[WATCH] Abela: Decision to uproot Mosta trees should be reconsidered if people demand it

Prime Minister Robert Abela weighs in on the controversy surrounding the relocation of Ficus trees at the Mosta square, saying council should have communicated its decision better • PN Mosta councillors request urgent meeting to discuss ongoing controversy 

Prime Minister Robert Abela speaks to journalists outside parliament on Tuesday afternoon
Prime Minister Robert Abela speaks to journalists outside parliament on Tuesday afternoon

Prime Minister Robert Abela has weighed on the issue surrounding the uprooting of Ficus trees at the Mosta square, saying the locality’s council should “reconsider” the decision if need be.

“If need be, the decision should be reconsidered,” Abela told journalists outside parliament on Tuesday.

Abela also said the Mosta council should have communicated its decision better, insisting it should continue listening to people’s pleas.

Activists and residents of Mosta convened early on Constitution Street outside the Mosta Dome on Tuesday morning, in protest at the wholesale pruning of the trees that overhung the main bus stop.

As workers proceeded to dismantle the remnants of the bus stop and poles left in the area, residents stopped to question the decision-making process that led to the removal of these trees from the area.

On Monday ERA claimed that the local council was merely “transplanting” the Ficus trees to the Santa Margerita area in Mosta. Ficus trees are known for their hardiness, ERA said, and that these were being transplanted during the appropriate time of the year.

The Prime Minister said he had no doubt on the council’s good will, saying the trees are earmarked for relocation in line with experts’ recommendation.

“They will not be replaced with concrete,” Abela remarked.

On Tuesday afternoon, Moviment Graffitti activist Andre Callus was dragged away by a group of policemen and arrested during an action near the Mosta trees.

Police arrested Callus as he laid down on the ground, and carried him away from the group of activists he was with. He was taken to the police station and interrogated.

After his release, Callus told Maltatoday that activists do not want to target the police. "The only responsibility falls on the mayor […] and ERA.”

Callus said ERA’s behaviour shows that the environment is being made worse through permits of this kind, to cut protected trees without justification.

Reacting to the incident, Abela said the right to peacefully protest should always be respected.

“I respect the determination he shows in fighting for the cause he believes in,” Abela said.

Abela said he will invite Callus for a meeting.

In a statement issued on Tuesday evening, the Nationalist Party said its councillors on the Mosta council have requested an urgent meeting with the council to discuss the ongoing issue.