There’s something very disturbing about what’s happening in Marsascala this summer. The pseudo-socialists in government are up to their usual tricks, forcing hugely unpopular projects that will devastate the quality of life of the town’s residents onto a sleepy fishing village blessed with some of the most beautiful swimming spots on the island.
The proposed yacht marina is taking centre stage at the moment, a mammoth project the designs for which are truly shocking in their extent. The local council has opposed it, the townspeople have protested against it, environmental NGOs have agitated against it, opinion writers have blasted it…and yet, Transport Minister Ian Borg is unmoved.
Lots of people are buying boats and they need somewhere to put them, he said, in feeble defence of his proposed monstrosity yesterday. Never mind about the many, many more who are not buying boats, because they can’t afford to. Never mind that the hard-working majority are squeezed into rapidly shrinking pockets of seashore, forced out by ever-expanding beach concessions, encroaching restaurants and the plague of sunbed and deckchair touts.
But the yacht marina isn’t the only threat that’s worrying the people of Marsascala. Another project, to build a pool in the bay to house the Marsascala waterpolo team, was given a planning permit in 2020, despite objections from residents and NGOs.
The reason the Marsascala waterpolo team need a new home is because the club’s been evicted from its long-standing base at Zonqor. The land around that pool was handed to Sadeen Education Investment, the company behind the American University of Malta in 2016, on a 99-year lease.
Sadeen wanted the land in order to develop premises and facilities for the AUM, though the abject failure of that institution to attract students has meant the company hasn’t yet developed the area.
Does the eviction of the waterpolo club mean Sadeen is ready to start building? As always, there’s a dearth of information about these projects, and one is left to wonder, usually dubiously.
This government seems determined to decimate every last pocket of beauty on this island, every last scrap of simple, uncomplicated and unbilled for pleasure Maltese people might be able to enjoy.
The bay is to be turned into a parking lot for the wealthy, the water fouled permanently by the effluence and detritus that 700 yachts squeezed into the bay will bring. Swimming, fishing, diving, snorkelling… all of these activities, the simple joys of a Maltese summer, will become impossible. The facilities and accessories for the marina will hijack vast areas of the foreshore, altering the identity and atmosphere of the town forever.
This supposedly labour government unmasks itself at every turn. Barely a day goes by without yet another controversy, yet another shocking project, yet another direct order, yet another jobs-for-the-boys scandal.
Ian Borg, in particular, has been shameless, doling out millions of euros in taxpayers’ money on hideous and destructive, and often totally unnecessary, road building projects across the island.
Borg’s abysmal handling of his brief has been allowed to go unchecked for four long years since his appointment in 2017. He’s torn down hundred-year-old trees, bulldozed through agricultural fields, destroyed centuries’ old farmhouses and smothered the island in hideous grey cement as far as the eye can see.
His track record with these monstrous projects is miserable: roads that flood with the first rains, saplings planted underneath low bridges, projects left unfinished and unusable because his agency “forgets” to include crucial equipment.
The truth is, of course, that nothing is what it seems in reality-bending, gas-lit, PL-abused Malta. One look at the list of direct orders, running into many millions of euros, awarded to companies and individuals with close links to the Labour Party, tells you all need to know about the motivation behind all this frenetic road building and project launching.
The idea of building a yacht marina in Marsascala has been around since the late 90s, but was never really considered feasible, despite being included in local plans in 2006. It was suddenly resuscitated in the 2017 budget, but it wasn’t until last May, when the Malta Tourism Authority launched a ‘design contest’ for the locality that the residents began to suspect something was up.
That something hit last week, when Transport Malta issued its tender for the project. Moviment Graffitti and the residents called the ‘design contest’ a “sham” and called for its cancellation, saying “it is clearly nothing but the carrying out of secret plans long in the making”.
Secret plans. Trickery, fraud, cons. One could use those words to describe the entire eight years of the Labour administration, and this case doesn’t look any less devious than the PL’s other grotesque ‘secret’ schemes.
The Shift yesterday revealed that Ian Borg’s other pet agency, Infrastructure Malta, had spent more than €10 million on direct orders to contractors and companies owned by Labour Party supporters or donors in the first six months of the year alone.
The residents of Marsascala are demanding that Transport Malta withdraws the tender and abandons the marina project. They’ve already held one protest, immediately after the tender was issued, and are planning another on Friday, 27 August at 6.30pm.
Ian Borg has ignored other protests in the past, running roughshod over objectors’ complaints. But Marsascala must not let this one past the gate. And the rest of us must help them hold Borg’s hordes back.
It started as a local issue, but this marina, being forced on a town that doesn’t want it, that threatens to destroy the very fabric of the much-loved bay and strip it of everything that makes it beautiful, Maltese and ours, has now become a symbol of the fight for Malta as a whole.
The barbarians have been running amok across the island for eight long years. Marsascala could be a defining moment in the reign of havoc. If Borg and his bulldozers, dredgers and cement mixers can be stopped at the gate, this time, at least, maybe there’s some hope we can save the rest of the island before it’s too late.