Labour’s illegal handover – Kevin Cassar

Robert Abela’s government broke the law.  It knew it was breaking the law, which is why it made sure the dodgy deal it struck with hunters and trappers was kept secret.

Abela’s government signed the deal in October 2020 behind closed doors.  It didn’t allow any media whatsoever.  There was no public consultation at all.  It failed to bring the deal before parliament for scrutiny.

You know Labour’s up to no good when it excludes the media. Joseph Muscat did it when he took his star Minister Konrad Mizzi and his chief of staff Keith Schembri to Baku to strike secret deals with Ilham Aliyev.

Labour doesn’t do things quietly.  It regularly launches the same project multiple times to gain maximum publicity. It fritters tens of thousands of euro in double inaugurations of the same project. But when it signed the secret deal with the hunters and trappers association, FKNK, they locked out the media. They didn’t want the public to discover they were duping them again.

Labour gave away 1.5 million square metres of woodland at Miżieb and l-Aħrax in Mellieħa to hunters.  In addition, they authorised the land to be used for hunting for nine months of the year. For those enormous tracts of land, FKNK would only pay €400 annually.

Of course, the deal was signed behind closed doors. Of course, the attention-seeking Labour government locked the media out. Of course, there was no public consultation.  They knew perfectly well what the public reaction would be if they knew that 1.5 million square metres of woodland would be given to hunters while access to the public is limited to small “picnic areas”.

The public reaction would be outrage.  And that is what it was once news of the agreement leaked out.

A group of NGOs, including BirdLife, Moviment Graffitti, Friends of the Earth, Din l-Art Ħelwa and Professor Edward Mallia took the case before the Administrative Review Tribunal to annul the deal. The Tribunal ruled the NGOs could not be considered “an injured party” and therefore couldn’t challenge the deal.

So the NGOs went to the Appeals court.  The decision of the Tribunal was revoked. The Court upheld the NGO’ right to challenge Labour’s stinking deal with FKNK. The court proved the NGOs right.

The Court has now decreed that the Labour government’s dodgy deal with FKNK was illegal. It declared the secret deal null and void “from the start”.

That was obvious to everybody except the Administrative Review Tribunal, which tried its best to put all the spokes in the wheels of the NGOs. Now the court decision is clear – the government signed off two woodland areas to FKNK illegally.

Even Labour knew it was breaking the law.  But it had sold its soul to the hunters and trappers.  It was compelled to appease them and give them what they wanted, even at the cost of betraying the entire nation.

Labour was ready to defy the law to compensate that powerful lobby group that had stood up for Labour for so long. Labour owed the hunters and trappers big time, and no silly law would stop Labour from handing over 1.5 million square metres to FKNK.

To ensure FKNK was fully accommodated, there was direct “political instruction” to reduce the fee for the land to a meagre €400 per year.

At the official signing ceremony in October 2020, recorded only by official photographers, not one, not two, but four Cabinet members stood proudly behind the signatories to claim credit (and votes) from the trappers and hunters for the illegal deal. Chris Agius, Ian Borg, Aaron Farrugia and Clint Camilleri beamed proudly as ink was put to paper on the illegal deed.

Now that the Court has ruled that the government broke the law, they’re all washing their hands. Gozo minister and fellow trapper Clint Camilleri claimed, “It wasn’t me who signed it”.

ERA CEO Michelle Piccinino claimed that the Authority tasked with protecting the environment was not involved in the agreement.

Lands parliamentary secretary Ivan Meli revealed that the fee was reduced on “political instructions”.

Parliamentary Secretary Chris Agius justified the pathetic €400 annual fee by claiming no parameters were in place to help him decide how much he should charge FKNK for 1.5 million square metres of public land.

The government’s reaction to being condemned by the court for breaking the law was pitiful.  It issued a brief statement: “Government has taken note of the court decision”.

And bang on cue, the arrogant Silvio Schembri came barging in where others feared to tread: “I support the decision (to award land to FKNK), and I continue to support it now”.

Schembri still supports the illegal deal his government struck with FKNK. And he’s pointed out what the problem is. There’s nothing wrong with handing acres of land for the exclusive use of hunters for nine months of the year, Schembri insists, the only problem is The Times of Malta.

“The Times has its own agenda,” he said. “The Times is not in favour of hunters’ and trappers’ rights”.

And Environment and Energy Minister Miriam Dalli put her foot in it. “I was always under the impression that anyone could access the parks,” she said after journalists had to point out to her that the public could not access il-Miżieb and l-Aħrax except for designated “picnic areas”.

The NGOs were understandably jubilant – this is a historic win for social justice and nature, they announced.

The depressing truth is that the country depends on NGOs and their supporters to revoke the illegalities committed by the government against its own people.

                           
                           
                               
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saviour mamo
saviour mamo
22 days ago

It was a double wrong for Robert Abela, as a prime minister and as a lawyer. Even as a lawyer he knew that the agreement was illegal and should therefore be also investigated.

James
James
22 days ago
Reply to  saviour mamo

When the lawyer Prime Minister has no qualms about failing to uphold the rule and he has seemingly filled every position with his puppets to ensure nobody challenges him, he deserves to be investigated.

The question then is by whom, because the chances of any charges being brought against him by his appointed puppets is zero!

Steve
Steve
21 days ago

I don’t remember kevin cassar writing about illegalities committee by the PN, such as returning Eritrean asylum seekers to their country where they were tortured and killed. Or being shocked when Georgie Pullicino issued his rationalization schemes in 2006.

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