Busuttil: More centralisation of planning powers ‘just like Mintoff, Lorry Sant days’

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil says Labour is becoming synonymous with abuse of power: ‘It’s its hallmark. This government abuses power to its benefit.’

Simon Busuttil: “The Ombudsman’s report is an independent verdict that nobody can question over some alleged partisanship… the government now is obliged to change things for the better.”
Simon Busuttil: “The Ombudsman’s report is an independent verdict that nobody can question over some alleged partisanship… the government now is obliged to change things for the better.”

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil has warned against the further centralisation of powers over land and planning issues, following an Ombudsman’s report that has slammed the proposed MEPA demerger.

The Labour government wants to split up the planning and environmental protection arms of MEPA, something that has been unanimously rubbished by the environmental lobby as well as other critics who say ministers are being given too much power over the regulator.

“The Ombudsman’s report is an independent verdict that nobody can question over some alleged partisanship… the government now is obliged to change things for the better,” Busuttil said.

“The Ombudsman said that under the new planning laws, more power will be centralised in the government’s hands. And as we know from history, land issues have often been the subject of corrupt dealings.”

Busuttil accused Labour of becoming “synonymous” with abuse of power. “It’s its hallmark. This government abuses power to its benefit. I believe in the politics that serves people to their benefit, not the one that abuses of them.”

Busuttil momentarily conceded that MEPA was the subject of great criticism under the former PN government. “We must learn from that. But under Labour, more power is to be concentrated in the government’s hands. The last time this happened was under Dom Mintoff and Lorry Sant, and what this meant was corruption: it made beggars of people who had to plead to the minister for favours. Even where corruption has been revealed so far, these were instances dealing with land issues – which happen to fall under the Prime Minister’s portfolio.”

The PN leader was equally critical of a government proposal to have school children being summoned to school an hour earlier in a bid to cut down on traffic pressures.

Busuttil said the proposal lacked seriousness and branded it as “plain stupid”.

“My proposal to have the government finance the school transport of private and church school children was ridiculed when I made it at the last Budget. Now it is being taken up by Labour… this traffic problem is no perception, it’s a problem that government just cannot tackle.”

Busuttil had disapproval also for Mater Dei Hospital’s chief executive officer Ivan Falzon, whom he accused of being “nowhere to be seen” at a time when hospital corridors were taking in more patients.

“The situation has worsened two years since Labour was elected, and this is witnessed by hospital workers themselves. Making matters worse is that in the heat of this summer, the CEO – paid an €84,000 salary – is nowhere to be seen.

“This is the result of Labour’s decision to appoint people from within its fold, to positions of responsibility, breaching its pledge of meritocracy.”

Busuttil said the same had happened inside the police force, which has already seen its third Commissioner of Police since March 2013. “There are top officers resigning, and problems of theft in the Sliema, St Julian’s areas. The police are ‘not there’ because there is no trust in the force.”

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