It's all about leadership
Harry Vassallo's self-confessed wicked pleasure (February 8) is clearly fuelled by a series of false allegations that prove even more how far he is ready to go to gain the political mileage he has long been yearning for.
Once again he tries to defend his spectacular change of positions on the Sant'Antnin issue. Let me point out the facts for the last time.
In the consultation process leading to the drawing up of the National Waste Management Strategy that was published in 2001, Alternattiva Demokratika was consulted and did not oppose the proposal that Sant'Antnin had to take all the organic waste generated in Malta.
In the Alternattiva electoral manifesto for the last general election (April 2003) Nifs gdid... Nifs Nadif (A breath of fresh air... a breath of clean air) it is stated that "Ghandu jkun zgurat li l-impjant tar-riciklagg ta' l-iskart organiku solidu f'Sant'Antnin ikun immodernizzat biex jilqa' ghall-isfidi ta' programm serju u mifrux ta' riciklagg" (it should be ascertained that the solid organic waste recycling plant in Sant'Antnin be modernised to be able to meet the challenges of a serious and wide-ranging recycling programme).
Alternattiva Demokratika confirmed its stand in favour of the Sant'Antnin recycling plant in the consultation that led to the publication of the project description statement for the plant in July 2003.
However, during the meeting with residents that was held in Marsascala in January 15, 2005, Dr Vassallo crossed the fence and chose applause rather than principles.
This tragico-comedy did not end here though. A few days later (January 21), in a media stunt in front of WasteServ's offices, Alternattiva Demokratika once again said that "Alternattiva Demokratika was, is and will be, completely in favour of a modern, efficient recycling plant. We are also satisfied with some of the improvements being proposed by Minister Pullicino".
Was Alternattiva Demokratika forced into this face-saver after Dr Vassallo's show at Marsascala?
Is that leadership, Dr Vassallo? Isn't that opportunism?
Dr Vassallo should always keep in mind that we are not living in a dreamworld of his namesake, Harry Potter.
Much of these same tactics are being used in Dr Vassallo's dealing of the Qui-Si-Sana development issue. Again for the last time, it is not true that the developer would be allowed to build a floor of retail outlets. The development of Qui-Si-Sana will be according to the development brief approved by Mepa and nowhere in that brief it is stated that there will be a floor of retail outlets.
Dr Vassallo is not correct when he implies that the developer can easily change use of part of the property at some future date. There are two safeguards against change of use: i) the lease with the government and ii) the requirement of a development permit.
Contrary to what was implied by Dr Vassallo, the site will remain government property and will not be sold. Before any construction works start on site, there will be a lease agreement between the government and the developer binding him on the use of the site. Once a lease agreement is signed, it will not be easy for that agreement to be changed by either side. Over and above that, any change of use will require a development permit. It is very unlikely that a change of use to commercial will be permitted, given that there was a specific development brief for such site.
One other point about Qui-Si-Sana. The interview with The Times was carried out on their request and I have no qualms in answering any questions which are put forward in an honest attempt to gain the full picture.
Dr Vassallo's wicked pleasure also drove him to mention the Scott Wilson report on the state of the landfills. Notwithstanding various declarations and public statements that the report will be published simultaneously with the opening of the tendering process for the rehabilitation of the Maghtab, Qortin and Wied Fulija dumps, Dr Vassallo still implies that the government is against the publication of information.
The report was made public yesterday with the announcement of the opening of the tendering process.
But in his strategy scheme, Dr Vassallo must have thought that the issue of the Maghtab landfill could score him easy political points. But what about the leadership Dr Vassallo?
Yes Dr Vassallo, effective leadership is at the centre of successful policies and that is precisely what this administration is doing. Leadership is about pushing forward the policies that are necessary for our country. Leadership is not about opportunism and changing sides as it best suits you.
The recent poll on the eco contribution measure that was published in The Sunday Times (February 6) goes a long way in confirming that the government's policies are already proving beneficial. A staggering 99.3 per cent said they are now more careful when disposing of their waste and another 90.3 per cent of respondents said they believed the eco contribution measure will lead to a change in mentality.
I would have expected a self-professed Green champion to comment about these findings but that is not what Dr Vassallo is after. That would have not earned him the applause he seeks so avidly. That is not, however, the kind of support we are seeking either. This administration has put ambitious targets and, above all, has put environment on top of its agenda. We have work to do, Dr Vassallo. There are most definitely problems but we are confident that with the support of many the drive towards a better environment will prevail. Together, because environment is not only a government priority but a national one.
Mr Pullicino is Minister for Rural Affairs and the Environment.