Zonqor development would set ‘dangerous precedent’ - Busuttil

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil says other ODZ sites would no longer be protected if Zonqor development is given green light, accuses government of not considering alternative sites.

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil has dismissed the government’s claims that it was considering alternative sites for the development of a university in the south, arguing that the government is committed to develop the project on an ODZ land in Zonqor Marsaskala.

Addressing the Nationalist faithful in Balzan, the PN leader insisted that it was no wonder the Jordanian investors opted to invest in Malta as Muscat had promised them “everything they wanted and will allow them to do whatever they please.”

Busuttil explained that if it goes ahead, the development would set a “worrying precedent, in so far that ODZ land would no longer be safe from development under the Labour government.”

“The PN is against the project due to environmental issues. It is a huge piece of arable land the size of 12 football pitches that is outside the development zone. It will bring about devastating affects on nearby farmers, and the site is also of ecological and scientific importance.”

“The land satisfied all the criteria of an ODZ land; yet Joseph Muscat wants to develop it and give it away. There was no call for expressions either,” the PN leader underlined. 

If an alternative site is found, the PN would back the government, Busuttil said.

“There is no need to rape this piece of land.  If other sites are considered for the project, then the PN would back the development but if the government continues to roll over everyone, the PN will act as a shield to protect the environment,” Busuttil rallied.

The PN insisted that the PN’s criticism is not a lone and distant voice as several NGOs, environmentalists, and politicians have also joined the chorus of disapproval.

“Joseph Muscat has managed to unite everyone against him, including Nationalists, Labourites, environmentalists, hunters, and the Church,” he quipped. The PN leader also said that the PN will champion the voice of reason over the use of violence, threats, and insults.

“Several people have come out against the project, and we now await attacks and insults against them. It is not true that people can disagree and still work with the Labour Party ... Marlene Farrugia has already become the subject of an attack by a fellow Labour MP,” Busuttil said while warning of further “threats and intimidation.”

Busuttil explained that the government’s quick rejection of the former Petroleum Division in Birzebbugia as a viable alternative showed that it is not true that it is looking for alternative sites. 

“The government said it would be an unsuitable alternative because it would take two years to clean the site. This shows utter incompetence, it is true that it cannot build a power station in two years, but surely, fuel tanks can be removed in two years,” Busuttil quipped.

The PN leader also said that MEPA and environment minister Leo Brincat were both guilty of failing to protect the environment, after the two had given their blessing the project. Busuttil’s comments following a MaltaToday report that revealed that the co-ordination unit of MEPA’s chief executive officer was responsible for the preliminary assessment which deemed the ODZ site in Zonqor as “acceptable” for the development of the campus.

“The PN has lost all confidence in MEPA as it has been hijacked by the Labour Party. From an autonomous entity – which admittedly was definitely not perfect under the previous administration – MEPA has been transformed into a Labour club and is now under the direct responsibility of the prime minister’s office.”

“MEPA itself identified the virgin land in Zonqor for the proposed development. The supposed guardian of the environment has failed in its most important function. MEPA has become Labour’s toy,” he said.

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