Busuttil says PN's environment stance is election ‘game changer’

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil says pro-environment PN can win general election, pledges that ODZ land remains untouched • PN leader says rumoured Cabinet reshuffle intended to divert attention from Gaffarena scandal

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil has insisted that ODZ land should remain untouched and that being pro-environment was a “game-changer” and could lead the PN to win the next general election.

Addressing the PN’s General Convention ‘Idea Ambjent’, the PN leader said 2015 was a year for the green awakening as the government’s “obscene” environmental track record was engulfed by a series of scandals and subsequently provoking the country’s largest environmental protest.

The PN leader insisted that the scandals that engulfed the government’s tenure – most poignantly the Gaffarena scandal and the construction of a private university on a natural park at Zonqor Point – prompted both political and environmental controversies.

Dubbing the scandals as “obscene”, the PN leader insisted that parliamentary secretary Michael Falzon should be sacked immediately over his role in the Gaffarena scandal – but claimed that this will remain wishful thinking as the government will use a Cabinet reshuffle to divert attention.

“The Auditor General will present a damning report on the Gaffarena scandal, but this will not bring Falzon down. Muscat will instead try and twist things, he will carry out a Cabinet reshuffle to divert attention,” he said.

Insisting that public land should not exploited to score political mileage, the PN leader insisted that the Nationalist Party would continue on its warpath against the development of 18,000 square metres of ODZ land in Marsascala to Jordanian construction company Sadeen Group.

“Public land is not the government’s toy and is not owned by Joseph Muscat. The government cannot continue using the land in ODZ areas as its own and giving it away to hungry developers … The government should be acting as a guardian of the environment.”

“Land in outside development zones (ODZ) shall remain untouched, barring for exceptional circumstances. However, we must not misconstrue this as the PN being against development, a balance must be struck: ODZ land should remain undeveloped but we must be flexible on development on lands in development zone … The environment must be seen as an integral part of Malta’s economic development and not a stumbling block,” Busuttil argued.

The PN leader insisted that in spite of Joseph Muscat backtracking by downscaling the take up of ODZ land for the American University of Malta from 90,000 to 18,000 square metres, this was not down to Joseph Muscat but a vindication of the role of environmentalists.

“We will not thank the Prime Minister for deciding to ruin a smaller portion of ODZ land at Zonqor. The last word has not yet been heard on Zonqor, the PN will continue to fight against the deal and protect the environment,” he said.

Acknowledging that previous PN administrations had fallen short of protecting the environment, Busuttil said the environment is now a “game changer”.

“The elephant in the room remains this: Can a pro-environment PN will the general election? Yes we can. The environment is a game changer. It can be used to increase PN’s popularity among the electorate and at the same time presents a real opportunity for the country to improve its environmental track record,” he said.

“We have grown accustomed to parties making pre-electoral deals with developers at the detriment of the environment, but we must now draw a line and act beyond the short-term policies and disastrous decisions that this government has made. The people, even genuine Labourites, are ready to trust the Nationalist Party again,” Busuttil insisted.

In an effort to reach out to voters in traditional Labour strongholds in the South, the PN leader said the Opposition will continue protesting against the permanent mooring of an LNG gas tanker at Delimara for the new power station.

Taking umbrage at the Prime Minister for wanting to turn Malta into the next Singapore or Dubai, the PN leader insisted that if Muscat’s aspirations were to come to fruition, the country would lose its values.

“We must base the country’s aspirations on the values that are instilled in Malta’s culture. If your god is money, then your answer will undoubtedly be determined by it, but if your life is influenced by things which cannot be bought by money, then you answer would be different,” Busuttil said while taking a swipe at Muscat.

The PN leader also claimed that Malta’s lack of green spaces and housing density led to an increase in cancer sufferers, diabetes and obesity rates. Taking a dig at Muscat, the Opposition leader said those suffering from cancer should not be made to beg the MCCF to fund their treatment while at the same time seeing the government pay €4.2 million to the Café Premier owners.