[WATCH] Busuttil shrugs off Mater Dei concrete report, urges government to reconsider Zonqor development

PN leader Simon Busuttil insists Nationalist Party has "good" environmental track record, warns government that it would have to steamroll over opposition and mounting criticism to develop Zonqor Point.

PN leader Simon Busuttil addresses party officials during the party's general council meeting.

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil has warned the government that the party's criticism against the 'destruction' of ODZ land at Zonqor Point will continue unabated, and that the government will have to steamroll over the opposition to develop the land.

Addressing the PN general council, the Opposition leader pulled no punches in decrying the government's track record and transparency levels. He argued that under Labour, the country's political and environmental standards have become a "race to the bottom," while the government remained passive in the face of criticism.

Greeted by a rapturous applause, Busuttil slammed the proposed development at Zonqor Point, and said that the project was an epitome of the government’s lack of transparency and arrogance.

“This project will destroy a piece of magnificent land. The party will embrace the environment and will defend this land for future generations too ... the government must clearly commit itself that it will not build on ODZ land, no more excuses or bluffs, we want a clear declaration,” Busuttil said.

The PN leader also quipped that the government had managed to unite the country against it. Hunters, environmentalists, the church, and even Labour MPs have joined in the party’s reservations over the siting of the proposed ‘American university’.  

Shrugging off criticism on the PN’s environmental track record, Busuttil insisted that the party had a “good track record,” and that previous administrations had improved the environmental standards of the country.

“It was infantile for the government to criticise the previous administration for building a sewage treatment plant on ODZ land in Ta’ Barkat. In truth, this project helped the environment as it improved sea quality,” he said.

The PN leader also recalled that during an interview with MaltaToday in 2014, Joseph Muscat had claimed that he would choose to save a valley over a €100 million project. Taking exception at Muscat’s “lies,” the PN leader insisted that this declaration could not be further from the truth.

“It now also transpires that the government is not really American, and that the government even went as far as lowering the standards for university certification to accommodate the Jordanian investors,” Busuttil said while referring to the recent amendments to a legal notice regulating requirements for academic institutions.

“There were no expressions of interest either. The prime minister and a Jordanian investor simply agreed behind everyone’s back to destroy this ODZ land,” he said. Echoing the qualms voiced by Nationalist MP Mario Galea, Busuttil also questioned whether stalwarts close to former Labour minister Lorry Sant would gain from the proposed development.

“There is a large portion of land that is neither earmarked for the university or the natural park. I wonder what will happen to this piece of land and who will benefit,” he quipped. “Prior to recommending the area for development, MEPA already knew who the owners were because it had taken one of the owner to court over illegal development. Is it a coincidence that it has now transpired that some of the land is owned by Lay Lay [Michael Axisa]?”

Turning his attention on the damning report of the quality of the inferior concrete at Mater Dei Hospital, Busuttil shrugged off the report, saying that this was being used as a smoke screen to divert attention away from the Zonqor project.

But notwithstanding Busuttil’s calls for the government to investigate the issue, and if need be turn on contractors and concrete suppliers, the PN leader was silent on the waiver that exonerated Swedish construction giant Skanska and Maltese partners from any liability.

Instead, the Opposition leader argued that the report was typical of the government; “whenever the government has its backs against the wall, it tries to divert attention instead of facing questions on the Zonqor proposal.”

Busuttil also said that it was predictable for the government to shift the blame on former CEO of the Foundation for Medical Services, Brian St John.

“We know who is behind these allegations – Konrad Mizzi. These allegations are unheard of, but anything Mizzi’s says should be taken with a pinch of salt,” he said. Busuttil also called on the health and energy minister to shoulder political responsibility after an investigation into George Pullicino’s alleged involvement in the irregularities of a €35 million PV contract turned out empty.

“We agree that if there is something with the concrete then the government should turn to the contractor, the supplier of concrete and the people who certified the project. However, we will not accept mudslinging,” he said.

The PN leader also paid tribute to the people who “refused to be bought by the government,” and continued to voice their criticism at the Zonqor development. He argued that the same could not be same could not be said for people like Luciano Busuttil, Cyrus Engerer and Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando, as they all had a price.

The mention of Pullicino Orlando’s name generated a chorus of boos by the PN faithful. The PN leader also said that it in an insult to the people’s intelligence for the government to try and buy their silence, and underlined that his “soul would not be bought.”

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