[WATCH] Cassola hits out at 'criminal' parliament as tunnel takes centre stage during Gozo debate

A heated debate on the proposed Malta-Gozo tunnel erupted during a debate organised by Association for Gozitan Employees in Malta

The proposed tunnel linking Malta and Gozo took centre stage at a debate on Gozitan workers and the EU, which was organised by the Association for Gozitan Employees in Malta.

The debate included Nationalist Party MEP candidates Frank Psaila and David Stellini, Democratic Party candidate Martin Cauchi Inglott as well as independent candidate Arnold Cassola. Green MEP Michael Cramer was also part of the panel, while association president Sean Zammit chaired the debate. Labour Party candidates could not attend the debate due to party commitments.

Cassola immediately came out on the offensive, hitting out at PN MP David Stellini for his vote in favour of a motion on the tunnel tabled by the government last week.

The former AD leader, now contesting as an independent after falling out with the party on its positin on abortion, accused both parties of voting in favour of the tunnel without having reviewed all the assessments of the link’s impact.

Stellini, however, hit back at Cassola, arguing that the PN had amended the motion, to ensure that all commissioned studies be made available to the public. The PN’s amendments, he said, had also sought to force the government to improve connectivity through other means until the tunnel is completed.

Fellow candidate Frank Psaila agreed with Stellini saying that it was imperative for government to also address connectivity issues in the short term for the benefit of all Gozitans.  

“Why are waiting for the fast ferry? Why are we waiting for the water taxis? The tunnel is not an immediate solution,” Psaila said.

Cassola however insisted that parliament’s vote in favour of the motion was “criminal”, insisting that the PN’s amendments were nothing to boat about.

“It is criminal for Franco Mercieca to propose this motion, it is criminal of you [Stellini] vote in favour,” he said.

Cassola went on to claim that PN MP Chris Said’s support of the project was influencing the PN’s position.

“Said goes to your party headquarters and starts his tantrum, then everyone follows suit,” he claimed.

Audience members were also invited to have their say, with all those who spoke saying they were against the tunnel. A good number of those who did described the PN’s willingness to support the tunnel collusion with the government. 

Stellini calls for regional referendum

As the debate went on, Stellini said that Gozitans should be allowed to decide for themselves whether a tunnel was the best option.

“It’s up to the Gozitan people to decide, they are the ones who will be using the tunnel, and they are the ones who should choose,” he said, much to Cassola’s disapproval.

 “What about the residents under whom the tunnel will be dug?” Cassola rebutted.

Cassola went on to say that he had met many people currently performing geological studies, who he said had told him that the tunnel could possibly drain the Simar and Ghadira nature reserves, while also endangering the lives of residents in the Manikata area.

Cauchi Inglott said that the PD had already expressed its views on the Gozo tunnel. He said that the way the project was being administered, showed that the government lacked a long-term vision on the country.

AGEM President, Sean Zammit said that the association’s views on the tunnel had remained consistent.

“As an association, we are in favour of a permanent link, but the system proposed, with a single lane car tunnel, will not help the worker. One size fits all will not work,” he said.

Gozo yet to reach its full potential

The candidates all agreed however that Gozo had not yet reached its full potential and they all pledged to give Gozo the attention it deserves if elected to the parliament.

Psaila said that he feared that Gozo was losing its competitive edge due to the government’s lack of vision.

“We are clearly not thinking outside the box, and this has to change or else we risk loosing Gozo as we know it,” Psaila said.

Stellini agreed, calling for a bottom up approach to tackling Gozitan, with a rationality status as proposed by the Nationalist Party being one of the solutions.

“If we have regional representatives, we ensure that the needs and wants of the Gozitan people are met,” Stellini said.

Cauchi Inglott said that Gozo has always been the victim of lack of action. “We’ve had the same debate over and over again, yet we never see any action by both governments.”

This was echoed by Cassola, who said that the two main parties were quick to make electoral pledges which they then ended up not honouring.

“All we see is empty promises, election after election. The fundamental problem is the lack of political willingness. The big part dangle electoral carrots every time and we just fall for them. It’s just bullshit,” he said.

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