Minister’s idea of tunnel referendum is to give Gozo votes ‘more weight’

Gozo minister Anton Refalo suggests national referendum on Gozo-Malta tunnel but with ‘more weight granted to Gozitan voters’

Gozo minister Anton Refalo. He has a certain idea about democracy...
Gozo minister Anton Refalo. He has a certain idea about democracy...

Gozitan votes in a potential national referendum on whether a tunnel that will link Malta and Gozo should be constructed should “be given more weight”, Gozo minister Anton Refalo has declared. 

Newspaper Illum reported on Sunday that Refalo was advocating that a future referendum should give Gozitan voters more of a say than their Maltese counterparts “because the tunnel will be ‘their’ road”.

Speaking on the TV programme Stat ta’ Fatt last weekend, Refalo warned that a tunnel will not be a ‘magic pill’ solution to create more jobs in Gozo, and cited a Gozo Tourism Association survey that showed that 64% of Gozitan hoteliers and restaurateurs are against the proposed tunnel project.

He also claimed that the majority of Gozitan youths oppose the proposal, despite a recent Gozo University Group survey indicating that 74% of young Gozitans are in favour of it.

The minister has so far adopted a cautious approach to the tunnel proposal, insisting that any decision should ensure that undue pressure isn’t placed on services offered to Gozitan citizens.

“I don’t want Gozo to become just another village in Malta,” he said in October.

During the programme on Saturday, Refalo’s call for a referendum was strongly rejected by Gozo Chamber of Commerce President Michael Grech.

“Have we ever held a referendum on whether to construct a road, and did we hold one before deciding to build the airport?” he questioned rhetorically.

Labour MP Franco Mercieca and Nationalist MP Chris Said have both gone public over their support for the tunnel project, and will on Tuesday address the launch of a new campaign to lobby in favour of it.

In 2013, Refalo suggested a referendum on whether a bridge or a tunnel should be constructed between the two islands and expressed his personal preference for a bridge.

However, government-commissioned studies proved that a tunnel between the two islands will be more economically feasible than a bridge, and the latter option has been effectively scrapped. Geological studies will be now be carried out to determine the technical viability of the project.

More in National