MIDI threatens Gzira mayor, councillors with legal action ahead of Manoel Island clean-up

Manoel Island developers say they will take legal action if mayor persists “in behaviour which is less than that of role model”

Gzira mayor Conrad Borg Manche (left) joined a protest on Manoel Island on Saturday
Gzira mayor Conrad Borg Manche (left) joined a protest on Manoel Island on Saturday

MIDI plc has threatened that Gzira local councillors could face personal liability for the actions of the Gzira mayor Conrad Borg Manché over his campaign to win public access to the foreshore at Manoel Island, kept under lock and key by developers.

MIDI is alleging that it will take legal action against perpetrators who gain access through the property, and warned that if Borg Manché persists “in behaviour which is less than that of role model with the utmost respect and upholding to the role of law, the company will also pursue legal action.”

The company made its warning ahead of a clean-up being organised tomorrow Saturday 17 September.

The MIDI consortium has set up meetings with representatives of the Maltese government to discuss the granting of “some concessions” for the public’s access to the foreshore.

Gzira mayor Conrad Borg Manché
Gzira mayor Conrad Borg Manché

The company, developers of the Tigné Point complex and Manoel Island, is insisting in correspondence to Gzira mayor Conrad Borg Manché that it is under no obligation at law to provide access to the foreshore over its private property.

Recently, Borg Manché and activists from Kamp Emergenza Ambjent cut through the metal fencing at the Manoel Island gates to access the foreshore, which is by rights accessible to the public.

In a letter from MIDI lawyer Prof. Ian Refalo – recently having represented Malta’s fish farm industry – the company said its 99-year concession on the land extends to the entirety of the island bar a five-metre foreshore and the Manoel Island Yacht Yard.

It also claimed it is within its right to ask the government to close access to MIDI property, but that it had chosen to “limited place fencing and gates within select parts of its property for site preservation purposes, and never within the foreshore.”

'Access reopened': Activists celebrate following successful action
'Access reopened': Activists celebrate following successful action

Recently MIDI chief executive Luke Coppini insisted that access to the foreshore was possible, for anyone arriving to the island by boat. “Access is not restricted by MIDI, but by the geography of the island or by historical structures and in other instances by the yacht yard.”

MIDI also said suggested that the forcible entry to the foreshore was a criminal action, and said that the Gzira mayor had acted irresponsibly. “The council is acting outside its remit and exposing all individual councillor to personal liability. The property does not fall within the remit of the local council, a position stated a number of times by the Gzira council itself, who does not seek to maintain any area within Manoel Island and has on a number of occasions expressly refused to intervene when called upon by the general public.”

Gzira council ultimatum

The Gzira local council has written to MIDI plc, formally requesting access to the foreshore at Manoel Island, and giving the consortium until 4pm today to indicate where the access will be provided.

Borg Manche said that in a meeting on Thursday, the council had voted unanimously to request access to the foreshore at Manoel Island. He also urged Coppini to take all necessary precautions, ‘for our common good, to avoid ulterior procedures’.

In his email, Borg Manche referred to Article 15.1 of the concession agreement granted to Midi for the development of Manoel Island, which reads: “The grantor shall temporarily prohibit access by the public to areas of the property as may be reasonably indicated by the emphyteuta so as to enable the seaid emphyteuta to carry out the development of the property.”

Earlier this week, Borg Manche accused MIDI of leaving a side door to Fort Manoel open on purpose, after the development consortium claimed that protestors vandalised the historic fort over the weekend.

“I was at Manoel Island last weekend, saw people inside Fort Manoel and wondered how they had gained access,” he told MaltaToday. “The deputy mayor and I went on a search and found the side doors to the fort by the pitch wide open, with the padlocks unlocked.

“Indeed, Kamp Emergenza Ambjent (KEA) activists later told me that they had asked security officials to close the fort’s gates, but were told that they were under orders by MIDI to leave them open. It is clear from pictures that I have uploaded on Facebook that all damages to the fort took place before last weekend, but if any vandalism took place last weekend it is MIDI’s fault.”

Manche and a group of KEA activists on Saturday broke open a side gate of Manoel Island in a major environmental protest. However, MIDI have since installed two new metal gates to block the public from entering Manoel Island.

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