[WATCH] Labour questions previous administration’s decision over Naxxar land

Communication between the Housing Authority and then minister Chris Said reveals ‘electoral deal’ over Naxxar land

Family Minister Michael Farrugia and backbencher Anthony Agius Decelis
Family Minister Michael Farrugia and backbencher Anthony Agius Decelis
Labour questions previous administration’s decision over Naxxar land

The Labour Party has questioned a decision taken by the Nationalist administration just days prior to the 2013 general election.

In a press conference at the party’s headquarters, family minister Michael Farrugia and backbencher Anthony Agius Decelis said that questions were being raised on who decided to pass on the land to the private despite plans to use the land for government housing.

Labour organ il-Kulhadd has revealed correspondence between then Housing Authority CEO Albert Buttigieg and Chris Said, then justice minister, confirming that the authority “has no future plans to develop land at Tal-Fiddien in Naxxar”. Said and Buttigieg instruct the then director general of the GPD to “release this land” to a third party.

Agius Decelis pointed out that the PN government had no right to make such a deal or sign any contracts at that particular point given that it was a “caretaker government” following a number of no confidence votes.

Labelling the case “a clear case of favouritism,” Farrugia questioned whether Opposition leader Simon Busuttil had any prior knowledge of the deal, and whether it was a decision taken in haste.

He added that the government was not yet making any accusations about the case, but that the PL would continue to pursue the case if they didn’t get any answers to their questions.

The contract between the Lands Department and the owners, the newspaper reports, was signed on March 7, 2013.

The land in question, 938 square metres, had been expropriated by the government 20 years ago to develop social housing. In 2002 and in 2006, the heirs of the land’s original owner had approached the government expressing interest in buying the land but the government had turned down the offer. In both instances it had argued that the plot was required for social housing, developing 15 residences and 13 garages.

Between 2007 and 2011, as the heirs kept on insisting for the land, the Housing Authority reiterated that construction work was set to start.

In a reaction, the PN said the Labour Party had launched a “systematic attack” against its exponents. It defended the 2013 decision as forming part of a policy adopted by the previous administration to do justice with families who had lands or properties expropriated or requisitioned in previous years.

“The land in question belonged to private citizens and had been expropriated by the government,” the PN said.

It added that Transport Malta had taken similar action along the years. The PN also said that the Housing Authority had decided to start renting social housing from the private.