Boycotting Gasan and Tumas is no piece of cake for just any concerned citizen

Boycotting two business groups which such wide-ranging interests – hotels, car dealerships, gaming, finance and property – almost means nullifying any meaningful action for citizens whose lives’ different aspects are easily touched upon by any one of Malta’s largest business groups

Mark Gasan (left) at the PA meeting that approved the Townsquare project
Mark Gasan (left) at the PA meeting that approved the Townsquare project

Green groups opposed to high-rise development have been urged to boycott the companies behind the controversial projects which were recently approved by the Planning Authority.

But boycotting two business groups which such wide-ranging interests – hotels, car dealerships, gaming, finance and property – almost means nullifying any meaningful action for citizens whose lives’ different aspects are easily touched upon by any one of Malta’s largest business groups.

In a column published on Wednesday’s Times of Malta, Today Public Policy Institute head Martin Scicluna wrote that green NGOs and civil society must be prepared to conduct “guerrilla warfare” and asked “Why should members of the public not be urged to boycott the business outlets of the Gasan and Tumas Groups?”

This call was echoed by physicist and veteran campaigner Edward Mallia who in an online post said Gasan and Tumas groups sell a variety of products and pondered whether anger at high-rise projects could lead to a boycott of such products.

“There are alternatives, and this is a free market. Developers will only respond to kicks in their pockets,” Mallia wrote.

However both Gasan and Tumas own commercial empires which include casinos such as the Oracle and the Casino at Portomaso (the marina development which the Tumas Group built), while both companies are part of the ElectroGas consortium which will be running the new power plant in Delimara, which means Malta’s future supply of electricity.

Boycotts on products have proved to be successful in Malta and abroad, however boycotting a service such as energy or hospitality could prove to be a more arduous task.

Moreover, Gasan Group and Tumas Group have a number of investments ranging from the automotive sector – with GasanZammit covering a vast range of automative brands – to hospitality services.

The two companies are among the owners of the Comino Hotel and plan to redevelop the holiday complex on the island.

Gasan’s investments include Mekanika, the property and retail company MIDI, GasanMamo insurance, car retailer GasanZammit and various property developments.

Tumas Group also have investments in the Hilton, Portomaso, Valletta Gateway Terminals, the Blue Elephant restaurant and EuroJet.

"A boycott of the bond issue to finance the projects would be a very strong and effective message against the towers," Carmel Cacopardo, Deputy Chairperson of Alternattiva Demokratika said, calling for the organisation of a boycott of services and products marketed by the Gasan and Tumas Groups. "Civil society should send a clear message that those who are prepared to finance these projects do not deserve the support of the Maltese population.  It is more effective, concluded Cacopardo if the boycott is directly linked to the financing process of the high-rise buildings."

In his piece, Scicluna likened government’s pro-business approach and the advent of high-rise buildings to the invasion of Rome by the Huns.

“Like Attila the Hun at the gates of Rome 1,500 years ago, the developers, their architects and the supine Planning Authority, led by the Prime Minister, are the Barbarians at the gate. Inside, the hapless victims watch events unfold, unable to resist the incoming tide of ugliness and ruination. More high-rise applications are promised.”

He added that both major political parties are equally guilty. “Financial greed and profit are the overriding motives. I write here, with reluctance, of people I know, who appear to have lost all sense of moral, corporate responsibility in their efforts to become even richer than they are already. They are of the same class, affluence and background as those individuals who were so closely involved in controversies that brought down the last Nationalist government. Only the political allegiances have changed,” he said.

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