Not even Jason Micallef, ONE chairman, and Emanuel Cuschieri, Labour’s chief propagandist, could contain their intense disgust at Labour.
“You have to be completely shameless to approve such an obscenity,” an enraged Jason Micallef protested. Labour’s latest affront to the nation was the approval of Joseph Portelli’s swimming pool in a protected part of Marsalforn valley in an ODZ area. Despite having been twice recommended for refusal, despite a deluge of complaints and objections from local councillors, residents and conservationists, Portelli got what he wanted, again. Is anybody surprised? The only thing that is suprising is that finally even the deepest red Labour stalwarts cannot stomach it any longer.
Jason Micallef called Portelli “a developer intent on destroying Gozo”. “Aren’t you ashamed or are you no longer able to feel shame?” Micallef asked. “Those responsible for approving this outrage will have to answer for it,” Micallef raged, “you know who you are”.
Emanuel Cuschieri, Labour’s belligerent defender, was even more aggressive. “Those responsible must resign,” he demanded. “We will not allow anybody to embarass our party with this monstrous obscenity,” he commented. He even demanded an independent investigation.
That is entirely unnecessary. Micallef and Cuschieri know exactly why Portelli gets what he wants every time. Only one person is to blame for the “monstrous obscenities” – Robert Abela.
On 5 March 2022, days before a general election, Abela was the guest of honour at a dinner at ta’ Frenc Restaurant organised by Portelli. Portelli planned it with the Office of the Prime Minister. Daniel Refalo, one of Portelli’s key collaborators and the man behind the Comino sunbeds and Mark Agius, ta’ Dirjanu were there too.
When OPM was asked why Abela attended a private dinner organised by Portelli, notorious for his flagrant abuses including developing an illegal batching plant, they refused to answer. Abela’s planning authority failed to take any action against Portelli’s batching plant. Abela’s government even procured hundreds of tonnes of concrete from his illegal development. When the PA was forced to issue an enforcement notice after news reports were published, Portelli defied the authority, continuing the works on the plant.
Yet Abela felt comfortable attending a dinner hosted by the man who openly, regularly and brazenly defies the law. Co-incidentally that dinner took place on the evening before a fundraising telethon for Labour’s election war chest. The OPM refused to answer questions about whether donations were handed over at the dinner. Yet over €215,000 were collected from Gozo during that fundraising marathon.
Days later Portelli was issued with a building permit for a monstrous development of 125 apartments just metres away from Sannat cliffs. The project had been split into three separate applications to avoid an Environmental impact assessment. Two out of the three were refused by the Planning authority. But those refusals were overturned soon after Abela dined with Portelli. Portelli’s duaghter Chloe was given PA permission to develop a store on ODZ land.That was in March. Why are Jason Micallef and Emanuel Cuschieri only outraged now?
After persistent questions, Abela finally confirmed he had dined with Portelli on 5 March. “I meet people everyday, I meet people from all sectors even those working in the disability sector” was his pathetic defence. He dened discussing Portelli’s mega development permit application. He denied receiving any donations that day. But didn’t deny that Labour received funding from Portelli the following day at Labour’s fundraising marathon or any other day.
How can Portelli be expected to comply with regulations? Abela has again appointed Portelli’s architect, Maria Schembri Grima, as head of the Building and Construction regulator – the BCA.
The BCA was meant to regulate building and construction after Miriam Pace’s tragic death. Robert Abela concealed the Miriam Pace report for ten long months and only published it after pressure from the victim’s family. When he finally and reluctantly set up the BCA, he stuffed it with political appointees. Portelli’s personal architect was appointed chairperson. Lawyer Ian Borg, who worked in Abela’s own private legal office, became vice-chairperson. Abigail Cutajar, adviser and canvasser to Miriam Dalli, and Alex Scerri Herrera, Jose Herrera’s nephew, sit on that board. Robert Abela made sure the building authority was completely toothless. His priority was protecting his business partners and financial backers – the developers.
Abela’s reappointment of Portelli’s architect as BCA head confirms that his public display of sympathy at the site of Miriam Pace’s death was nothing but a sham. His empty promises, as expected, failed to translate into any actual change. The real disgrace is that Abela continues to bolster the rampant abuse by Portelli and his associates.
This is a prime minister so morally hollow, so devoid of basic decency, so glaringly shameless that nothing embarasses him. He publicly dines with the worst offenders on the eve of an election selling himself to the highest bidder, destroying his country and betraying his nation to enable the exploitation of national resources by a bunch of unscrupulous gluttons. They know they are above the law, beyond the reach of justice. They bought their privileges and their impunity from Robert Abela.
Abela is bolstered by an election victory with a clear message – no matter how depraved his business deals, how overt his overtures to crooks, how intimate his relationship with suspected kidnappers, money launderers and narcotic smugglers, nothing dents his gravity-defying approval ratings. No matter how craven his greed, how obscene his planning authority remuneration, how despicable his abuse of his position to acquire property on the cheap to rent it out to absent Russians, nothing can touch him.
Despite the outrageous ODZ permits issued to his financial backers, the repugnant protection of those responsible for Miriam Pace’s death, the disgusting intimidation of the Caruana Galizia inquiry board, or his loathsome hostility towards those who ordered the search at Joseph Muscat’s residence, Abela rides a wave of unrivalled adulation – until now.
Pride comes before destruction, haughtiness before a fall.