Gozo minister promises action on Rabat square ‘takeover’

Minister Clint Camilleri says solution is needed after NGOs and cultural organisations protested a Rabat square’s takeover by commercial establishments

Activists gathered in St Geore's Square to protest the commercial takeover of the space (Photo: Moviment Graffitti)
Activists gathered in St Geore's Square to protest the commercial takeover of the space (Photo: Moviment Graffitti)

Gozo minister Clint Camilleri has promised action on the commercial takeover of Rabat’s St George’s Square, after NGOs and cultural organisations protested the issue last Saturday.

Speaking in parliament on Wednesday, Camilleri admitted that the amount of commercial establishments in the square has doubled over the years, leading to confusion over which outlets are subject to the area’s masterplan.

“We must respect the needs of the parish and of the public in general. It is unacceptable to that weddings, funerals, the festa and other church activities are becoming difficult to organise because of this situation,” he said.

Camilleri said that he spoke to his counterparts responsible for lands and tourism, as well as the new Rabat mayor Brian Azzopardi and the Archpriest of St George parish, with an aim to chancing the masterplan for the area.

“A solution is needed, not just in St George’s Square but in various other places in Malta and Gozo,” he said.

Camilleri was responding to a parliamentary question from PN MP Albert Buttigieg.

Last Saturday, Soċjetà Filarmonika La Stella and il-Ħaġar museum joined forces with activists from NGOs Moviment Graffitti, Għawdix, Din l-Art Ħelwa - Għawdex and Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar to denounce what they said was a “land grab” in the square. 

The organisations said that the situation in St. George’s Square has deteriorated to such an extent that all four entrances to it are blocked, making access to the square increasingly difficult. 

The square had been turned into a maze of tables, chairs, tents and other structures placed outside by the restaurants, St. George’s Basilica’s archpriest Can. Joseph Curmi told the press conference.

Various attempts to engage in dialogue with the responsible authorities, amongst them the Lands Authority, the Malta Tourism Authority, and the Planning Authority, had led to nowhere. Can. Curmi accused the authorities of “shrugging off their responsibilities,” and described enforcement as “virtually non-existent.”