The issue of the Armier squatters has been the subject of a large number of newspaper articles as well as discussion programmes on radio and television over the past few years.
Both the Ramblers and other environmental organizations have taken a strong stand against these numerous and shameless abusers (some 800 families) on the following grounds:
- they have taken abusive possession of land which is public.
- their encumbering such a huge coastline is preventing others from enjoying it.
- their constructions are a shambles.
- they are not really boathouses, as many of them claim; their costly boats are in fact parked beside their shanties.
- for many years, some of them they have been stealing electricity.
- some are making money by selling their illegal room/s to others when the land is not theirs.
- they have become so brazen faced that they even blackmail the PL and PN with their votes.
- they have even had the nerve to submit a huge, very ambitious development plan for a huge complex to make their situation resemble an expensive seaside resort. In this, they are asking the government to supply them with roads, services (water, electricity, drainage), restaurants, play areas, and the like – all from public money.
Now these law-breakers are trying to present themselves as victims of envious and unjust environmental organizations and the horde of others who have written against them in the papers.
Yet, however, strongly we feel against these squatters, our anger is even stronger when it comes to the political parties (PN and PL) who stoop to pander to the demands of these land thieves. It is now a well-known fact that secret meetings have been held on the eve of national elections to strike deals with this lobby. The only action which was forthcoming on this issue was that taken by ex-PN Minister Michael Falzon, who had sent in the bulldozers and the military to clean up the mess. However this was to be short lived, since his decision was subsequently quashed by the other members of the then cabinet resulting in a shameful retreat. After this colossal failure, action by subsequent cabinets has gone from bad to worse.
Just as strongly we accuse the Government Lands Department, curators of the land in question, for never having done anything to stop this abuse. This Department was maybe ill-equipped to deal with the matter but its top officials never made the slightest squeal about this flagrant abuse; never stood up to defend the rights of the law-abiding citizens.
Nor, for that matter, did the MEPA do anything to stop more boathouses sprouting out one after other. It was only very recently that MEPA spoke, and this was only to say that the matter was now too big for it to handle. Never a word, even less any action, when the rooms there were less than ten.
What do the environmentalists suggest? What we have been clamouring for over all these years is for government to clear up the place, restore it to its pristine state and make the abusers pay a penalty. This is what governments do in all cases of abuse.
No such action was so far taken because the PN and PL measure such actions in terms of the number of votes they will lose. Thus they put their own partisan interests above those of the citizens, and negotiate away the public good for personal power in a spectacular show of bad administration. The logical reaction to this is that citizens should understand that it is only with their vote that they can bring about change. It is also with their votes that public land will be regarded as truly public, instead of belonging now to this government and now to that one.
There is still the possibility that the Government will compromise once again and instead choose to build rooms for people to hire, instead of doing the right thing and leaving the beach open for all. However in this case one would expect that those who have abused for so long should not be allowed to occupy these rooms, or at least have their applications considered last, and only after they have paid a remedial fine for all the time they have squatted illegally on public land.
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