial decisions.

Farrugia said that even the NGOs were disappointed in Ciantar’s appointment, saying that the PN has gone back to its ‘George Pullicino days’, characterised by waste dumps and messy local development plans.

“This is who the PN would appoint if they were to come into government,” Farrugia pointed out.

Ciantar chaired the Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive (SEA) audit team that had to assess the extension of the 2006 development boundaries. Ciantar at the time was the rural affairs and environment ministry's own policy director.

At the time, the changes to the development boundaries through a Cabinet memo were exempted from the strictures of the SEA Directive by the government, on the basis of certification by the “SEA Audit Team” – headed by engineer Chris Ciantar.

That audit team was only appointed by Cabinet on 15 June 2006, six months after Malta transposed the SEA Directive, and a full month after minister George Pullicino announced the extension of development zones. A month later, the audit team wrote to MEPA (now the PA) saying an EIA on the extension of the building zones was not feasible.

The Minister further alleged that Ray Bezzina, a former chief-of-staff to George Pullicino, is the one really calling the shots in the PN's environment policies.

Bezzina remains a close party aide, and accompanied PN leader Bernard Grech in a tense meeting with Jason Azzopardi and Adrian Delia last month.